2000 AD Prog Slog

Friday, September 28, 2007

Prog 235

ACE Trucking Co is only four weeks old and it’s had two covers already. Although not really head table material it is memorable strip; I would say it’s more an usher or someone close enough to the bride and groom to be asked to read a reading. (Am I over labouring this wedding analogy that I started with Prog 231 the other day? Okay, I’ll stop).

It’s a space version of those trucking films that were popular during the early eighties that I never wanted to see. The closest exposure to Citizen Band Radio I had prior to the start of this thrill was an Eddie Yates storyline on Coronation Street. The Ogden’s lodger buys a CB Radio and uses it to meet his girlfriend with who, if my memory is correct, he later leaves the show with.

ACE Trucking Co is written by the seemingly unstoppable team of John Wagner and Alan Grant (using the moniker of Grant Wagner, this time) and drawn by Massimo Bellardinelli, whose wrist must still be hurting from his marathon fifty part gig on Meltdown Man.

At this time, I’m not reading 2000 AD. I’m too busy frolicking with American comics like Frank Miller’s Daredevil and John Byrne’s Fantastic Four. When I do return to the Squaxx De Thargo, it’s over two years after the start of this thrill. With its hard core CB jibber jabber, which may be made up or authentic, I originally find it difficult to like. But there came a point in the thrill’s final days that I experience a moment of revelation and finally get it. Now, reading the start for the first time, twenty years after reading the finish, I’m surprised that I ever had a problem with it at all.

ACE Trucking Co is, so far, a fun situation comedy. It compliments the burden heavy leads of 2000 AD, most of which John Wagner and Alan Grant are responsible for, perfectly. In fact, I suspect that this is the reason for it’s existence; the antidote to the effects of writing the adventures of Ol’ Stony Face and the rest.

AFTERNOTE: I apologise for not writing this entry in Ace Garp’s CB speak which I suspect I should have. Maybe one day I’ll feel confident enough to try.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Prog 233

The current run of Strontium Dog ends with the final part of The Kid Knee Caper. In it, the mutant bounty hunter, Kid Knee (of the title), whose nerves are so frazzled from the job that he can no longer hold a gun, is killed by his bounty, The Mutator. Obviously, his partners on this job, Johnny Alpha and Wulf Sternhammer, avenge his death as they are contractually obliged to the readers to do.

Like Johnny, Kid Knee is a mutant but unlike Johnny, he can’t put on a pair of sun glasses and pass for human as his head isn’t on his shoulders but in his right leg where his knee should be. Poor Kid Knee. One recent scene has the bounty hunters eating their dinner and he has to lie on his back with his leg in the air to swallow his food.

At this time, in 1981, I am not reading 2000 AD, instead, I am coming towards the end of my New X-Men phase. The mutants here could almost always pass for human except for Nightcrawler, who has a hologram thingy to conceal his looks if he wants to, and The Beast, who is too cuddly for anyone to want to hunt down and destroy and besides, isn’t a full member of the team anyway. Contrary to the movies, during this time, the prejudice theme of the hugely popular comic-book seems played down and the X-Men function more like a superhero soap opera, only being referred to as mutants so that the creators don’t have to think up origin stories for them all. In Strontium Dog, there’s no pussy footing around; the mutants are treated like absolute scum and they look ridiculous. There’s Middenface McNulty, whose head is covered in lumps, Clacton Fuzz whose face is all hairy and The Torso who had no head or face at all. Unlike the X-Men where Storm has prematurely grey hair, Wolverine’s back is a bit hairy and Cyclops has to wear glasses all the time. Ah, did-dums, X-Men, ya big babies!

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Prog 231

After a blaze of pre-publicity, Rogue Trooper has now been running for a few progs. I say “blaze”, but really it was a few spot illos here and the occasional pin-up there; it’s a blaze of publicity by 2000 AD standards, anyway.

I would say that Rogue sits at the head table with most of the premier league 2000 AD characters, like Nemesis the Warlock and Strontium Dog, but unlike these thrills there seems to be more of a Marmite effect going on; he is either loved or despised. Personally, I have no strong feelings about Marmite either way.

As it happens, it’s a pretty good start for a brand new strip. It feels fully formed from the start, with short self contained episodic nuggets released every prog that reveal a little bit more about the characters and the war ravaged world that they populate each time. Dave Gibbons’ art is terrific and Gerry Finley-Day’s scripts are tight and do the job.

