2000 AD Prog Slog

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Prog 145

This prog sees the last episode of the current run of The Mind of Wolfie Smith. If you're interested, it was a strip that I remember enjoying first time around (despite missing several episodes) but this time found hard work getting into.

Teenager Wolfie Smith has ESP and as a result wanders around the UK having all manor of supernatural styled adventures thanks to powers that you would think normally to be a blessing but are, actually, a burden. In the last story, he helps out on the set of a horror movie which doesn't appear to have a script as when the real hauntings and murders start the director continues to shoot anyway shouting things like, "great imporv" etcetera.

As a young reader, I think Smith walking around, homeless, having to survive moodily on his wits, really must have a appealed to me. As an adult, seeing this cocky sixteen year old blag his way into a job on a movie and into the affections of one of its sexy stars who seems to spend all of her time walking around in a bikini top just got on my nerves.


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Prog 144

There are various covers from this time by art robot Brian Bolland that many readers consider classics. For me, this is one of them. Yes, I know, it might not be his most inspired, it being a homage to the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind which was out around this time, but I remember liking it as a kid and it makes me feel warm inside seeing it again.

I think that this illustration was originally intended as a centre spread as instructions on how to use it as a poster say to undo the staples and gently remove the pages. To use it as a poster, you would need to totally disassemble the comic altogether.

2000 AD seems keen to associate itself with any big budget science fiction release at the moment. Hollywood, which moves nearly as slowly as the Catholic Church when it comes to recognising trends sometimes, has its responses to Star Wars hitting the big screens at last. Already, in the comic, we've seen a report on The Black Hole and a Star Trek cover. Last prog, Ro-Jaws presented a report on Star Trek The Motion Picture.

It's surprising now to think how excited everyone was about the prospect of the cast of Star Trek returning in a big budget movie. I rarely got to go to the cinema. In fact, I maintain that not getting to see Star Wars and Superman left me cultural bereft in the eyes of my peers. So, when my Dad announced that he was taking us to see Star Trek The Motion Picture, I was the happiest kid in Hatfield. I'm sure you can understand how disappointed I was by how dull I found it to be. I remember eventually giving up hope of seeing any action and falling asleep. I was woken up by the sound of my dad snoring in the seat next to me.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Prog 142

After starting the one hundreds packed cover to cover with classic thrills, 2000 AD has settled into a period that, in general, is below par. For me, despite liking it first time around, Wolfie Smith doesn't make the grade. It's early days, so The Slog jury is still out on Stainless Steel Rat and the VCs despite some great art by Mike McMahon and Cam Kennedy (who I was able to tell apart this time). I've warmed a lot to Blackhawk, mainly because the moment I wrote here that it is a bit samie it turned into this totally crazy strip where the main character loses his soul and everyone is sucked into a black hole.

However, Judge Dredd is going through some great one offs and short story runs right now. Part three of The Black Plague appears in this prog. In it, Dredd races across The Cursed Earth on the back of a mutant, meat eating, talking horse called Henry Ford, to warn Mega City One of a plague of poisonous spiders heading its way. Already we've seen a mutie town scare off the spiders, using a ring of fire, but not before Miss Flatface, the school ma'am, is bitten to death.

These Dredd stories, all written by John Wagner as John Howard, are perfectly paced and pitched. But something else that also impresses about them is his inclination to create a great supporting cast for these one offs and short runs that never appear again. Any other writer in Wagner's situation would return to a character like Henry Ford so often that he would have had his own talking doll, I mean, action figure by now. I think Wagner might just be showing off.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Prog 139

ITEM: My theory that the annuals are produced well in advance of their publication and even further ahead of the intended Christmas market seems to have been confirmed in last prog's Nerve Centre. In response to a letter from a reader about Brett Ewins, Tharg comments that he is currently working on a colour Judge Dredd strip for the 1981 annual. This is November 1979, but let's say that the deadline for this issue was six weeks earlier. This means that they are currently putting together the 1981 annuals at least ten months ahead of publication. No wonder they seem grossly out of step with what is happening in the weekly.

