We all know that 2000AD Prog 74, published in 1978, features a stunning Judge Dredd scene from the “Cursed Earth” saga featuring deadly dinosaur Satanus by Mike McMahon… but the back cover by Massimo Belardinelli is pretty impressive, too – and it’s up for sale on eBay.
Featuring the Harlem Heroes cyborg Artie Gruber, it’s an impressive piece of work from one of 2000AD‘s most “Marmite” of artists. The seller, “Max Normal“, who has plenty of UK comic art for sale, including some gorgeous “Charley’s War” cover art by Joe Colquhoun, suggests it may have originally been intended as the cover of Prog 74, although the annotations on the art don’t confirm that for sure.
To be honest, I have my doubts, but then-Tharg Kelvin Gosnell or Nick Landau, who was deputising for Kelvin for much of 1978 during the run up to Starlord‘s launch, or Pat Mills, may be able to shed some light on this suggestion. Artie Gruber has only recently appeared on the cover of 2000AD, drawn by Dave Gibbons for Prog 68, and the “Cursed Earth” and Judge Dredd were riding high in the popularity stakes. Plus, Satanus… every editor knows a dinosaur cover adds sales to your title. (It worked for me on Doctor Who Magazine!)
Given its age, the art’s in good condition. There are light handling creases mainly around the edges and as you can see on the picture of the back of the art, there’s a cut around so the Artie Gruber title would not cover up the art. “I’ve seen this done on a few early pages,” says Max, “and is done for artistic purposes and can’t be seen on the front. image area.”
Massimo, who died in March 2013, also worked on “Flesh”, “Meltdown Man”, and “Slaine” for 2000AD, but he will probably be most affectionately remembered for “Ace Trucking Co.“, which he co-created after requesting that writers John Wagner and Alan Grant come up with a strip featuring many different types of alien.
Represented in the UK by Studio Giolitti, he ceased UK work when that agency folded.
Artie Gruber was an aeroball player who was seriously injured while playing against the Harlem Heroes in 2047. He was brought back from a coma (at a cost of $8,000,000) as a cyborg by scientists in a Mega-City One hospital laboratory, in order to kill the Heroes.
Whether this art was intended for a 2000AD cover or not, if you’re a Massimo Belardinelli fan – and the comic’s creator Pat Mills is, for one – then you may want to take the plunge and join the bidding, which closes later today and currently stands at just under £1000.
With thanks to Richard Sheaf for the heads up