There are a couple of things that might be mystifying to readers. All of the characters seem to have been given suitable names before the massacre that made those names appropriate happened. Gunner’s nickname was Gunner before he was killed and his personality downloaded to a biochip and inserted into Rogue’s riffle (which happened, incidentally, before he actually went rogue) and became Gunner. Also, as Rogue is now rogue, how come he seems to have an unlimited supply of ammunition?

These could all be part of the thrill’s charm but because it is earnest and lacks the sense of humour that the other head strips have I think it risks becoming a bit wearisome before the end.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Star Lord Annual 1982

Yuk. This really is a hard backed pile of cheap crap. Just take a look at that cover for starters. It looks like a photograph that some lazy bastard snatched from an archive somewhere or other. If I had unwrapped this Christmas morning 1981, I would have wrapped it straight back up and shoved it up the chimney with a note attached to Father Christmas to read Christmas Eve 1982 telling him never to darken my house with gifts this bad again.

It’s ugly page after ugly page of dull articles on the space shuttle and some astronaut or other accompanied by dreary, muddy black and white photographs, and reprints of old IPC strips that were rubbish first time around. There are only two originated strips in it; The Exterminator, which to be fare, is a beautiful looking story drawn by Gary Leach. The heart breaking thing about it is that it looks like the budget might have stretched to commissioning full colour artwork but didn’t stretch to printing it. And the only item in the whole book that, other than its name, connects it to the original comic; Strontium Dog which, although drawn by Carlos Ezquerra, is drawn by him in a hurry. I’ve seen artwork by Ezquerra that he’s drawn in a rush over the years but this is clearly the fastest artwork he has ever produced.

If you come across this annual at a car boot sale or something and are tempted to buy it because of its reported awfulness, then don’t. It’s so bad that it’s gone passed ironic and kitsch bad. In fact, I have found the whole experience of reading it so demoralising that I feel like sleeping for a week, after a good cry of course.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Judge Dredd Annual 1982

It’s Judge Dredd’s second annual and once again, it’s great. All colour pages are by art robot Mike McMahon, even the cover this time, plus there are Walter the Wobot, Mean Machine Angel and Max Normal strips. Yay!

At this time, cool 2000 AD characters still experience a high mortality rate so it’s interesting to me that there is a new Mean Machine Angel strip who, if you recall, was shot dead by Dredd during The Judge Child Quest. It’s as if Alan Grant (who writes this story with, probably, some input from John Wagner) has realised that killing off great characters like Mean Machine and Judge Death (although, can you really kill that which does not live?) might have been a touch premature.

In the Judge Dredd story Vampire, McMahon uses double page spreads containing a dominant, single image with the rest of the panels scattered across it. It’s an accessible but bold style nonetheless and reminds me very much of the one used by Frank Miller in the more widely known 300. In fact, some of the spreads are so reminiscent of 300 that I wonder how often Miller might have encountered McMahon’s artwork before drawing it.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

For Your Information

In case you missed it, Radio 4 broadcast a documentary about 2000 AD yesterday hosted by regular Never Mind The Buzzcocks panellist Phil Jupitus. You can listen to it again over the next week at the following link. http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/aod/networks/radio4/aod.shtml?radio4/futureshock# It’s not a bad documentary actually even if it is just a potted history of the comic. (Personally, I think that 2000 AD is capable of supporting a more substantial programme or series). Jupitus is neither annoying, like he is on TV’s most depressing panel show, nor sleepy, like he often sounded when he hosted the 6 Music breakfast show. There are a couple of disappointments, however. John Wagner, although referred to, is absent, but what do you expect? Also, I’m not sure that I like the idea of David Bishop being thought of as 2000 AD’s official historian given that he edited the era that drove me away.

Oh, and while I’m here, don’t forget tomorrow evening’s Comics Britannia on BBC 4 which covers 2000 AD supposedly.

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Annual 1982

At the start of The Slog, when I first flicked through this annual, I was looking forward to blogging about it for the Judge Dredd story alone. It seemed to be a full colour tale drawn by art robot Brian Bolland that had never been reprinted. As you might remember, during the eighties, there was a very deliberate attempt to push the character into the American market which relied very much on reprinting Bolland drawn stories over and over again. Somehow, this one seemed to have slipped through the net. Since noticing the strip, it has, of course been reprinted in the Megazine, so there you go. And, thinking about it, I’m almost certain that it will have been reprinted at least once in a collection of strips from the annuals produced during the nineties. So, as a forgotten Bolland Judge Dredd thrill, it doesn’t quite work, but it does seem to have been overlooked in comparison with others.