ITEM: This prog sees the end of the ABC Warriors run. In it, the giant robot with five bickering brains, George, kicks the hell out of BioL's head quarters (BioL being the corrupt corporation that grows synthi-meat and has been setting fire to the farms of their competitors). Working for a huge, corrupt organisation myself, I couldn't help but feel a little sorry for all the office and factory workers that were trampled to death, especially when you consider that the bosses, the real bad guys, probably work remotely from home or are visiting a tropical planet on "business".

The characters don't return for several years, and when they do, it's as members of the supporting cast in Nemesis The Warlock. Considering the Mars story is left unresolved and the popularity of the strip, this seems a little odd. I remember hearing rumours that script robot, Pat Mills, was in dispute with the editors, possibly over other writers working on his characters, which might explain his low profile in 2000 AD over the coming months.

ITEM: Talking of characters created by Pat Mills that are written by other people; Disaster 1990 starring Bill Savage finishes this prog. The story ends with it snowing in London and a caption informing us that, within three years, everything is back to normal.

If I could be assured that the ice caps would refreeze this quickly and easily then it makes continuing to use underarm deodorant and not bothering to switch the telly off properly seem not such a big deal. I just fear for future Britain, where Glastonbury Festival goers are the most experienced to survive the flood.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Prog 136

Obviously, the drop in paper quality was out of the control of the editors of 2000 AD and has annoyed the hell out of them. This prog, Tharg apologises to a reader who has sent in a photograph of a stuffed gronk that they have made for not being able to reproduce it but awards them three pounds anyway. It’s fun to see Tharg the Mighty’s personality slip slightly so that the real editors can make a sarcastic remark about the rubbish paper. Not that it makes a difference as the poor paper stays for several hundred progs more.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Dan Dare Annual 1980

Dan Dare’s final association with 2000 AD contains all the reprinted strips and character misinterpretation that you’ve come to expect from an annual of this period but there’s a few enigmas thrown in too. For example, that cover by Kevin O’Neill. As this is a character annual, and a publicly recognised one at that, shouldn’t he be more prominent on the cover? Admittedly, the ship is the star of the illustration, but does Dare being tucked away in the corner make commercial sense?

The Judge Dredd strip within is just so wrong. For starters, he hasn’t been Judge Marshal of Luna City One for over a year, yet here he is, back there again. When he returns to his apartment, he finds all the stars of 2000 AD waiting there to throw a surprise Christmas party for him. Then the bash is attacked by all the script, art and lettering robots angry about something or other. The strip ends with Dredd arresting himself for causing a disturbance on a public holiday.

The biggest mystery to me is also the one I am most embarrassed about; who is the artist on the 3000 AD The Traveller strip? To a casual observer, it could be Mike McMahon although, admittedly, a Mike McMahon feeling under the weather. Now I think it could be early work by Cam Kennedy. Not knowing is driving me slightly crazy and making me feel a bit ashamed.

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Star Lord Annual 1980

Another thing about the Fleetway annuals of this period is that it doesn’t matter how unsuccessful a comic might has been, it gets an annual anyway. For example, Star Lord must have finished a year before this and 1980 is its first annual, and there are two more to come. I guess the confused-grandmother-buying-the-wrong-science-fiction-annual-for-Christmas is a significant market.

There seems to be even more resized reprint material here than in this years 2000 AD annual. The originated strips aren’t too bad, however, even if one of them is hosted by Tharg, a character who officially, had nothing to do with Star Lord the weekly. Weirdly, Ro-Jaws appears in a Ro-Busters styled rescue story without Hammer-Stein. Most noteworthy is the colour Strontium Dog strip drawn by Brendan McCarthy. At least I think it’s him as all the work appearing in this year’s annual is un-credited.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Prog 135

Disaster 1990 is another example of a strip that I am surprised to find myself enjoying. In it, Invasion 1999's Bill Savage roams around a severely flooded Britain after an accidental nuclear explosion melts the polar ice caps. (You know how it is. You're cleaning the spare room and you accidentally knock over a nuclear bomb that someone has left lying around. "I told him to put that away." Boom!).

