England expects

Artist Ade Salmon and his illustrations in the book "Nel-Son".
Artist Ade Salmon and his illustrations in the book "Nel-Son".
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ENGLAND expects every artist will do his duty.

What Admiral Horatio Nelson would make of a new book to bear his surname is anyone’s guess, but it sends out a signal that Britain’s best-known comic strip artists mean business with a UK flagship enterprise.

Nelson is a new graphic novel starring a heroine Nelson, out to combat homelessness.

She’s been created by the superheroes behind some iconic names in comic book lore – the artists.

One artist – who has previously put the fear of God into Judge Dredd with a few deft brush strokes – lives in Fleetwood.

Blackpool-born Ade Salmon helped fellow giants of the UK’s new Comics Collective spawn the definitive super heroine.

The selfless act of creation – all the work commissioned was unpaid – saw comic book greats unite for one very special quest: all the profits from the first 4,000 copies of Nelson (Blank Slate Books, £18.99) are going to Shelter, the housing and homeless charity.

If you need to get the picture of just how big a deal this is ... Ade’s in such company as Roger Langridge, who has written Thor Mighty Avenger comics for Marvel in the past.

Hunt Emerson’s a Beano regular. Posy Simmonds created Tamara Drewe for the Guardian, before it was adapted into a feature film.

Dave Taylor worked on Batman for DC Comics.

Lakeland-based Sean Phillips has drawn X-Men, Marvel Zombies and Stephen King’s The Dark Tower.

All 54 artists involved, from Marvel, DC, 2000AD, The Beano, Hellboy, Dr Who and more, are masters of their craft.

Nelson marks the first venture by UK Comics Collective, formed to elbow the Yanks aside and help Brits claim their rightful place alongside literary greats.

Ade, who used to design billboards for The Gazette, in much the same way as Clark Kent worked for the Daily Planet and moonlighted as Superman, has also fulfilled his dream. “I’ve always wanted to draw Batman.”

Thanks to a canny bit of writing by fellow artist and writer Rob (Don Quixote comic book adaptor) Davis he’s done just that,.

The 250-page book is a unique collaboration between the UK’s most exciting comic artists to create one complete story – a collective graphic novel.

Each artist had the task of depicting a year in the life of Nel Baker, her baby brother Sonny’s death leading her to become known as Nelson.

Co-editor Woodrow Phoenix admits he gave Nel a twin brother and then took him away because “my mother lost her twin the same way – and because my sister died decades ago, but I still think about what our lives would be like if she had lived”.

Ade was handed the 1986 storyline which gave him licence to draw Nel in real life Nelson outfit, for this was the era of Adam Ant and the New Romantics. “I’d have preferred the 1970s,” he admits.

Ade’s already a time traveller, as a regular on the comic strip for Dr Who Magazine and former chief colourist for that and the allied Dr Who Adventures.

“My own favourite is Tom Baker, so easy to characterise, curly hair, big teeth, grin,” he adds.

“The hardest was Jon Pertwee because of all the hair.

“I like drawing David Tennant, the eyes, hook nose, the outfit all stand out, but Matt Smith’s not easy, he has such an expressive face but it’s hard to capture.”

He’s also drawn The Cybermen, Judge Karyn, Rugrats, Cosmic Adventures, various Marvel Mag superheroes, and worked with American writer-director Robert Tinnell to create The Faceless: A Terry Sharp Story graphic novel for Image Comics, before drawing strips for Torchwood magazine.

Ade studied illustration at art college, locally and at Manchester, before working as a painter, and later taking on a variety of jobs to pay the bills.

“I really do have a garret, I work in the attic, between school runs,” he admits.

Having been reared on DC Comics and Marvel Mag heroes himself, he loved comic strips.

“I like the whole idea of distilling the essence of a story into a few drawings.

“It’s quite an exacting discipline.

“You can’t be wordy or self indulgent.”

His first big break came with a Judge Dredd commission.

“You try to add a bit of yourself to the process although you can’t veer from the image,” he admits.

He’s also one of the collaborators in the SelfMadeHero published HP Lovecraft anthology, again adapted by Rob Davis. who co-edits the pioneering British comics anthology Nelson.

Ade’s worked a lot with Rob who started out on such mainstays of British comics as Roy of the Rovers and Judge Dredd. What do his own kids think?

“That I’m living the dream. I am.

“Some of the time.”