The Ro-Busters thrill, Bax the Burner, I always remember because of the way that it was repackaged for the Americans in Sam Slade Robohunter number 6. By 1987, script writer, Alan Moore, was a comic superstar and his back catalogue was being trawled by opportunistic publishers for reprinting. In the annual, it’s a modest but entertaining six pages long, but for the American styled reprint, it’s mutilated, re-pasted and stretched out to an amazing nineteen. Steve Dillon’s artwork looks as if it’s been reproduced larger than when it was originally drawn and Tom Frame’s lettering; one page it’s small, the next it’s big. It takes about five minutes to read the nineteen pages, which is about how long it takes to read most modern mainstream comics.

Finally, in an interview conducted with script robot Alan Grant, we learn that John Wagner does “collaborate” with him on Strontium Dog. To me, this means, that I am right to consider Grant the head writer of the strip but Wagner’s role shouldn’t, at this stage in The Slog, be underrated.

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Prog 229

I’m beginning to think that script robot Tom Tully is making the rules up to Street Football as he’s going along. In this prog’s episode of The Mean Arena, Matt Tallon, AKA The Slayer, plays The Black Ace. This means if he scores during this game, he wins £250, 000, which is a lot of money for a professional footballer in 1981 but is probably the average wage in 2007 and, barring any unforeseen economic catastrophes, isn’t in 2025 when this thrill is set. Playing The Black Ace means that his team’s opponents can use their single-bullet-sniper to try and stop him from scoring. The Mean Arena isn’t quite so much a future mash up between rugby and football, it’s more like murder It’s a Knockout.

Tallon is attempting to placate his team mates who are understandably fed up with his obsessive vendetta against the players and officials he feels are responsible for his brother’s death. His intention is to spit the £250K between everyone in the team. This means, if you include all the substitutes, £25, 000 each. Ah, isn’t he nice.

Actually, after all of the griping I’ve made against The Mean Arena recently, this is the first episode that I’ve liked a bit, so it’s appropriate that it should end with an announcement that it isn’t due to continue until prog 234. Typical.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Prog 227

After fifty weeks, Meltdown Man comes to a conclusion and, like the previous Alan Hebden saga I blogged about before, Psi Wars, it seems to wrap itself up nicely. Nick Stone and Leesher are caught in the blast of a nuclear bomb and, this time, get thrown back to the present. On arrival, Leesher fades away and Stone reasons that this must be because he goes on to prevent the future from happening. This also means that all the walking, talking animals that we’ve come to know will cease to exist as well but I think it’s inferred that this is a small price to pay.

Meltdown Man’s biggest achievement is that all fifty episodes are drawn by Messimo Bellardinelli. As far as I am aware, this is the longest consecutive run of weekly episodes drawn by a single artist for 2000 AD. Well done, Messimo. Amazingly, Tharg is already talking about ACE Trucking Co, his next strip, starting soon. Give the art robot a break, will ya!

I think that I have discovered a pattern to this thrill. Often, an episode, which is usually four pages long, features a single page with the least amount of panels on so that Bellardinelli can over size one and let rip. This page is usually followed by one filled to bursting point with panels pushing the story along. On occasions that I’ve looked up information on the internet about Meltdown Man, I have been advised that the strip is underrated and to give it another go. As this is the first time that I have read Meltdown Man, and the pattern in panel layout is just as interesting to me as what happens in the strip itself, maybe I do need to revisit it one day, but just not yet, eh.

EXTRA: Currently, Judges Dredd and Anderson are trying to get through the force field that The Dark Judges have put up around Billy Carter Block so that they are not interrupted during their killing spree. Anderson huddles up close to an uncomfortable Dredd as she creates a narrow, temporary gap in the shield for them to wriggle through.

This is a definitive Judge Dredd tale which I know so well from reprints. However, I am reminded that this is the first time that I’ve read the original because, as they squeeze through the hole in the shield, Dredd doesn’t ask, “is this absolutely necessary, Anderson?” I am interested to know how one of my favourite Dredd one liners came to be absent first time around and added later to reprint versions.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Prog 226

Groan. It's The Mean Arena and it's back. This time it's not even drawn by Steve Dillon but Eric Bradbury instead. Don't get me wrong, I like Eric Bradbury's art, but at least Dillon's style seemed to brighten this strip up a bit.