There is much that fascinates me about Disaster 1990. For example, how does Britain dry out so completely in time for the Volgan invasion nine years later? How can the distance between the setting of a science fiction strip be further away from the present than the year it was created in? Disaster 1990 is the British version of The Day After Tomorrow set twelve years before and made eleven before that.

I am mostly intrigued as to what happened to script robot Gerry Finley-Day. The last thing I heard was he was no longer writing comics. I am interested to know what it is that led him to giving up comics at a time when many of his peers were making their break in America. More about that in The Slog later, I suppose.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Prog 133

Reaction to the amalgamation of 2000 AD and Tornado appears in this prog's Nerve Centre with opinion split pretty much evenly between the three pound winning positives and the truth telling negatives. The great thing about the letters pages at this time was that, no matter how scathing the mail might have got on occasions, Tharg always responded with dignity and wit.

Of the three strips that came over with Tornado, only The Mind of Wolfie Smith is approaching standard, I would say. Blackhawk suffers from having had a science fiction theme crow barred into it. Previously, the character was a roman slave who fought in the arenas but now, for the amalgamation, he's been abducted by aliens and is fighting for their entertainment in space. Every episode feels too similar to each other and the strip suffers from inconsistent art. The fact that two weeks into the amalgamation Blackhawk was dropped for an issue suggests a lack of faith in the strip by even the editors.

The other strip to move over was Captain Klep, a single page Superman spoof that only makes publication if not enough advertising is sold that week, which implies that it is rated even lower than Blackhawk. Captain Klep is totally out of tone in 2000 AD. In fact, it would be more at place in Cor or Whizzer and Chips.

The amalgamation with Star Lord proved to be beneficial to 2000 AD, what with its strips contributing to the longevity of the weekly. The joining with Tornado proved to be period of turbulence for everyone, which might explain why no other amalgamations ever took place.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Prog 131

When my Dad was seen reading an issue of 2000 AD by my Uncle during a family get together, he tried to explain his behaviour away by commenting on how imaginative he thought the comic was using this prog's Judge Dredd story as an example. In Sob Story, it is established that Mega City One is so over populated that there are citizens who live their lives in their cars, perpetually cruising around the city roads.

If you've never encountered this story before but it seems familiar to you then it might be because I suspect that it was the influence behind a recent Doctor Who story, Gridlock. Supposedly, an incidentally character seen driving one of the vehicles wearing a pin stripe suit was based on Judge Dredd's informant, Max Normal. This isn't the only time that this has happened. The devil from two parter, The Satan Pit, was apparently inspired by a drawing by art robot Simon Bisley. In fact, the new Doctor Who altogether is recognisant of early 2000 AD to me. This wouldn't be entirely surprising; the show's current producer and principle writer, Russell T. Davis, used to want to be a comic artist.

Anyway, whenever I entered the house with a pile of comics, my Dad would ask where 2000 AD was. My attitude was, as 2000 AD was the only British comic that I was interested in at the time and as he liked it so much, then why wasn't he buying it for me instead of expecting me to pay for it with my own, below national average pocket money. (Thanks John Craven's Newsround). What I thought of as a battle of wills between us ensued during the prog one hundreds where I would refuse to buy it, weeks at a time, in the hope that one day he would crack and buy it for me. He never did and I always ended up cracking first, partly because I liked it so much and partly because I wanted his approval.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Annual 1980

This is the third annual and I am beginning to think that there is no excuse for getting things incorrect now. Just look at the cover, for example; Judge Dredd is painted all wrong. Did the people putting together these annuals think; well it doesn't matter if Judge Dredd is wrong. We're aiming for a different market, anyway. A general feel, that's all that matters.

Inside, the wrongness continues. None of the established acts gets any of the colour pages. Some of the strips have a second colour, red, which almost obliterates the black and white art underneath. There's an Invasion story in there; the strip having finished in the weekly a year ago. Judge Dredd strolls the sun kissed beaches of Mega-Miami, smiling at the law-abiding citizens enjoying their leisure time. A direct contradiction to a recent story that appeared in the weekly where the bad tempered Dredd falls into the Black Atlantic and has to have all the poisons pumped from his body. And Dan Dare? I have no idea what is happening there.

