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A Day with Biz
Simon Bisley for Women on Top
It doesn’t seem possible, but - Yikes! It was actually 30 whole years ago, that I had a call from one of the editors of Women on Top magazine, a fairly new British publication for women. They had a bit of a fixation with the artist, Simon Bisley, and were interested in commissioning me to travel to Oxford to photograph him in his natural habitat. I checked in with Simon and he was cool about doing it, though a bit amused by the whole thing. I think they’d already interviewed him by phone… anyway, as their publisher was only a 20 minute ride away on the Docklands Light Railway, I agreed to head over to meet them and get the brief. It made sense by the title that their office was entirely staffed by women, and the editor and staff writer gave me the low-down on the article they were planning. From what I remember, the magazine was a British version of something like Playgirl, but try as I might I can find no record of it online. The clipping of the article is back in London, so I know for a fact it existed.
Back in the day, I had a bad habit of agreeing to a commission without knowing what the rates were, but I did manage to finally ask the question. It was met with the usual, ‘We don’t have much of a budget’, but amusingly they suggested a hundred quid (£), or a pint of beer and a BJ! I opted for the monetary option, and had a funny story to tell Biz when I got to Oxford.
Simon had offered to pick me up from the train station, but I stupidly said I could easily get a black cab. I say stupid, because I had no idea he was so far from the station, and watching the cab’s meter and the miles ticking away was excruciating, knowing what a terrible picture rate I’d be getting at the end of it. I eventually arrived early afternoon, to find Simon in his usual high spirits, and without further ado, I loaded my trusty Nikon FM2, and the day turned out to be real fun, as you can probably tell by the following photo. I’m not one for heights, but getting this shot was well worth climbing a ladder for.
As the daylight started to fade we moved indoors and played around with tungsten lights and a candle.
This wasn’t the first time I’d photographed Simon, in fact I’d previously taken some shots of him when he came to the 2000 AD offices four or five years earlier. I wanted a photo of Simon and the author, Pat Mills for the back cover of the Sláine Graphic Novel I was about to design.
It’s interesting to note here, that the term Graphic Novel was something Fleetway’s PR and Marketing Guru, Igor Goldkind had adopted, so that the book trade would accept a new category of 'spine-fiction' on their bookshelves. He readily admits to nicking the term from Will Eisner (with his permission), and the graphic novel has been a well-respected, internationally recognized genre ever since. Sláine: The Horned God was about to be Fleetway’s first.
I still have some of the faxes that Simon sent over at the time. Here’s one for Sláine: The Horned God, Volume #3.
And below, the finished publication, with the super-cool new Fleetway brand logo by Rian Hughes. The Slaine logo itself was hand drawn by Biz.
Another great fax from Simon, relating to the Sláine series. I’m not sure this was used, but Maaaan!... even his roughs are masterpieces!
And this was one I commissioned for the full-length pull out poster for the 2000 AD Sci-Fi Special a few years later. I’m so glad I kept these now.
For more Biz news check out Simon’s official website!
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