2000 AD Prog Slog

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sci-Fi Special 1982

There’s something about the weight and the production quality of the Sci-fi Special that makes an appearance of a new one each year feel like a genuine event. Gone are the half inch thick cover borders and the ragged edges that we associate with the weekly; the sci-fi special is an altogether more classy affair with its full colour cover (this time by Ian Gibson), flat trimming and greater mass.

There’s a good percentage of new material this year and, even though it’s drawn principally by artists that I think of as fill-ins, there isn’t a sense of the special having been banged out on the cheap. It’s even good to see the non-strip pieces, like the Ro-Jaws book reviews and the Robo-Hunter board game. It feels as if there has been some proper thought gone into it which hasn’t always been the case with the specials and, particularly, the annuals of the past. 2000 AD has now been running long enough for it to reprint its own thrills to pad out its specials rather than use the barely appropriate strips from elsewhere like in previous years.

Interestingly, American comic artist Joe Staton, best known to me for his work on direct sales favourite E-Man, draws the Blackhawk story. It feels like an old strip with it set shortly after the character was abducted by aliens. This happened in the weekly over two years ago. It’s curious to see the cross pollination between the American and British comic industries occurring so early and in such a low key way.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Prog 268

Just as the tide seems to be turning for Mega City One with The Apocalypse War rattling towards its conclusion, it disappears from 2000 AD altogether. Instead, in its place, is a reprint of an old Judge Dredd story called You Bet Your Life. According to Tharg, the absence of Part 24 is down to Zragian sabotage (boo!) although, between you and me, I think it’s because too much drawing has turned Carlos Ezquerra’s had into a claw or there’s been a postal strike in Spain or something.

It’s amazing to me how dated You Bet Your Life looks already in comparison to recent episodes of The Apocalypse War. A quiz show where the contestants get killed seems almost quaint in comparison to the mass slaughter going on in Mega City One right now. Anyway, I didn’t read it this time around as I will have almost certainly have read it during the last year even if I can’t quite remember it.

Meanwhile, taking over the colour centre spread is Alan Moore’s and Dave Gibbons’ Future Shock. With only two pages within which to work, a Future Shock can be nothing more than a joke, really. It’s set-up and, before you know it, time for the punch line. Still, it’s an entertaining and well told joke, in the circumstances. Graffiti scrawled on the wall at the edge of the universe, indeed.

New droid, DJ1, produces the first in a proposed series of columns about modern music. He’s the first of three new robots responsible for articles in 2000 AD. Next week, a robot with faulty optical sensors produces a column about science fiction books. Why he couldn’t have been built so he didn’t require glasses in the first place, I don’t know. I like DJ1. His music tastes are totally driven by anything with a sci-fi connection which, in a science fiction comic for children, is as it should be. Unlike some of the music columns that come years later in the comic. If you didn’t feel totally alienated and uncool before reading them, then you did after.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Prog 267

This prog, featuring a Future Shock written by Alan Moore, is the start of a period where I buy 2000 AD in tiny, considered hits. This isn’t the first Future Shock written by Moore but it should be noted that, by this time, I had almost certainly read issue one of Warrior. A couple of months before, I felt an almost sexual excitement at the site of Steve Dillon’s colourful Axel Pressbutton cover after stumbling across Warrior in my local newsagent. When I saw that it was edited by Dez Skinn, a name that I remember from my favourite Marvel UK titles, Hulk Comic and Doctor Who Weekly, I was sold. After finishing it, I made a deliberate note of who it was who had written my favourite two strips, Marvel Man and V for Vendetta, and it turned out that they were both Alan Moore.

On the surface, Moore wasn’t doing anything particularly innovative with these two strips. In fact, all he was doing was giving comic readers what they had been craving from their genre strips for years; a new level of plausibility. It’s just that he had the insight to recognise this in the first place, the skills to write it extremely well and the nerve to act on it all. His work, I'm not ashamed to say, rocked my world. He obviously had a similar impact on others too as all of the UK based comic fanzines were talking about him. It was through this network of publications that I was able to glean where Moore’s work would be appearing next; usually in Warrior, often in 2000 AD and occasionally from Marvel UK.

