Brian Bolland

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Brian John Bolland

Brian Bolland
Born (1951-03-26) 26 March 1951 (age 69)
Education Butterwick Girls' School (1956, one term); Conway School (1957-1962); The Giles School, Old Leake (1962-1967); Boston Grammar School (1967-1969); Norwich University of the Arts (1969-1973); Central School of Art and Design (1973-1974)
Occupation comics artist
Employer DC Comics, etc.
Notable work(s) Judge Dredd vs. Judge Death, Batman: The Killing Joke, Camelot 3000
Spouse Rachel Birkett
Children Harry
Parents Albert John "AJ" Bolland, Lillie Sharp

Brian John Bolland (born 26 March 1951) was educated at Boston Grammar School (1967-1969).

He is a British comics artist. Best known in the United Kingdom as one of the definitive Judge Dredd artists for British comics anthology 2000 AD, he spearheaded the 'British Invasion' of the American comics industry, and in 1982 produced the artwork on Camelot 3000 (with author Mike W. Barr), which was DC Comics' first 12-issue comicbook maxiseries[1] created for the direct market.[1]

Bolland subsequently concentrated on working as a cover artist, producing the vast majority of his work for DC Comics. His rare forays into interior art also include Batman: The Killing Joke, with UK-based writer Alan Moore, and a self-penned Batman: Black and White story.

Early life

Stan Cawthorne by Brian Bolland

Brian Bolland was born in Freiston, Lincolnshire, to parents Albert John "AJ", a fenland farmer, and Lillie Bolland (née Sharp). His first school was Butterwick Girls' School which by then was a mixed school. However he remained there only briefly. After a term his father, ambitious for his only child, transferred him to Conway School, a private school in nearby Boston. His senior school career began at The Giles School, Old Leake where he achieved six O-Levels before another transfer in the sixth form found him at Boston Grammar School for A-Level studies in English Literature, Art and Technical Drawing. English Literature under the teaching of Stan Cawthorne proved challenging to Brian, who had not been exposed to Shakespeare at Giles. He dropped out of English after a year but went on to achieve a B grade in Art under John "Banger" Grimble.

He spent his "first 18 years" living "in a small village near Boston in the fens of Lincolnshire, England," but has "no memory of comics" much before the age of ten.[2] The small village was in fact Butterwick.

When American comics began to be imported into England, c.1959, Bolland says that it "took a little while for me to discover them," but by 1960 he was intrigued by Dell Comics' Dinosaurus!, which fed into a childhood interest in dinosaurs of all shapes and sizes. Comics including Turok, Son of Stone and DC Comics' Tomahawk soon followed, and it was this burgeoning comics collection that would help inspire the young Bolland to draw his own comics around the age of ten with ideas such as "Insect League." He recalls that "[s]uperheroes crept into my life by stealth," as he actively sought out covers featuring "any big creature that looked vaguely dinosaur-like, trampling puny humans." These adolescent criteria led from Dinosaurus! and Turok via House of Mystery to "Batman and Robin [who] were [often] being harassed by big weird things, as were Superman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman [etc]." Soon, family outings to Skegness became an excuse for the future artist to "trawl... round some of the more remote backstreet newsagents" for comics to store on an overflowing "bookcase I'd made in school woodwork especially."[1][2]

The young Bolland did not rate Marvel Comics as highly as DC, feeling the covers cluttered and the paper quality crude. He did however enjoy UK comics, including newspaper strips such as "Syd Jordan's Jeff Hawke [and] David Wright's Carol Day, " and Valiant which featured "Eric Bradbury's Mytek the Mighty and Jesus Blasco's Steel Claw "Despite such a variety of inspirations, Bolland credits his eventual pursuance of art as a hobby and then vocation to a primary school art teacher, who "evidently said all the right things to me."[2][1]

Growing up as an "only child in a house without culture," (Bolland says that his "mother and father had no use for art, literature or music"), he embraced the late 1960s pop culture explosion of "pirate radio stations, music (particularly Frank Zappa...), drug taking, psychedelia, "peace and love," "dropping out," the underground scene, Oz Magazine," and other aspects of hippy culture epitomised by underground comix such as Robert Crumb's Zap Comix. Having taken both O-Level and A-Level examinations in art, Bolland spent five years at art school (starting in 1969) learning graphic design and Art history. Learning to draw comics, however, was "more a self-taught thing," with Bolland eventually writing a 15,000-word dissertation in 1973 on Neal Adams – an "artist [his teachers] had never heard of."[2][1]


