McMahon's work has provided
some of the most definitive versions on some of
Britain's favourite characters, Judge Dredd,
Slaine, ABC Warriors and
now Sonic. His art has set a standard of
storytelling and innovation unparalleled. Few
artists have so boldly defined and redefined their
style, in a market saturated with pin-up artists
Mike's work provides inspiration and excitement
and a motivation to find out where he'll go next.
Mike is an artist at the forefront of his craft
and his style will continue to evolve and influence.
The Academy dispatched Rookie Rufus
Dayglo to interview the man himself...
How did you get into working for 2OOOAD you were
straight out of art school weren't you?
That's right, I'd been out of art school a year
and I'd got into an agency, I'd seen a copy of 'Eerie'
which had just started being published in this country
by Warren Magazines... and Paul Neary was working
on it, and I was really impressed with his stuff
I did this story about knights and dragons in kind
of a Paul Neary style, it was really "blocky". They
were only pencilled but my agent took it to Fleetway
and the next thing, I got this script for Judge
Dredd, and that was that.
you specifically asked to work in Ezquerra's style?
that's right, I can't remember how many I did where
people were confused if it was me or him, I think
there were about 10... You'd know.
the first half dozen, some were miscredited in the
Annuals and reprints.
I noticed that... I think the first one that didn't
look like that was "The Smokatorium", it slightly
didn't look like Carlos (laugh) well, I was young
and impressionable and I was scared of not doing
what they wanted, which I still am I suppose, I
can't help myself I can't help but doing things
they don't want like on "The Howler"... I don't
style's changed from starting off with the Ezquerra
influence towards a stronger style and then Slaine
the very crosshatched woodcut style. Were you aiming
to do that specifically for the Slaine story, or
were you just trying out a new technique?
the changes in style came about because of what
I'm trying to do with the story really. When I start
something new I can spend a month not producing
anything, trying to internalise it all, and then
when I've done that it comes out how I feel it should
be, it's an instinctive thing really, but I wouldn't
say it suits "this" particularly it's just what
Yes, like "The Block Wars" has a very solid black
whereas before your blacks were sketchy, the solid
black really brings out the harshness.
because on Dredd, I'd done him for such a long time,
the style evolved... It was a separate thing I would've
got bored doing it one way, and tried to make it
better, well, what I thought was better anyway,
and I'd change it but it wasn't a calculated change,
it just evolved really. I'd see something I'd done
earlier and think, yes, that's all right and make
everything lean in that direction, maybe see even
a small head in the background with a shadow on
it a certain way.
I think people are surprised by your work changing
story to story, just when we think we know where
you're coming from, (like with Slaine and Block
wars) and then your move to the "Last American"
a lot more linear and hard edged and all the line
with a similar weight.
Yes, it's to do with materials as well, what's available,
I'd started using staedtler projector pens on Bristol
Board, they worked really nicely filling in solid
blacks on Bristol Board, and then when I was doing
Slaine I switched to water-colour paper, I don't
know why, and so I started drawing everything with
these pens, but it didn't work at all, it was too
blobby, but I liked the things I was doing with
these pens, but they were too uncontrollable, so
I started using Tombo pens.
On the "Sky Chariots" you worked on tracing paper.
Yes, the effects I wanted to get with these Tombo
pens were too long winded on water-colour paper
and as well as that, I was really nervous, inking
on pencils on paper, I'd lost my nerve a bit so
I did it on tracing paper, and that's where the
cross hatching look came from because when you fill
things in on tracing paper, when you lay it down
you notice you haven't filled it in properly, and
I thought "well that looks all right" and it also
had the added advantage of being very difficult
to colour it up in American editions because I didn't
get paid for that. Bit of a shot across their bow,
Were you keen to do the covers for the reprints,
as the 2OOOAD artists didn't get royalties?
Well, yes, because they paid quite well for the
covers which was some sort of compensation I suppose.
But back to the Slaine style. It was a combination
of these accidents with pens and papers and my nerves.
But then I see what I'm doing and understand what
I'm doing and then evolve it into something much
stronger, I think later on it gets much more competent,
say, where we get to the actual episodes where ships
are flying around I think they were quite strong
because I was in control, I had confidence, I was
actually inking & pencilling on the paper then.
It gets more confident and that's what it's about.
So when I come to the end of something like Slaine
because the style's evolved, although it has similarities,
it has evolved as I went but there was a gap then
wasn't there? Because I'd been unwell the next thing
I did was "The Last American", and the last thing
I could do was draw it like Slaine, it would've
been inappropriate, so I went back to the overhead
projector pens because I remembered it looked quite
nice and I had to colour this one and I find if
you use thin lines for colour it doesn't work, you
lose depth, so though these pens wouldn't be blobby,
so as long as you keep moving! Don't stop, otherwise
you'll get big blobs and it worked fine with colour