I’ve mentioned here before how, at the time, I thought 2000 AD was slow on the uptake of new creative talent such as Steve Dillon and Alan Moore. Doing The Slog has shown me that, in fact, it moved pretty quickly and, in the case of Moore, was publishing his strips long before Warrior had even started.

Warrior itself remains an impressive achievement. Although outside of Alan Moore’s work there was little to get excited about and the last few months it running reprints of strips from Europe, the artwork was always great. Most notable of all is that this comic, essentially put together and published by enthusiasts, was available for anyone to buy from the newsagent. It’s amazing when you think about it, especially these days. Furthermore, although 2000 AD was altogether more effective at establishing the tone that it tried to market to, Warrior was far more successful at making initial contact with the States which benefited both publications for a while.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Prog 265

Sam Slade’s first big adventure in Brit Cit in Robo-Hunter ends this prog. The Beast of Blackheart Manor finishes the same as it has been throughout, enjoyably, with culprits the robo-butler and the robo-cook being carted away by the robo-police. Hoagy offers Sam some pies that he’s been keeping warm for him inside his robo-mouth which are sensibly declined. Throughout the story, it’s been inferred (or is it implied? I always get that one wrong) that the hotel guests have been going missing to make up the filling in the tasty pies. It’s a motive that never gets clarified and I wonder if this is because popular fiction has always been a bit funny when it comes to cannibalism. It’s okay for the savage or the bad guy to eat someone else but it isn’t for the hero, even unknowingly.

This prog’s notable first is Cam Kennedy drawing Rogue Trooper. Kennedy has been absent from 2000 AD since the end of The VCs which seems ages ago now. I guess he’s been gallivanting with his other friends at Battle or Tiger. Anyway, I mention Kennedy on Rogue only because, despite guys like Dave Gibbons and Colin Wilson having also worked on the thrill at this time, he is the artist that I most associate with the character.

Finally, there’s a big black box where Tharg’s editorial usually is and I don’t know if this occurs in all copies of prog 265 or just in mine. It could be a printing error, or it could be that the white text on black background printed on low grade newsprint has faded away over the last twenty five years. Maybe this editorial had an expiry date and was programmed to self destruct after a period of time. Whatever, I just find not being able to read it disconcerting for some reason.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Prog 263

Somehow, events in The Apocalypse War seem to be on the upturn although I’m not entirely sure why I think this. Maybe because it’s Part 19 and I know that this epic lasts for around twenty five episodes, like all the epics did before it thereabouts. I’m even less irked by Walter the Wobot and Judge Dredd’s landlady, Maria. I think this is because Walter wescued Dredd from the East Meg occupied Grand Hall of Justice. It was good to see this irritating subplot redeem itself by colliding with the main story and making everything seem slightly more positive. Dredd appears altogether more focused by the end of this episode, as he’s assembled a crack team of eight Judges. Their mission: to destroy East Meg One.

Judge Dredd even references itself in this prog’s episode. It opens with millions of citizens filing out of the city into The Cursed Earth through a gap in the wall. They believe, quite reasonably in the circumstances, that life in an irradiated wasteland will be better that staying in the shattered Big Meg. Here, Carlos Ezquerra draws exactly the same scene that Mike McMahon drew during the saga, The Day The Law Died.

2000 AD seems to be in the midst of a golden period again. There’s the Apocalypse War, Robo-Hunter, ACE Trucking Co and, although it’s on a break this prog, Rogue Trooper. The Future Shocks, when they appear, are always entertaining, even those not written by Alan Moore. In fact, even The Mean Arena doesn’t seem depressing at the moment. At least the art is good and I’m able to pay attention enough to follow what’s going on.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Prog 260

It's only five years old and already 2000 AD is lying about its age. I was forty recently and even I haven't started doing that yet, although I could be just a very good liar and actually be fifty years old. Industrial action in the past has meant that there have been weeks at a time without a dose of thrill power so Tharg has decided to calculate the age of the weekly by taking the prog number and dividing it by fifty-two instead of referring to the actual date that issue one was released. This is a practice that he continues to use to this day (please refer to the recent thirtieth anniversary edition). To me, this is like someone spending the whole of the nineties in a coma and then taking ten years off their age. No one is going to fall for it. In fact, people feel slightly embarrassed and pitying towards you.