My favourite strip is the Future Shock styled, Benny's Tale. In it, dumb Benny receives medical treatment to make him very intelligent. In the end, he is so smart that, when he sees a car hurtling towards him, he stands still, analysing the situation, instead of leaping out of its way. My favourite moment however, is when, halfway through the course of treatments, Benny's brain gets so big, that he is pictured relaxing with a group of bikini clad babes, all of which are impressed by his big forehead muscles.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Prog 129

One prog into the alliance with Tornado and the reproduction reverts to the poor quality that we know and are confused by. As regular Slog commenter, Ken Davidson, remarked to a previous entry, the temporarily improved reproduction only came about because the existence of Tornado forced 2000 AD to go to another printer. Now that Tornado no longer technically exists, there's no need for the galaxy's greatest comic to go elsewhere.

This prog features an early Tharg strip. I have a confession to make; I used to think that Tharg was real. When the weekly started, I remember being puzzled by the mainstream news coverage concentrating on the return of Eagle favourite Dan Dare rather than the comic being edited by an actual alien. Why is the grown up news media run by idiots, I used to wonder.

In this story, Tharg is seen growing to a giant size and towering over the streets on London. Even accounting for the six-week delay between deadline and publication, I thought, surely I would remember the news coverage of this if, indeed, there were any. This is how I started to suspect that Tharg might actually be a creation of the real, human editorial team. I think it was around this time that I stopped believing in Father Christmas too.

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Prog 127

I feel slightly aggrieved. Last prog saw the end of the current run of Dan Dare, again thanks to amalgamation and again mid story, only this time, it never returns. I remember writing in The Slog before about how cleverly stories in Star Lord were wrapped up in time for it’s untimely finish but this isn’t the case this time around from 2000 AD’s point of view. For years I wondered what happened in the end of the strip and it turns out that, after all of the investment I’ve made, there is absolutely no pay off at all.

The person most noticeably affected by the end of Tornado and it’s joining together with 2000 AD is Dare art robot Dave Gibbons. Not only has the strip that he has drawn for pretty much two years come to a premature stop, the comic he was the editor of has been cancelled too. Okay, he wasn’t really the editor of Tornado but he posed for the photographs dressed as Big E, the comic’s fictional superhero editor. Drawing the first cover to the amalgamation just seems like rubbing his nose in it to me.

Not so long ago, I saw Dave Gibbons walking around a comic convention and I had to do a double take because, for a moment, I thought he was eighties funny man, Ben Elton. If you’ve never seen photographs of Dave Gibbons dressed up as Big E then just imagine Ben Elton in a superhero suit and you might have some idea as to how un-heroic he looked even to an impressionable eleven year old me.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Prog 124

If I'm failing on the noticeable firsts in The Slog, then the less than noticeable firsts are going to totally pass me by. For example, Tharg's increasing alien vocabulary.

Tharg mentions the Dictators of Zrag in this prog's editorial. These are his deadly enemies and, more importantly to us, the haters of all things thrill powered. The thing is, I'm not sure if this is the first reference to them. My problem is that they feel so familiar to me that I'm not sure if this is because of The Slog or my memories of reading 2000 AD the first time around. This might also explain why I have doubts about, when Judge Dredd references 'Grud' (Mega City One speak for God) in this prog's episode, if this is a first or not.

But then, it would be the obsessive noting of this sort of thing that would make The Slog like too much hard work for me so I'm not especially ashamed of its failing in this area.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Prog 123

To recap, I bought progs 1 to 3 of 2000 AD when they came out and then lost them somehow. Later, I swapped some Marvel comics for the first twenty progs intending to buy it regularly from prog 21 due out that same week but some over exuberant re-sizing with a pair of scissors on my part put paid to that idea. After, I avoided the comic altogether until the one hundreds, meaning that I missed strips like The Cursed Earth, The Day The Law Died, Robo-Hunter: Verdes and The Visible Man first time around.