A competition from a few progs ago might have gone some way to prolonging the life of The Mean Arena. Readers were asked to design a team uniform for use in future episodes and this prog sees the first by Jez Fabian of Penzance Cornwall. Competition contractual obligation is the only explanation I can think of for this "thrill's" continued presence. In fact, I can't understand why it's still running. Why does everyone at 2000 AD seem so determined to make it work? I can't be the only person who feels the way I do about it, surely.

During the strip's absence, Tharg has been promising that its return would be with added thrill power. Maybe this is the case but, for me, reading comics originally published weekly in a contracted period of time as I am, it's difficult to forget the occasions that I turned to The Mean Arena during the slog and felt my stomach turn. To be fair, I am now interested enough to be able to follow what is happening and, as I say, Dillon's art, when he draws it, lifts it out of the doldrums. Actually, now that I think about it, that is really saying something when you consider that also appearing along side it in recent progs are Strontium Dog, Nemesis the Warlock and the Brian Bolland drawn Four Dark Judges.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Prog 224

It’s August 8th 1981 and it’s my fourteenth birthday. Tharg seems to have made a bit of an effort for it as this prog sees the return of Judge Death and Strontium Dog (after a very short break). It’s a shame that I wasn’t going anywhere near to 2000 AD at this time. Considering the dreary years that lie ahead for me, I am much happier being forty which I turned in 2007. At least I can do things like buy entire runs of comics from eBay.

What I find interesting about 2000 AD now in comparison with when it began are how international many of the strips seem. A good example is Judge Dredd which is set in America but has a very British sense of satire. Meltdown Man’s lead, Nick Stone, might be an ex-SAS officer but there is little culturally in the thrill to identify it as being made over here. The Mean Arena (on a break this prog) might be set in the UK but the protagonist, Matt Tallon, is meant to be American. This all seems different to early strips such as MACH 1and Invasion which often felt as if they were scripted by the same people who wrote The Sweeny.

Becoming increasingly British, however, is Strontium Dog. Under Alan Grant, who I decided in a recent post is now the thrill’s principle script robot, Johnny Alpha’s world is being filled out with Scottish, Welsh and Geordie mutants with contemporary and authentic sounding accents. It’s part of what makes this thrill important to readers. It’s what helps to make Strontium Dog easier to identify with. It also helps to make the thrill the perfect compliment to Judge Dredd, by going to the places that the boundaries of that thrill prevent it from going to.

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Prog 223

It’s the beginning of the first book of Nemesis the Warlock. Everything about this strip impresses at this stage from Pat Mills’ considered script to Kevin O’Neill’s intricate artwork.

O’Neill’s art style often seemed to have come from out of nowhere, and not just to me. Later this decade he becomes the only artist whose very own style prevents his work from being approved by the American Comics Code Authority. This is down principally to the troubling way that he draws aliens, a talent that shines particularly during this strip. This is like being banned for the colour of your eyes or the depth of your breathing.

After years of being intrigued as to what artists must have influenced O’Neill’s unique style, I learn that the answer has been staring me in the face all along from the BBC 4 programme, Comics Britannia. Beano artists. Principally, Leo Baxendale. Of course!

Also this prog dated 1 Aug 1981, I learn that the wedding between Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer takes place around this time, thanks to ads for special additions of fellow IPC comics Tiger & Speed and Roy of the Rovers. I would like to take this opportunity to join in with the rest of the nation in wishing the happy couple a long, successful and happy marriage.

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Prog 221

Sectioned off inside a little box in this prog's Nerve Centre is an advertisement for the very first Titan Books collection of Judge Dredd. It boasts that it reprints classic Dredd stories illustrated by Brian Bolland, including Judge Death, behind an all new cover by said artist. Available using mail order or direct from Forbidden Planet, Denmark Street (which is in London).

It seems like a modest start considering this is one of Titan Book's first publications and the beginning of a series of 2000 AD collections that probably number in the hundreds by 2007. Around eighteen months later, I am flicking through a copy in my local book shop amazed not only that it is stocked there but also that it exists at all. The Judge Dredd Chronicles Book One felt like a comic for grown ups with its full-colour cover, higher quality paper and the creators being credited using their real names. Thinking about it (but not properly, obviously), there probably wasn't much work involved in putting the book together. All Titan did really was commission a new cover, an introduction and write a bit of editorial. Easy. I'm surprised no one else had thought to do it before.

