Monday 28 March 2016

Remembering Tony Luke

I don't normally write 'in memoriam' pieces or obituaries. Those of you who used to read my Devil's Porridge blog know that I only did a couple of posthumous tributes - to people I knew personally whose passing would otherwise go largely unnoticed.

I discovered today that Tony Luke passed away last month after a long battle with cancer. There have been a number of tributes on comics sites so his death has not gone unnoticed - except by me. I feel bad for not knowing until six weeks later. I feel bad for having lost contact with Tony in recent years. I feel bad generally: we were about the same age and we went back a long way, Hell, I knew Tony before he dyed his hair black.

In the early/mid 1980s I was a very active member of ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha, the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Appreciation Society. Tony was a member too and I would often see him at meetings, parties and conventions. ZZ9 attracted some interesting people in those days. (Dave Julyan, composer of scores for films including Memento and The Descent, was newsletter editor at one point.)

When I started working on SFX in 1995, one of the most exciting things was the opportunity to interview people I already knew who I felt deserved more credit for their work. Tony was one of those and I did a big sit-down interview with him in 1996. You can now read the full transcript here.

Tony invited me down to Brighton where he was shooting a short for the nascent UK SciFi Channel called Archangel Thunderbird, starring Eileen Daly and Doug Bradley. He had a nightmare dealing with some fetish guy whose job it was to tie Eileen up and who spent hours doing special types of knots. It also didn't help that the various gun props had to be smuggled into the location without being seen by the heavy police presence in town for the Labour Party Conference. I think in the end Tony reshot the whole thing.

Later, he contacted me about a pop video he was making for the indie band Urusei Yasura. I travelled to a Star Trek-themed bar in London where I got to play a nerdy sci-fi geek who spills a Klingon's pint and thereby somehow turns everyone into cartoons. I vividly recall phoning Tony from a payphone at Bath bus station (mobile phones were rare things in those days) to learn that the video was going to be number one on the ITV Chart Show Indie Chart that Saturday.

I don't know when my last contact with Tony was. It was some time ago and in fact I kept wondering where he had disappeared to. He was evidently still working, producing illustrations whenever his illness allowed. I guess we just tended to move in different circles. I'm not a comics fan and have no interest in anime or manga; people who do evidently knew Tony and still saw him sometimes,

In 2003 I interviewed Tony for a second time, by email, about his CGI animated feature Dominator. For that innovative film (and Archangel Thunderbird), Tony must be considered a significant name in the British Horror Revival. His work won't be forgotten, and neither will he.

Tony never became a household name or a big star. But he did what he wanted to do, his way, without compromise. He had integrity, which meant that he had fallings-out. He never considered that a problem. He was also a bloody good laugh. And I'm sad that he's gone.

If you haven't spoken to someone for a long time, get back in contact while you can. One day it will be too late.

Rest in peace, Tony Luke.

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