Now The Slog has reached the hundreds and there is a noticeable difference between the general tone to one hundred progs ago. For starters, characters aren't dispatched with the same glee that they once were. Now their fates are just cruel and ironic. Even Bill Savage, now starring in Disaster 1990, is almost civilized; although he seems yet to meet his wife let alone learn of her murder at the hands of those dirty Volgs. Certain artists are now part of the comic's establishment. This issue alone features stunning work by future stars Brian Bolland, Kevin O'Neill and Dave Gibbons as well a Jesus Redondo, a secret pleasure of mine.

During the one hundreds, I was a sporadic buyer, purchasing runs in short, occasional bursts. (I'll elaborate on why I think this was the case in a later post). I definitely had this issue. It was one of the earliest of this centaury that I recall buying. I distinctly remember the cover and thinking that 2000 AD was looking more like a superhero comic than when I saw it last. This was definitely a move in the right direction as far as I was concerned.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Prog 122

Ten years ago this week, Neil Armstrong set foot on the surface of the moon for the first time. I know this because Tharg mentions this in the Nerve Centre and devotes an uncharacteristic half feature page to this anniversary. I find myself wondering why man hasn't been to the moon during the last three decades or why we went at all in the first place. Then I think, I would probably have an informed opinion as to why this is the case if I spent my free time educating myself instead of embarking on ridiculous projects like The Slog. When I was a child, this is what I looked forward to about being an adult the most; Spending my time re-reading eleven hundred comics and not having to learn anything new ever again. But then, on the plus side, this issue features strips by both Brian Bolland (Judge Dredd) and Mike McMahon (ABC Warriors).

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Prog 119

There’s nothing quite like a 2000 AD re-launch. Where Judge Dredd starts a new story (usually a complete, self contained tale where the concept of the strip is reasserted). Where new strips from nowhere begin and old ones return with new stories. Where new illustrations of alien editor Tharg are on display in the Nerve Centre (editorial and readers letter page) and everything about the culture of the comic is re-explained.

Sometimes, like this one, a re-launch features a new logo and design sense (although this isn’t very common). This new logo might not go down in 2000 AD history as a classic but I remember whenever seeing it at the time how cool I thought it looked.

Perhaps in acknowledgment of the slicker production qualities that 2000 AD is experiencing, there’s also a magazine sensibility to the design of the cover, hence the collage and the appearance of Roger Moore’s James Bond from Moonraker. (The best James Bond from the best of his films, as far as I am concerned). Fortunately, it’s a sensibility that doesn’t seem to last on this occasion.

Sometimes, a re-launch is an ideal time for a sly price increase which isn’t the case this time. So, with ABC Warriors, Disaster 1990 and Project Overkill beginning, this isn’t a bad re-launch at all.

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Saturday, June 09, 2007

Sci-fi Special 1979

One of the Slog duties that I am failing in is making a note of the firsts. For example, Alan Grant writes the Judge Dredd strip in this year's special but I can’t tell you for certain if this is his first Dredd gig. I think that it might be but, if I am honest, I haven’t been paying good enough attention. I’ll try harder in future.

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Friday, June 08, 2007

Prog 118

Another interesting thing about The Slog is that I am currently reading some strips for the first time alongside others that I am very familiar with thanks to reprints published during the eighties. For example, I may be reading Verdus or The Cursed Earth for a third, fourth or even fifth time. This means that when I come to comment on them here, I am instinctively looking for something new to me to say about them. This is why, I think, that I might have given the impression that I was insinuating something negative about script robot John Wagner's writing during my comments at the end of Robo-Hunter and The Day The Law Died recently.

In this prog, the John Wagner penned (using the designation of T B Grover) Strontium Dog epic Journey To Hell comes to an utterly satisfying conclusion. In it, Johnny Alpha, Wulf Sternhammer and The Gronk find themselves trapped in another dimension that resembles hell itself with their bounty, Fly's Eyes Wagner. The characters walk from one side to the other in an attempt to find their way home, their journey obviously obstructed by various demons and torments.