Since then, Titan became the principle repackager of DC Comics trade paper backs for the UK. I say "repackager" but really all they did, it looks to me, was arrange with DC for them to run off a few extra copies inside slightly altered covers to accommodate for the different currency. After that, they stopped with the printed UK prices altogether and slapped super-gummy stickers over the dollar price instead. Slap, bang, wallop; job done.

These days, collecting the material for the book trade is handled by current 2000 AD owners, Rebellion. Meanwhile, the number of comics available via the UK newsagent would probably be half of what it is if it wasn't for Titan, and some of what they publish is even originated, although franchised. So, hooray for Titan, for helping to keep the UK comic industry alive (just) and for starting the whole 2000 AD printed collection thing in the first place.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Prog 218

Supernatural space saga, Return to Armageddon, concludes this prog. Regular readers of The Slog will know that when I've written about it before that I said that I didn't enjoy it very much but, as I expected and is usually the case, the moment I placed these feelings into print, they changed. Seeing the thrill finish isn't bad news to me but it isn't the good news that I originally expected it to be.

What helped win me over was the arrival of the character Amtrak (not to be confused with the courier company) or, more accurately, his disfigurement. Up until then, the thrill seemed populated with characters that were difficult to like but the moment Amtrak was hit with the ugly stick and cursed with permanent pain, I found that he was someone I could sympathise with. Once this occurred, and his friendship with his robot sidekick, Seeker, started, following the story stopped feeling laborious.

Actually, looking back, the story unfolds in a surprising way. As seems to be the case with the lengthier 2000 AD runs at this time, the thrill felt more organic rather then conforming to the three act structure that Hollywood continuously sicks up at us. Whether this was always meant to be or down to the ebb and flow of editorial interventions and reader surveys, I cannot say, but it is certainly an interesting possibility.

Also this prog, The Mean Arena returns. Tharg has been promising for weeks that when it returns it will have added thrill power or, in other words, some thrill power. In general, it's too early to say if this is the case, but Steve Dillon appears to be the art robot in residence so this is an obvious step in the right direction.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Prog 216

An unexpected side affect of taking part in The Slog has seen me cancelling half of my comic standing order, three quarters of my regular monthly books. I found that the protracted story telling used in most contemporary monthly books doesn't compare favourably with the intense injection in thrill power I am exposing myself to most days at the moment. Often, when I read a monthly book, I find it difficult to remember what happened the issue before, usually because very little did. Consequently, I contacted my dealer (only drug addicts and comic readers refer to the guy that they buy their gear from as their dealer) yesterday regarding what is, to me, a dramatic decision.

Thanks to The Slog, I have been reminded of the simple pleasure of walking into a newsagent and casually buying a comic from there. This is part of what I intend to do from now on; to casually buy the occasional, better quality, value for money, reprint book from WH Smith's or my local shop every now and then. You don't think that I'll regret my decision do you?

Amongst the comics I have cancelled are The Programme and Infinity Inc, two titles written by Pete Milligan who (and here's the link) is this prog's notable first, making his premier appearance writing Future Shock, The Man Who Was Too Clever.

Like I was with Alan Moore, I am surprised at how early Milligan's first work appeared. I had always assumed that he had chanced upon comics as a result of intellectual writers curiosity. I envisaged him hooking up with Brett Ewins (art robot for this tale) and Brendan McCarthy and writing arty comics for them to draw, such as Strange Days, as part of a temporary creative phase but found himself still stuck in the industry twenty six years later. Instead, here he is, settling into the Future Shock groove like it's a second skin.

The Man Who Was Too Clever is a good little tale containing early flashes of Milliganism about a crook cloning himself to distract the encroaching clutches of the law. It's five pages that is much better than most of his recent run on X-Men and, I fear, his upcoming Infinity Inc. (And if reviews say that Infinity Inc is as good as, say, his X-Force run, then I'll just buy the trade paper back collection. Sorted!)

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Prog 214

2000 AD is going through a multi-part epic phase. Return to Armageddon and Meltdown Man seem to have been running for months and months, and that's not just because I don't like them very much. (Actually, that's not entirely true but then, you should never let the truth get in the way of an off hand remark). I imagine the popularity of the Judge Dredd epics published so far have been partly responsible for this.

