2000 AD Prog Slog

Monday, December 31, 2007

Prog Slog Blog Year in Review 2007

Happy Birthday to you!

On February 28th, 2000 AD celebrated its thirtieth birthday. I covered this event by writing a review of the anniversary issue based upon the line up of thrills and creators I had read about on the website and refusing to buy a copy. I hadn’t even read the comic itself in the newsagents as it shipped shrink-wrapped, that week.

There was some broader media coverage of the birthday, including a piece in The Independent newspaper where the journalist speculated on how much longer the comic can be expected to run for. Phil Jupitus hosted a half hour long documentary on Radio 4. In it, ex-2000 AD editor, David Bishop, who resided over the comic during a period where many long term readers broke their weekly habit, was described as the comic’s biographer.

The Slog is launched

Although I started to blog my slog through the first 1188 progs of 2000 AD towards the end of 2006, I don’t think of it as having been launched officially until March 17th 2007. I was trying to find my Slog voice prior to that, PLUS I spent the first two months of 2007 wading through the huge pile of books and graphic novels I had received for Christmas and so barely made an entry. Besides, I hadn’t bothered to tell anyone that it even existed before then. Anyway, I’ve really enjoyed doing The Slog so far. Thanks to everyone for reading it, especially those of you who have commented.

It’s “Mick” not “Mike”!

The only new issue of 2000 AD I bought in 2007 was prog 1539 dated 30th May. In it, one of comics’ greatest artists, Mick McMahon, returned to the character he helped to make so memorable, Judge Dredd, for a single episode.

McMahon seems to be entering a new phase with his art style here sitting somewhere between the simple one I associate with his time at Sonic the Comic and his older Judge Dredd work from around the Block Mania period. My only disappointments with this return are that that the artwork seems to have been scanned in and coloured from the pencils (I would have preferred it inked) and the story itself wasn’t written by John Wagner.

1539 is currently unread but at the bottom of my huge pile of progs for The Slog to be looked at later for possible inclusion as a sort of post-Slog tidy up. The good news for McMahon fans is that he is currently working on a six part Tank Girl comic written by the character’s co-creator Alan Martin and to be published by Titan.

2000 AD Village

November saw the launch of new comic website http://www.comicsvillage.com/ for whom I produce an omnibus edition of the last two weeks worth of Slog entries. I don’t really know why I mentioned it as it’s still early days and there really isn’t much more to say other than that.

I Dare ya!

November saw the return of Dan Dare in his own comic published by Virgin. When we last saw the character in 2000 AD, he was clinging to a rock floating aimlessly in space. Since then, he returned in the re-launched Eagle, in a grown up story serialised in Revolver and Crisis and, more recently, in a CGIed children’s TV show but still, no one has told me how he got off that damned rock!

Months before the announcement of the latest incarnation of the character, writer Garth Ennis stated publicly that his dream was to write Dan Dare and, lo, a bearded pickle millionaire did appear before him and did make his wish come true. If you’re reading this, Mister Branson, my dream is to leave work and live off of the interest to a million pounds. No two million. Actually, better make it three.

The Digital Switch Over

In December, the comics’ blog-sphere was alight with the news that publishers Rebellion are to make 2000 AD available for download one week after the release of the hard copy version to newsagents. The general opinion seemed to be that this is a bold move that other publishers will be watching the developments of with interest.

Personally, I was delighted to see 2000 AD receive this sort of coverage for a change. I’ve felt for a long time that higher profile comic book websites and blogs under play the impact that 2000 AD has had on modern main stream comics. This thought is one of the reasons why I started blogging The Slog in the first place.

Best of luck with the digital download, Tharg. Here’s hoping that television’s switch to digital isn’t being used as the template for this method of distribution otherwise we might be seeing the analogue version 2000 AD being switched off by 2012.