This is the first time that I have read this strip and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved the low-key start and the gradual increase in intensity as it went along. I loved the dynamic between the three main characters. I loved seeing Alpha determined to bring his bounty to justice despite hell literally breaking out around him. I loved reading Wulf using the word 'cucumber' as a substitute for any English words he didn't know. I loved the characters that accompanied them on their journey, especially the CB radio enthusiast Don Trucker (a predecessor to Ace Trucking Co, I guess).

Reading Journey Into Hell wasn't just enjoyable in and of itself, it also reminded me how much reading those stories that I am familiar with, like Verdus and The Day The Law Died, for the first time were like as well. To my mind, Wagner is such a great mainstream comic writer that it's nice to be able to read something by him from this period and not be looking for flaws, like I have done on occasion, because I know it so well.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Prog 117

One of the interesting things about doing The Slog so far are the creator names that pop up from time to time that I never expected to see at this stage if at all. One of these is script robot Steve Moore (no relation) who is writing the current Rick Random strip. I associate Steve Moore (no relation) more with Marvel UK originated material and, a little later, Warrior. The only 2000 AD material I remember him doing is more recent. In fact, it's so recent that I'm not entirely sure if any of it will appear as part of The Slog experiment, it finishing with prog 1100.

It's a shame perhaps that Moore will be best remembered as the guy who showed Alan Moore (no relation) how to write comic scripts. Apparently, he also devised the Future Shock format, this becoming the typical testing strip for most creator robots to come. However, I remember seeing episodes of his Rick Random strip from first time around and feeling that it looked quaint, old fashioned and not for me. Now, eighteen years later, although I now find Ron Turner's artwork on it to be quite impressive, almost beautiful, my feelings about the story remain the same.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Prog 115

Although I have been reading all of the Nerve Centres and readers letters included therein as part of The Slog, I have decided not to make a conscious effort to identify fan art or mail from future contributors to 2000 AD. However, I couldn't help but notice this piece by Kevin Hopgood included in today's prog.

Many future comic stars seemed to have sent reader art or mail to the Nerve Centre when they were younger, including Colin MacNeil (prog 121), Shakey Kane (prog 126) and Philip Bond (prog 139). Writer Warren Ellis seems to have been a frequent correspondent, although he is not a creator that I associate with 2000 AD.

Film director Danny Cannon had artwork published in the Nerve Centre when he was young. When it was announced that he was to direct the 1995 Judge Dredd movie, those of us who were readers of the strip felt assured by this knowledge, even when pre-publicity shots of the character had him strutting around without his helmet on (a definite character no no). Obviously, just seeing the film rent that assurance asunder.

Personally, I'm more interested to watch for celebrity names there. Many progs back, I noticed a letter sent in by a Simon Day. He asked Tharg if they had jokes on his home planet. I decided that this is the same Simon Day who went on to star in The Fast Show and currently appears in the adverts for Powergen just before the ITV weather reports.

Thanks to http://www.2000ad.nu/classof79/letters/green_dude.htm which I found helpful in producing today's entry.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Prog 112

Anyway, as I was saying before I got distracted by Wulf Sternhammer's cucumber; that Ian Gibson's a good artist, isn't he?

This prog sees the conclusion to Sam Slade's (that's S L A Y E D to you) first adventure as Robo-Hunter. It finishes with the robo-planet Verdus burning after he lets off some sort of electro-magnetic pulse that destroys all the robots living there. Someone should say something to Ro-Jaws and Hammer-stein because over in Ro-Busters, currently running in 2000 AD, all the droids there are trying to reach a utopian world for robots that some bloke told them about in a pub.

Under the surface, these two strips portray robots quite differently to each other. In Ro-Busters, they are analogous to the working class. The reader is supposed to empathise with the characters and want them to succeed (succeed meaning survive). In Robo-Hunter, they might be fun caricatures but, at the end of the day, they are seen as machines programmed to replicate human behavior and not as living beings. Either this or I am so appalled at thought of Sam Slade wiping out a planetful of them that I've superimposed this interpretation onto the strip as part of my coping mechanism. It’s not the notion that the strip's star Slade has committed robo-genocide that appalls me but with the implication that writer John Wagner has painted himself into a corner with the plot and this is all he can think to do to wrap the story up.

