2000 AD Prog Slog

Friday, August 31, 2007

Prog 203

The Mean Arena goes on a break just as I was beginning to feel less like sticking my head into a washing machine and switching it on every time I saw it. A recent fill-in episode drawn by Steve Dillon helped me to soften to it so that I was still in forward momentum when regular artist John Richardson returned. Its replacement this prog is the start of a fresh run of Future Shocks, the first written by superstar script robot Alan Moore. How can The Mean Arena compete with that?

I'm beginning to like Return to Armageddon. I like the dynamic between the heavily disfigured/constantly in pain, Amtrak, and his loyal robot, Seeker. It's just a shame that it has taken so long for the thrill to get to this point. Because Amtrak's condition means he cannot die, he was recently buried inside a block of concrete and used in the construction of a building by some circus freaks who had taken a dislike to him. I mention this because it seems very reminiscent to what Alan Moore is to do with the Marvel UK Night Raven text stories that he starts to write a couple of years from now. During Moore's tenure, the character becomes impossible to kill and increasingly disfigured. In one tale, he's led into a trap which is a room filling up with concrete. In Moore's defence, prohibition vigilante Night Raven doesn't go on to partner up with a loyal robot.

Sometimes, ideas seem to move quickly between thrills in 2000 AD. In Mega City One, the dead are sent to Resyk where their bodies are broken down into their basic constituents for use by the state. In Meltdown Man, the Yujee seem to have their corpses sent to a similar place called The Vats which predates the longer lasting Resyk, at least in publication order.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Prog 200

It's prog 200. Hooray! Congratulations! Here's to another 200. And another. And another.

As part of the celebrations there is a new Tharg story. There have been a few of these of late, which isn't a problem to me as I always enjoy a good Tharg story. I've noticed more recently, that Tharg is making displays of his mightiness that seem more random and unexpected. For example, last prog he made a remote duplicate of himself, just by thinking about it. Previously, he's grown to the size of King's Reach Tower, just like that. It occurs to me that this is how Superman's powers should work. Superman fans should be surprised by a display of some new power he conjures up to get himself out of whatever scrape he finds himself in. Instead, he uses the rather pedestrian flight, x-ray vision and super breath in all the comics, films and TV shows. Wouldn't you love to see Supes neutralising a bomb by swallowing it and belching the explosion out harmlessly like Tharg does this prog?

I have no idea how I got onto the subject of Superman.

This prog sees the conclusion to the Judge Dredd story, Pirates of the Black Atlantic. The Judges learn that the pirates who launched a nuclear attack on Mega City One where being manipulated by an undercover Sov agent. This is the first time that I've read this story in its entirety and it's interesting to see a bit of foreshadowing to the next multi-part epic, The Apocalypse War, taking place. It's also interesting to remember that this story was first published at a time when everyone aged thirty and under had been raised with the realistic possibility of a nuclear war taking place in their lifetime. There's nothing quite like a thirteen year old who regularly dreams about his home town being nuked reading what is supposed to be an innocent comic strip in which millions die depressingly in a nuclear attack. Thank God I missed it first time around. Happy anniversary!

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Prog 198

I might have had a break from The Slog but I'm still having the same problems with the same thrills I was having before I went away. The Mean Arena still reads like a Monday morning to me and Meltdown Man like a fever dream.

Before I went away, I was reticent about commenting on Return to Armageddon in case you thought that I was just being awkward but I'm still not getting it. So far, as far as I can tell, the crew of a space craft defrost the corpse of an alien that looks a bit like Satan might. They then clone the alien into one good toddler and one bad toddler. One or both of these kids have their growth accelerated (I can't remember). Someone, it might be the good clone (I can't remember) who knows everything is severely disfigured in an attempt to prevent him from being taken seriously whenever he tries to warn people about the evil clone. This episode ends with a space man taking his helmet off to reveal himself as some character that I'm supposed to recognise.

The problem might be me. I guess that I'm just not trying hard enough to enjoy it. I mean, Jesus Redondo's art is great so it shouldn't be an effort for me to like the strip. It could be that this is the tale of how a burden, or an idea, moves from person to another but the plot seems to be meandering all over the place to me. It doesn't help that, in the same comic, there are more naturally paced strips appearing written by script robots like Alan Grant and John Wagner. Anyone's script is going to have a hard time competing. It might be that there are a lot of stodgy strips appearing currently and so my tolerance for Return to Armageddon is thin. Whatever the reason, it's not really working for me. Sorry.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

I'm back!