Bolland studied graphic design at Norwich University of the Arts.[3] While at art school, Bolland drew and self-published a couple of fanzines and his work was published in British underground magazines Frendz, International Times and Oz. In 1971, his friend Dave Harwood "took his first step into printed mass production with his RDH Comix," for which Bolland provided a cover (featuring Norwich Cathedral)." Also in 1971, Time Out – an underground magazine rapidly reinventing itself into "the biggest weekly listings magazine in London" – gave Bolland his "first paid job" producing an illustration of blues guitarist Buddy Guy. While in Norwich, Bolland produced the first episodes of an adult Little Nemo in Slumberland parody entitled Little Nympho in Slumberland, and when he moved to the Central School of Art and Design in London in 1973, he continued to produce (mostly full-page) Little Nympho strips for a 50-copy fanzine entitled Suddenly at 2-o-clock in the Morning. He also contributed a smaller, strip entitled "The Mixed-Up Kid" to the Central School of Art's "college newspaper... the Galloping Maggot."[2]

After finishing his college course, Bolland was hit with "the stark reality of unemployment" and on the advice of Dave Gibbons joined art agency Bardon Press Features. "A few two-page strips" for D.C. Thomson resulted, but Bolland would refer to this period as his "lowest time." Bardon did however produce a client called Pikin which was "planning a bi-weekly comic about an African superhero," Powerman, which was to be sold in Nigeria. Gibbons and Bolland were to draw alternate issues (Bolland's first issue was Powerman No. 2.), and Bolland recalls that "soon Dave had drawn his entire story and I had produced just a few pages." This knowledge – "that Dave could produce a page a day... and that I was going to have to do the same" – was a shock, but proved to be "the very best kind of training ground."[1][2]

Bolland writes that starting with Powerman he "found regular employment drawing comics, one of which, Judge Dredd, in 1977–80, turned out to be quite a hit..."[2]

Early in 1977, Bardon agent Barry Coker showed Gibbons and Bolland "mock-ups from a new science fiction comic I.P.C. was planning to publish. Gibbons moved to 2000AD at Prog 1 (i.e. issue 1) but [Bolland] kept drawing Powerman. When Powerman went to a monthly schedule Coker got Bolland "a cover on 2000 AD in May '77 with Prog 11" (7 May 1977; signed "Bollo").[2]

Other covers followed (nearly a third of the first 30), as well as stand-alone pages and some inking duties on Gibbons' Dan Dare. When another artist dropped out, Bolland was called directly to complete a Judge Dredd story in Prog 41 (3 Dec 77) and soon was established as a regular artist on the series.[2]

As well as honing the look of the character and contributing to the highest-profile early storylines, Bolland also created the look of two of the wider Dredd universe's most enduring characters: Judge Death (and the other three Dark Judges) and Judge Anderson.

In between Dredd assignments Bolland drew horror strips for Dez Skinn's House of Hammer, having been introduced to the comic through another of the "fanboy in-crowd," Trevor Goring, who drew "a comic strip version of the movie Plague of the Zombies," and asked Bolland to ink it. Soon, Bolland was asked to draw "Vampire Circus" (dir. Robert Young|, 1972; comic version scripted by Steve Parkhouse), and "pile[d] on the gore" for his first Hammer horror adaptation – although he found much of the "blood painted out" in the printed version.[2]

From the 1970s to the present, Bolland has also produced one-off pieces of artwork for use as record (including one for The Drifters in 1975), paperback book (including the UK Titan editions of George R. R. Martin's Wild Cards anthologies) and magazine covers (including Time Out and every major comics publication). He continued to produce work for fanzines, including for Nick Landau's Comic Media News, and Arkensword and even "drew the hazard cards" for a board game called Maneater. He later "got to know the Games Workshop guys, Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone," and produced various "games related drawings" including a cover or two for Fighting Fantasy Adventure Game Books, and RPG scenario pamphlets.[2]

