Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Farewell Geoffrey and Carlos

Yesterday was a rotten day for the announcement of deaths. First came the news that Geoffrey Hayes, long time star of "Rainbow" had passed away aged 76 before rumours of legendary Spanish comic artist and "Judge Dredd" co-creator Carlos Ezquerra's death started to appear online. These were two very different people that, in one way or another, shaped distinctive parts of my adolescent life so to lose both in one day was awful.

Ezquerra had one of the most distinctive styles of drawing around and could make even the dreariest stories come alive although he found much more interesting jobs under Pat Mills and John Wagner on titles like "Battle Picture Weekly", the controversial "Action" (where the unfortunate colouring of a copper's hat of his "Kids Rule OK!" cover lead to outrage in the papers and the immediate watering down of its content) and the all new "2000AD" in 1977 where he got to work on characters like Dredd, whose initial design he had created and continued to develop through epics like "The Apocalypse War" saga. Later for short lived sister title "Starlord" he and Wagner went on to devise another iconic world as Johnny Alpha and his band of mutant bounty hunters made a name for themselves in "Strontium Dog". Ezquerra's art really was like nothing else I'd seen in comics with a mix of cartoonishness, elaborate shading and a perfect eye for staging his characters to look like the most battle-scarred, action packed bastards you'd run a mile from in the street.

These words barely scratch the surface but there are so much better tributes by Lew Stringer here, comics guru John Freeman at Down The Tubes and 2000AD themselves. Keeping with the theme of baffling old tat we usually have here, here's a few adverts for 2000AD from 1977 and 1994 respectively...

I don't recall seeing this one at all. Strange also that they'd spend on a TV campaign when the following year would see a Judge Dredd-movie inspired refit of the whole comic with most of those characters axed, plus a short lived "Lawman of the Future" comic for younger readers.

And here's a ten year tribute to Tharg's mighty organ filmed in 1987 (although I'm buggered if I can work out what for? A Comic-Con?) which sadly doesn't feature Carlos but does a pretty great job of dragging in everyone else important in its then-history, including noted miserable bastards Pat Mills and Alan Moore. Who didn't do the interview and wasn't there when it didn't happen.


The death that undoubtedly hit people of a certain generation hardest however was Geoffrey who had been a comforting and dependable presence throughout countless children's upbringings. I still remember the drama when it was axed and brought back without him, the papers having a field day with the fact he had to get a regular paying job as if it was something to mock. Eventually he waited long enough for the nostalgia for his old work to kick in and hopefully made a good living with TV appearances, spin-off items and a billion student discos. Friends who met him paint an image of a lovely, enthusiastic man who kept smiling despite constantly having to put up with boring arseholes coming up to him saying "LOL ZIPPY SMOKING A DRUGS" and "IT WAS A METAPHOR FOR PENISES" for the last three decades of his life thanks to, in part, the now infamous "Twangers" video which was recorded by the cast full aware and tongue-in-cheek for a internal Thames TV end of year party tape which Victor Lewis-Smith presented on "TV Offal" as a failed pilot - a fact many dimmer viewers took as gospel - especially now depressingly divorced of context on YouTube.

Here's Geofrrey in earlier days as a barman in an advert posted up by the internet's leading Rainbow aficionado Jenny Morrill of the always fun World Of Crap.

And here's the whole cast having a great time managing to be effortlessly funny ("That was before the Ayatollah, Bungle...") and knowing without being snide or selling out the conceit in a 1989 interview. Not sure about that bloody song though...

Finishing off, here's a clip that is very dear to me. Geoffrey, who could have been incredibly bitter about his recent sacking, instead turns in an absolutely storming appearance on Lee and Herring's Radio 1 series "Fist Of Fun" in 1993 sending up the whole idea that "Rainbow" was anything less than TV's first "fly on the wall" documentary series. Its hysterical without needing to resort to "LOL, I bet Zippy smoked a weed!" gags and a perfect example of how tuned in to its audience Lee and Herring were back then.

R.I.P. Carlos and Geoffrey. Thanks for the colour you brought to our lives.

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