Obvious Tactics, by David Pugh
'Obvious Tactics'.

David Pugh is a Welsh comic book artist and writer. His career flourished between the late 1970s and late 2000s. Between 1985 and 1986, he was one of several artists to work on the fantasy series 'Sláine', published in 2000 A.D. For Fleetway Comics, he worked on the TV comic 'M.A.S.K.' (1985) and the sciencefiction series 'Wildcat' and its spin-off 'Loner' (1988-1989). Between 1989 and 1994, Pugh lent his talent to the revival of the classic SF aviation comic 'Dan Dare' in the relaunched magazine Eagle. He was one of the final artists to work on this series before its eventual cancellation. In the 1990s and 2000s Pugh worked on a variety of science fiction series and graphic novels, including 'Neil Gaiman's Phage: Shadow Death' (1996). Pugh was also the colorist for the football comic 'Scorer' (1989-2011), scripted by Barrie Tomlinson and drawn by John Gillatt for The Daily Mirror. Since 2011, Pugh started a new career as a novelist and charity worker in South East Asia. He is the founder of the migrant and refugee aid organisation Bus Fare. 

Early life and career
Born in Wales, David Pugh loved reading Eagle magazine as a child. Interviewed by W. Scott Crawford on his blog platformhub (13 July 2019), he vividly remembered noticing his first issue at age 9 or 10, while waiting in the doctor's office. He was enthralled by Frank Hampson's 'Dan Dare', particularly Dan's archvillain The Mekon. His mother snatched the comic away, warning that it would give him nightmares, but Pugh replied that he "wanted nightmares from this." While she never bought an issue for him, he was allowed to read other comics magazines, such as Boys' World and Ranger. Among his earliest graphic influences were John M. BurnsFrank Bellamy and Don Lawrence. Pugh received his graphic education in Art College at Brighton and Kingston upon Thames, where he discovered different kinds of comics, namely by Marvel artists Neal AdamsJim Steranko and Jack Kirby. He was very interested in their more experimental lay-outs. Through a friend he also received a copy of Metal Hurlant and was shocked by Jean Giraud and Philippe Druillet's visionary artwork, especially since he had no idea where they got such amazing ideas. Later in his career he also expressed admiration for Geof Darrow and Frank Miller

But Pugh didn't enjoy his higher education. The teachers used creative ideas by their pupils for their own professional advantage, without rewarding them. The only lessons he found useful were the life model drawing classes, but this teacher was unexpectedly fired. Pugh didn't last long at the academy either. He was kicked out for being too disobedient and told he would never make it as a graphic designer. Much to his vengeful delight, Pugh already had a job as illustrator and designer for Pier 1 imports. He remained active in the advertising industry, working for agencies like Brockie, Haslam and Allen in London and the Thomson Organization in Wales. He was also active as a design consultant for Holiday World International and Oberland Holidays.

Early comic career
Working as an artist/visualizer for the Creative Services regional newspaper of Thomson on the edge of the Brecon Beacons, one of the editors asked Pugh whether he wanted to write and draw a comic strip. It was intended for their weekly newspaper Merthyr Express. The end result, 'Looking Glass Library' (1977), revolved around two children and their dog. One day they find out they can enter the pages of literary classics. This leads to adventures in classic novels like Lewis Carroll's 'Alice Through The Looking Glass', Jules Verne's '20.000 Leagues Under the Sea', Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein' and the Welsh epic The Mabinogion, among others.  When Thomson brought out a weekly freesheet, The Glamorgan Star, Pugh created another serialized comic for them: 'Captain Classified-Star Ranger' (1979-1981). The superhero character was originally intended to simply sell classified advertising. Pugh was asked to update him, to boost sales, and to give the character a sexy assistant, Princess Astra. Pugh based the Captain's design on Pat Mills, John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra's 'Judge Dredd'. Soon afterwards, Pugh became a member of the Society of Strip Illustrators, who offered their members publication space in their monthly newsletter. In these pages comic writer Pat Mills noticed Pugh's work and invited him to publish in the adult comic magazine 2.000 A.D. 

Pugh's breakthrough as a comic artist was the fantasy series 'Sláine' (1983) in 2.000 A.D. Set in a vague Celtic age, Sláine is a warrior who was banished from his tribe. Together with his dwarf sidekick Ukko and Medb, a woman he rescued from from ritual sacrifice, he roams the country. Many plotlines feature the barbaric hero fighting monsters and his arch nemesis Lord Weird Slough Feg. Scriptwriter Pat Mills was influenced by ancient Celtic myths, like 'Cú Chulainn' and Robert E. Howard's novels about 'Conan the Barbarian', drawn by Frank Frazetta. A year before 'Sláine' made its debut, John Milius had directed a movie adaptation, 'Conan the Barbarian' (1982), starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. The film was a box office success and revived interest in sword & sorcery tales, which 'Sláine' also benefited from. The earliest 'Sláine' comics were drawn by Angela Kincaid, Massimo Belardinelli and Mike McMahon. Together with Glenn Fabry and Bryan Talbot, Pugh worked on the narratives 'The Time Killer' (1985) and 'The Tomb of Terror' (1985-1986). He also restyled the series and introduced a new villainous character, Elfric. Elfric is a three-eyed demon with a blue skin. He is capable of time travelling and used this to his advance when helping the ancient Romans invade Britannia and the Vikings plunder Ireland. Pugh also thought up the god-like leader Guledig, wizard Myrddin and Murdach, son of real-life medieval Irish king Brian Boru. 