Currently, the Strontium Dog story Portrait of a Mutant is up to part twelve. Set mainly as flashback, seventeen year old Johnny Alpha is a major player in the mutant resistance. As uprisings happen all over the country, Alpha takes part in an attack on Upminster, the British parliament, and is under special orders to take out Nelson Kreelman, the minister responsible for anti-mutant legislation. This episode ends with Kreelman having escaped and Johnny being exposed as his son.

I've had a lot to say about this current run of Strontium Dog but I've had difficulty expressing it. I want to comment on its Britishness, the pacing and tone of the script and the use of mutations. Instead, thanks to Slog commenter paddybrown, I've found myself experiencing the brain equivalent of a T bomb attack. In a previous entry, I talked a little about Alan Grant and John Wagner's writing partnership, whereupon paddybrown commented that, according to David Bishop's book Thrill-Power Overload, all thrills credited at this point to either Grant or Wagner or any of their pseudonyms, are collaborations.

Now, I've not read Thrill-Power Overload and, considering the amount of 2000 AD stuff I'm shoving up my head gullet at the moment, I have no plans to in the near future, so there's a chance that the journey from Bishop writing this information and me processing it might have gone awry. However, according to the official 2000 AD website, these Strontium Dog tales are written by script robot Alan Grant and, although I'm not discounting that John Wagner might have had some sort of input, I am considering him to be the sole writer. Now that I've taken this decision, I feel more equipped to blog in future about Strontium Dog, even if my writing might be based on a misconception. It's a shame that Portrait of a Mutant is probably nearly finished.

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Saturday, September 08, 2007

Prog 211

Once it was clear that 2000 AD wasn’t going to be cancelled any time soon and that its readers expected at least six pages of Judge Dredd every issue, along came art robot Ron Smith.

Ron Smith. You’ll be quite happily reading a multi-part Judge Dredd story, the majority of which has been drawn by Mike McMahon or Brian Bolland, then along comes Ron Smith to draw the next two or three parts, and your heart sinks. Ron Smith was all straight lines, tight vanishing points, zanily positioned bodies and ugly faces. To me in 1981, Ron Smith was code for disappointment.

But Smith’s art isn’t easy for young eyes to like, especially those pampered by American comic art, and it initially appearing in the midst of artists like Bolland and McMahon can’t have helped much. In my case, this opinion I had was confounded even further by the misconception that Smith was getting work at the expense of new and exciting artists like Colin Wilson and Steve Dillon. Because, to me, his style looked old fashioned, I imagined him only getting work because he was established with the publishers from decades before.

By the second half of the eighties, when Smith is established as the artist to have drawn the most Dredd, I realise that there is a reason for this; because he is great. No other Dredd artist, and there have been many, draws a Wagner/Grant joke as funny as he does. Smith draws such a variety of body types and faces that I would say that he is a major contributor to humanising the strip. And later still, when he starts to produce colour work for the comic, it is just great to look at. It’s the straight lines, tight vanishing points, zanily positioned bodies and ugly faces that make Smith such a great art robot.

Ron Smith; code for joy.

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Friday, September 07, 2007

Sci-fi Special 1981

Even though, at this time, I am barely reading the weekly, I remember being a loyal Sci-fi Special customer for years. I don't really know why this is, especially when I think that the content of the special doesn't necessarily hold up favourably with its weekly equivalent. Mainly, I put it down to the production quality, which is better, and the covers, that for two years in a row have been great. (Although this year's Bolland cover reminds me of a twenty first centaury one he drew for the Judge Dredd epic Origins, I think).

There are the usual space fillers and reprints that you've come to expect from 2000 AD specials published at the time but the originated thrills are memorable, including the third Nemesis The Warlock tale. For me, it is the Judge Dredd strip, The Sweet Taste of Justice, which etched itself onto my mind. In it, Dredd foils an attempt by smugglers to bring "white powder" into Mega City One. At the end of the strip, Dredd samples the substance, spits it out in disgust, whereupon we learn that it is, wait for it, sugar!

It is Colin Wilson's artwork that made this thrill so memorable. I thought that it was stunning and, upon rereading it again (I read it several times as a kid), I was right to think this. It's the sequence where Dredd is chasing the smuggler's truck through the city, jumps aboard from his Law Master and holds on for dear life as his abandoned bike crashes into a wall behind him. These panels are so exquisitely crafted that they remain as exciting as any action sequence seen in any film that you might care to mention. At this time, I had the opinion that the editors of 2000 AD were resistant to new talent like Wilson and last year's Dredd artist, Steve Dillon. It was a mystery to me that I didn't seem to see his artwork again for years after that. Little did I know that he was already drawing Dredd for the weekly and, soon after, got the high profile French gig drawing Blueberry. I mean, how was I supposed to know about that? I’m English, for God’s sake; I read American comics!

