John Higgins is an artist of remarkable ability (and adaptability).
To some, he is the quintessential Judge Dredd artist.
To others, the visionary behind the incredible World Without End.
To others still, the man who brought colour to the world of Watchmen.
To those who know him, he's one of the friendliest people you could ever meet.
John has had to write many different biographical pieces over the years, for many different markets. Here's a brief edited sample of those pieces with an update... (Readers are warned that Mr. Higgins' legendary modesty is rampant here, so he has a habit of skipping over certain things that the rest of us would be boasting like mad about).
Michael Carroll, webmaster.
(A life in a handful of paragraphs)
John Higgins left his home in Liverpool aged 15 years, arrived in the Far East soon after. Made his first tentative step to be an artist by entering into a night course for O-level art in Singapore for completely hormonal reasons. Unfortunately for him all the women in his class were over thirty and married, but he did learn he loved to draw. Back in England he became the first skinhead to live in a hippy commune in Wiltshire. Leaving the commune to return to Liverpool, he grew his hair and entered Art College (these were the years when you could get an art grant, which somehow allowed a student to eat minimally, but to drink copious amounts of alcohol).
The Wallasey College of Art had an able and discerning principle in the shape of John Heritage, a fine artist and a good man. Who decided Illustration and Graphic design was the best course for John to take, for which he is eternally grateful. Always being an avid reader of Science Fiction and Fantasy - the one occupation of a Saturday morning in Liverpool as a student that would cost at the most the price of a paperback book - was the walk through the food hall of Lewis's department store to the SF section of the book dept, three deep breaths past the bread counter, one big breath at the cooked meats and hold it round the cheese board.
Finally on one Saturday morning he spied the image he had unknowingly been waiting for, the cover to the Princess of Mars (Edgar Rice Burroughs) by artist Bruce Pennington. Here was depicted an impossible reality, he had found his direction: to be an SF book cover illustrator. But he somehow still managed to side step into medical illustration for a few years at the Royal Marsden Hospital, London.
In his free time he illustrated for the SF Monthly (NEL) and 2000 AD, a BWL weekly comic (IPC). While still at the Medical Art dept, he did his first fully painted cover for Pan Books, commissioned by David Larkin who had plenty of time for new illustrators. On this basis, having completed one book cover and the odd BWL illustration, with his usual sense of timing he decided to forgo the visceral delights of the operating theatre and post mortem autopsies, and to become a fully freelance artist, just before a recession which caused the contraction and collapse of a large number of publishing houses in the UK.
Necessity being the mother of invention he took on all and any illustration work, which covered Advertising, Book Illustration, Animation, Comics and Magazine covers. At this time he some how found the strength to get married and help produce a beautiful daughter, Jenna, who became the light in his heart and the drain on his wallet, which she continues to be to this day.
As comics started to fill more and more of his time, he found working on 2000 AD fulfilled his enthusiasm for SF illustration in a way no other form of illustration could do. As he developed as an artist, the editor Steve McManus gave him the opportunity to join the small group of regular artists who worked for 2000 AD. This gave John the ability to pay his bills on time and to grow as a comic artist.
It was a time of experimentation and growth, for one week he would be drawing a black and white line Future Shock story written by Alan Moore, the next painting in full colour a Judge Dredd strip for the 2000 AD Annual. He happened to be in the right place and the right time when Dave Gibbons approached John to join with him and Alan Moore as part of the Watchmen team. Being fortunate enough to be involved with this seminal piece of graphic work gave John a small place in comics history and an introduction to DC comics, Where - with Jamie Delano - he co-created World Without End, a fully-painted six-issue SF series set in a world that had been genetically mutated and malformed into a diseased nightmare reflection of this Earth.
This in some ways was an end of John's creative journey from the Bruce Pennington image he first saw as a student to his own depicted of an "impossible reality". It had satisfied an artistic urge and he now felt he had to find a different direction. Doing many different comic titles at this time he concentrated mainly on black and white line art, trying to find his natural style became a new voyage of artistic discovery. He then created Turmoil Colour Studios to make the best possible use that he could of the new personal "affordable" computer, the Power Mac 7100, it being the first of many computers he owned.
He has spent the subsequent years in a love hate relationship with computer imaging, which continues to this day. With Turmoil Colour Studios basically looking after itself (with creative nudges from John), he spent a number of years collaborating with Garth Ennis, who had a way with characterization and story telling that made it a pleasure to work on his scripts. Pride and Joy was one of these stories, pencilled and inked by John and coloured by his Turmoil Colour Studios people, Sam Hart (now a full time artist living and working in Brazil) and Danielle Hunt.
After Pride and Joy, John decided - against a number of people's advice - to self-publish, creating Razorjack, a character in an 82 page comic magazine of the same name. Being writer, artist, publisher and everything in between, became not so much a way of life, as hell on earth. It should be no surprise he decided to go with an offer made by Eddie Deighton and Russell Uttley of ComX, a new comic publishing company based in London, who offered to published the remaining two issues and to bring the story of Razorjack to conclusion.
John realized a long held ambition in 2005 to finally digitally rework the colour of the Watchmen. After living with the primitive reproduction of his colouring due to the printing limitations of the comic process on the 1986 issues of the Watchmen, he finally got the opportunity to give the colour a finish that the graphic novel had always deserved, but until the computer arrived was not deemed feasible. He worked closely with Dave Gibbons on this, and also collaborated with Dave on the five-issue miniseries Thunderbolt Jaxon (published by DC/Wildstorm under Alan Moore's Albion imprint).
There has been an interesting symmetry to this period in John's career. He does feel he is producing the best work of his career and has found a style on Thunderbolt Jaxon that he is enjoying immensely.
And the story goes on!