Wednesday 5 September 2012

Ben Willsher - The Max Factor!

"Hoojie Paloojie! Check out the brother brother on this cool Prog cover!" as Max Normal, Mega-City's pinstriped freak might say! Yes, Dredd's top nark is back, though this time on the wrong side of the law as one of Zero's 7, a criminal gang planning the heist of their lives!

The latest Lenny Zero strip (see the history of Lenny here) was drawn by the brilliant Ben Willsher, who was hand picked by Andy Diggle to take over from megastar artist Jock as artist on the strip.

Ben tells us the strange story of the cover "Unlike the first Lenny cover, which was drawn immediately after I’d finished the first episode, this one was drawn (not only) before I had finished the story it was to run alongside, but before Andy Diggle had finished writing part 5!"

"The reason for this was a scheduling issue with the printing, meaning I wouldn’t be able to leave the cover until after I had completed the fifth chapter. Despite the script not being finished yet, obviously Tharg and I knew the plot and direction of the this segment of the story, so I went away to do some roughs for a Max and Lenny cover."

"The first thing I came back with was a single of Image of Max looking sneaky and Lenny slyly observing him in the background of the Big-Meg...
 Zero Tolerance - Lenny and Max looking mean and moody.

It seems that the Might One had different ideas however. Ben continues "Tharg got back to me and requested that it should be more of a jovial image, as Max is a fairly ridiculous character. He was so right, I’d lost the essence of Normal’s  character, so he suggested that the image should be an upper body shot of Max tipping his bowler hat to the reader with his brolly over his shoulder (possibly leaning against a shuggy table), and maybe Lenny and Dizzy to the left in the background, Dizzy with her head in her hands in embarrassment. Tharg sent me a classic piece of Brett Ewins’ Max imagery as a point of reference."

Ding Dong! A classic bit of Brett Ewins!

With the wisdom of Tharg (and the threat of Mek-Quake) still ringing in his ears, Ben came up with this perfect image. "The next stage was simple, I did another rough based on the suggestions..."

"Then once it was accepted I worked up the finished inks."

Tip top!

"Finally I coloured it, deliberately making the image have a strong red colour in it. This acted as a motif for the two covers, but it also represents the red lights of the seedy underworld of Lenny’s Mega-City 1!"
Red Rum

And here's the two covers together, very nice!

Four of Lenny's 7 -Shuggy Bear, Lenny Zero, Afro Dizzy and Max Normal. The other three being Satellat, Mink and Johnny Cash, a rogue ATM!

Finally, here's how it looked after the design team had added all the pesky logos and cover type...

Pye and Gravy!

Thanks a bazillion to Ben for sending the images, I'm sure you'll all agree he's the perfect choice to illustrate such cool characters. Be sure to visit his site at

To celebrate Max's return, I decided to do a little re-read of his adventures in the prog, here's a potted history of the Meg's worst dressed man...

 The Max Factor - The history of the Pinstriped Freak in 2000AD

As Ricardo Montalban Block's most famous (and only!) resident, primo shampaign quaffing weirdo Max Normal has led a long and colourful life in the Big Meg. He's been a cultural icon, champion shuggy player, nightclub owner and, of course, Dredd's top nark. He made his debut back in Prog 20 when he tipped Dredd off about an illegal comic ring that was selling vintage 2000ADs to Mega City juves, disgusting!

Max's first appearance, by Mick McMahon

We next saw Max in 'Prog 88's prequel strip to The Day the Law Died, 'Bring me the head of Judge Dredd!' Max fingered Chick Parker, a debt-ridden Robot Engineer who'd made a Dredd robot to frame Judge Dredd for the murder of the editor of the Megatimes...

"Shake it Max!" fabulous art by Brenden McCarthy

Max helped avert catastrophe for Megacity-One during the Block-Mania epidemic. As one of the few citizens unaffected by the madness gripping the city, it became apparent that the virus was spreading in the city's water supply, as Max never touched the stuff, choosing only to drink shampaign!

An absolute classic cover by Brian Bolland

The pinstriped freak laid low for a while but showed up in Prog 490 when he was used a bait to lure Dredd into a deadly game of Pinboing...

The ever dependable Robin Smith's cover for Prog 490

Poor Max was once again used to trap Dredd by an assassin working for the deadly Fighting Heart Kwoon. The clan wanted revenge on Dredd for shaming them by beating their champion warrior 'Stan Lee', and used Max to lure Dredd into a trap.

John Burn's take on Maxi Baby in The Art of Geomancy in Prog 763.

Max stayed out of the prog for almost 1000 issues after that, until Ben sneaked him into the opening panel of the Day of Chaos prequel, Nadia in prog 1743.

Ben Willsher foresees the future in Day of Chaos.

Max also appeared in Niddenface McNulty's crossover strip in the Megazine's 'Wan Man and his Dug', helping the mutie track down a dangerous gang in Megacity One and deliver the bounty hunter's granny's birthday present! 

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