In 1977, Bolland was approached by Syd Jordan to ghost some episodes of Jordan's newspaper strip Jeff Hawke. Bolland drew 13 episodes, and "Syd touched up some of the faces, a few details here and there, to make them look a bit more like him." In 1985, as a known fan, Bolland was approached by Nick Landau to select stories and draw covers for two Titan collections of the strip, with a third design going unpublished. Bolland also contributed "A Miracle of Elisha" to Knockabout Comics' Old Bailey OZ Trial Special, written because Old Testament history had piqued the interest of Bolland when living near the British Museum.[2]

Bolland produced a considerable amount of advertising work, initially because his agent "Barry Coker kept putting advertising jobs my way," including a number of ads for "Palitoy's Star Wars toys." He also drew some of the earliest pieces of advertising artwork for the science fiction and comic shop Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed, which ran in various fanzines, convention programmes, and magazines such as Time Out and was commissioned by future-Titan Distribution & Forbidden Planet co-founder Mike Lake (who was "working there at the time") c. 1976. As well as the DTWAGE adverts, Bolland also contributed (alongside most of his peers) artwork to advertise, and/or feature in programme booklets for the UK Comicon, starting c.1976. In 1978, Nick Landau, Mike Lake and Mike Luckman "took their comic distribution business into the highstreet," opening the first Forbidden Planet comics shop, for which Lake asked Bolland to produce the now-famous "People like us shop at... FORBIDDEN PLANET" adverts. Bolland's artwork would also feature on the shop's plastic bags, as well as T-Shirts and "covers for their SF, comic and TV & film catalogues," among other places. Later, when a branch of Forbidden Planet was opened in New York, and at a second location in London, Bolland "did ads for both of them."[2]

Bolland was among the first British comics creators 'discovered' by the American comics industry, spearheading the so-called "British Invasion" in 1979/80. Bolland recalls that his big break came when Joe Staton attended the Summer 1979 Comicon, and, needing somewhere to work (on Green Lantern) while in the UK, arranged to stay with the Bollands. Staton called his editor Jack Harris and told him that Bolland, a big Green Lantern fan, would like to draw a Green Lantern cover; Harris agreed. He drew several covers for DC Comics, starting with Green Lantern No. 127 (April 1980), as well as some fill-in stories.[2]

Among his earliest interior work for DC was a chapter in Justice League of America No. 200 (March 1982) alongside his artistic heroes Joe Kubert, Carmine Infantino and Gil Kane, as well as Jim Aparo, George Pérez and Dick Giordano. This gave the artist his "first stab at drawing Batman." Bolland felt that "after my cover [GL #127] worked out the people at DC turned their gaze on London... and particularly on the group of artists at 2000AD who had been weaned on the DC characters." He recalled that, "after I was settled in at DC, scouts from that company came to our "Society of Strip Illustration" meetings to win over a few more of us."[2]

In 1982, DC editor Len Wein chose Bolland to be the artist on DC's Camelot 3000 12-issue maxi-series, with writer Mike W. Barr. The story, dealing with the return of King Arthur to save England from an alien invasion in the year 3000, not only "represents the single biggest body of work" by Bolland – and his only attempt to draw a monthly title – but was also the "first example of a DC (or otherwise) maxi-series." Bolland found himself "whisked off to San Diego and places and made a fuss of."[1][2]

Bolland drew a pinup for Superman No. 400 (Oct. 1984)[4] and its companion portfolio. In 1986, Bolland was one of several artists who contributed pages to the anniversary issue Batman No. 400 (Oct. 1986),[5] his offering featuring villains Ra's al Ghul and Catwoman. Around this time, Titan Books was trying to launch a line of comics written by Alan Moore, including a Batman Meets Judge Dredd one-off by Moore and Bolland. Bolland then worked on the popular, influential and controversial Batman: The Killing Joke, first published in 1988.[1][2]

Speaking circa 2000, Bolland said that since The Killing Joke he has only drawn comics that he also wrote. Six years later he clarified that

Since then I haven't wanted to draw comics that anyone else has had a hand in. I'd rather not work on a story I haven't written myself or one that will ultimately be colored by someone else. I have to earn a living, though. Covers are a safe place for me. If someone else's colors swamp my work then, who cares. It was only one page. I can move on...[1][2]