This time last year, The Slog (then a secret) took a two month long break after it had barely began so that I could read all of the books that I got for Christmas 2006. As you should know, new comics and graphic novels take priority over 2000 AD. This Christmas, I received significantly fewer graphic novels, most of which I have already finished.

Tamara Drewe by Posy Simmonds: I deliberately didn’t read this when it was serialised in The Guardian and I’m glad that I didn’t as, in one sitting, it’s great. Often, I wonder why I can’t find a publisher for my comic work but after finishing this I wonder how most other comics manage to get published at all.
Silverfish by David Lapham: I’ve been reading Stray Bullets from the beginning but this is the first time that I’ve read what is probably the equivalent to a story arc in one sitting and, man, is it good. By the end, my heart was pounding and I couldn’t read the pages fast enough.
Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan: I knew nothing about this book before opening it and, initially, I found the art and pacing a touch clinical but, actually, it turns out that I was just adjusting to a strong and individual style. This is really, really good. Moving and possibly profound.
Poison Candy by David Hine and Hans Steinbach: I asked for this because I thought that ex-creator robot Hine was also drawing it. I haven’t read it yet but, having had a quick flick through, the art does look pretty good. Tomorrow’s read, I think.

In 2007 I read 295 weekly progs, all twenty two issues of Star Lord plus the Summer Special, fourteen annuals including Judge Dredd and Dan Dare, and seven specials, six Sci-Fi and one Summer. According to my calculations, based entirely on my current reading rate and the presumption that The Slog will include the first two volumes of Judge Dredd The Megazine (still to be confirmed), I should complete it early 2010.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Judge Dredd Annual 1984

Although the quality of the material in the Judge Dredd annual remains high, the rapid improvement in the performance of the 2000 AD one has undermined it slightly. Even this year’s Judge Anderson strip chooses to appear in 2000 AD even though appearing here seems more appropriate and in line with previous years. Fortunately, Max Normal remains loyal.

Once again, Carlos Ezquerra draws all the Dredd colour strips. Most memorable is Dredd’s fight with Satan in Beat the Devil which takes place in rhyme. My favourite, however, is Halloween. A group of mutants have broken into the city and embark on a brutal and merciless crime spree, until Dredd stops them, that is.

Most curious of all is the fun piece where a drawing of a judge’s helmet is placed over the face of a Hollywood actor and we have to guess who they are. Judge E is Sylvester Stallone, over a decade before he helps to ruin the character’s reputation in the movie. Incidentally, they all, without exception, look shit.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Annual 1984

I’ve been holding back on reviewing the 1984 annuals because I thought that it might be amusing and appropriate to read them over Christmas. To try and recreate the experience of opening them for the first time on Christmas morning twenty four years ago (although I have never owned them before The Slog). Well, this is what it was like –

I noticed that script robot Staccato, AKA Alan Grant, is credited with a three of the originated thrills, including Robo Hunter, Judge Anderson and Judge Dredd. Why he didn’t use his real name or a number of his different aliases, I don’t know. Anyway, these were read in my parents’ living room as Simon and Garfunkle blared out of the DVD player. As I started to read an article on the creation of Skizz written by Alan Moore which, incidentally, doesn’t mention ET once, I started to feel drowsy and, I’m disappointed to reveal, was the first in the house to fall asleep. The rest of the annual was read at home immediately after Harry Hill’s Christmas TV Burp in the evening. Included is the Nemesis spin-off Torquemada strip, during which the leader of Termite is resurrected from the dead for the day and then travels home with a drawing of the alien warlock for his wife. I can’t help but imagine this story totally baffling any casual non-readers of the weekly that had this given to them on Christmas Day 1983.

Alan Moore’s profile is fairly high this year. As well as the Skizz article, he also scripts a Rogue Trooper and Ro-Busters story. In an article written by Ro-Jaws, he is listed amongst five creator droids of the year, three of which are entirely fictional. How’s that for proof that you’ve made it in the world of British comics?

