Judge Dredd to Wonder Woman: The Work of Liam Sharp

Prototype Man painting and graphic art by Liam Sharp at Derby Museum

The work of Derby-born writer and artist Liam Sharp is currently being exhibited at Derby Museum and Art Gallery in a display which takes in his 30-year-career and astonishingly detailed comic work, including for DC, Marvel and as co-founder of Madefire.

Storge editor Sarah Lay stopped by to take a look. 

For anyone with a passing interest in comic books and graphic art the bibliography of Derby-born artist and writer Liam Sharp is likely to draw impressed looks. With a 30-year-career under his belt he’s worked on art for stories of superheroes as familiar from our childhoods reading comics as they are on the big screen thanks to Hollywood’s vogue for the genre. Currently drawing Wonder Woman for DC Comics he’s also worked on Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, Judge Dredd, X-Men, and Batman, having debuted with sci-fi magazine 2000 AD back in the 1980s.

But it all started here in Derby, where Liam was born and attended primary school before his incredible artistic talents saw him move to the south coast on scholarships, first at St Andrew’s Prep and then Eastbourne College. At just 17 he met the legendary artist Don Lawrence and decided to take an apprenticeship under his guidance rather than continue his formal studies. It was a decision that paid off when just a year later he debuted and began gathering critical acclaim for his highly detailed comic work.

Liam Sharp original comic work at Derby MuseumThe current retrospective of his career on display at Derby Museum and Art Gallery brings to his home city many of the astonishing panels he’s put together for comic houses and well-known characters as well as memorabilia and pieces from of fine art and sketches. And to give wider context the exhibition covers briefly the history of comic art and focuses not just on the most famous characters Sharp has worked on, but some of the more niche stories including The Possessed and Sherlock Holmes: The Greek Interpreter.

This later series is for the company Sharp co-founded, Madefire, a revolutionary comic house endeavour he founded six years ago with Ben Wolstenholme (CEO of Moving Brands and an advisor to the UK Technology Strategy Board) and Eugene Walden (an award-winning user interface architect, mobile pioneer, and entrepreneur). Heralding in a new era the company is transforming the way stories are told and shared by taking the art of graphic novels and using new technology to create interactive experiences on mobile devices.

This groundbreaking approach moves comics and graphic art forward, and explore new avenues in story-telling, bringing this most ancient shared experience and way of discerning meaning in our world into a new era making use of new technology and collaboration tools for the creatives behind the stories. And while Madefire may be based in California, where Sharp currently lives and works, it’s a nice link back to Sharp’s city of birth given Derby’s own history with gaming and interactive technologies.

Across the exhibition is the extraordinarily detailed comic work which brings the stories fully to life with incredible shade and light, as well as the intricate backgrounds. Sharp’s work is a joy to explore whether or not you are a fan of comics and the exhibition brings together some familiar faces from across the modern superhero world, as well as introduces those passing fans may be less familiar with, making this a fine retrospective of a city talent.

Judge Dredd to Wonder Woman – The Work of Liam Sharp exhibition is on at Derby Museum and Art Gallery until 3 September, during normal opening hours. Find out more on their website including details of the superhero challenge. Pick up a superhero design challenge sheet and have a go at inventing a brand new superhero. The winning superhero will burst into life and in a digitised and framed comic drawn by artist, Sally Jane Thompson.

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