The Judge Dredd epic, The Apocalypse War, continues to be relentlessly grim but compulsive reading just the same. In this episode, some Judges led by Dredd, herd a bunch of citizens into a pit and execute them for collaborating with the enemy. The laughs have been non-existent in Judge Dredd recently. I think script robots Wagner and Grant have tried to lighten things up with a sub story featuring Walter the Wobot staggering around the ruins of Mega City One carrying Dredd's landlady and Block Mania victim "Mawia" but, I'll be honest with you, it isn't working. In fact, it makes me despise the characters slightly.

Wagner and Grant provide real light relief in the great ACE Trucking Co and the even greater Robo-Hunter. There is a classic sit-com dynamic at work between the main cast of these strips. In fact, I think I can see an Only Fools and Horses overlay here; you've got your Del Boy in Ace and Hoagy, your Rodney in Sam and GBH and your Granddad/Uncle Albert in Stogie and Feek the Freak. Okay, the association might be a bit loose but they all create similar warm feelings in me whenever I encounter them and that’s good enough for me.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Prog 259

After a very long break, Robo-Hunter returns. This is the first, stand alone episode of his relocation to Brit Cit in which, without a penny to his name, Sam Slade manages to blag himself a hotel room and some office space. Interestingly to me, this is the final issue before a major re-launch prog which seems to be a funny place for a thrill to start.

I see that The Mean Arena is now being written by someone called A Ridgeway and no longer by long term script robot Tom Tully. I’m now starting to feel guilty for all of the griping that I’ve been doing about this thrill. I wonder what it is that led to Tully no longer being on the strip. After being encouraged by Tharg to turn it into a vengeance story and to use teams designed by readers, I imagine that being forced to bring in another female team mate is a step too far. Still, I can’t help but feel partly responsible.

Slightly off subject but not entirely, if you visit your local comic shop or newsagent this week, take a flick through 2000 AD prog 1559 and see what is the first thing you notice about it. That’s right, some character is walking around with his cock out. It’s not even an average sized cock in the style of Doctor Manhattan from Watchmen but a disproportionate one, perhaps even semi-engorged. Around the time of prog 259, subversion meant witty analogies of the Catholic church and contemporary governments without losing sight that this was a comic for children, but prog 1559’s idea of subversion is to get its smelly cock out and wave it in your face. What age group is 2000 AD aimed at these days? I ask because it can’t be under sixteen year olds, because of the cock, and it can’t be adults, because of its proportions. What are we going to see next? Judge Dredd shitting into Judge Anderson’s mouth?

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Prog 257

The second book of Nemesis the Warlock finishes this prog. Thanks, perhaps, to being drawn entirely by art robot Jesus Redondo, Nemesis lost much of the aura of eerie otherness that he had before the start of this story. Previously, script robot Pat Mills seemed to use the character more sparingly, often writing several episodes at a time where he didn’t appear. But it was Kevin O’Neill’s elegantly gross art style that helped Nemesis to maintain that sense of he-ain’t-like-one-of-us. Redondo, an artist who I like incidentally, who draws a great blonde, fuzzy haired cherub, made Nemesis seem almost cuddly in comparison.

This prog’s notable first is art by Bryan Talbot. Talbot draws the Future Shock, Thr Wages of Sin, written by script robot Alan Moore. On paper, this would be a match made in heaven given that they appear to share many creative sensibilities so thank God that 2000 AD is printed on paper, then. Whenever I spot Bryan Talbot at a comic convention, I have the urge to approach him and say, “Mr Talbot? I just want to say that I have been long time admirer of your hair.” I just think that it’s unfair that a man of his age has such great hair when I started to go bald aged sixteen.

