2000 AD Prog Slog

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Prog 520

Since it began ten years ago, apart from a short period during the early one hundreds, 2000 AD has been printed on shoddy newsprint. The ink came off on your fingers when you held it, the edges were jagged because they were never trimmed properly and the paper was so inferior that it was difficult to hold a copy for at least an hour after having a bath. Often, the comic looked as if it had been assembled by drunks on a Friday night bender and stapled together by them the next morning as they shakily recovered from their hangovers. For ten long years, in direct defiance to the actual quality of the artwork it published, 2000 AD looked like shit.

Now, at last, it's got the paper and print quality that it has always deserved. The finishing is professional and the colour reproduction, for what there is, has switched from four to full. And at no extra price too. Okay, the price did increase by 2p about a month ago and you could argue that this was in anticipation of this prog's physical improvement but, even if this is the case, so what? It's just 2p. 2p wasn't even a lot of money in 1987.

The shape has changed too. Now 2000 AD is taller and conforms more to the internationally recognised shape for comic books. It means that Quality Communications, the successors to Eagle Comics as the re-packagers of 2000 AD material for the American market (more about them another time, I'm sure), don't have to stretch, hammer and saw off bits of artwork to get it into the required format. For the last six months, Tharg has been performing scheduling miracles to ensure that all of the squarer art is out of the way by the time this prog appeared. It makes Slaine the King's fitful appearances recently understandable in the circumstances.

Later, many old school Squaxx dek Thargo will refer to this format change as the beginning of The Slide in quality for them. I usually retorted that it was just a coincidence. The fact is that this is one of the first in a succession of changes that 2000 AD is about to go through. My opinion has always been that it's amazing that classic art robots such as Bolland, Gibbons and McMahon had the majority of their work reproduced in such an inadequate manner when, really, there was no justifiable reason for it. Thanks to the artwork by O'Neill, Leach and Kitson and the new format this prog demonstrates the perfect balance between price paid, quality of content and standard of reproduction.

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  • I still think its not a coincidence that The Slide starts with a better format. Perhaps it doesn't seem plausible that a better format should lead to lower quality of stories, but think of it in reverse: limitations of format force creators to come up with ideas that will retain the readers. The crappy paper and b/w printing before 520 meant that writers HAD to have really great ideas instead.

    I once read a book on film that made the same sort of argument: that the early days of silent b/w cinema forced filmmakers to be more creative than they would otherwise have been.

    So the lesson is that what seem like the limitations of a medium can in fact be a source of strength.

    By Blogger Simon C, at 4:05 am  

  • I have always associated the format change with the slide in quality but only as a convenient marker. I think there is a case to be made for the narrower US format pages affecting the composition of panels (our eyes are arranged to take in horizontal panoramas) but you can't really blame a colour process for poor results. I suspect that there wasn't a budget for decent colouring. There is also the spectre of horrible photoshop airbrush work looming ahead.

    By Blogger nimble, at 11:52 am  

  • In my head this Prog marks the slide not into poorer quality stories, but into more adult stories (and art). I was only 8 at the time, and I was for many years genuinely scared of the artwork by the likes of John Hicklenton, Will Simpson, Simon Harrison, McCarthy's Dredds and so on. I also found a lot of the stories (the Dead, Zenith, Nemesis books 7-9) very hard to understand. I loved it, though, in the same way that I loved the idea of watching 18-rated horror films (but always ran away from the TV when my big brother put them on).

    By Blogger alexf, at 3:18 pm  

  • Hi Simon. To clarify, I wrote the entry for Prog 520 before reading your comment on 519. I understand you point entirely, I'm just not sure that I agree. The change in attitudes from the creators that you talk about did happen later to an extent (according to my poor memory and not what I've seen in The Slog so far, I should point out) but there were other factors which contributed to The Slide. These included management realising that other publishers were making money out of material they owned (Titan, for example), the talent drain to America, what they perceived as the audience wanting from the comic , a loosening of editorial control in content etc. These changes came in addition (and later I think; I'll be reminded in The Slog) to the format upgrade and not because of it. A good point of reference is the six month run of quality printing which took place during the early prog one hundreds. The content at this time is some of the best, I think. Thanks for commenting, Simon.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 5:45 pm  

  • Nimble, I pretty much agree with you "convenient marker" point.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 5:46 pm  

  • Alex, you're so young. So very, very young.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 5:47 pm  

  • I suspect, however, that 'The Horned God' was conceived from the outset as a reprint story, designed to be collected in book form at a later date - as was the new ABC Warriors in later progs.

    To me, it gave a rather disjointed feel to the new-look 2000ad.

    By Blogger Stavros, at 5:03 am  

  • Stavros, there is a lot of stuff to come along in The SLog commissioned for repackaging...

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 5:44 pm  

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