2000 AD Prog Slog

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Prog 285

What on earth are Alan Grant and John Wagner thinking? The writing partnership that set the tone for 2000 AD during the eighties and established it as an effective satirical publication in addition to it continuing to be a great comic for boys, resorting to this. Portraying Japanese people as buck toothed, slant-eyed idiots.

In this episode of Robo-Hunter, Football Crazy, the supporters of Japan are all drawn by art robot Ian Gibson as four foot tall and looking exactly alike. I can only assume that Gibson was instructed to draw them like this in the script as Grant and Wagner have members of the crowd shouting things like ”cliet pleeze!” (please be quiet), “that a rie!” (that is a lie) and “me no confesee!” (I won’t confess). While interrogating a member of the crowd, Kidd slaps him and says, “shut it, nip!” and, after he smashes a camera to pieces, the supporters riot chanting “Blakee Pentax!” The creator droids can’t even hide behind the excuse that the Japanese supporters are shallow robots as they are meant to be living, breathing human beings.

The only explanation I can think of for this aberration is that it is 1982 and Alan Grant and John Wagner, thanks to their workload, didn’t give expressing national anxieties about Japan’s economic influence on the UK at the time proper thought. Whatever the explanation, I’m going to pretend that this episode didn’t happen.

Next prog: England face Italy in the semi-finals. Ay yi yi.

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  • Regards the racist writing of Sam Slade by Wagner/Grant, are you really that surprised? Since when has 2000AD not been totally irreverent of social mores or trends? It was written in 1982 when Bernard Manning et al. were still at full tilt & political correctness hadn't affected our diurnal discourse.

    By Blogger garageman, at 8:16 pm  

  • Sure, though I guess one expects better of writers so sharp in other regards.

    By Blogger mat_tait, at 8:20 am  

  • If this was 1977 I could perhaps accept your point, garageman, but this is late 1982. Channel 4 is starting, alternative comedy is about to hit the mainstream and both the music and broadsheet press (at least) are challenging racial stereotyping. I’m not saying that racial stereotyping like this wasn’t happening in the mainstream but the challenging of it was pretty high profile too.

    Wagner and Grant have never struck me as “right on” and they also enjoyed writing a variety of nationalities which has been a major part of their appeal. But I’ve always thought of them as intelligent, witty, well read and astute. I find it hard to believe that given a little more thought that they would have written this episode of Robo-Hunter as they did even back then.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 6:23 pm  

  • I'm with you, Mat_tait

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 6:24 pm  

  • Don't worry, from memory, this strip is equal opportunities with the racism. No nationality goes unstereotyped.

    By Blogger Mark, at 10:49 pm  

  • Actually Mark, you might be right, I seem to remember it was stereotypes all round, though i can't remember if there was a point to it.

    By Blogger mat_tait, at 8:00 am  

  • Mark, you're right, but they are robots whereas the Japan fans are meant to me real people. Shouldn't that make a diff?

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 6:19 pm  

  • Really? yeah, that does make a difference I think.

    By Blogger mat_tait, at 9:27 pm  

  • I'll forgive it, but only because I remember the strip as a spot-on satire of that period's football culture (commentators all called Brian, the spot-on riff on the '82 Italian team, esp. "Not-So-Gentile).

    My only problem - the camera-toting Japanese tourist was already a comedy standard at the time, so it's a shame they resorted to such a cliche at all.

    By Blogger Mark, at 10:47 pm  

  • Crumbs, I remember this. I had the comic at the time. In fact I was just searching Google for "blakee pentax" to see if I had dreamed it. I was about six years old, and thought nothing of it, except that I much preferred Rogue Trooper to boring old Robohunter.

    Perhaps it's notable that Gerry Anderson's Terrahawks, which was out at the same time, also had a comedy Japanese character who was mocked for saying L instead of R.

    My pet theory is that Japanese culture was still very alien and odd at the time, and that there wasn't a substantial Japanese/British minority to raise a fuss.

    By Blogger Ashley Pomeroy, at 10:01 pm  

  • I think Ashley may be right. I'm sure Wagner and Grant wouldn't have done African teams being supported by tribesmen with bones through their noses or so on. The alienness and lack of perceived oppression of the Japanese, I think, may have made them an acceptable target to the writers. If you think about it, the French and Germans are still soft targets in our culture today. Still racism (or xenophobia) though.

    By Blogger dmstarz, at 9:17 am  

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