Although his forays into interior artwork are almost universally acclaimed, Bolland is now far more commonly seen as mainly a cover artist – although he notes that he has never decided to actually "pursue covers exclusively," having merely "branched off a little bit" from strip work. He admits that he works slowly, and consequently finds covers easier to supply than whole story artwork. He also noted simply that he began to "concentrate on covers... really just because they were the jobs that I was offered." He adds that for artists like him, "it's common knowledge they're going to say no" to strip work, "so editors get them to do pin-ups instead."[1]

Since 1997, Bolland has been drawing on a computer, eschewing pencil and paper. He cites the influence of Dave Gibbons, who "had got into computers himself, and... was really enthusing about them." Noting also that some colorists were increasingly using computer effects "seemingly arbitrarily," he decided "that if I didn't take control of the colouring process myself... [those effects] would eventually transform the covers into something not my own." Starting in 1997, Bolland "bought all the gear" and spent ten frustrated months learning the ropes and ultimately finding the liberating "infinite ability to change" his now-solely-onscreen artwork. He states categorically that, in his opinion, "[t]here is absolutely no difference between drawing on my Wacom tablet and drawing on a pad of paper." Having fully embraced the technology, Bolland also produced a number of lessons/tutorials on his now defunct official website demonstrating his complex techniques. He states that, while this leap means that he no longer produces any paper-based artwork (a profitable sideline for many artists who sell on their original work to collectors), "the pen and paper are gone for good."[1]

The first 63 issues of Animal Man featuring Bolland's artwork covered the tenures of writers Grant Morrison, Peter Milligan, Tom Veitch and Jamie Delano, with Bolland's images maintaining a continuity of style and imagery while the interior work underwent several changes of style and storyline. Initially, he recalls that his cover images derived directly from the script. He would "go through and find a scene that looked as if it would make a good cover," or "find a particular hook that cleverly summed up what's going on inside the book." This included the incorporation of photographs into the later covers of Morrison's tale of metafiction and deus ex machina author-input. With the (post-Morrison) move of Animal Man to DC's new 'Mature Readers' imprint Vertigo, Bolland notes that the covers moved to "full color painted covers" with issue No. 57. These of his covers were "a mixture of ink linework, color washes, airbrush and then, eventually, areas painted in poster color by my wife, Rachel," which ultimately saw her have significant input on some covers, with Bolland acknowledging that "some of the last Animal Man covers were more her than me."[1][2]

Describing the art of good covers, Bolland remarks that

[y]ou really have to be constantly thinking of ways that the image on the cover will intrigue and lure in the potential punter. It helps to try and imagine your cover is in a whole bank of thirty or more and you need it to stand out.[1]

Happy coincidence also plays its part, as when a time travel story arc saw Bolland's work coincide with the plot in such a way that he was able to produce a recreated cover from an alternate angle to shed new light on an initially inconsequential image.[1]

Bolland's covers adorn the whole second and third volumes of Grant Morrison's The Invisibles and his depictions of the main characters are widely reprinted as the definitive images, despite them all having been realised by other artists – and often drawn by several before Bolland entered the picture.

Bolland also contributed a large number of covers to Wonder Woman, beginning with William Messner Loebs' first issue (#63, June 1992[6]) after that author took over writer (and artist) George Pérez's 1987 post-Crisis relaunch.

In addition to his landmark runs on Animal Man and The Invisibles, Bolland has also produced lengthy runs on covers for Geoff Johns' The Flash (from roughs by series editor Joey Cavalieri) and the Batman anthology series Batman: Gotham Knights, as well as assorted issues of Tank Girl (for original UK publication Deadline and the two subsequent Vertigo miniseries Tank Girl: The Odyssey and Tank Girl: Apocalypse), Superman, Green Lantern, Batman and many more, including a number of oneshots and miniseries for DC's offshoot Vertigo. Bolland is currently the cover artist on Vertigo's Fables spin-off Jack of Fables, replacing previous cover artist James Jean. Bolland's covers also appear on the DC/Vertigo trade paperback collections of Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol, although he only produced "a couple" of covers for the individual issues.[2]