After the second series, Pugh took two weeks off to visit Sri Lanka. During his absence he was fired and replaced by Mike Collins. But he only found this out during a comic convention in Birmingham. As fate would have it, Pugh noticed Mike McMahon, who had been fired from 'Sláine' to make room for him. Pugh always felt bad for his colleague, but now being in his direct presence made it all even more uncomfortable. A few moments later, Collins told Pugh that he had been appointed as new artist for Sláine. The shock was awful. Interviewed by Richard Sheaf for boysadventurecomics.blogspot.com (24 January 2020), Pugh confessed that, even after nearly 30 years, he "never truly recovered from the pain and (...) knew who wretched Mike McMahon must have been feeling." Though he did add that Pat Mills had apologized to him multiple times, even in print. 

Slaine by David Pugh
'Slaine' (2000 AD #453).

One of Pugh's stories for the 1985 2000 A.D. Summer Special, 'The Man Who Couldn't Die', motivated editor Barry Tomlinson to offer Pugh a new job at a new magazine.  M.A.S.K. was based on the D.I.C. animated TV series of the same name, about a galactic robot war. The M.A.S.K. magazine started as fortnightly comic, published by Fleetway, but the TV show proved so popular that it soon became a weekly. Pugh followed scripts by Peter Milligan and was delighted to receive many M.A.S.K. toys and other merchandise in his mail for him to copy in his drawings. Each issue had five stories, drawn by many different artists who all remained anonymous.

Wildcat and Loner
Pugh also drew the comic 'Wildcat' for Fleetway's sci-fi weekly Wildcat (1988-1989). 'Wildcat' is set in the year 2500 when a group of colonists leave Earth and search for a new home planet. On board of their spaceship are mission commander Turbo Jones, the black mercenary Loner, commander Kitten Magee and extraterrestrial alien Joe Alien. The stories were written by Barry Tomlinson, his brother James (under the pseudonym James Nicholas) and David Robinson. Apart from Pugh, stories were drawn by Ian Kennedy, Vanyo (pseudonym of Eduardo Vaño Ibarra and Vicente Vaño Ibarra), Ron SmithJosé Ortiz and Jesús Redondo. When Wildcat merged with the magazine Eagle in March 1989, the four cast members each received spin-off comics. Since Pugh named Loner his favorite character, he was assigned to the spin-off 'Loner'. Pugh was flattered when fellow artist Kev Hopgood said that Pugh created the "most convincing black character in British comics." Pugh drew 'Loner' until Eric Bradbury took the series over. 

Dan Dare
Between 1989 and 1994, Pugh got the opportunity to continue the classic SF aviation comic 'Dan Dare'. Dan Dare was originally created by Frank Hampson in 1950 and the most popular series in the comic magazine Eagle. Discontinued since 1967, 'Dan Dare' made a comeback in 1977-1979, albeit in the magazine 2000 A.D. It wasn't until Eagle was relaunched in 1982 that the brave aviator returned in its magazine of origin. During this period several artists worked on his modernized adventures, including Gerry Embleton, Oliver FreyJohn Gillatt, Ian Kennedy and Carlos Cruz. Pugh drew 'Dan Dare' in alternation with Keith Watson. In 1994 Eagle was discontinued and Dan Dare permanently brought his plane to the ground too. Many sources have cited Pugh as the "last" artist to draw 'Dan Dare', though technically occasional new adventures have been released in the decades beyond. What is true is that these new adventures were usually one-shots or mini series, not a full-blown relaunched series. 

On 14 August 1989 the tabloid newspaper The Daily Mirror launched a football-themed daily comic, 'Scorer' (1989-2011). It follows the adventures of football player Dave Storry and his girlfriend, fashion model Ulrika. The comic was a suggestion by editor John Allard to serve as The Daily Mail's answer to the football comic 'Striker' by Pete Nash in rival tabloid paper The Sun. 'Scorer' was originally scripted by Barrie Tomlinson and drawn by Barrie Mitchell. In 1990 Mitchell passed the pencil to John Gillatt, aided by Pugh and Martin Baines as colorists. They continued the series throughout much of the 1990s, until David Sque became the main artist from 2003 until the final episode of 'Scorer' in 2011. In the second half of the 2000s, Pugh added color and 3D computer effects to the series. 

