2000 AD Prog Slog

Friday, July 25, 2008

Prog 580

In this prog, there’s an ad for the Quality Comics repackaging of 2000 AD material. This is all the excuse I need to talk on the subject. I’ve been waiting to do this for weeks.

Previously, 2000 AD material was repackaged in colour for American readers by Titan using the Eagle Comics imprint. Because the source material was originally published in black and white and a different shape it required them to colour it in and resize it. Their method of resizing was to get an artist, occasionally the original but not usually, to draw on extra chunks to the panels. Titan also cherry picked the strips that they reprinted so that, in the case of Judge Dredd for example, all of the Brian Bolland material was published very early on. This must have created a sense in the minds of American readers everything in the line getting progressively worse.

For the last eighteen months or so, the repackaging of material has been handled by Quality Comics. Originally headed by Dez Skinn, Quality’s resizing policy must have seemed even more alarming than Eagle’s on paper. Instead of bolting on extra art to the page, to begin with they chopped approximately an inch from the sides. This practice must have seemed like sacrilege to many loyal Squaxx dek Thargo but in my opinion, because the now resized art kept the dynamism and composition of the original, it was the best way in the circumstances.

Skinn’s Quality sought to keep the price of their comics low by increasing the ad space and dropping the paper quality. More money was saved by, in general, the non commission of new cover artwork. The line successfully disengaged itself from Eagle’s over reliance on internationally popular creators such as Bolland by reprinting material that its predecessors had either overlooked or ignored altogether. Finally, Quality recognised that there were a lot of newer British 2000 AD readers who would love the opportunity to catch up on what they had missed in an affordable way by making the entire line available from the same place that the weekly was available. It was an overhaul that, I must admit, I found fascinating at the time.
However, quite suddenly, the publishers changed again except, this time, they kept the name Quality Comics. New covers started to be commissioned by completely inappropriate artists.

The colouring became flat and lifeless. Worse of all, the method used to resize the artwork for reproduction was to (you might want to sit down before reading this next bit)… elongate it. It meant that even the shortest of characters now looked like they were seven foot tall and drawn by artists without a fundamental understanding of proportion. Furthermore, absolutely everything was being reprinted, which only added to my theory that Quality Comics were anonymous opportunists raiding Tharg’s warehouse while security took a nap.

I think it’s important to note that these truly awful reprints of 2000 AD strips added to the perception of The Slide that some long term readers felt was happening. The actual weekly itself might still be very good but the Best of 2000 AD Monthly, Titan Books and Quality Comics reprints only contributed to the wider perception of the past being better than the present. There were now more people taking advantage of an opportunity to make a lot of money out of what was once a modest and affordable comic that nearly always defied its readers’ expectations.

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