Long-standing familiarity with DC characters and staff, coupled with high demand have combined with other factors to mean that the vast majority of Bolland's work has been for DC Comics. Despite having a difficult relationship with Marvel, he has produced a few of tits covers and also a handful for First Comics, Continuity Comics, Eclipse Comics, New Comics and a dozen other companies, large and small, as well as book, magazine and record covers. For Dark Horse Comics, Bolland has produced several diverse covers, including a couple for Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist at the behest of editor Diana Schutz.[2]

In addition to his early forays into full interior strip art, and his later focus on covers, Bolland has also produced a number of short – often single pages – strips, numerous pin-ups and a pair of ongoing 'occasional' humour strips. These latter feature Bolland as writer-artist, his now-preferred method of working. Most notable are Bolland's two 'personal projects', Mr. Mamoulian and The Actress and the Bishop, all appearances of which strips were collected in the book Bolland Strips! (Palmano-Bennet/Knockabout Comics, 2005). Bolland Strips! stemmed from a suggestion by Josh Palmano (owner of Gosh Comics in London, and also involved in publishing company Knockabout Comics) to collect all instances of Bolland's two strips and Steve Moore's "Zirk" story. Bolland had other thoughts, and suggested including an undrawn 20-page story called "The Actress & the Bishop and the Thing in the Shed" (written 18 years previously), and two stories written and illustrated by him for Vertigo Comics. After negotiations with DC, the two stories – "Princess & the Frog" (from Heartthrobs) and "The Kapas" (from Strange Adventures) were included alongside six limited edition Éditions Déesse prints.[1][2]

Among Bolland's other works is the Robert Crumb-esque semi-autobiographical stream of consciousness humour strip Mr. Mamoulian,[7] which was first printed in Paul Gravett's UK pro-zine Escape and later brought to the US in issues of the Dark Horse title Cheval Noir and the Caliber Comics anthology Negative Burn.[2]

Bolland wrote in 2006 that "[a]fter a while, Nick Landau of Titan Books showed an interest and offered to act as my agent." Through Landau, Bolland saw his strip published across Europe in publications including Linus, Cimoc and (in Sweden) Pox. Such widespread exposure had its downside, when the original artwork went missing, meaning that "[s]ubsequent prints of Mamoulian have [had to be] made from [Bolland's] photocopies." Disenchanted by the loss of (more of) his artwork, and with "European interest... waning," Bolland "lost interest in doing more." Subsequent to the collection Bolland Strips!, however, interest from Negative Burn (now published by Desperado Publishing) "has coaxed new pages out of" the artist.[2]

Bolland's other "personal project" is his occasional strip "The Actress and the Bishop".[8] This strip's origins date back to 1985, when Frederick Manzano commissioned Bolland to "draw 6 plates in my own portfolio bearing my name" for Éditions Déesse, a "small Paris based comic-store-cum-publishers, and Bolland drew in one of the six plates an elderly Bishop (whose face echoed "shamelessly" the work of Alberto Breccia) and a femme fatale Actress. Bolland was subsequently approached by Garry Leach and Dave Elliot, who "were launching a new comic anthology called A1." They asked Bolland to draw – and write – "a few pages for the first issue."[2]

Written in rhyming couplets, the pair "look like the punchline of a smutty joke," but their creator instead "wanted the reader to see them in a benign and non-judgemental light" – the antithesis of "Benny Hill, Frankie Howerd "Oo er, Mrs!"... [rather] like the owl and the pussycat setting sail in a pea green boat." Three pages in A1 No. 1 were followed by another three in A1 No. 3, while a "longer story with 110 verses... gathered dust for 17 years" until publication in the compendium hardback Bolland Strips!.[2]

In 2006 a comprehensively sizeable retrospective of Bolland's work was published under the title The Art of Brian Bolland, featuring contextualising references and copious text – 33,500 words[2] – written by the artist alongside hundreds of pieces of artwork and rare photographs. The Art of Brian Bolland covers all of the artists' work to date, under an introduction from close friend Dave Gibbons, an autobiographical essay and sections ranging from his "Influences" (featuring near-unseen examples of Bolland's childhood art), through each of the decades from the 1960s to the present. The book also showcases several of Bolland's own photographs taken in Asia and Russia over twenty years of travelling.

