Comic Creator Spotlight: 2000AD, The Beatles and Look-In artist Arthur Ranson

The Illustration Art Gallery has recently highlighted the huge number of artworks it has for sale by 2000AD and Look-In artist Arthur Ranson.

Over 120 originals are on offer from the Gallery, including art from strips such as “Inspector Gadget“, “Danger Mouse“, “The A-Team“, “Just William“, “Logan’s Run“, “Galaxy Rangers“, and “Jimmy Cricket“.

"The Beatles Story" original art by Arthur Ranson (Page 7)
“The Beatles Story” original art by Arthur Ranson (Page 7)

Also in the mix are pages from two Look-In strips, “The Beatles Story“, collected by Rebellion in print back in 2018, and “Elvis Presley“, both written by Angus Allan, on which he and Allan retained copyright.

Now retired, Arthur Ranson, who was recently interviewed by Hagai Palevsky for The Comics Journal, is a hugely talented British illustrator and comic strip co-creator, whose fine line pen work and attention to detail has led to the misapplied epithet, ‘photo-realistic’. Ranson attended the South West Essex Technical College and School of Art in Walthamstow, Essex, where he studied painting and printmaking.

Trained initially as an “apprentice stamp and banknote designer” in the 1960s, he learnt “to translate photographs into watercolour … in stamp size”.


Arthur has been appearing in British comics since the early 1970s. He first brought his precise techniques to the weekly comic Look-in, edited by Colin Shelbourn, initially drawing covers, starting with one featuring DJ and TV presenter Ed “Stewpot” Stewart, before moving on to draw comic strips, alongside the likes of John M. Burns, Martin Asbury, Harry North, Colin Wyatt, John Bolton, Jim Baikie, Phil Gascoine, Barry Mitchell, and Bill Titcombe.

His first strip work for the title was the humour strip, “Les Dawson’s Superflop“, and he drew also drew others, too: among them,”Alias The Jester“, “Danger Mouse“,”Duckula” and “Michael Bentine’s Potty Time“. But he’s probably better known for drawing “realistic” strips such as “The A-Team“, “The Bionic Woman“, “Galaxy Rangers” and his memorable take on “Sapphire and Steel“. Since these works were based on specific TV shows, he says that “it seemed important that the characters looked as much like the actors as possible”, and to achieve the accurate likenesses that typify his work.

“I don’t believe I had a television at the time, so in that sense I had no interest in the properties chosen,” Ranson recalls in his Comics Journal interview. “Initially just work, a way to earn a living, the significance of working at Look-in for me was that over time I became more and more interested and enthusiastic about comics – how they worked, what they might do, how to best visualise stories. Initially drawing only ‘funnies’ I became keen on doing more dramatic ‘realistic’ strips. Having experimented with different styles, been influenced by various and disparate comic book artists – editor Colin Shelbourn was very tolerant of me – I wanted to develop my own drawing technique and way of conveying narrative.”

Often working with writer Angus Allan, Arthur also drew a series of comic strip biographies of well-known music stars and bands, including, for Look-InABBA (1977), Elvis Presley (1981), The Beatles (1981-2) and Haircut 100 (1983) and, for the 1984 Smash Hits yearbook, a four-page strip charting the story of The Sex Pistols (1983).

The opening page of "The Sex Pistols" strip by Angus Allan and Arthur Ranson, published in the Smash Hits 1984 year book
The opening page of “The Sex Pistols” strip by Angus Allan and Arthur Ranson, published in the Smash Hits 1984 year book

The 2000AD and US years

Mazeworld Spread by Arthur Ranson

For 2000AD, Arthur’s works includes “Anderson: Psi Division“, “Button Man” and “Mazeworld“, and for US publisher DC Comics’ Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight and, for Marvel, a number of X-Men related comics. He also produced illustrations for the mens magazine, Fiesta, and did plenty of advertising work, including some All-Bran adverts.

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight 52 - art by Arthur Ranson

Arthur says was glad of the “more challenging” work to be found in comics, branding himself “too sensitive a plant to get on in advertising despite the high fees.”

He’s keen to stress the influence of his peers – particularly Brian Bolland – on his own evolution as an artist, seeing and being influenced by work that “looked as though the artist really cared about it.”

He counts himself lucky that this career path has, in his decades-long comics career seen him work primarily with just three writers.

Arthur is now retired, explaining: “There had been a number of life-threatening health scares. Being brought face to face with one’s mortality tends to give one pause for thought. There were breaks from work while I was hospitalised. Back home, after submitting a couple of unsolicited 2000AD covers with the assumption that I would get back to business, what I thought was ‘Do I really want to spend whatever time I have left drawing comics for folk?’ and the answer was, no, I do not. All very existential. There was no plan as to what I might do instead, but I could get by on pension money, so I thought to figure that out later.”

The Beatles Story Audio Comic

The Beatles Story by Angus Allan and Arthur Ranson - Selected Panel
A panel from one of the ROK Comics digital comic version of “The Beatles Story”

I edited an audio comic version of The Beatles Story some years back for ROK Comics, with soundtrack and memories from Angie McCartney and covers by Martin Baines, that included covers of various Beatles songs by tribute bands, promoted with a two-night event at the Liverpool Philharmonic. 

During its production, I did some test versions of the strip adapted into newspaper strip format, utilising the individual panels remastered for the audio comic, but they were never published.

The Beatles Story newspaper strip test - art by Martin Baines
The Beatles Story newspaper strip test - art by Arthur Ranson
Two test stories for a possible The Beatles Story newspaper strip adaptation of Angus Allan and Arthur’s Ranson’s story. Cover art by Martin Baines

Arthur was incredibly helpful with this multimedia project, providing original art, and putting me in touch with Angus’ widow, to secure permissions, and comic archivist and editor Shaqui Le Vesconte meticulously scanned all the original art Arthur still had, and his art for the similar Elvis Presley strip, too, but that audio comic never went into production.

Of all the music strips Angus Allan wrote and Arthur drew for Look-In, they cannily retained the copyright on those two strips.

One of Rebellion’s first print collections was The Beatles Story, which you can currently grab for about a tenner on AmazonUK.

• Check out over 120 originals by Arthur Ranson on The Illustration Art Gallery, including Inspector GadgetDanger MouseThe A-TeamJust William , Logan’s RunGalaxy RangersElvis PresleyJimmy Cricket, and many more…

Arthur Ranson is online at

Read a July 2023 interview with Hagai Palevsky for The Comics Journal

Buy books featuring the work of Arthur Ranson, including Button Man, Judge Anderson and more from AmazonUK (Affiliate Link)

The Beatles Story by Angus Allan and Arthur Ranson is available from AmazonUK (Affiliate Link)

The Beatles Story by Angus Allan and Arthur Ranson (Treasury of British Comics, 2018)

The first longform comics account charting the creation, evolution and break-up of the fab four, first published in Look-In, in 1981. “The Beatles Story” is an exceptionally drawn account of the band that includes fascinating insights into Paul McCartney and John Lennon’s first encounter, their early gigs in Hamburg’s Kaiser Keller, through to the recording of the legendary Abbey Road album and the band’s break-up.

This beautifully illustrated account, later republished in Germany and as an audio comic by ROK Comics, is a treat for both the devoted Beatles admirer and new fans alike. This edition is published in the Treasury of British Comics line, a series devoted to restoring lost comics classics.

Categories: 2000AD, Art and Illustration, British Comics, Comics, Creating Comics, downthetubes Comics News, downthetubes News, Other Worlds

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