And that’s it; a good percentage of original content, strong creators, appropriate reprints, all wrapped up in a slightly disappointing sleeve by Dave Gibbons. Merry Christmas.

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Prog 342

This prog’s notable first is Cam Kennedy drawing Judge Dredd. Well, as far as I remember, anyway. In The Suspect, Dredd leans on John Kilroy Henders after learning that his spending exceeds his income. Henders manages to beat the interrogation but is later exposed as having three jobs. In these times of high unemployment, having more then one job is a serious offence. In his defence, Henders says, “I just love working, I guess”. Any sympathy I might have had for this guy is thrown out of the window when he says this line. Chuck him into the cubes, Dredd, and throw away the key.

The particularly grim Strontium Dog story, The Moses Incident, continues. Johnny and Wulf have taken the corpse of young Moses Quest to The Isalnd of the Living Dead in the hope that his corpse can be resurrected. Johnny feels responsible for the boy’s death after he was caught in the cross fire between him and his bounty earlier in the story. I would have thought that after a long absence, returning with an upbeat Strontium Dog tale would be more appropriate.

Since the beginning of Book III, Nemesis the Warlock has been occupying the coveted colour centre spread normally occupied by Judge Dredd. Art robot Kevin O’Neill has been rewarding us with some stunning artwork. This prog, it’s an amazing double paged illustration of the imperial flag robot, Torque-Armada. The detail and design are just stunning. His feet are like sailing ships on wheels. Cannons fire from out of his knees, chest and nostrils. Tiny people run around powering the giant bastard. I could look at it for hours.

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Prog 340

ITEM: Rogue Trooper From Hell to Eternity ends with the beautiful and fashionable Venus Bluegenes revealed as a murderer and all the boys, bio-chipped or otherwise, feeling very disappointed by the whole affair. This is the second woman in a row that Rogue has had a romantic thing with only to learn that she is despicable to some degree. I can see that I am going to have to keep my eye on script robot Finley-Day for a pattern in his future portrayals of women.

ITEM: It’s cross over madness in Nemesis the Warlock! Mek-Quake, formally of Tharg’s Nerve Centre and Ro-Busters, helps Termite in their bombardment of Ydarasill Castle. A 2000 AD cross over is so rare that this has absolutely no impact upon newer readers but provides a cheap little buzz for those of us that have been around for a while. Unlike those cross-overs that Marvel and DC persist with which are very occasionally okay in and of themselves but almost always leave the strength and integrity of the individual franchises compromised.

ITEM: If there is such a thing as Belardinelli Bingo then I think that I would be doing very well in it as I’ve spotted a cameo by the art robot again, this time as one of the people trapped inside the Wickerman. Interestingly to me, although his version Slaine alternates with the more memorable one drawn by Mike McMahon, it’s his haircut that has stuck with the character in the long term. When I say “his haircut” I mean the one he draws on Slaine, not his own actual style; bald in the middle, bushy at the sides.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Prog 337

It’s good to have Pat Mills back after what seems like years away from the comic he, essentially, created. My understanding is, and please note that this is recalled entirely from my faltering memory, that Mills had a falling out with 2000 AD, possibly over the use of characters he helped to create, and withheld work on principle. (Please feel free to endorse or deny my perception if you know better.) Since the late 100s, we’ve only had Nemesis the Warlock from him which, in comparison to his input before, is fairly light. Currently, the script robot is on a roll, writing for us the first adventures of Slaine and the third book of Nemesis.

Still, if Mills hadn’t had gone off in a (presumed) huff then we might never have had space for such classic runs as Meltdown Man and (shudder) The Mean Arena. Equally, there would have been less space for Alan Moore to wriggle into the industry through and God knows where that might have left us all. Mills himself might never have found the time to write the excellent Charley’s War for Battle.

