Instantly Iconic: Celebrating The Covers And Career Of Brian Bolland
From humble beginnings in the UK small press scene, to his work on one of the most iconic Batman and Joker stories of all time, and his instantly recognizable covers on a range of titles, legendary artist Brian Bolland has blazed a trail through the last forty years of comics history.
Born on March 26 1951, Brian Bolland first entered the comics industry with self-published fanzines and other small-press work, but after a stint working alongside Dave Gibbons on a Nigerian comic titled Powerman, he was up by legendary British publisher 2000 AD. Here he mostly drew covers, although occasionally he provided single page illustrations and inked Gibbon’s pencils on Dan Dare. He eventually graduated to interiors on the Judge Dredd strips. He shared art duties with Mike McMahon on the classic “Cursed Earth” story, and helped define the look of Judge Anderson and Judge Death.
In the late ’70s, Bolland was picked up by DC Comics, where he created covers and fill-in stories on titles such as Green Lantern and Justice League of America. After Bolland proved to be a hit at DC, it led to more British writers and artist getting a chance in America, opening the door for talent like Dave Gibbons, Alan Davis and Kevin O’Neill.
Bolland was later chosen as the artist for DC’s first maxi-series, Camelot 3000, with writer Mike W. Barr, although he clashed with editorial over their insistence that he draw the initial covers over Ross Andru breakdowns, and their requests that he not ink his own pencils on the interior pages. His independent streak would come to define his later career, as he chose to only draw interior art for stories he wrote himself, and walked off cover duty for Batman: Gotham Knights after he discovered that Bane was to be featured on upcoming covers.
Bolland is perhaps best known for his interiors on the classic and controversial Batman story The Killing Joke, with writer Alan Moore. The Killing Joke tells one possible origin story for Batman’s nemesis The Joker, while also telling the present day story of the Joker’s attempts to drive Commissioner James Gordon mad. The original printing featured the bold, psychedelic colors of John Higgins, but Higgins was only brought in to help meet the deadline, and Bolland was not a fan of the atmosphere that his work gave the comic. When the book was reprinted in 2008 as a deluxe hardcover, Bolland took the opportunity to recolor it to his specifications.
Also known for his prolific work as a cover artist, Bolland’s work can be seen gracing the covers of titles as varied as The Flash, Jack of Fables and Tank Girl. His covers for Grant Morrison’s iconic Animal Man often defined the tone of that series, and he later rejoined Morrison for the second and third volumes of The Invisibles at Vertigo. He later returned to Animal Man for the miniseries The Last Days of Animal Man, and over a forty year career has lent his talents to covers for nearly every major publisher, including a couple of rare appearances at Marvel Comics.
Aside from being an accomplished cover and interior artist, Bolland is also a sought after photographer, often working in advertising and marketing. Over his career, Brian Bolland has always stuck to his guns and done things his way. He has carved out an iconic career as a legendary talent.