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Prog 208

I've always been slightly perplexed by the idea that there have been 2000 AD creators who are happy for their work to go wrongly credited. Look at John Wagner for example; over the years he's been known as John Howard and T B Grover. To make things even more complicated, the pseudonym of T B Grover has also been used for strips co-written with Alan Grant. Also, it turns out (although I need to do some investigation into this), thrills credited to Alan Grant are also likely to have been co-written with John Wagner. It makes me want to go to sleep and rest my brain.

So imagine how my head feels trying to get around the rationale that art robot Ian Gibson has for all of his pseudonyms. This prog alone he uses Q Twerk for the Tharg story he draws and Emberton for Judge Dredd. How could Gibson, whose art style is distinctive and impossible to confuse with anyone else's, think for a moment that readers believe that these two strips are drawn by two separate creators? If you're a writer then you can perhaps get away with using various identities at any point in your career, but if you're an artist, then my advice is that you use the pseudonym from the beginning, like Jock did.

AMMENDMENT: In yesterday’s entry I made another of my bold statements, this time claiming that Warren Ellis has never worked for 2000 AD. Regular Slog commenter, drhoz, pointed out, quite correctly, that Ellis wrote Judge Strange, possibly for the Megazine. Of course, this doesn't make what I said wrong but it doesn't make it entirely right either.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Prog 207

Another in an ad hoc series of Tharg strips appears this prog featuring the usual displays of crazy mightiness that we've now come to expect, this time drawn by art robot Mike Dorey. There are some scenes featuring evil British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher discussing the disappearance of Croydon with the rest of her cabinet. Bizarrely, all the men have novelty, Victorian era styled moustaches.

The Future Shock tells the tale of a man who, driven to distraction by the noise that his next door neighbours make, invents a device that neutralises it. Understandably, his first thought is, "I could make a fortune out of this!" but instead of patenting and marketing his invention as I had expected, he goes on a robbing spree. Of course this makes me really cross as I've had a few noisy neighbours in my time since this story was published and, had things worked out differently, could have made good use of a device like this.

2007 superstar comic writer Warren Ellis has a letter printed this prog which I understand to be one of a few that he has published over the years. I'm guessing that he must be about twelve years old at this time and I imagine him writing it on a portable typewriter, sitting in the pub garden, drinking shots of apple juice, chewing a liquorice pipe and stroking his bum-fluff.

Most UK based comic creators from the last twenty five years who have gone onto achieve success in the American comic book industry produced work for 2000 AD at some point in their career. Interestingly, I don't believe this to be the case with Ellis (I'm not counting his letters to the Nerve Centre) despite him obviously being a fan at one point. This is surprising to me as he clearly appreciates science fiction, with even his mainstream superheo work often having a sci-fi bent.

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Saturday, September 01, 2007

Prog 205

A few years after this prog is published, I become a regular reader of comic ‘zines like Fantasy Advertiser and When Worlds Collide. It wasn’t uncommon for some fan or other to write about the period during their adolescence where they drifted away from reading comics because they had discovered girls. They only came back as their teens were finishing after stumbling across an issue of Justice League of America or something and being surprised at how good it was. It was if they had spent their teenage years copping off with girls but, by the time they hit the age of twenty, had got bored with all that, as if sex is just some phase you go through.

At the time that this prog was published I was thirteen years old. I had always been aware that girls existed and that they probably didn’t like me very much, or at least not in that way, and so never wandered away from reading comics. However, I can say with some certainty that for the prog two hundreds, I hardly ever went anywhere near to 2000 AD. Instead, I was enthused by American books like Uncanny X-Men, Frank Miller’s Daredevil and the DC renascence which was starting modestly with titles like New Teen Titans. US comics in 1981 were becoming increasingly available in UK newsagents and I loved it.

So, my blogging of the two hundreds might throw up some surprises, at least to me. For example, I had always thought that 2000 AD was slow on the uptake of Alan Moore but it seems that they were there from the beginning, at least a year or two before the first issue of Warrior.

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