We’re sorry to report the passing of illustrator, designer and comic artist Garry Leach, who passed away unexpectedly on 26th March 2022, aged 67, to the shock of family, friends and fans of his work.
One of the early artists on 2000AD, Garry will always be regarded as one of British comics most influential comic creators, his work in the medium to be celebrated.
He’s perhaps best known to downthetubes readers as the co-creator of the new Marvelman (later, Miracleman) with Alan Moore in 1981, forty years ago this month, for Warrior magazine – a new take on a 1950s superhero first created by Mick Anglo; a story that deconstructed superheroes long before Watchmen, co-created by Alan and Dave Gibbons.
But he also worked for Marvel UK and on 2000AD, and, later, as John McCrea’s inker on Hitman, and worked on other DC Comics titles such as Legion of Superheroes, Monarchy and Global Frequency.
For the weekly 2000AD, Garry’s first work was as an inker on the the “Dan Dare” story, “The Doomsday Machine“, published in 1978, pencilled by Trevor Goring, and series such as the high-tech superspy series “M.A.C.H.1” and one-off “Future Shocks“. He also worked on Judge Dredd stories such as “The Day the Law Died” and “Night of the Bloodbeast” in 1979.
During the 1970s, he also paved the way artist for Jerry Paris to develop the strip, “Bug Hunters“, for Computer and Video Games Magazine, meeting the strip’s writer, Steve Moore, thanks to him.
In addition to drawing the first episodes of “Marvelman” for Warrior, he co-created created Warpsmith with Alan Moore, and continued work on 2000AD through the 1980s, on Dredd stories such as “Attack of the 50 ft. Woman” (1986), and “The Comeback” and “Ten Years On” (1987).
He also collaborated on the 1987 Dredd mega-epic “Oz” with Will Simpson and Dave Elliott, as well as producing covers for Titan Publishing’s collections of Judge Anderson stories, a series of seminal Dark Judges pin-ups for 2000AD, which he later redrew, and the illustrations for the “You are Sláine: Tomb of Terror” solo role-playing game that ran in 2000AD in early 1986.
The 2000AD team have noted his most prominent work for the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic was on Gerry Finley-Day’s space war series, “The V.C.s“, on which he followed Mick McMahon, and then alternated with Cam Kennedy, a series about the ‘Vacuum Cleaners’, a hard-bitten crew of a space patrol ship battling the alien menace of The Geeks.
In 1988, he headed up A1, the anthology title Garry launched in 1988 as part of Atomeka Press with Dave Elliott.
“With a slick and confident inking style reminiscent of both Dave Gibbons and Brian Bolland, Garry’s work was immediately recognisable alongside the rougher, more febrile art of McMahon and Kennedy,” notes Michael Molcher in a tribute on the 2000AD web site.
“While there was an intensity to his action sequences and stunning imagination in his designs, he also brought wonderful touches of whimsey – whether it was the harlequin-turned-hippie computer ‘Brother’ in ‘The V.C.s’, the nose-sucking plants of ‘Future Shocks: Bloomin’ Cold’, or Dredd’s striped socks in ‘Ten Years On’.”
After a spell working in advertising, which he once told me included an unsuccessful attempt to persuade the Dan Dare Corporation to use their space hero for one campaign, much to his chagrin, Garry returned to comics, including created work on an unpublished comic magazine, ROBOT, for BBC Worldwide.
In the late 1990s, as John McCrea’s inker on DC Comics Hitman, and other work for the American publisher, DC Comics, followed, as well as inking Chris Weston on J. Michael Straczynski’s The Twelve for Marvel Comics.
“I’m saddened to hear about the passing of Garry Leach, one of Britain’s greatest comic artists,” Chris commented on Twitter.
He also drew covers for Judge Dredd Megazine in 2004, commissioned by Alan Barnes.
“Garry Leach first blew this Earthlet’s mind with the Dan Dare strip he illustrated (and wrote) for the 1978 2000AD Sci-Fi Special,” he said on Twitter earlier today.
“I loved Garry’s work, so it was a privilege to commission him to paint a couple of Megazine covers many years later. RIP.”
“Although he never had his own signature series in our pages, Garry was one of the artists who helped define 2000AD’s first golden age,” says Michael Molcher. “His imagination and talent leapt from every page and brought a confident dynamism to series such as ‘The V.C.s’ and ‘Judge Dredd’.
“His generosity in complementing, supporting and mentoring other artists cannot be ignored and the comics industry owes him a deep debt for both his work and his friendship, and he will be sorely missed.”
Tributes to Garry Leach
The comics community is still assimilating the news of Garry’s passing, but many comic creators have been paying tribute today.
“Sorry to learn that Garry Leach has passed away,” artist Dave Gibbons said on Twitter. “A meticulous draftsman and always good company.”
“Not sure I have the words to do him justice at the moment but he (& Steve Dillon) were my artistic heroes long before I ever met them,” commented editor and publisher Tim Pilcher of one of his oldest friends.
“I used to try and copy (and fail miserably) Garry’s incredible linework in Warrior and he always remained one of my favourite artists, and I was honoured to commission him to do the cover of the US Edition of Erotic Comics Volume One.
“You always got the unvarnished brutal honesty with Garry,” he added. “He defended his friends passionately and decimated his enemies mercilessly. There’s so much I could say about him, but simply he was humble, talented, modest, funny, and passionate. The world will be poorer without him.”
“Stunned by the news of his passing,” commented writer Simon Furman. “Genuinely an artist who influenced me hugely. Garry was blunt and didn’t suffer fools gladly, but somehow we got along! One of the original ‘Troopers’ (comic pros and aspiring pros drink-up), he’ll be sorely missed.”
“Been a fan of his since this ‘Dan Dare’ strip in the 1978 2000AD SciFi Summer Special,” said artist and writer Peter Doree. “What an artist.”
“Garry was such a great guy,” commented Derek Mantle. [He was] my first studio manager. Taught me my studio skills at 16 yearrs old. Except for my dodgy letraset use.”
“A near perfect artist and storyteller with a distinctive style and the singular influence on me as an aspiring artist in the early 80s,” acknowledges artist Gary Erskine. “No one else came close and Warpsmiths with Alan Moore was an absolute favourite.”
“He was such a sweet man,” noted comic creator Todd Gesicht. “[He] and Dave [Elliott] gave me early breaks in comics.”
“I imagine many of us have Garry stories and here’s one of mine,” recalls 2000AD artist and comics archivist and author David Roach. “When I was putting my Masters of British comic art book together Garry was the first person I wrote to to get scans of his artwork, and in typical fashion he was the absolute last person to send anything in- 18 months later!
“I told him that the main reason I wanted to write the book was to shine a light on the many great talents who deserved to be better known, and that he was the person I was thinking of most of all.
“He simply couldn’t believe it, no matter how much I tried to convince him, and felt I must be joking, but it was true. I wanted him to take his rightful place as one of the greats of British comics, alongside Bellamy, Embleton, Bolland, Burns and McMahon. To my mind he’s already there, I hope he realised how talented he really was.”
Our sympathies to family and friends of Garry at this difficult time. He will be much missed.
Garry Leach, born 19th September 1954, died 26th March 2022
A tribute by “John Boy” drawing in part on an interview with Garry with George Khoury featured in Kimota! The Miracleman Companion, published in 2001
Fellow comic artist David Roach reflects on Garry’s incredible career and legacy for The Comics Journal
All art featured © respective publishers or creators