I’m back, at last, from my break, during which I pulled my brain from the brink of 2000 AD induced dementia. Hooray! I did this by reading other comics (such as Abandon the Old in Tokyo by Yoshihiro Tatsumi) and some – choke – books. These were:

The Inside Story of Viz by
Chris Donald
The Dog Catcher
by Alexie Sayle
Screen Burn by Charlie Brooker

Before you start thinking now that I’ve read and enjoyed some proper books it won’t be long before I bail out of The Slog altogether then I should point out that all of the above have a link to comics in some way. The Inside Story of Viz is an obvious one, it being the everyday rags to riches to oh-shit-what-do-I-do-now tale of a young Geordie lad. (Incidentally, this was a totally enjoyable read. I occasionally wonder why The Comics Journal has never done, to my knowledge, a major feature on Viz Comic, but this book seems to cover the subject quite thoroughly, plus it’s entertaining.) You might remember that Alexie Sayle wrote the graphic novel Geoffrey the Tube Train and the Fat Comedian painted by Oscar Zarate. Charlie Brooker used to draw comic strips for Oink, and very funny they were too.

Anyway, I expect to be continuing with the 2000 AD Prog Slog Blog tomorrow, now that I have had some mind medicine.

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Thursday, August 09, 2007


Before anyone says anything, I haven’t experienced thrill power over load or blown circuits, although I will admit that my head feels like a box of cable. I have decided to take a couple of weeks break from The Slog to read other stuff and to give my brain a rest. I will return sometime the week commencing August 26th, I promise, so if you don’t use the feeds to tell you when The Slog has been updated please remember to report back then.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Prog 196

I found myself thinking recently, what a cool Saturday TV show Strontium Dog would be; what a great cartoon series Judge Dredd would make. This goes to show how those of us that love our printed graphic narratives fail to learn from all those disappointing movie adaptations that the comic, as the complete object, is enough.

In this prog, Tharg lists the results to the cast-a-2000 AD-film-mini-competition. It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that 2000 AD readers think that Clint Eastwood should play Judge Dredd. In the same film, Clint Eastwood would also play Johnny Alpha and Matt Tallon. Readers also think that psychic teenager Wolfie Smith should be played by Roger Moore. I know this prog was published over twenty five years ago but isn’t Roger Moore about fifty years old? Although a bit too well spoken, at least he’s the same nationality, I suppose.

One of the mini-competition winners casts The Judge Child epic. Interestingly, Kenny Baker, best known at this time for operating R2D2 in the Star Wars movies, is cast as the Judge Child himself. Why is it considered acceptable practise to cast an undersized actor in the role of an evil twelve year old boy? This seems like a Simpson’s joke to me.

On a children’s TV show I remember seeing around this time, Tommy Boyd interviewed three kids of both genders about what they thought of the new Superman movie. After all of them gushed about how great they thought it was, Boyd asked if, as a result of them enjoying it so much, they would be interested in giving the comics a go. Each of them answered no. I’ve always felt that this is something I should always remember.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Prog 194

I can't believe that it's 1981 already! Where has my life gone? In the Nerve Centre, Tharg tells us that 1981 is to be the year of the alien. All sorts of real life, first time encounters with aliens are scheduled to take place this year, some friendly, some hostile. My recolection is that nothing like this happened. Feel free to tell me if you remember differently.

At the end of a recent issue, instead of the usual Next Prog advert there was a page promoting what is to come in the New Year. These include the return of Dan Dare to 2000 AD to coincide with the start of a new TV show and the mysterious Project X. Dan Dare didn't return to comics until the re-start of Eagle later this decade and the TV show didn't happen for another twenty years. And as for Project X; either it didn't happen or, if it did, it was so unremarkable that I don't remeber that either.

Is it just me or is Tharg becomming increasingly cruel in his responses to readers letters? More often he seems to be taking delight in pulling readers apart over something they've written to him which seems ungrateful considering that he asked to be sent the letters in the first place. It seems even more cruel when you remember that Tharg's words are written by adults and the readers words, usually, by children. I feel especially sorry for the reader who recently wrote in complaining that the new Judge Dredd script robot TB Grover (John Wagner) isn't as good as the old one, John Howard (John Wagner). There was no need to print that.

