The Sleeze Brothers are back! Those anarchic, lunatic and downright shady PIs, the creation of John Carnell and Andy Lanning back in the 1980s, are being given a brush up (and probably, a good spanking) just in time for their 20th anniversary.
The return of the Sleeze Brothers is the work Comicraft’s publishing arm, Active Images, which recently remastered David Hine’s Strange Embrace for Image Comics and is currently digitally remastering The Sleeze Brothers on the occasion of the book’s 20th anniversary.
The Sleeze Brothers, the characters first appearing in a story in Doctor Who Magazine in early 1989, was published by Marvel UK in the late 1980’s under Archie Goodwin’s Epic imprint, was the first (and, sadly, the last) creator owned monthly comic book published by Marvel’s British operation. (Some strips published in the title Strip were creator-owned, but despite the best efforts of Dan Abnett while editor at the publisher, planned monthly books featuring them were never realised, in favour of projects such as The Knights of Pendragon).
Created by John Carnell and Andy Lanning before, during and after their successful work on the weekly UK comic The Real Ghostbusters for latterday Marvel UK editor (and present day Elephantmen creator, Richard Starkings). “The Sleeze Brothers dared to be funny and a little off the wall in an industry dominated by straight ahead action adventure titles,” says Richard today.
Who are the Sleeze Brothers? Well, imagine the bastard offspring of the Blues Brothers and Blade Runner and you’re probably halfway there. El Ape and Deadbeat Sleeze have been described as the “wisecracking, dirtiest P.I.s in the Big Apple”. They certainly aren’t the quickest thinkers in the world, nor the most moral, but they stumbled their way through seven adventures with help from their digitally operated secretary/receptionist, Doris.
Despite building quite a cult following in a pre-Internet age, Marvel UK shelved the series after the sixth issue and – but for a one shot and short story, Some Like It Fresh, published by Marvel US’s Epic imprint – The Sleeze Brothers seemed destined to be fondly remembered but largely forgotten until the rights reverted to Carnell and Lanning in the late 1990s.
Under the auspices of John Carnell and Andy Banks’ Foof Productons, a series of short web cartoons are currently in development (the first directed and scripted by John) and so John and Richard decided the time was right to re-present, and re-master, the original series.
Digitally remastering involves Comicraft’s Secret Weapon, John JG Roshell, deleting the lettering from the scans of the original artwork and performing a little digital art restoration so that Ace Colourist, Gregory Wright, can colour the complete art before Richard Starkings adds the digital lettering. (There have been some problems with doing this, as Richard himself relates on the Elephantmen blog…)
The Sleeze Brothers debut in an eight-page prologue in Elephanthmen #16 published by Image Comics this February and feature on a ‘flip’ cover of the issue (above).
In addition to the Sleeze Brothers animations, John, whose credits also include a graphic novel adaptation of Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and has for the past few years working on film scripts, has revealed Foof Productions also plan to launch another animated series, Animentals, for mobile phones. He’s also working on a children’s trilogy, The Dingbats, the story of a bunch of dysfunctional homeless bats fighting to save their village sanctuary from ruthless developers.
It’s great news that the Brothers are on their way back. While the humour might be offbeat and not to everyone’s taste, the characters still has a fan following to this day, and there was such a buzz about this project in the Marvel UK offices when the book was first launched and both John and Andy were — and still are — some of the most enthusiastic advocates of comics I can think of.
Those of you who head to your comic shops in February and can’t find this new incarnation might need to look out instead for this stunning “A side” cover to Elephantmen #16, surely a reason to buy the comic for that alone…
Sleeze Brothers Check List
(1989-91, Epic/Marvel Comics)
• The Sleeze Brothers first appeared in “Follow That Tardis”, a strip published in Doctor Who Magazine #147 in April 1989
• Issue 1: Nice And Sleezy
• Issue 2: Reel To Real
• Issue 3: The Big Leap
• Issue 4: Murder In Space
• Issue 5: Down In The Sewer
• Issue 6: The Maltese Egg
• The Sleeze Brothers: Some Like It Fresh – one off issue for Epic
• The Sleeze Brothers: Saturday Night Special – short story published in Dave Elliot’s A1 anthology for Epic
• The original six-issue series was also collected by Marvel UK in 1990 as The Sleeze Brothers Files.
This article was updated in 2020 to add new imagery
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.