Finally, after being left on a cliff hanger over one hundred progs ago, Dan Dare returns! Only this time it’s in another comic, the re-launched Eagle, issue one of which is advertised in this prog. If my memory is correct, Eagle at this time is made up predominantly with photo strips and has the higher grade of reproduction that 2000 AD has always deserved. The Dan Dare strip, although drawn, is a reconfiguration more in line with the original from the fifties. It means that the unresolved cliff hanger from 2000 AD remains. And, if all this wasn’t bad enough, as if to rub the noses of every Squaxx de Thargo in it, the free gift is a space spinner, just like the one from prog one!

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Prog 255

Long time readers of The Slog might remember me wondering if script robot Gerry Finley-Day should be thought of, in 2000 AD terms, as being nearer to a premier league than fourth division script robot. At the time, there was little around to justify my musings, although I always liked Disaster 1990, but Rogue Trooper must be coming some of the way to validating my idle thoughts.

In this prog, Rogue makes his way through the Petrified Forest unaware that he is being followed by the failed Nort versions of the genetic infantryman programme. It’s a tale drawn by art robot Mike Dorey, another artist who at first glance looks like a traditionalist but on correct inspection draws an exciting comic strip with Rogue interpreted as the taught, well trained soldier that he is supposed to be.

It’s easy with the benefit of knowing what this thrill later becomes to scoff at the notion that Rogue Trooper is currently a threat to Judge Dredd’s number one position in the readers’ poll. At this point in time, however, it’s not only had the benefit of some great artists (such as Dave Gibbons and Colin Wilson) but also some taught, well written scripts. The economy of language employed by Finley-Day is similar to the styles used by Wagner, Grant and Mills. In fact, there are moments of humour, even if they do occur less frequently than in other thrills. In this episode for example, before going to sleep, Rogue puts Gunner on sentry duty. He then turns to his helmet and says, “Helm…?” to which Helm replies, “let me guess – pillow duty”. Okay, Finley-Day doesn’t write Rogue Trooper with the same sense of subtlety, subversion and humour, nor imagination as his premier league contemporaries but he’s working in the same spirit.

Rogue Trooper, the thrill, is flawed. For example, all the South soldiers are written as innocent, inexperienced young men and all three of the biochips seem to have the same personality. However, in my opinion, many of the best comic strips are a good idea with blemishes on the surface. A good writer would take those blemishes and use them to help generate stories, which is exactly what Finley-Day seems to be doing.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Prog 253

Prior to The Apocalypse War, Judge Dredd epics were altogether more accessible. Although they averaged about twenty five parts in length, they were usually subdivided into shorter manageable story chunks. For example, The Judge Child Quest has a simple premise; find the Judge Child to save Mega City One from destruction. This was then split down into shorter units, such as Dredd’s first encounter with The Angel Gang in Texas City, all of which pieced together into one hell of a whole. It meant that any new reader didn’t have to wait long before encountering a point in the overall saga that they could pick it up from. In The Apocalypse War, the story is continuous and feels open ended which is great from an engaging point of view but means that any new readers won’t have a clue what is going on. It’s made even more difficult if you consider that this epic spins out of the Block Mania story which, itself, was nine parts long.

Another observation is the pacing. Since The Judge Child, John Wagner and Alan Grant have become an effective writing unit whose story pacing is more airy and considered. It means that often, an episode of The Apocalypse War can feel as if little has happened in comparison to an episode of The Judge Child but is satisfying nonetheless. The writing style seems like it might be an ancestor to modern mainstream comics’ preoccupation with story padding for the book collection that will be published later.

The transition to the change in mood is helped significantly by art robot Carlos Ezquerra who draws every episode giving The Apocalypse War epic a consistency of look. Ezquerra’s art is great but there is one obvious drawback; you know that there are going to be no new Strontium Dog stories for at least six months. Damn!