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Monday, August 06, 2007

Prog 192

Dash Decent is starting to become interesting. The single page funny strip which a thinly disguised and pointless satire of Flash Gordon has been running since the prog 178, the most recent re-launch issue. Its origins seem to spin out of Captain Klep, the equally unfunny single paged funny strip that 2000 AD inherited from Tornado. It's as if the Dash Decent creation process included someone thinking that all Captain Klep needed to make itself popular is a good artist like, say, Kevin O'Neill, and the chance to start all over again. All I keep thinking when I read an episode is, this is another waste of a page that O'Neill could have spent drawing for the next Nemesis story. More so than Captain Klep, Dash Decent refers to itself. We all know that being a funny strip and apologising for the jokes is basically code for "I hate myself".

What I find interesting about Dash Decent is that it seems to volunteer information about the readers voting process. In this episode, Dash solicits for votes from the readers informing us that his strip is on the short list for cancellation. To me, the idea that the creators of a thrill can be informed by Tharg that their strip is about to be cancelled if they don't amp up their game is curious. Of course, Dash Decent does this by becoming even more whiney and annoying. "Please vote for me. Please..."

A nine year old friend of mine sat giggling at an episode of Strontium Dog from a couple progs back, yesterday. In it, Wulf Sternhammer squirts ketchup into the face a dinner guest who is being rude about Johnny Alpha's mutation. Later, after the guest and her husband have stormed out of the dining room, Johnny asks to be passed the ketchup. Wulf has to explain that there is none left. My point is that 2000 AD is already funny, thanks to thrills like this, Judge Dredd and Abelard Snazz. It has never needed single paged goof fests like Dash Decent. Readers who like this sort of thing are catered for adequately elsewhere in comics like Cor and Whizzer and Chips.

Mind you, I do like the artwork. And the episodes where Dash was a skeleton trying to find his own skin were fun, if a bit troubling.

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Prog 190

If my recent Slog entries read as if written by the heart crushingly disappointed then maybe you can imagine what a breath of fresh air the Mean Arena break for the first appearance of Abelard Snazz is to me. Snazz, the president of Think Inc and the genius with the two-storey brain has been given the task of solving Twopp’s outrageous crime problem.

Snazz’s adventures were often farcical and usually ended with him being abandoned somewhere inaccessable by his customers. In this story, his solution to the crime problem is to build a robo-police force. When the robo-police become over exuberant, he builds robo-criminals to distrat them and then robo-victims. In the end, the planet becomes so over populated by robots that all the humans have no choice but to vacate it. In the end, Snazz and his companion are booted out of an airlock into space.

First time around, thirteen year old me loved the occasional Abelard Snazz stories. It was his lack of luck, his unshakable faith in himself and his four eyes that made me warm to him straight away. I have an extra special fondness for the character because I later noticed that he was written by script robot Alan Moore, who wasn’t to register on my comic-radar for at least another year when the first issue of Warrior came out. I love it when it works like that; when you don’t make the connection between two separate things that you like until well after the event.

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Saturday, August 04, 2007

Prog 188

Normally in 2000 AD, exposure to nuclear radiation results in extreme baldness or amusing mutation. In current thrill Meltdown Man, Nick Stone is caught in the heart of a nuclear explosion and, instead of being vaporised as you would expect, is transported to another world. Here, man has genetically tampered with animals so that they walk upright and speak English.

Regular readers of The Slog will remember how although initially unimpressed by the Alan Hebden scripted Mind Wars I eventually came around to it. For Meltdown Man however, also scripted by the Hebden droid, I remain unconvinced. The story seems principally to follow the feud between Stone and arch bad guy Leeshar, with the fate of the animal world depending on its outcome. The human characters are unexceptional so far, while the man/animals (referred to as The Yujee) seem to behave as you would expect their cartoon equivalent to, but with earnest. The Yujee seem to choose their side in the feud based upon their own nature and not anything else like background, experience, personal gain or ethics. However, there are aspects about Meltdown Man that prevent it from being just a cutesy animal strip, most notably Belardineli’s scratchy art style.

I remember encountering the first episode when I was thirteen years old and being disappointed by it. When you’ve read as many Marvel comics as I have and you hear that there is a new thrill starting in 2000 AD called Meltdown Man which starts with a guy being caught in a nuclear explosion then you are going to be disappointed when learn that it isn’t a superhero strip. Maybe my feelings about the thrill so far are a hang over from then.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Prog 187

Recently, I have found that, after finishing an enjoyable episode of Strontium Dog, I turn the page and my heart sinks. There it sits like a bloated, thrill sucking obligation; The Mean Arena. It's a future sport strip where contestants play a brutal cross between football, rugby and some other games on the streets of Britain. The strip's protagonist is a guy called Talon, a top American player who has come out of hiding to help an English team in the third division.

