2000 AD Prog Slog

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Prog 500

If your exposure to this prog consists only of seeing it listed on eBay as a "souvenir edition; extremely rare" (which, of course, it isn't; no more so than the prog before or after it, anyway) and reading about the creator robot jam strip, Tharg’s Head Revisited, then you can be forgiven for thinking that it has a notoriety amongst long term Squaxx dek Thargo. In Tharg’s Head Revisited, each page is written and drawn by a different team of creator robots expressing their irritation at how they feel their 2000 AD work has been treated.

All I can remember about reading this strip the first time around is finding it a little baffling and, seeing it again, I don't feel any more enlightened. I find it interesting to note that both John Wagner, Alan Grant and, even, Gerry Finley-Day are all missing from the contributor list. GFD might be absent due to no longer having any ties with the comic, but Wagner and Grant must have made a deliberate decision not to involve themselves in what often reads like an in joke. All I can say is that they probably made the right decision. Unless you're Morrissey, nothing dates faster than a bunch of professionals being encouraged to engage in a group moan-in in print.

Most notorious of all the pages is the one drawn by Mike McMahon. His original page, where he talked about other 2000 AD artists plagiarising his style, was pulled, probably because Cam Kennedy's followed his immediately, and replaced by a new one featuring Ro-Jaws and Hammer-stein moaning about this. Interestingly, his new page is the easiest to penetrate and, therefore, the most enjoyable. Following this in the top five pages from Tharg’s Head Revisited is Kevin O'Neill's but only because it features another display of the artist’s breath taking craftsmanship. The page by Alan Moore and Ian Gibson looks and reads like they don't understand the remit. Pat Mills is the writer with the most to say who scripts three of the pages. To be fair, Mills is representing the artists that he's working with, but as the fourth page is written by current editorial team Steve McManus and Simon Geller, Tharg’s Head Revisited seems to actually be about what 2000 AD was when it began compared with what it is soon to become.

Tharg’s Head Revisited isn't just about letting long standing creators let off steam but also a declaration that attitudes behind the scenes are changing. It includes an acknowledgement that the readers are now growing up and 2000 AD needs to adapt to stay with them. If it was just a novelty then we could laugh and then forget about it but, actually, I feel as if it contains early indications of what I think of as the slide in quality.

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  • Couldn't agree more with your last sentence. I gave up on 2000ad a wee while after this, circa prog 600. Okay, two years later (at our age that's a mere blip) and certainly allows for the 'slide' you detect to turn into a veritable 'plummet'.

    I was later (much later: 2003?) brought back up-to-date by a massive thrillpower transplant courtesy of Jez.

    By Blogger Ken Davidson, at 9:34 pm  

  • HA!
    That's funny. I dropped 2000ad around the same time (roughly two years later, too)

    Who was editor for that time?

    By Blogger Stephen Reid, at 11:42 pm  

  • The editor was Tharg, wasn't it?

    Joking aside, I'm not sure. I wasn't too involved with comics fandom at the time, so I'd no way of knowing (or caring at that point).

    To be fair, part of the reason I dropped 2000ad was I'd grown tired of it, but also of comics in general - so the blame shouldn't lie entirely with Tharg et al.

    Odd. I just remembered how strange it was to be a comics fan then. Nobody bats an eyelid now, but then you'd either get a puzzled look, or a sympathetic grimace.

    By Blogger Ken Davidson, at 9:52 am  

  • The above comments all count for me too. I gave it up a couple of years after this prog as well.

    Dipping in and (mostly) out throughout the 90's never encouraged me to re-aquire the habit. Spice Girls in space? What?!?

    Whoever the editor was, seemed keen to engage in the shitegeist at the expense of anyone who actually bought the comic.

    By Blogger Stavros, at 4:30 pm  

  • Ken, that Jez, eh? I stuck with 2000 AD far longer than I should have.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 5:44 pm  

  • Stephen, I think it might have been Alan McKenzie, but i'm not entirely sure.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 5:45 pm  

  • Ken, if you told people then that you liked comics you got the response "Wha? Like Viz?"

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 5:46 pm  

  • Stavros, I think 2000 AD and its publishers gradually started to persue a policy of selling more to a shrinking (and aging) readership but, who knows, maybe The Slog will disprove my memories.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 5:48 pm  

  • I didn't drop it until the early nineties. I think the next couple of years are probably 29000AD's commercial height - dunno if any one's got the figures to back that up. Going full colour, some great new artists, Bisley's tenure on Slaine, CRISIS, REVOLVER. I seem to remember it selling like hot doughnuts back then.

    And then, post-Biz, the boom goes bust. The Biz-impersonator years, with their brown paints. And whee! Off I went. I think The Bish was the editor by then.

    By Blogger Mark, at 10:28 am  

  • Anyone know sale figures for 2000AD over the years? They'd be interesting.

    I stopped reading around 600 too.
    Bit rude to give the cover pic of Dredd to Higgins and give MacMahon Fink Angel instead. He shoulda had Dredd.

    By Blogger Simon C, at 7:14 am  

  • Mark, there's some very worthwhile stuff coming up. My memory is that the percentage of good to crap ratio starts to drop.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 6:49 pm  

  • Simon, I would be interested to see what the sales were and are...

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 6:49 pm  

  • The Dredd Head Revisited story was indeed very surreal and I remember being surprised at the venom of the contributors - after all, I'd always thought of 2000AD as cool and cutting edge, certainly in terms of British comics, yet even in my innocence, I could sense the bile...

    PS I seem to remember a bunch of 'celebs' saying congratulations in this issue, including the Cure's Robert Smith.

    PPS What a coincidence! I also stopped buying 2000AD around issue 600 and have never really bought it again apart from the very occasional issue. I had just turned 18 and was re-evaluating a lot about my life.

    By Blogger dmstarz, at 4:11 pm  

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