Whatever happened to Kevin Cullen?
I've worked in splendid isolation on the top floor of my house, my studio is a great size and its joined upstairs by a small bathroom and another good sized room. This secondary room had become the 'dump it in there' room and I'm ashamed to say it still had boxes unopened from when we moved into the house eight years previous. But all that has had to change. We have three children running around this house now and the 'spare' room needed sorting to become a bedroom and with that came some hard choices.
Having read comics solidly since I was 14 and being somewhat of a hoarder I have a LOT of comics, books, magazines, art materials and just stuff. So much so that its taken about six months to clear through the piles of things in the spare room and come to a decision as to their fate, keep them, sell them, give them away or in the bin you go. Invariably one thing that slows the whole process down is that you keep rediscovering items you've been piling up and in the case of comics it becomes very easy to find yourself sat in the middle of a mountain of comics reading your way thru your latest find.
2000AD probably constitutes the biggest pile that needed sorting and for reasons I won't go into you would discover that I have probably near to two full sets of the weekly comic plus best of monthlies, annuals, specials and countless trade collections. Looking through these classic comics it was easy to rediscover some great stories and artists and this'll be where we get to artist Kevin Cullen.
Nick Abadzis, Dan Abnett and Kek-W.
2000AD has always been a showcase for new and emerging talent alongside the tried, trusted and brilliant regulars. During the early 90s I paid probably more attention to the new artists than normal as, as I've written before, this was around the time I worked on various trial scripts for the comic. I was paying particular attention to who they used, how they approached their art and created it. There where lots of great artists to take inspiration from inside the pages of the comic but sometimes the new guys offered a better insight as although they could be rough and less experienced if given the chance to develop you could see it happening right in those strips and pages. Interestingly this was also around the time that painted and colour comic strip work was being showcased moving away from the regular mono work and so it was a great time to see some experimenting and process.
Paul Rainey reviews Judge Dredd Megazine 2.40 over on his '2000AD Prog Slog' blog and he says about Kevin's art on the Judge Hershey story 'The Harlequins Dance' that 'Cullen is a totally solid story teller whose work I’ve described before as looking like early David Lloyd.' I think Paul hits a description of Kevin's style and approach very well here. Kevin may have used more graphic shortcuts in his art than that of David Lloyd but I can't think of any other known comic artist that could help place the type of art that Cullen was producing. I think the standout difference would be Cullen's approach to colour which is wildly different from Lloyds making him Lloyd with a touch of John Higgins thrown in.
So, lets go back to me surrounded by piles of comics and I'm looking at some of the Vector 13 strips drawn by Cullen. Now, I'm a self employed artist and I've done my fair share of hunting down contact addresses for clients and art editors in my time plus if you every visit Scotch Corner you'll spot that the site has had its fair amount of guest artists and most of these have been 'hunted down' by me and the powers of a good search around the internet. I'm thinking 'I haven't seen anything from this guy since these strips' and 'I wonder if we can get him as a guest on Scotch Corner?'. To steal from Paul Rainey's 'Prog Slog' again, reviewing the colour 'Terror Tale' in Prog 895 from 1994 he finishes by saying 'Whatever happened to this guy?'. So my hunt begins.
Barney listings for all things 2000AD and the Lambiek comic creator listing. Pre-2000AD work is well covered with the familiar small press style magazines that most comic book creators are involved in. In Kevin's case he did a lot of work for sci-fi small press magazines The Zone and Premonitions by Pigasus Press. 'Nightfall' edited by Noel K. Hannan and other titles like 'Works' and 'Back Brain Recluse'. All of these are from around 1989 to 1993 which leads us neatly up to the point where Kevin starts producing work for 2000AD and the Judge Dredd Megazine.
Beyond his 2000AD work the internet hits a blank. Usually you can find lots of ways to track down an artist and usually an artist that has appeared in the UK's leading sci-fi comic is pretty easy to find. Even if they haven't produced work for the comic for a while you can trace where they are and what they are doing now, most end up being involved in the film or gaming industry and as working artists have some sort of a presence on the internet, a web page, blog or agents gallery for example. Even if they don't have those things you can find mention of them in discussion forums and fan sites for 2000AD like the 'Prog Slog'. Kevin Cullen disappears.
Kek-W and Si Spencer, editors David Bishop and Tony Lee, fellow small press contributor Rik Rawling, I've had numerous conversations on Twitter and sent out more emails but it all comes back to the same thing… 'I really liked his work. I think I met him once. I have no idea where he is but if you find him let me know'. That's pretty much the stock response to all my queries. Check out an interview with Igor Goldkind by 2000ADreview, in it they ask about the Judge Hershey strip 'Harlequin's Dance' and 'Any idea what Kevin's doing these days?', Goldkind's answer: 'I don't know what he's doing now.'
So where is Kevin Cullen? What became of him? From a busy three year stint on the best comic from Britain to just completely disappearing? I now have two reasons to find out what became of Kevin one I can settle here right now. I'd like to tell him that I enjoyed his art, I appreciated the work and effort that he put into it and I enjoyed watching him develop over that short time. If you read this Kevin and you'd like to get in contact I'd love to hear from you and discover your thoughts about your work from this time.
The second reason is purely a matter of curiosity, what the hell happened to Kevin Cullen? If you know Kevin or know of him, past stories, collaborations any news or information at all I'd be happy to hear from you too.
All art in this post is by Kevin Cullen and © their respective owners.