Annals Autobiographical Notes The Trigan Empire

❄ Season’s Greetings to All Our Readers ❄

Welcome to—a fan site devoted to Mike Butterworth’s epic tales of the Trigan Empire.

If you’re as much a fan of the Trigan Empire as I am, then this website is for you!

What is the Trigan Empire? The Trigan Empire is a science fiction comic strip co-created by writer Mike Butterworth and artist Don Lawrence. The main series was originally published between 1965 and 1982 by Fleetway Publications in weekly two-page instalments, initially in the short-lived Ranger magazine (issues #1 thru #40), and thereafter in Look and Learn magazine (issues #232 to #1049). Altogether there are 89 episodes of The Trigan Empire (including 3 episodes published outside the main series in two annuals and a summer special)—so far.

What is so great about the Trigan Empire? The greatness of the Trigan Empire is difficult to convey in so many words. Really, it’s something you have to experience for yourself. So let’s dive right in!

This instalment is from Episode 24, The Thing from the Sea, first published in Look and Learn no. 467, 26 December 1970.

Check out Don Lawrence’s incredible artwork!

Now, if you will, imagine yourself as a boy at primary school 50 or more years ago, seeing this for the first time. Keep in mind that the most popular science fiction series in the British Commonwealth at the time was the television series Doctor Who—and it was still filmed in black and white! This particular example of alien weaponry from the Trigan Empire—detailed, photorealistic, and in full colour—left an indelible impression on my malleable young mind.

Years later, Don Lawrence painted a number of covers for Dutch anthologies of Trigië and revisited this particular tale.

Years later still, the good folk at the Don Lawrence Collection in the Netherlands reprinted all the tales of the Trigan Empire illustrated by Don Lawrence, using high quality scans of Don Lawrence’s original artwork, re-lettered with a consistent font for captions and speech balloons throughout. Subsequently, digital copies of pages from the Don Lawrence Collection reprints became available online.

These days, from time to time, high quality of scans of Don Lawrence’s original artwork, sans captions and speech balloons, appear on auction sites, such as Catawiki. See example below.

I started building this website in 2020. Initially, I was mainly celebrating by republishing instalments of the Trigan Empire on the 50th anniversary of each instalment. Starting here.

I had a few other ideas. I wanted to re-letter some of the episodes, especially some of the later episodes. Over the years, the font used by Fleetway Publications for the lettering of the captions and speech balloons of the Trigan Empire changed several times. The font you see above is (as best I can tell) a serif font called “TeX Gyre Termes”. I call this the “classic” font. It was used from Episode 1 through to halfway through Episode 28. I’m okay with it, but I prefer what I call the “modern” font, which is (as best I can tell) a sans-serif font called “Trade Gothic LT Std”. It was used from halfway through Episode 28 to Episode 52. With Episode 53, the font changed again. I really didn’t like it, and I don’t like the Don Lawrence Collections’s choice of font much either! So, I wanted to republish (for my own gratification) episodes of the Trigan Empire, in particular the later episodes, Episode 53 and onwards, with the “modern” font. Please, by all means, feel free to check out my re-lettering of Episode 66, “The Digger”, here.

Another thing I wanted to see was one or more new episodes of the Trigan Empire—as Mike Butterworth might have written them. But none has been forthcoming. So, in accordance with the old adage, “If you want something done [well], do it yourself”, I embarked on writing an entirely new episode of the Trigan Empire. It’s taken me three years so far, but I’ve nearly finished it! I call it Episode 91, and its working title is “The Poisoned Rallis”. Watch this space!

Lastly, the other main thing I’d like to mention is a digital art restoration project—and a solution to a longstanding problem of mine—choosing appropriate Christmas presents for my friends and family. From now on (in fact, from Christmas 2022), everyone gets a Don Lawrence calendar! This Christmas, everyone gets a “the Fourth Year of Ziss” (2024) calendar. The theme is “boats”. Last Christmas, lots of people got a “the Third Year of Ziss” (2023) calendar. The theme was “islands”.

Last year (2022), OpenAI launched a generative AI art text-to-image model called DALL·E 2. This enabled me to do “inpainting” and “outpainting”. Without the help of this AI, I wouldn’t have been able (without an unimaginable amount of effort) to create these calendars, which consist of perfectly square images. Here is how, with the help of DALL·E 2, I created the image for July 2023.

I wanted a picture of the lighthouse on the distant isle of Zooth (see above)—minus the alien weaponry. So, to begin with, I found a digital copy of the page (second page above) from the DLC reprint of The Thing from the Sea. Here’s a (low-res) copy.

Using the GIMP (the GNU Image Manipulation Program, a free open-source alternative to Photoshop) I cropped the image and removed “the thing from the sea” and the caption.

Then, I resized the image to 1024 x 1024 pixels (the dimensions used by DALL·E 2) . . .

. . . and uploaded the resized image to DALL·E 2. One of DALL·E 2’s attempts I quite liked, it was approaching what I had in mind, although it wasn’t yet quite right.

So, I cropped the image again, and re-uploaded.

This time, voilà! Still not quite what I had in mind, but close enough for a first attempt! You can clearly see the discontinuity between Don Lawrence’s art and the AI’s interpolation—but it definitely seems to have the right idea.

For the final proof of the calendars I removed the DALL·E 2 watermark from each of the images but included it and Don Lawrence’s signature on the end pages.

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