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Friday, April 20, 2007


For twenty-six years one of my favorite comics has been Britain's 2000 AD, a (mostly) science fiction weekly anthology that gave the world such strips as JUDGE DREDD, NEMESIS THE WARLOCK, and the exquisite STRONTIUM DOG, along with allowing a newbie Alan (WATCHMEN) Moore to cut his teeth, so what's not to love? The magazine has seen many of its strips evolve into long-running series, some of which started out brilliantly but ended up dragging on interminably, and there is no strip that exemplifies this problem more than the Pat Mills-scribed fantasy epic SLAINE. Its first five years rank among the most entertainging comics I've ever read, but it has grown stale and still lurches on, propelled by increasingly murky artwork. Such was not the case when in the hands of its second artist, Italian comics veteran Massimo Belardinelli.

SLAINE revolves around the adventures of its titular hero, an uncouth, unkempt, and generally unpleasant Celtic barbarian who kills just about everyone and everything that gets in his way, a task made simple by his ultra-violent nature and his ability to channel the power of Danu the Earth Goddess through his already lethal body in the form of the "warp spasm," a berserker state that gives him tremendous, inhuman strength and fury, literally twisting and contorting his body into a tableu of lysergic flesh. Author Mills said that it was a difficult concept to visualise, but when Belardinelli took over the series from Mills' wife, Angie, the perfect illustrator for the warp spasm was found thanks to Belardinelli's fleshily livid style. Sadly, though equipped with a wild imagination, Belardinelli's artwork was too turgid to match the rollicking scripts, and he was soon dismissed in the wake of reader objections, allowing the incredible Glenn Fabry to take over and launch the strip to the classic status that it richly deserved in its early days.

When his time on SLAINE was abruptly brought to an end, Belardinelli was handed the humorous sci-fi series ACE TRUCKING CO., never a favorite of mine, but the 2000 AD readers responded enthusiastically and it ran for quite some time. And now Belardinelli has passed on.

From Wikipedia:

Massimo Belardinelli (1938 - March 2007) was an Italian comics artist best known for his work in the British science fiction comic 2000 AD.

Bellardinelli had previously worked on a number of IPC titles and when 2000AD was being developed in 1978 he landed the plum job of drawing DAN DARE, which was to have been the feature strip of the new comic. However, Bellardinelli's vivid style and exaggeration of an established character displeased many readers, and after a year he was moved to the future sport strip Inferno (an installment of the popular Harlem Heroes series).

Series he worked on for the comic include DAN DARE, FLESH, MELTDOWN MAN, and SLAINE: he will be most affectionately remembered for ACE TRUCKING CO., which he co-created after requesting that writers John Wagner and Alan Grant come up with a strip featuring many different types of alien.

Represented in the UK by Studio Giolitti, he ceased UK work when that agency folded.

His work was notable for its delicate brushwork and imaginative depictions of the fantastic. Bellardinelli also hid numerous self-portraits in his strips. Many characters (and even some inanimate objects) bore a striking resemblance to their artist.

A self-portrait from 2000 AD.

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