I'm wondering why I feel so sick every time I realise I have another four paged episode of The Mean Arena to wade through. Could it be because I've never been a sports fan, (there's a surprise to you; a fully grown man blogging his experiences reading the first 1, 100 issues of a comic from his childhood doesn't like sport) that I am resistant to a strip in this genre even if it is violent and set in the future? Perhaps The Slog is beginning to get to me and I'm losing my patience with strips that I don't find immediately appealing?

To me, the game seems to have random rules which pop up to accommodate gaps in the story. For example, one rule enables members of the crowd to replace a team player lost in action. Another enables a sniper with a single bullet to shoot an opponent. I can't always tell one character from another and I never remember the team names. Sometimes, the moment I finish an episode, I can't recall a single thing that has happened in it. Previously in The Slog, strips that I've had difficulty with, I have either grown to like or, at least, reached some sort of resolution with. I am concerned with The Mean Arena that I'm not bothered enough about it for either of these things to happen.

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Prog 184

Another enjoyable Ro-Jaws Robo Tale called Night of the Warewolf, this time. The city’s mayor has his brain transplanted to a robot body. Before he wakes up from the operation, crooks re-transplant his brain to a cheaper, non-silver robot body. But what none of them know is that the mayor is a warewolf and the artificial body doesn’t stop his transformation. Okay, I don’t make it sound particularly good but I enjoyed it.

Art robot Dave Gibbons, no longer in possession of a regular 2000 AD gig, draws it. I think this is around the time that he’s been drawing the main strip for Doctor Who Weekly. Marvel UK’s Doctor Who comic was a place that many creator robots did work including Pat Mills, John Wagner, Steve Dillon and Alan Moore. But I think it had an extra appeal to UK based writers and artists because the original intent was for the material there to be repackaged immediately for the US market. Much of it eventually was but it took some time to materialise and maintained a modest profile. Repackaging plans were confounded even further when, due to disappointing sales and budget problems, Doctor Who Weekly turned monthly and dropped the quantity of its comic strip content.

It’s script robot Gary Rice who interests me a lot at the moment. He’s been writing many Future Shock styled thrills recently. Writers such as Tom Tully and Gerry Finley-Day are more easily remembered yet, I would say, that Rice’s scripts seem more in line with the quality and tone of the higher profile 2000 AD strips. According to official site
http://www.2000adonline.com/, Rice’s 2000 AD career began with prog 82 and ends in prog 211. I’m fascinated to know why he stopped producing scripts for 2000 AD and what other comic work he might have produced. Just to satisfy my curiosity, you understand.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Prog 182

In the latest of an occasional series of Tharg stories (which, at the moment, seem to more frequent than usual) writing droid John Howard is having his scripts rejected by the machine that measures thrill power. Howard is worried that he's lost his touch and indeed, he seems to have, as at the end of the strip, he is fit only for writing out security passes for visitors to the Command Module. This all seems contrary to the evidence of my own eyes as this prog also features the final part to The Judge Child, scripting credit to John Howard and my favourite Dredd epic so far.

The final part, which is technically an epilogue, sees Mega City One's top judges, The Council of Five, discussing if there is a future for Dredd after he upset accounts and, more importantly, failed in his twenty six-part mission to bring back the Judge Child. The strip cuts between this meeting and Dredd, himself, dealing with a block war in his typical, no nonsense but effective way. The meeting concludes with the Chief Judge exercising his power of veto and deciding to trust Dredd's judgment that the child is evil and not the saviour of the city as foretold.

The Judge Child saga contained many moments that imprinted themselves on my young mind but it is this epilogue, which I saw for the first time in a reprint years later, which surprised me the most about this story. Apart from Brian Bolland's stunning art, which has always been good but now seems to be improving at a significant rate, we see here the leaders of the city that Dredd had saved on more than one occasion questioning his ability to do his job. It serves as a reminder that, although an uncomplicated man, he lives in a world that gets more complicated and interesting by the episode.

Script robot John Wagner, AKA John Howard, AKA TB Grover, wrote this prog's Tharg story, which seems to be a confession that he feels no longer able to write Judge Dredd on his own anymore. Indeed, the final episodes of The Judge Child are co-written with Alan Grant and are the start of a writing partnership that lasts for years. I think it's interesting that when Grant wrote about his own demise via a Tharg strip his fictional self died making a heroic, albeit pointless, gesture; Wagner writes his alter ego as a burned out has been.

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