2000 AD Prog Slog

Monday, July 09, 2007

Prog 155

I decided that I don't want to approach The Slog carrying the same baggage that I had when I stopped reading 2000 AD during the nineties. I want to approach it with the benefit of distance, as prejudice free as possible, just to see if the strips and creator robots stand the test of time; to see if I was right or wrong to feel the way I did about certain editorial decisions. It was thanks to this approach that I found myself enjoying the work of Alan Hebden, much to my surprise. So, after giving myself over to the idea that Gerry Finlay-Day might be nearer to a Premier League script robot than a fourth division one resulted in critical remarks about his work on the VCs by regular Slog commenter Mat Tait, my tactic fell into doubt.

First time around, I didn't particularly care for the VCs, despite some stunning artwork by Cam Kennedy and Gary Leach. It seemed to be like every other war comic strip around at the time except it was set in space. But now, my intentions to approach it again with a fresh mind have been soured by Mat's point about the bad guys in this strip, The Geeks, only being just a couple of vowels away from Gooks.

Mat has a point. In a recent episode, the crew goes to Mars, which has been colonised by the Chinese, and frequently refers to the population as "chinkies". In another, we meet Steve Smith's father who, thanks to a verbal slip up, refers to The Geeks as "The Gooks". There's nothing particularly subtle about that, Gerry.

But it is only March 1980. My memories of popular entertainment during the seventies is Jim Davidson's Chalky character and comedians asking black audience members where they are from so that, when they replied Rotherham, it got a big laugh. Racially derogative language was part of the mainstream at this time still and doesn't really start to become unacceptable for a couple of years yet.

When the thrills written by Wagner and Mills are an imaginative, beautiful mixture of satire and characterisation with great pulp sci-fi ideas thrown in, Gerry Findlay-Day's VCs can only feel slightly stagnant, closed minded and sterile in comparison.

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  • I'll have to dig the VC's issues out for a re-read. As you say, I would imagine a lot of popular culture from around then might seem a bit off-colour (no pun intended) from a 21st century perspective. And from the few war comics I read around that time, 'the enemy' was invariably defined by racial epithets - and the VC's is after all a rather traditional war story which happens to be set in space.

    But then, by 1980 we'd already had fifteen years or so of Captain Kirk and Co telling us all to be groovy and non-prejudiced, so what's the excuse here?

    By Blogger Stavros, at 11:13 pm  

  • I would half-heartedly counter that the VCs themselves are the customary mixture of freaks of all shapes and sizes whose "planetist" prejudice is firmly turned against the main character. Apart from the obvious Geek/Gook thing I don't really remember it being as caricatured as you say, but that's memory for you and I don't suppose Hen Sho makes up for it.

    And Stavros' Star Trek analogy falls down around about the "We come in peace" stage. ;-)

    By Blogger Peter, at 11:57 pm  

  • Stavros, ignoring Star Trek, the VCs, to me, seemed to be less racially illuminated than other strips that had appeared in the comic at the time, such as Harlem Heroes.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 12:32 pm  

  • Peter, you're right when you say that the VCs are made up of a mixture of races but, by as good as confessing in the strip that "geek" is meant to be pronounced "gook", the metaphor becomes confused. To me, its a flaw in a strip that might otherwise have been a lot, lot better but turns out to be disappointing becuase of it. I know that a lot of 2000 AD readers of my age rate the VCs very highly and the strip is still running in the Slog so, who knows, I might get talked around yet.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 12:37 pm  

  • The story is obviously an allegory about Vietnam (I mean, the 'VCs' for heaven's sake) so perhaps the polically incorrect stuff isn't so much racist as commentary on what happened in the Vietnam war itself. The VCs themselves were from rough stock, especially, I think Ringer so it's not surprising that they were a little vulgar at times, but all this doesn't mean that the strip was racist, in my opinion. More evidence regarding the Vietnam allegory? 'Brother' the hippy computer. See, it all makes sense, my friends...

    By Blogger dmstarz, at 2:17 pm  

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