Of course, all of this is supposition based upon an unreliable premise in the first place. What is true, however, is that, as far as I’m concerned, Mills is one of the tone setting alpha script robots along with Wagner and Grant. Thank Crom he’s back.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Prog 335

I’ve said it before and I fully expect to say it again; there’s nothing quite like a re-launch issue. It seems ages since the last. In fact, it might even be as far back as prog 178, the one with the free badge, although I’m not convinced that that can be right. Not so long from now, I won’t be able to move for re-launch issues as I remember them occurring around every three months or so.

And what a re-launch! Mike McMahon enters his third artwork phase with Slaine, the return of Nemesis the Warlock meticulously drawn by Kevin O’Neill, the return of Strontium Dog after a break which seemed to last an age and Brett Ewins, still competing for the role of definitive art robot to Rogue Trooper. The real star for me this prog however is Ron Smith. Smith seems to have been a rare sight in 2000 AD over recent months, I presume because of his commitments to the Daily Star strip. The opening page to Judge Dredd The Graveyard Shift must have convinced any doubters that he is an artist that compares favourably with his A-lister peers many of which appear along side him this prog.

This re-launch issue’s free gift is a Judge Dredd poster painted by Mr Smith. This time, it’s printed on glossy paper arriving in addition to the prog rather than the usual “poster” printed on the back page, on news print paper, serialised over four weeks and left to the reader to assemble with scissors and seletape (other sticky-back tape is available). I bought this issue when it came out for the poster. At the time, I regularly bought Marvel UK comics for the pull-out posters, often painted by Mick Austen, and every square inch of my bedroom walls were covered in them. It looked like the busiest comic strip based collage ever. One day, I returned home from school to discover that seletape wasn’t strong enough to hold the weight of all those posters onto wall and they had collapsed into a tepee onto the floor of my room. I was such an untidy teenage boy that I climbed inside the structure to go to bed for several days until my mother made me tidy it up.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Prog 333

In Requiem for a Fatty, Judge Dredd is investigating the death of Pudge Dempsey after he was found with a bedstead lodged inside his abdomen. After finding apatite enhancers near to the body, Dredd begins an investigation which leads him all the way to the World Heavyweight Eating Championships. Meanwhile, the victim’s managers, Charley and Limpy, have found a replacement for him, Arnold Stodgman, and have only a week to train him up for the competition.

Potential contenders get referred to as “prime pork”. Thousands of fatties are tricked into a stampede as a distraction from an escape when they are told that a free feast waits for them. Arnold moves so slowly during his escape from Frank Cannon Block that its quicker for Charley and Limpy to trip him onto his side and roll him into the getaway van. There’s nothing quite as entertaining as a Judge Dredd fatty tale, particularly one drawn by Ron Smith or, as on this occasion, Carlos Ezquerra.

I’m supposing that the writing partnership of John Wagner and Alan Grant works like this; together they come up with the story and how it unfolds, having a big laugh in the process, then, separately, they write up the scripts. So, for example, Grant might write the script for Robo-Hunter whereas Wagner does the job for ACE Trucking Co. In the case of Requiem for a Fatty, I suspect that Wagner did the scripting work for this line alone; “Full arm sink!”. Charley and Limpy are performing a physical examination of Arnold. Charley pushes his arm into his stomach and finds that it disappears up to his shoulder whereupon he excitedly exclaims the line of the story. “Full arm sink”. In what other context could a line like that be so funny let alone make sense?

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Prog 330

I would have to be blind folded or reading a copy with the first eight pages missing not to notice this prog’s notable first; Slaine! Of course, it makes an impressive start as you would expect from a thrill written by Pat Mills. When creating a new strip, Mills seems to fully conceptualise it before releasing it to the masses in neat, little six paged chunks. Angie Mills is the artist who, as far as I know, draws this opening episode and never returns to it again. Under normal circumstances, an artist this strong disappearing from a thrill would be a tragedy except I know how great some of the art is to come.

