After establishing in recent posts that, in general, 2000 AD has been quite progressive in it's use of non-white characters, e.g. Harlem Heroes, a support character from the Judge Dredd thrill is coloured funny on this issue's cover. This guy, who was nameless in the strip, who acted as Dredd's informer and confidant while enslaved to The Garbage King, I thought was black, mainly because art robot Ron Smith seemed to think he was black as well. However, according to the cover to this prog, the guy's green. Well, who'd a thunk it?
Harlem Heroes was nearly not the only strip from the early progs to star black characters in the lead. According to an article in the most recent issue of Red Eye, art robot Mike McMahon originally drew Judge Dredd as a black man. The circumstances as to why this was so and why it didn't catch on with all the other creators involved I don't know, but it does make me wish that I could gaze into an alternate Earth where Dredd was clearly established as being black.
Then there's Blackhawk, currrently appearing in the comic. In the latest episode, Blackhawk remembers the time he was forced into slavery back on Earth. In flashback, we see him being dragged away in chains by a roman soldier who is calling him a "black pig". Since then, Tornado, the comic Blackhawk originally appeared in, has amalgamated into 2000 AD seeing the character get abducted by aliens (who, incidentally, called him an Earth pig), have his soul stolen, get sucked into a black hole and get disfigured in one of his many battles he's had trying to track down the creature that snatched it.
Whilst he's been with us, Blackhawk's journey has been a true nightmare, thanks mainly to the stunning artwork by art robot Messimo Bellardinelli. The array of freakish creatures that tap at the wrong side of the reader's brain is stunning. The reality defying moments seem wrought from a bad trip. (For example, he draws the black hole looking like a smooth sphere in a giant teacup on a saucer. Now that's just wrong!).
Script robot Alan Grant (using the pseudonym of Alvin Gaunt) has had the sense to write the strip so that it plays to Bellardinelli's strengths; artistic madness. He has also had the sense, this episode, to remind us of Blackhawk's ethnicity, as if to imply that the character's single-minded search for his soul and consequential journey into hell is symbolic. After starting not rating this strip very highly I now find that there is something both guttural and honest about it that seems to elevate it high above my original preconceptions. I am certain that, when it finishes, I will be utterly spent.
Labels: 2000 AD, Alan Grant, Alvin Gaunt, Blackhawk, Harlem Heroes, Judge Dredd, Messimo Bellardinelli, Mike McMahon, Red Eye, Ron Smith, The Garbage King, Tornado