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Prog 250

In Judge Dredd, multi part epic The Apocalypse War is well under way and Mega City One has taken one hell of a nuclear beating from East Meg One. In this prog, Mega City’s retaliation has been redirected by the Russians to an alternative Earth which has enjoyed hippy peace for years and cracked the planet in half.

It’s the start of 1982 and if you’re not experiencing regular nightmares about walking around your school playground with no clothes on and nuclear Armageddon then you are a total grexnix. I wasn’t reading 2000 AD at this time but I was still aware of the existence of The Apocalypse War storyline. Judge Dredd has been established as the most popular thrill in 2000 AD by this time and it baffled me that the writers could conceive of a story where the city, on of the stars of the strip, gets nuked to hell. Nuclear war means the end of everything surely, everyone knows that.

The Russians being the enemy was equally wrong to me. Although the cold war is still chugging along in 1982, generally we didn’t think of the soviets as different to us anymore thanks entirely to the Sting single Russians (released three years later). “Do the Russians love their children too?” sex athlete Sting sings. What a revelation! I didn’t even know that they reproduced the same way we did let alone loved their offspring!

There is an important moment in Part One of The Apocalypse War that makes it clear that the use of the Russians as the enemy isn’t lazy writing on the part of Alan Grant and John Wagner. A Russian judge asks if they should notify the people that they are about to experience a nuclear attack. The response is a quick rebuke along the lines of, “The people? What has it got to do with them?” The same question is asked in Mega City One and Dredd gives virtually the same response. This isn’t a war between us and Russia. This is an oversized fight between the two posturing powers from which there will almost certainly be some fallout from onto us. Thinking about it, I’m not sure that we are ready to be treated like adults by our comics.

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Prog 249

Inside this prog, Tharg provides a half page run down of seven comic marts and conventions taking place throughout the UK during February and March. Seven? These days you’ll be lucky if that many occur each year.

Associating itself with what is essentially the comic fan scene is something that I never remember 2000 AD doing much of at this time, 1982, so seeing this list is a bit of a surprise. Outside of annual signings at Forbidden Planet in Denmark Street (which is in London) any other fan association felt tokenistic as the scene seemed pretty much American biased, to me. In fact, when Lew Stringer published a new edition of his British comic fanzine, After Image, he seemed like something of an exception, almost an eccentric. But as a crossover between fans of American and UK comics, 2000 AD goes on to be the success with the highest profile.

I went to my first convention around this time. My friend had arranged for his uncle to take us there in his Jag. It was a massive disappointment as he turned up at my friend’s house very late and we only managed to make the last hour of the event. It was there that I bought Marvel Team-Up 100, in which Spider-Man fights the Fantastic Four drawn by Frank Miller. Considering the lack of distribution of this comic to UK newsagents and my very limited funds and time, I think I did pretty well in the circumstances.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Prog 248

He might have drawn his last full strip for 2000 AD but art robot Brian Bolland still has some mopping up to do as this prog he draws this Mean Arena themed cover. Yes, Mean Arena is still droning on and even a Bolland cover can’t jazz up this thrill and God knows Tharg has tried. Matt Tallon, still aching to avenge the death of his brother who died somehow, now has a robot bodyguard who looks like a nine year old boy. The bodyguard doesn’t seem to hang out with Talon all of the time. Instead, he pops up at the exact moment that he is needed. In fact, the first time he appeared, I thought I must have slept through something important which, to be honest, is possible.

To be fair, The Mean Arena has improved considerably since it began all those years ago. It’s easier to follow now and the inclusion of teams designed by readers injects some vitally needed fun. A special mention should be made of art robot Mike White whose work is very good. On the surface, he seems something of a traditionalist but his art is packed with tidy detail and expression. Next time you’re flicking through your old progs, I recommend pausing for a proper look.