The final page of this prog’s Rogue Trooper story occupies the back cover. Normally, in these circumstances, it would be in colour, but here it remains in black and white. I’m supposing that this is because the colour has been reserved for the map of Britain accompanying the Slaine strip. I’m one of those people who suffer from diagram blindness and I find maps of fictional places, normally, a good indicator that the associated piece isn’t for me. It’s a good job that I read and enjoyed the first Slaine story before spotting it.

Skizz finishes this prog with Cornelius throwing Van Owen off of Spaghetti Junction and all the good, ol’ working class people saying goodbye to their favourite alien. If there’s one important lesson to be learned from this thrill it’s that Brummies are people too just like you and me. I shed a little tear every time I watch ET and I shed a little tear reading the final part of Skizz too. It’s been emotional. Actually, associations with ET are easy but this thrill maintained a voice all its own. I find myself wishing for more and then I remember, oh yes, um, there is.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Prog 327

In Judge Dredd Rise of the Werewolf, Dredd enters the under city, old New York, which was concreted over and had Mega City One built over the top of it. It is from there, through a crack in the ground, that Werewolves have been entering Meg One and spreading their condition. Now, the city’s top Judge has entered old New York to stop the infestation at source.

The first thing to say about this story is that, for me, this is art robot Steve Dillon’s most memorable work on Judge Dredd. The mood is heavy with ink but he manages to maintain the dynamism that I associate with his 2000 AD work. It’s also interesting to see that Dillon, like Brett Ewins at this time on Rogue Trooper, seems to be interested in bold but simple page designs; small panels with, often, extreme close ups accompanied by a large, explosive, action splash. These close ups and big panels, however, can’t detract from how unique his werewolves look; they have box shaped jaws leaving me wondering if Dillon based his design on the dog Jock from the Fred Basset comic strips.

Rise of the Werewolf is a good example of how John Wagner and Alan Grant are scripting Judge Dredd these days. The story pacing seems extended out but every moment and line of dialogue is more considered and meant to be savoured. Their work reads like a more together ancestor to the twenty-first centaury trend in mainstream comics for story padding.

If this tale is a good example of anything, though, then it’s of the wide scope of Judge Dredd concept at its core. Although the character remains inflexible the thrill itself is strong enough to handle werewolves, visits into space, mutants, time travel, social and political satire and all the rest. There are 400 million stories in the city and Wagner and Grant seem determined to tell them all.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Prog 324

There seems to be some nice displays of confidence happening at the moment. For example, Alan Moore’s Time Twister, imaginatively called The Time Machine and drawn by art robot Jesus Redondo, tells the story of a man drowning in a lake and revisiting moments from his life. It’s a touching piece but I kept thinking throughout it, isn’t drowning one of the most painful ways to die? If you were in fantastic pain in your final moments, would scenes from your life actually flash before your eyes? Here, time travel only occurs in the emotional sense and, actually, this isn’t a science fiction or fantasy story at all.

Another great display of confidence can be witnessed in Robo-Hunter by Wagner, Grant and Gibson. Sam Slade, or is it his clone Sam Scumm, spends the entire episode strapped in a chair abandoned in a busy Brit-Cit street trying to persuade passers by to free him. There’s something about a man in a chair shouting at people in the street inside a boys comic that feels eventful somehow.

The position for definitive Rogue Trooper artist seems to be between art robots Cam Kennedy and Brett Ewins. Recently, Ewins has been drawing Rogue in an almost iconic way; lean and fully rendered. His machines look like they’ve been sourced from a similar place that Jack Kirby draws his from, wherever that is, and his page designs are bold but simple.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Prog 322

I definitely had this prog first time around. I’m guessing that I was motivated to buy it thanks to another appearance by the mighty team of Alan Moore and Alan Davis who are already producing dynamite with Captain Britain for Marvel UK and are about to, if they aren’t already, with Marvel Man for Warrior. This time they produce a one-off called The Hyper-Historic Headbang. In it, we learn of a flattened planet with pitch perfect inhabitants living in its canyons and a spaceship carving its way through them thus creating one of the most memorable heavy metal concerts of all time. Now that’s what I call rock excess!

