The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire was especially made for the magazine Ranger, of which the first issue appeared in 1965. Publishers house Fleetway wanted to publish a new magazine in which The Trigan Empire would be the leading comic. After Mike Butterworth was contracted for the scripts, the editors went looking for the right illustrator and found… Don Lawrence.
Don Lawrence: “The Trigan Empire. This was the big one. I was asked to appear at the top floor of Fleetway Publishing house which was a God’s domain. The carpets were so thick, you just sank in them. And all the secretaries were beautiful women, everybody was beautiful. I suppose I was the up-and-coming star at that time and I wasn’t aware of this, but I sort of got the treatment. When I went in, the secretary asked: “What’s your name?” And I said Don Lawrence. “You’re the Don Lawrence?”. Oh my god, I thought, where am I. It was weird. But it was obviously a great honour and I dropped everything I was working on. I sent in the roughs and they all got accepted and so I started on the Trigan Empire.”
The stories about the Trigan Empire were full of action and beautiful artwork, painted in the tradition of Frank Hampson and Frank Bellamy.
Don Lawrence: “They thought of this idea that it would be cheaper to reproduce the work if it was done in inks. And, so all the artists had to use inks. And it’s extremely difficult to use inks, because they have qualities which are very difficult to manipulate. There not easy, like gouache or watercolour. And it just meant learning a new technique. But, when the boss says you do that, you do that. It got that nice quality. But there are certain colours that couldn’t mix. If you put yellow on, then you tried another colour on top, it would form a sort of greasy bubbles. And however you spread it, it would go back into bubbles again. After eight years they relaxed this and they said you can use whatever you like. Well they didn’t actually say that, it’s just you did other things and they didn’t say no, that won’t do.
I could do about two pages of the Trigan Empire in one week. I would spend time on the first page, on the second page I was getting near deadline. And what I did was: if I had to work all night I would put by the side of each frame how long it’s going to take me. This one is an hour and a half, so I put one and a half, this one won’t take me half an hour, so I put half an hour and I’d do each frame how long it’s gonna take me if I really had a go at it. Add them all together, deduced it from a night sleep and then I said right: I gonna finish this by eight o’clock in the morning, then I’m going to bed. And I just worked, and did that. Packed it all up, at eight o’clock. Finished it, because I always sticked to that. I could do it within that time. I was so accurate with my timing, that I could do the whole page in roughly between six and eight hours. And then I finished the whole page, packed it all up, got it ready for postage and then get to bed and my wife would come down and post it of for me. And that was it. I knew just how much sleep I was gonna get. And that’s the way it worked. It was a bit silly really. It was a ridiculous way of working. If I had spread it out, but what happened as soon as you’re finished then you get to bed and you have some sleep. Wake up and think: I don’t want to touch any work, and then you get drunk and my friend Vince would come up and we go out and have a drink. And that would destroy that day and the next day and then I fiddled about with the children or do something on the third day so suddenly I was on the fourth day of the week, you’re back on the grandstand again.”
Don Lawrence drew the Tales of the Trigan Empire from 1965 till 1976. After a disagreement with his publisher about the price for the artwork and royalties Don quitted and started working on another hit series Storm.
Mike Butterworth wrote the tales of the empire till the comic was cancelled in 1982. The artwork was drawn by Oliver Frey and Gerry Wood. After the Trigan Empire, Mike Butterworth continued writing on his successful thrillers like The Five Million Dollar Prince.