Also this prog, Tharg adds some clarity to the circumstances that led to art robot Ian Gibson standing in for Messimo Belardinelli on ACE Trucking Co. Apparently, communications between the Nerve Centre and Bellardinelli were down. In other words, 2000 AD lost his telephone number. Still, I’m glad that the situation has been clarified because, as you know, I concluded from previous Tharg remarks, incorrectly, that Belardinelli was ill.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Prog 246

I thought that when I said goodbye to Nemesis the Warlock a couple of progs back that that would be it from that thrill for a while. I didn’t think that it would be back so soon. This rate of output is obviously too fast for art robot Kevin O’Neill so Jesus Redondo, who you might remember from Return to Armageddon, makes an adequate stand in. I guess that Nemesis has very quickly got itself established in the hearts of the readers as Tharg tells us in this prog’s Nerve Centre that O’Neill is already working on Book Three.

Also returning after a blink-and-you-wouldn’t-have-noticed-it-was-gone break is Rogue Trooper. Tharg reveals this prog that Rogue is now number two in the reader’s polls, just after Judge Dredd. He even wonders if, one day, Rogue will overtake Dredd. I find it hard to believe that anyone could have thought that this might happen. Although fully conceived from the start and being consistently well drawn, Rogue Trooper is flatter, less humorous and altogether thicker than Dredd.

Undermining my authority as a blogger this prog is another Future Shock drawn by Paul Neary. A couple of entries back, I said that Neary probably only ever drew one strip for 2000 AD and it was in the prog I was writing about and yet, not long after, here is another strip drawn by him. I know that I’ve said this before but I’m going to stop making these bold statements in future slog entries starting from…


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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Prog 244

What I believe to be Brian Bolland’s last full Judge Dredd episode appears this prog. It’s the final part of Block Mania where Dredd has a finely crafted fist fight with Orlok the Assassin in the pouring rain.

The brain drain from 2000 AD to DC comics in America starts here. Earlier this year (it’s Christmas 1981, right now) Bolland drew the cover to Tales of the Green Lantern Corps number one. Early next year, he draws five pages of the super-sized Justice League of America issue 200 where Bat Man makes finely crafted fools out of Green Arrow and Black Canary before moving on to pencil the twelve part maxi series (that’s what we called long mini serials in those days) Camelot 3000.

To my mind, Bolland is the first creator of my era to transfer successfully from the UK to the American comic industry. Prior to this, making the move had been unthinkable, despite Barry Windsor Smith’s work for Marvel from ten years before. (He doesn’t count in my mind as he had to physically move over there and work illegally to establish himself). Bolland made the move as part of DC’s New Talent Search. This initiative didn’t result in X-Factor style raw talent being snatched from obscurity for comic book super stardom, as I had imagined it would, but instead involved a DC editor walking around the London Comic Mart asking if anyone had Brian Bolland’s telephone number.

This isn’t the end of Bolland’s association with Judge Dredd, by any means, thanks mainly to the upcoming Titan Book collections and the American styled repackages. In fact, it all becomes something of an issue over the next few years which I am sure to elaborate on in later posts.

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Monday, October 08, 2007

Prog 242

The Future Shocks are experiencing a golden age at the moment. In fact, it’s so golden that it isn’t uncommon to see two Future Shocks in the same issue. Script robots Alan Moore, Kevin Gosnell and Steve Moore (no relation) seem to be rotating writing them between each other and despite Alan’s being of a superior quality, Kevin and Steve’s compare favourably.

The Future Shock has always been the testing ground for new talent but in the early days Tharg seemed often to mix them up with more established creators. Later, they become the showcase for exclusively new and, often, inferior creator droids and used to fill gaps between the end of an established series and the next re-launch prog. I came to think of them as space fillers, released from the pool when required and nothing to get excited about in their own right.

But right now, they are great. In Love Thy Neighbour by Gosnell and Jesus Redondo, a grumpy inventor, who makes Victor Meldrew look like a Blue Peter presenter, successfully shuts off all electricity inside a three kilometre radius because he’s bad tempered and ends up with a fighter jet crashing into him. In Mister, Could You Use a Squonge? by Alan Moore and Ron Tiner, the world’s population increase their intelligence thanks to some alien brain bolt-ons found in space. At the end of this one, Tharg explains that this tale takes place in a separate time-stream, as if Alan Moore is considering consolidating every Future Shock into a single multi-verse. It wouldn’t surprise me if this is something he is thinking about.