After being injured, Rogue Trooper feverishly lets slip a series of incidents in which Helm, Bagman and Gunner messed up when they were alive and he had to cover for them. We learn that the bio-chip buddies were pretty unpleasant individuals when they were real people and their personalities aren’t entirely down to full-body-loss trauma. In a rare moment of thrill nobility, Rogue recovers his senses soon enough to retract his statements for the sake of the unit and kill the last of any nearby advancing Norts. What a man!

In Robo-Hunter, Sam Slade is alive again after being killed by a swarm of Teeny Meks several episodes ago. In ghost form, he’s persuaded his clone to share his body with him in the hope that they can escape jail, avenge his murder and resume hunting robots, no doubt. When Marvel killed off Captain America recently, the follow up issues would have been considerably improved if Bucky was being haunted by the ghost of Steve Rogers, don’t you think. I’m enjoying The Slaying of Slade much more than Play it Again Sam but I am missing Hoagy and Stogie who haven’t played much of a role in this story so far.

Although he’s made background appearances in Tharg stories before, art editing droid Robin Smith makes Alan Moore’s role as a script robot official, at last, by drawing him in his own pin-up. I love the idea of a robot with long hair and a beard. I think all three of the Star Wars prequels would have been improved considerably if all the robots had been built with stylish haircuts and facial hair.

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Sunday, December 09, 2007

Sci-Fi Special 1983 Extra

At the request of regular commenter Dom Sutton and because it’s nearly Christmas, here are some panels from John Byrne’s judge Dredd story from the 1983 Sci-Fi Special.
This is one of the crowd scenes that I was referring to in my previous post. I know it’s a close up but everyone is drawn with their own facial features. I like that.

The final page which I presume Byrne drew last. Here he doesn’t even try to draw a background. I bet it took him no more than two hours to get done.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Sci-Fi Special 1983

Like every sensible Marvelite of the late seventies and early eighties, I thought that John Byrne was the best thing since bare breasts. By 1983, he had finished helping to make The Uncanny X-Men Marvel’s biggest selling book and was now working his magic on the Fantastic Four and other Marvel comics. At the height of his popularity and output, the English speaking superhero comic reader’s favourite artist had agreed to draw an episode of a lesser known strip called Judge Dredd.

Seeing superstar artist Byrne drawing one of our humble British strips for the payment of a pint of milk and a packet of crisps seemed as likely as 2000 AD’s Alan Grant writing the lead Bat Man comic for DC even though, the year before, we had seen Joe Staton on Blackhawk. However, by the time both Byrne and Tharg could schedule each other in, his artwork, on his American books at least, was going through a ropey period. The Fantastic Four started to look like it was being drawn to actual size rather than for reduction while who can forget the notorious snow storm issue of Alpha Flight where the panels were left blank except for captions, speech balloons and sound effects. I put this quality dip down to the quantity of his work, which, in relation to most other professionals was vast.

In Block Out at the Crater Bowl, Dredd leads a group of Judges in policing a Block-Out match. The fans of the three sides are passionate about the blocks that they support to the point of irrationality and when the skirmishes between them turn into a full scale mass brawl Dredd has no choice but to spray the crowd in riot foam. I love the thought that Wagner and Grant might have written this satire of football hooliganism, a very British issue at the time, with Byrne in mind. He might have lived in the UK until he was eight years old but contemporary social issues specific to Britain must have been baffling to him.

