In Memoriam: Tony Kuroizumi-Luke

Tony Luke. Photo: Kevin Jon Davies
Tony Luke. Photo: Kevin Jon Davies

I’m very sad to report the passing of comic creator, animator and illustrator Tony Kuroizumi-Luke, who has died after a long battle with cancer – but who, despite often being in pain in recent years, battled it with every fibre of his being and continued to create stunning art and develop new projects.

His sister Fran Harris announced the sad news on Facebook yesterday, and reports he had a very peaceful end despite the dreadful cancer pain he had been in.

A double-page spread from the 1993 Kodansha version of "Dominator" in Comic Afternoon. Necrosanct fans will recognise the chap on the wheel on the right-hand side. Script was by Alan A. Grant. Art © Tony Luke
A double-page spread from the 1993 Kodansha version of “Dominator” in Comic Afternoon. Necrosanct fans will recognise the chap on the wheel on the right-hand side. Script was by Alan A. Grant. Art © Tony Luke

Tony is best known for his work on DominatorHellkatt and 2000AD, working on characters such as Nemesis the Warlock for the British SF weekly. But I first met him back in the early 1990s, as, among many other things, an enthusiastic pitcher of ideas for comic strips for Doctor Who Magazine, which I was then editing. One, involving a creepy graveyard of spaceships in a lost dimension, almost made it to commission, but as was the way of many such ideas from many comic creators, for some reason we never got to do it. Other projects – and for Tony, there were many – no doubt distracted him.

Daleks versus Rock Snakes by and © Tony Luke
Daleks versus Rock Snakes by and © Tony Luke

It was only recently that we finally managed to start work on a small, fun Doctor Who-inspired project together at last – an animated encounter between the Daleks and the Martian Rock Snakes from Thunderbirds Are Go inspired by one of his many paintings – but for now, there are only small snippets of Work in Progress. Although he threw himself into the work, like other plans, including a revival of Dominator, his battle with his illness sabotaged its ongoing development.

Animation, was, of course, one of his great loves. Back in 1987, he developed a 12-minute stop-motion pilot for  “Nemesis the Warlock” series, which never made it to final release, but which Tony told me only recently had caught the attention of 2000AD owner Jason Kingsley, with a view to reviving the idea.

nemesis-the-warlock-film-2

Here’s Tony Robinson (Baldrick from Black Adder) in a clip that includes an extract of the stop-motion Nemesis The Warlock 16mm short, from a show broadcast in 1988.

Dominator was perhaps his best known work in comics, although of course he was bursting with many ideas all the time, even developing a 2000AD-like project, Renga, for DC Thomson in 1995.

The cover for the Renga dummy by Glenn Fabry.
The cover for the Renga dummy by Glenn Fabry.

Some readers may recall Dominator started life in Metal Hammer magazine, and then enjoyed a hugely-successful run in Japan with over a million readers at one point, and which went on to become a now sadly unavailable movie (more info on that here on the Forgotten Junk site). Tony, a creator once told he had eight months to live, was working on reviving the character, along with other projects such as “Project X”, announced in 2014, working with Alan Grant (Judge DreddJudge Anderson, Batman et al), Yasushi Nirasawa (Phantom CoreGodzillaGuillotina) and Les Garner of Sixus1media.com.

No-one knows the true origins of Dominator,  the legendary ‘yokai samurai’.  The short animation below by  tells the story of one of his earlier appearances in history, long before his appearance in 20th century London as seen in Kodansha’s Comic Afternoon series in 1993, and in the pages of Metal Hammer magazine in 1988.

Dominator, 2015 - one of Tony's many ongoing projects. © Tony Luke
Dominator, 2015 – one of Tony’s many ongoing projects. © Tony Luke

In addition to being an incredible artist, he was also a huge music fan and performer. Between 1987 and 1992 he was a member of Witches Of Nemesis, XXNemesis, The Scream, Rage Of Angels and Dominator X. Dominator X had a track released on Mick Mercer’s Gothic Rock album in 1992, with Andy Heintz on vocals.