In any other industry, the artist would have to go through an approval process when designing new characters but this couldn't have been the case with Gibson. He must have designed hundreds of characters drawing this strip. Unlike Ro-Busters, which is split between a number of slower artists, Gibson pretty much drew Robo-Hunter himself. Apart from being amazing to look at, it's this which makes it all the more awe-inspiring to me.

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Prog 110

Prior to this prog, 2000 AD was printed on low quality newsprint. The edges were never trimmed down so that they were uneven and the ink would often come off on your fingers when you read it. There was always a sense that the team of editors, writers and artists putting it together rated it much more highly than IPC who published it at the time. 2000 AD defied the expectations placed upon it, in part, by its cheap reproduction.

This prog sees a significant improvement in reproduction quality. This change, which arrives incidentally with no forewarning let alone fanfare, means a full colour cover (before, they were always four colour) that looks amazing despite being bordered and not bled off the page. Although the size is slightly smaller, the reproduction of the interior artwork is dramatically improved so that the strips drawn by Brian Bolland, Ian Gibson and Dave Gibbons look even more fantastic. All this and without any apparent price rise too.

So, it's baffling to me that this improvement turns out to be temporary and that, within six months, 2000 AD will have reverted back to the poor finishing and the paper quality that draws the very water from your fingertips of before. I wonder if the earlier failure of Star Lord, which was printed using higher values, and the continued strong sales of 2000 AD had given IPC the impression that poor reproduction and, therefore, greater affordability in the end was part of the formula on how to make a successful comic.

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

Prog 108

Last prog, Brian Bolland draws a pin-up of Fergee where it occurs to me that the character must have been based on Australian croc botherer, Steve Irwin, all along. Then I think this can’t be the case, who would have heard of Steve Urwin in 1979?

In this prog, the second Judge Dredd mega epic, The Day The Law Died (later re-titled Judge Caligula by Titan Books) comes to an end. When I first read this story, I remember feeling that it felt more chaotic and less structured than its predecessor, The Cursed Earth. In The Cursed Earth, written predominantly by script robot Pat Mills, the objective of the story, to travel across a nuclear wasteland to Mega City Two to deliver a vaccine, was clear early on. It was then broken down into handy chunks where, for example, Judge Dredd had a fight with a dinosaur for a few weeks or Ronald MacDonald for a fortnight.

For The Day The Law Died, written by John Wagner, it was a while before we understood that Dredd was fighting against a corrupt Chief Judge. There was no explanation as to why Judge Cal went mad or how this went unnoticed by everyone else until he got the top job. There was no real foreshadowing to the explanation given to why all the other Judges followed Cal’s orders without question.

I’ve always had the impression that when Wagner writes a story, he starts with the idea, a sense of its potential but never a full outline of it. He is such a strong writer that this way or working usually works out for him where for most others, it wouldn’t. This way of writing comics explains why much of his work has a great sense of spontaneity, life and the unpredictable. But it will also explain why, occasionally, little failings in the story, like the ones I just mentioned, happen.

But this is still early days for Judge Dredd and the mega epic. John Wagner is setting the groove but is still a little way from settling into it. And despite my hair picking, The Day The Law Died compares favourably with The Cursed Earth. Like the character of Cal, the story wanders off on a tangent but it is always entertaining.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Prog 106

I really want to write an entry about how great art droid Ian Gibson is but something more important has come up; Wulf Sternhammer's catch word. He is now, because of his poor English, quite happily peppering his speech with the word "cucumber" (which is why I said "catch word" rather than "catch phrase".) In this prog, he refers to Johnny Alpha and the Gronk as "ol' cucumbers" but the first noticeable use of this word in this way by the character happened last issue when he said, "that put der cat among der cucumbers". Brilliant, just brilliant.

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