Art Robot Byrne’s version of Dredd seems to be more in line with the earlier definition of the character instead of the scowling, post Bolland interpretation that was now popular. His style is loose and quick making his work seem confident and natural. Had he drawn this strip a couple of years before, his crowds would have been made up of generic faces but here they all look individualistic, the sign of a cartoonist at the top of his game as far as I’m concerned. There are some flaws; for example, it looks obvious from this black and white strip that he’s drawn it for colour reproduction and most of the scenes lack background detail but, on the whole, I would say this is an effort that compares favourably with many of the regular artists on the weekly at the time. With Byrne having burned his bridges with all of the mainstream publishers in 2007, perhaps Tharg should consider giving him a call and offering him the chance to draw Judge Dredd again. It’s just a thought.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Prog 319

Apparently, the story goes like this; In anticipation of the arrival of hit movie, ET, Tharg commissioned script robot Alan Moore, whose star was in the ascension but a way from its peak just yet, to write a thrill using its known themes, baring in mind that no one in the UK had seen it yet. By the time the movie was released here and Skizz started to be serialised in 2000 AD, the similarities were, how can I put this, many. Interestingly since then, I have read accusations by some of Moore’s peers (if, indeed, he has any) that some of his more known work, such as V for Vendetta for example, is similar to fiction published before it but, when accusing him of plagiarism, they never seem to mention the most obvious example of all; Skizz.

Although I was far from being a regular reader of 2000 AD at this time, I have read Skizz once before, many years ago. This was a number of episodes at a time but, for The Slog, this is the first occasion that I’ve read them properly as single parts, although, admittedly, not a week apart from each other. I’m impressed at how natural they read and tightly written they are. At this point, Moore is drip feeding us episodes of Marvel Man and V for Vendetta and there is sometimes a sense that he is conscious of having to pack a little more in each time but Skizz, because he can be assured that it will appear every week, allows him the space to pace the story more ideally. Reading it this way, I notice that it contrasts well against the dystopian Judge Dredd and Rogue Trooper.

Jim Baikie’s art is brilliant. I had almost forgotten how good he is. It’s all perfect figure work, perfect environment and perfect emotion. There’s something about looking at a drawing of a kangaroo shaped alien scuttling past the Bullring Shopping Centre in Birmingham or breaking into a garden shed that works for me. I have found myself staring in awe at Barkie’s line work and wishing I had that much ability and confidence.

For me, Skizz sits more in the old tradition of 2000 AD and its ancestor, Action, where a film currently on release is re-spun through the gauze of British working class perspective. In this case, it’s ET written by Alan Bleasdale. The human cast are compelling, particularly Cornelius (this thrill’s equivalent of Yosser Hughes) who, on meeting Skizz for the first time, asks him if they need pipe fitters where he comes from. Although I found it disconcerting to read in a recent episode that this character, who is traumatised by unemployment, is supposed to be three years younger than me.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Prog 317

This prog’s notable first is the appearance of DR and Quinch by Alans Moore and Davis. It’s an impressive opener considering that this is a Time Twister tale which, as far as everyone must have been concerned, could have just stayed as a one-off with the characters disappearing into the ether never to be seen again. In DR and Quinch Have Fun on Earth, the two delinquent friends travel up and down our timeline encountering historical events and causing all sorts of mayhem. It’s a bit like Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure only with nuclear weapons and several years earlier. What’s impressive to me about this strip upon re-reading it is how much happens in six pages. The story does feel like a big budget, fun action movie rather than just a spun out notion.

In Rogue Trooper, a band of Souther soldiers (God bless ‘em) encounter what they think is barbed-wired but actually turns out to be the dastardly Norts latest weapon; bio-wire. Rogue and his bio-chipped buddies try to help the only survivor, the shell shocked platoon’s cook, but end up being captured by Norts (boo). The cook is bullied into making his captors a meal but it happens to be laced with fragments of the bio-wire and all the dirty Norts die in agony.

