Rian Hughes is probably best known today, if at all, as a designer of stylish logos and cover designs. Who can forget his cover for Invisibles #1 with the psychedelic hand grenade? And would the comic have been the same without the cut-out logo? I think not.
But Hughes has also illustrated some excellent comics in his day, and the bulk of his work was collected this year in Yesterday's Tomorrows, a slick hardcover featuring such stories as "Dare" and "Really and Truly," with Morrison, as well as "The Science Service," with John Freeman, and an adaptation of Raymond Chandler's "Goldfish," with novelist Tom DeHaven.
"Dare," in particular, is worth the price alone. It's a full-length work by itself (once published by Fantagraphics as a four-issue series), and it features Morrison's admittedly by-the-numbers, but still fascinating deconstruction of the "boy's own adventure" aspect of the original Dan Dare comics. Morrison and Hughes's reinterpretation is as much of its time (early 1990s) as Frank Hampson's original version was a product of the 1950s, but that's the way to do Dare, I think. And Hughes blocky figures and art deco landscapes mischievously undermine Morrison's tendency in the story to become too precious and ironic.
The other strips in the book each have a unique style, some of them resembling a proto-Darwyn Cooke in their character design. I wasn't overly familiar with most of these Hughes comics until I read this collection, and I was surprised by how he approached each story as a distinct project, and applied an appropriate style, none of which looking much like other comics that had come before. Like a chameleon, Hughes changes his look constantly, but he doesn't seem to be mimicking the work of others, at least not others in the comic book industry. His inspiration clearly derives from outside sources like advertising, poster art, and graphic design.
Rian Hughes hasn't produced any comics that I know of recently, but in a Newsarama interview from last summer, he had this to say when asked if he planned on creating any new comics: "Yes, definitely, soon. Something that expresses what I've just been discussing somehow, hopefully without seeming gimmicky. Stay tuned...!"
Until then, Yesterday's Tomorrows more than fills the void, which is why I rank it as the 16th best comic of 2007.