An accomplished photographer (examples of Bolland's work are, for example, included in the Image/Desperado book The Art of Brian Bolland), as of May 2008, Bolland noted on his website that he is "working on a book about a week I spent in Burma in 1988."[9] Some photographs taken by Bolland in Burma are reprinted in the Image-published retrospective The Art of Brian Bolland.[2]

Much in demand for advertisements, Bolland has produced work down the years for bookshops – including pioneering UK Sci-Fi/Comics sellers such as Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed[2] and Forbidden Planet – and film festivals including a poster for BFI Southbank's July/August 2008 Comic-Book Movies series.[10] His work has appeared on the covers of, and inside, numerous publications over the decades, ranging from fanzines to several covers for London-based magazine Time Out and other professional, internationally sold magazines.

Bolland has also produced posters for local theatre groups' amateur stage productions, most notably for his local "village panto" production of Beauty and the Beast in 2004.[2]

Personal life

Bolland married illustrator and sometime-collaborator Rachel Birkett in 1981. She later gave up illustration "to become a cook in a vegetarian restaurant," although she has since assisted her husband with his work, acting as colourist, inker, co-artist and ghost. The two have a son, Harry.[2]



Bolland and his work have received considerable recognition in both the British and American comics industry. He was awarded the "best newcomer" award by the Society of Strip Illustration in 1977 (the SSI "was formed in about 1976 or 1977" making this one of their first awards).[2]

In 1982, he received an Inkpot Award, and the following year, he was named "Favourite Artist" in the British section of the Eagle Awards|.

In 1989, Moore and Bolland's The Killing Joke received an Eisner Award for "Best Graphic Album," while Bolland was named separately as "Best Artist/Penciller/Inker" for the same work. The same year, Bolland won three Harvey Awards; two in the same categories for the same work – "Best Artist" and "Best Graphic Album" – while the third was also The Killing Joke which was separately honoured as the winner of the "Best Single Issue" award.

In 1992, Bolland won an Eisner Award after being named "Best Cover Artist," an honour he received three years in a row (1992–1994), and twice subsequently (1999, 2001) for various works. To date, he ties with James Jean (Fables cover artist) for five Cover Artist Eisners.

In 2007, Bolland added to his Eisner Award wins when The Art of Brian Bolland won the "Best Comics-Related Book" award.


The Camelot 3000 limited series, which he created with Mike W. Barr, was nominated for the 1985 Kirby Award for Best Finite Series, narrowly losing to Marv Wolfman and George Pérez's Crisis on Infinite Earths. In 2002, he placed second behind Jack Kirby for the title of "Best Artist Ever" in the short-lived National Comics Awards.[11]

External links


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 Salisbury, Mark, Artists on Comic Art (Titan Books, 2000) ISBN 1-84023-186-6, p. 17
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 2.21 2.22 2.23 2.24 2.25 2.26 2.27 2.28 2.29 2.30 2.31 Bolland, Brian, The Art of Brian Bolland, (Image Comics, 2006), ISBN 1-58240-603-0, pp. 10–15
  3. Notable Alumni Norwich University of the Arts
  4. Superman #400 at the Grand Comics Database
  5. Manning "1980s" in Dolan, p. 221: "Batman celebrated the 400th issue of his self-titled comic with a blockbuster featuring dozens of famous comic book creators and nearly as many infamous villains. Written by Doug Moench, with an introduction by novelist Stephen King...[it was] drawn by George Pérez, Bill Sienkiewicz, Arthur Adams, Joe Kubert, Brian Bolland, and others."
  6. Wonder Woman #63 (DC, June 1992). Retrieved 23 February 2009.
  7. Mr. Mamoulian on "The Art of Brian Bolland" – The Official Website
  8. The Actress & The Bishop on "The Art of Brian Bolland" – The Official Website
  9. "A Book About Burma" on "The Art of Brian Bolland" – The Official Website, 14 May 2008
  10. "BFI poster" on "The Art of Brian Bolland" – The Official Website, 22 June 2008
  11. 2002 National Comics Awards