I mention this Rogue Trooper story because, like this prog’s Time Twister, it’s self contained. Unlike this prog’s Time Twister, it’s just five pages long. Script robot Gerry Finley-Day writes it in a sparser style but it still manages to conjure a compelling yarn. Granted, Alan Moore’s caption heavy and more highly regarded DR and Quinch tale is altogether more satisfying to read but there’s something to be said for Finley-Day’s bare essentials, no nonsense way of getting the story done.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Prog 314

One year before the publication of this prog, my parents ruined my life by moving me and my brothers and sister to Milton Keynes. Described as a “new city” by every local person in authority but not by the Queen, Milton Keynes was like nowhere else in Britain and every dull witted Radio 1 DJ or live TV presenter with dead air to fill knew it. “Blah blah blah concrete cows blah blah blah”. I’ve lived in Milton Keynes for twenty five years now and it’s only recently that I got to see the notorious concrete cows for the first time and that’s only because they’ve been moved from a field to just outside Virgin Megastore for Christmas.

In this prog, Alan Grant (using the alias of Stavros) and Messimmo Bellardinelli tell the story of Mr Macabre, who comes to the concrete avenues of 1983 Milton Keynes to help some hapless businessman who has sold his soul to the devil. A year before, around the time the Rainey family arrived in the new city, he was a homeless person eating from rubbish bins until, one day, he unintentionally summoned the devil and signed a contract he had on his person. Now the contract has expired and the devil wants his due, just like in that song about the fiddler who did exactly the same thing which Dave Lee Travis used to play on the radio all of the time.

I’m not sure if the purpose of this story is to satire the idea of Milton Keynes as a town which places more importance on economic growth than on its population or if it’s just an event which happens to take place there. I never owned a copy of this prog before The Slog but I remember seeing this strip at the time and being irked by it. I think that I was more irritated by the way Milton Keynes was drawn. Sure, all the rolling mist that Mr Macabre walks through is supposed to be atmospheric but where has it rolled in from? Milton Keynes must be one of the furthest points in the country from any naturally occurring bodies of water. And all these buildings I recognise as council offices and business places from different areas of town being drawn on the same street was also annoying to me. However, on reading it again for The Slog, still as a Milton Keynes resident, I’m less bothered by it now. This is partly because I recognise one of the buildings as somewhere that I used to live in and partly because the idea of anyone starting out as a penniless tramp and becoming a millionaire inside a year in Milton Keynes (or over any time period) couldn’t be anything other than satire.

How I feel when Milton Keynes is established as Europe’s largest mutie ghetto in Strontium Dog, I’ll tell you about when it happens.

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Monday, December 03, 2007

Prog 312

The longest running Tharg story that I remember seeing so far, Invasion of the Thrill-Snatchers, ends this prog. Normally, tales starring The Mighty One are self contained or run for two parts and function, on the whole, as fillers but this four-parter probably required some scheduling.

In it, The Dictators of Zrag set The Greater Spotted Thrill Suckers on Tharg who, with military precision, successfully penetrate his body, attack his heart and send him into a deep sleep. With Tharg out of the way, it’s only a matter of panels before the rest of the world follows him leaving only the terminally dull Burt awake thanks to being too tedious to bother sucking off.

I like a good Tharg story but this one was less appealing initially because the opening episodes were, on the whole, told from the point of view of the Thrill Suckers. It isn’t until the final part, where Burt wakes Tharg up with an injection of concentrated thrill power (in the form of liquidised back progs) that the classic craziness returns. Tharg grows to giant size, radiates raw thrill power just by thinking about it, attracts all the thrill suckers to him and then, in the yogic cross-legged position, flies into the heart of the sun. The story ends with Tharg crediting Burt with saving the world. You might think that this is magnanimous of him seeing as how he did all the growing and the flying around and stuff and all Burt did was be very dull. However, by extension, what Tharg is doing here is implying that when he tells the reader that 2000 AD is the galaxy’s greatest comic that he’s not exaggerating and might, in fact, be understating how good his publication is.

Art robot Belardinelli, who has a variety of tones but a highly distinctive style, starts drawing this yarn in a more sober style, making Tharg seem slightly more aloof and eerie than usual. By the end of the story though, touches of his ACE Trucking Co goofiness starts to take place but not so that Tharg doesn’t manage to maintain his dignity.

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