Bryan Talbot drew this promo poster for Tony's then-band The Scream, and it was published in the Arkeology issue of the Luther Arkwright comic series due to the many Luther influences and references in the band's lyrics and visuals. "Bryan even drew in my hat, bless him," noted Tony back in January.
Bryan Talbot drew this promo poster for Tony’s then-band The Scream, and it was published in the Arkeology issue of the Luther Arkwright comic series due to the many Luther influences and references in the band’s lyrics and visuals. “Bryan even drew in my hat, bless him,” noted Tony back in January.

Tributes morning the passing of this singular talent have poured in, from many different creators and friends in many different fields of creative endeavour.

“I spoke with him a few weeks ago – he was determined to do a painting of my baby before he died,” commented author Neil Gaiman. “I’m so glad that I got to know Tony Kuroizumi-Luke through living at Littlemead in the 1980s, and saw a very different side of him to the one he showed in the world of comics. Such a good man.”

“Tony and I crossed paths on numerous occasions over the years,” said Ian Edginton. “He was an extraordinary individual, talented, imaginative generous, it doesn’t even start to cover it. I’m lost for words.”

“Tony was a very special kind and creative person,” says artist Rufus Dayglo. “I cherish my conversations with him.”

“He is a triumphant example of what good fighting is all about,” notes William Simpson.

“He inspired me with his spirit his guts and with his wonderful art,” notes artist Jon Haward.

Tony Luke and his beloved cat, Misty, earlier this year. Photo: Kevin Jon Davies.
Tony Luke and his beloved cat, Misty, earlier this year. Photo: Kevin Jon Davies.

And, indeed, he was an inspiration to so many, many people. My heart goes out to all who knew him, all touched by his passion in all he did. There’s not one of his friends, I am sure, who were not hoping his brave, inspiring battle, had not ended in this way, but all of us should take inspiration from his passion for life and the mantra he lived by, put so eloquently just a few short weeks ago:

“Be yourself. Be creative. Be good to each other. Do wild and amazing things. And never, ever compromise yourself, your dreams or your life for someone or something else. Fight for what is Yours By Right. Time is just too precious for anything else.”

Rest in peace, Tony Kuroizumi-Luke, but give the afterlife hell. If there wasn’t one before this day, you had it in you  to create one, you bright, beautiful star.

• You can check out Tony’s work at http://tonyluke.deviantart.com/gallery/ or https://www.flickr.com/photos/121972827@N06 | and on the Renga Central channel YouTube

• Tony’s family ask that any donations in his memory be made to the Bart’s Mesothelioma Research Fund Details here: www.mesothelioma.co.uk/helping.htm

Further Reading

Jonathan Clements pays tribute to Tony Luke, foibles and all

SFX magazine writer MJ Simpson’s tribute to Tony

Interview: Tony Luke (1996) – by MJ Simpson

MJ Simpson first met Tony in the early 1980s when they were both very active members of ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha, The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Appreciation Society. By 1996 he was working on SFX and able to do this big interview with Tony about his comics work.  A short version of this interview was published in SFX, but this is the full transcript.

Interview: Tony Luke (2003) – by MJ Simpson

This second interview with Tony Luke was conducted by email in June 2003, presumably for SFX and covers his plans for Dominator on film and nore.

John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a “freelance comics operative”, currently working as a freelance editor for TITAN COMICS, as Creative Consultant on the new DAN DARE audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the LAKES INTERNATIONAL COMIC ART FESTIVAL and LANCASTER COMICS DAY.

John has worked in British comics publishing for over 30 years, starting out at Marvel UK, where he edited a number of the Genesis 1992 books with Paul Neary. His numerous credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines, where he was Managing Editor.

He also edited STRIP Magazine and worked as an editor on several audio comics for ROK Comics, including TEAM M.O.B.I.L.E. and THE BEATLES STORY.

Most recently he is writing CRUCIBLE as a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and DEATH DUTY and SKOW DOGS with Dave Hailwood for the digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

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