By Jack Adrian & Kevin O’Neill
Published by Dark & Golden Books
Review by Luke Williams
Kevin O’Neill is a legend of British comics, his idiosyncratic, anarchic art style harking back to classic British humour comic artists like Ken Reid and MAD magazine contributors like Jack Davis and Bill Elder but with a hard sci fi edge. He is legendary for being “banned” by the Comics Code Authority (ask your parents) for his contribution to a “Green Lantern” strip written by Alan Moore, possibly even more noteworthy for being a controversy not instigated by Moore.
At the start of his career, O’Neill took various jobs, including design work for film magazines and comics, and to help raise his profile, worked on fanzines and self published comics.
Mek Memoirs is a reproduction of one of King Kevin’s earliest comic projects. Stuck in the dead end of IPC humour department, Kevin needed to find an outlet for his passions, the work that he really wanted to create.
Writer Chris Lowder, aka Jack Adrian famed of early 2000AD and Starlord amongst other work, and Kevin put together this first episode of what was going to be a reportage style future robot war story. It has a surprising amount of salty language, pitching this towards the more “adult” market and perhaps where both creators saw the future of comics, or at least what that future should involve.
Stylistically, it is unmistakeably Kevin O’Neill, the textures of his early work have a touch of Ron Turner about them, but you can’t hide that imagination. The robots featured are grand and bizarre designs, and the human characters belie that humour comics influence. This is the seed that would grow into classics such as Ro Busters, ABC Warriors, , Nemesis the Warlock his design of Walter The Wobot and this writer’s personal favourite, Metalzoic .
Thankfully, reports of his retirement following the end of The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen were exaggerated and he’s working on a strip for this year’s Battle Action special, written by Garth Ennis.
Mek Memoirs is a “slight” volume. It’s unbound , has 8 pages of strip with another 4 pages of editorial and commentary from O’Neill and a new cover on top. For £8 plus postage that’s a little pricey. But it is a reproduction of O’Neill’s earliest work; a historical document for us Kevin O’Neill stalkers and a nice companion to the Cosmic Comics volume published by Hibernia and Gosh, reissued last year with added content.
It’s worth hunting out to see the earliest work of a true original.