Work in the late 1990s, early 2000s
Together with Alan Grant Pugh made the horror story 'Garbage Man', running in issue #27-29 of the magazine Toxic (September-October 1991).  Between 1992 and 1993 he also drew covers for comic books based on the video game character Sonic the Hedgehog, published by Ladybird.

In 1993 Pugh and writer Simon Davies made the sciencefiction comic book 'The Last Planet'. The story stars a 13-year old extraterrestrial fish-faced girl, Brill, who lives on the last inhabited planet in the universe. Pugh put a lot of effort in this book, which turned out to be a tremendous bestseller and was featured as 'Spotlight of the Month' in the magazine Previews. Unfortunately publisher Mindbenders (MBS) had not thought all 1.500 copies would sell out that fast. They lacked money to print more. The U.S. distributor Diamond therefore terminated their contract with MBS, leaving Pugh behind with about 82 pages that to this day never have been published. 

In 1996, Pugh was hired by the American company Tekno Comix to work on the 6-issue limited series 'Neil Gaiman's Phage: Shadow Death' with writer Bryan Talbot and inker Tim Perkins. Pugh designed many spacecrafts for Games Workshop, and has serialized his graphic novel 'Warhammer 40,000 - Obvious Tactics' in Inferno! magazine. It was published in book format in the Black Library in 1997. Pugh also worked on comic books for the U.S. publisher AC Comics ('Cape and Mask', 2003), and as illustrator for adventure game books starring Disney and Sega characters.

At the turn of the 1980s into the 1990s, Pugh had built up a productive comic career. Although he liked drawing comics, the stress didn't give him deep creative fulfillment. He wanted to rediscover the joy he had at the start of his career and push the limits of his artistic abilities. At the same time he also searched for deeper spiritual meaning. During a book signing session at the Games Workshop Golden Demon convention in Birmingham, a man told him he always wanted to be a comic artist during his youth, but was glad he never did, because he became a musician and "got a life". This insult made Pugh wonder whether comics were all he ever wanted to do. Although he brought potential buyers to each convention, he never saw any of the 10% sales profits he was promised. 

Since Pugh worked six days a week, he'd saved enough money to go travelling. He visited countries like Gambia, India, Africa and Thailand, where he sometimes lived for longer periods of time. Pugh devoted more time and energy to social causes and charity organisations. In April 2009 he worked as a graphic designer and computer arts teacher in the Tibetan refugee community in Dharamasala, India, for two months. He returned in 2010, this time bringing his daughter along to help with the classes. Originally he planned to stay for only four months, but around the same time he heard that The Daily Mirror would cancel 'Striker', the comic he had colorized for several years. This motivated Pugh to buy a one-way ticket and just see what would happen after his four month teaching schedule was over. He spent three months teaching in Dharamasala and two months in Rishikesh, India. In Puri, India, he visited the Jagannath Temple, where a local guru fascinated him. When he asked a priest what he had to do to follow the guru's teachings, he received an unexpected answer: "One thing: he wants you to be happy." This made Pugh realize what he had been missing all these years. He decided to enjoy life more and focus more on writing rather than drawing. When his visa ran out, he travelled across Nepal for three months. He didn't return to England until June 2012. 

In 2011 Pugh started auctioning some of his old artwork to benefit migrant workers and refugees in India and Africa. This led to the foundation of the charity organisation Bus Fare, set up to help migrant workers and refugees visit their families. Bus Fare also provides some pocket money to compensate for loss of wages, while they are travelling. He has been active in India, where he worked with Tibetan refugees in Dharamsala and set up a street children project in Rishikesh. Pugh is also a designer and computer graphics teacher with the LHA Charitable Trust. 

Novels and other books
Together with author Doug Moench and fellow illustrator John Howard, Pugh collaborated on a 3D children's book, 'The Boy Who Walked On The Ceiling'. In 2017 he published an essay in the anthology 'Minds Wailing in Remembrance', a collective tribute to Tenzin Delek, a Tibetan monk who died in a Chinese prison. In 2019, Pugh published his first novel, 'Dharma Sutra' (Austin Macauley, 2019), a romantic-erotic-spiritual tale set in India. The book is inspired by people he met during his travels and the spiritual insight he achieved. The main character, Jeffrey Dharma, is a disillusioned comic artist who wants to follow the Hindu path of Vanaprastha, the time of life when one gives up responsibility. 'Dharma Sutra' is the first part of what Pugh intends to become a trilogy.  Since the protagonist's name sounds similar to infamous serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, there was some pressure from publishers to change the character's name to Pugh's own. 

Recent years
Since February 2011, Pugh has basically retired from creating comics. Even when he was asked to contribute to a comic book celebrating the 30th anniversary of 'Sláíne', he turned the offer down. Several of his colleagues were perplexed, since getting well-paid assignments is a rarity, especially in today's industry. But Pugh didn't enjoy looking back and found far greater creative delight in writing than drawing. He did write the foreword for a compilation of his 'Loner' comics, published by Rebellion.

Shadowdeath by David Pugh
'Shadow Death', #3.

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