Born in 1955, Brett Ewins is a comic book artist best known for his work on Judge Dredd and Rogue Trooper in the weekly Sci-fi comic book 2000AD. But he was more than that – responsible in part for continuing and popularising some of the most prominent comic book characters in British history.
Ewins studied at Goldsmith’s college and left in 1977 forming a long term collaborative partnership with fellow artist Brendan McCarthy, creating the comic Sometime Stories, which faltered after the first issue leaving the second complete and unpublished. However, from these meagre start Ewins had made an impact. A capable artist, with clear and concise line work and compositions more transatlantic than many of his peers in the UK comic industry his methodology allowing story telling to take most prominence on any page he drew – he proved popular with fans of 2000AD, whom he was signed to for Issue 33 of 2000AD in October of the same year.
Ewins provided a great many covers for 2000AD, catching eyes on newsstands around the country with his bright bold and clear style that must have buzzed the eyes through the dim days and rain hewn streets of England. His was a flash of colour from somewhere sunnier, sharper and more comically dangerous – his style belying and surpassing the aggression, violence and darkness that many of 2000AD’s strips began from. Much like McCarthy, his style was sparkling and built out of solid and recognisable comic book conventions, embraced and expanded upon.
Ewins and McCarthy continued to work together on strips such as Judge Dredd but soon after Ewins began to work solo on Rogue Trooper and later still Judge Anderson (both highly noteworthy recurring characters in 2000AD history). In 1985 Ewins started work on Bad Company, a concept by Alan Grant and John Wagner that hadn’t seen the light of day in 16 years, written finally by Peter Milligan with artwork by Ewins and Jim McCarthy, Bad Company saw the light of a UK day in Prog 500 of 2000AD. From this initial boost, Bad Company rolled forwards through to 2002 finished by Wagner, Grant and Judge Dredd visual grandpappy Carlos Ezquerra. But BAD Company left an indelible mark on 2000AD and the British comic industry, much as Ewins himself did.
It wasn’t 2000AD that Ewins should be recalled most for however but Deadline (founded in 1988), created by Ewins and Steve Dillon. Deadline featured a mixture of comic strips and written articles targetted at older readers. Similar to the titles Revolver, Crisis and Toxic which emerged during the title’s formative years and passed away, Deadline (Deadline publications) survived the early years and had a cultural influence beyond the comics world. Within its pages and nurtured by Ewins and Dillon appeared a comics artist superstar in the form of Jamie Hewlett. Issue 1 as far back as 1988 featured a cover with the counterculture post-punk icon Tank Girl.
Ewins was incredibly representative of the 80s and personified the ideal of Deadline. The commercial failure of the Tank Girl movie saw the end of Deadline in the early 90s.
Ewins himself ‘suffered a serious breakdown from overwork’ in 1991 and was unable to take on work that had a deadline, losing him commissions from DC Comics and Penguin Books. A danger for any creative, Ewins was taken out of the industry he had worked in for more than a decade. In order to recover, his plan was to create an anthology based on work from friends in the industry including Peter Milligan, Alan Grant and Alan McKenzie as well as friends in the music industry such as Michael White. At the heart of it a story ,’Machine’, written by Brett based on his breakdown. The collection was eventually printed in 2004 by Cyberosia Publishing.
A facilitator and cultural ambassador who founded a publication that supported the Brit musical era that ultimately killed it – Ewins is a subversive creator with a touch that has been popular. In the eighties he embodied the counter-culture post-punk era perfectly and this was reflected in the success of 2000AD buoyed by his covers and enhanced and enabled some of its most prominent characters.