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

Prog 240

I’ve always thought Messimo Bellardinelli to be the only art robot to have worked on ACE Trucking Co and yet, we’re on only the second story and it’s already being drawn by another guy, Ian Gibson. I get the impression from last prog’s editorial that Belardinelli is ill as, according to Tharg, he is undergoing vital renovations. I guess that ACE Trucking Co is so unique that the process of selling it to the reader at this point cannot be interrupted by anything as inconvenient as the artist undergoing vital surgery.

This prog’s Alan Moore penned Future Shock, called A Cautionary Tale and written in rhyme, is drawn by Paul Neary. Neary isn’t an artist that I associate with 2000 AD. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if this is the only bit of work that he does for the comic. I mention Neary because I want it on the record that I have always liked his art style and think it is a shame that he only seems to ink other artist’s pencils these days.

Rhyme seems to be the theme this prog. In Nemesis the Warlock, the Terminators sing the Deviatus, or The Battle Hymn, as they slaughter a bunch of aliens. I should, of course, be appalled by all the bloodshed going on but it’s is so lavishly drawn by Kevin O’Neill that I can’t help but wish that the racial hatred never ends.

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Saturday, October 06, 2007

Prog 238

Originally hinted at as far back as prog 192, Project X is revealed on the page just before this week’s episode of Block Mania. The Daily Star Judge Dredd weekly strip has begun. I say begun, past tense, because, despite having been working on it as far back as prog 192, Tharg hasn’t got around to telling us about it until eleven episodes into its run. I guess that he must have been superstitious about the arrangement and didn’t want to jinx it.

At this time, I wasn’t going anywhere near to 2000 AD but even I knew about Judge Dredd appearing in The Daily Star. I don’t know how I knew, but it seemed like big news, even to a non Squaxx Dek Thargo like me. If a newspaper like The Daily Star was running Judge Dredd then that must mean that the mainstream is beginning to accept the validity of comics outside of the standard four panel gag strips that they normally featured. I didn’t know that the Daily Star was rubbish, did I.

In the article, Tharg informs us that the strip is written by John Wagner, “a droid from the same mould as John Howard and TB Grover”. I often talk about the pseudonyms that creators used, especially John Wagner. Some say he used them because he didn’t want to draw attention to number of thrills that he wrote from publisher IPC while others wonder (me, mainly) if perhaps he was just being modest. Using his real name in The Daily Star confuses things a bit for me as, up until this point, he had rarely been credited with his real name in 2000 AD. It can’t just be about concealing the quantity of work or modesty, surely.

As for The Slog; I haven’t decided yet whether to include the Daily Star strips as part of it. When it ran weekly, it was a beautiful example of tight story telling but my memory of it when it ran daily, which it started to a few years later, is that the discipline previously on display had slipped. I’ll see how I feel when I reach the period that the collections are produced.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Prog 236

I took the opportunity during a break away this week to read Jack Kirby’s Fourth World Omnibus Volume One. I’ve always been a fan of Kirby’s comic work, ever since I was a kid, particularly his early Silver Age Marvel stuff like the Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk and Captain America. But I was also selective. For example, I have never much bothered with The Mighty Thor and his work during the seventies, such as The Eternals, baffled me a little. Why is he drawing like this, I used to think, instead of how he used to draw? Now, as an adult (apparently), I fully appreciate how good Kirby’s work is during this period.

This is the first time that I have encountered this piece and, if I thought that reading a lot of Grant Morrison had prepared me for how utterly strange The Fourth World is, then I was an idiot. It is just mental! So, it is with some relief that I am now back home and continuing with the relative sanity of The Slog.

The Judge Dredd story, Block Mania, begins this prog. Tharg has mentioned once or twice already that this tale is significant, as if to say, don’t be fooled by its modest, down beat beginning. And he’s right. Who would have thought that full scale nuclear war could possibly start with something as small as a freezy-whip being dropped into the face of a passer by?

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