2000 AD Prog Slog

Friday, August 08, 2008

Prog 592

Free inside this prog is a double sided poster promoting Crisis, 2000 AD’s latest companion comic for older readers, published fortnightly and released this week during September 1988. My copy still has the poster stapled inside and I am genuinely tempted to stick it on my wall as some sort of ironic statement. Besides, what I can see of it looks pretty good.

Crisis launched to promotion heavier than usual for a Fleetway comic at the time mainly because its content was politicised and aimed at the more affluent teens and up age group. It featured two main strips both in full colour; Third World War by Pat Mills and Carlos Ezquerra and New Statesmen by John Smith and Jim Bakie. Each strip was fourteen pages long, or thereabouts; this was so that producing the twenty eight paged, monthly American versions would be easier when the time came.

I wanted Crisis to succeed but for me there were problems with the comic from the start. Although the main characters in Third World War were around my age group, I found none of them particularly sympathetic or easy to relate to. The second summer of love was just finishing so a strip earnest about the political state of the world felt out of date. New Statesmen wasn’t particularly accessible. I remember that, as a whole, it took a couple of reads for me to get to grips with, while single episodes were just baffling. Although altogether fresher looking than 2000 AD, the cover design to Crisis used for the early issues meant that they often looked too similar to each other.

Six months later, Crisis was re-launched with Garth Ennis and John McCrea making what I consider to be one of the most memorable comic premiers ever with Troubled Souls. Set in Northern Ireland, Troubles Souls understood something that the opening strips didn’t seem to; whatever turmoil the world around us might be in at the end of the day what’s more important to young people is their girlfriend and their mates.

Quite rightly, Ennis and McCrea became regular contributors to Crisis and, after the re-launch, we saw work by some particularly vital creators including David Hines, Sean Philips, Duncan Fegredo, Glynn Dillon, Mark Millar, Paul Grist, the Pleece brothers and John Smith (once he got New Statesmen out of the way). My favourite strip was The New Adventures of Hitler by Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell. Originally commissioned for the music magazine Cut, it caused a storm when ex-pop star and regular columnist Pat Kane resigned over it. Unfortunately, after all the fuss, the magazine was cancelled only a couple of episodes in. Crisis ran the strip, the perfect balance between pop disposability and literate permanency, in its entirety.

Perhaps the most memorable Crisis strip never got to appear in the comic; Skin. Written by Pete Milligan and gloriously painted by Brendan McCarthy, printers refused to print the issue of Crisis that Skin was due to begin in because workers at the factory were offended to the main character being a thalidomide skinhead. Isn’t workers organising themselves to censor the content of a left of centre publication during the time of rampant Thatcherism and union bashing at least a little bit ironic? Skin was eventually published by Tundra a couple of years later.
Yet, despite these bright sparks, something obscured our view of them; Third World War. Sitting there, like the fat establishment that the strip itself was supposed to be commenting on. For its entire run Crisis featured Third World War and although it started to use younger artists instead of Ezquerra after the re-launch, for me, the problem with it had never been the art but the tone of the stories. Eventually, Crisis switched its frequency to Monthly, never a good sign, started to run translated and less engaging European strips and, ultimately, was cancelled.

Over the years I sold a lot of my 2000 AD collection (before buying it back again) but I always kept my set of Crisis. I guess I am fascinated by the uniqueness of it, amazed that it even existed and see it as the forerunner to DC’s Vertigo line. I do believe that Deadline Magazine, which also started around this time, was far more successful at engaging with young adults than Crisis. Flicking through the set again, I am even wondering if I have been a little harsh on Third World War; maybe it was never old of date but ahead of the times with its themes of globalisation and deforestation.

Anyway, I won’t be re-reading Crisis for The Slog.

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  • This was the point where my love-affair with 2000ad ended. Regrettably (but unavoidably), I'll therefore have to take my leave of The Slog too.

    Although I'd grown with the comic since the first year, its uber-trendy blunders toward the cutting edge which had influenced content for at least a couple of years had taken their toll on my enthusiasm. It was killed stone-dead by the heavily cross-promoted Crisis, which took the notion of comics-as-lifestyle-accessory and ran with it.

    The writing was on the wall: I was no longer wanted as a 2000ad reader. It seemed to me at the time that, every other week, there was some new writer desperately trying to be 'yoof', with new artists out-stylising each other.

    I've been a bit quiet on The Slog for the past while because virtually every new strip and artist that's come up I've HATED, and since I had nothing constructive to say, I thought it better to say nothing.

    I suspect that most contributors here consider this to be a while before 'the slide' began, but this was my personal nadir.

    Ironically, 'Toxic', which was to come out later, managed (for me) to push all the buttons that 2000ad had, for years, missed. When that folded, I was pretty much lost to the comics world.

    Anyhow. Thanks for the blog, Paul.

    By Blogger Stavros, at 8:22 pm  

  • To a certain extent I echo Stavros's comments. I, too, caved in with 2000ad about now. It wasn't engaging me at all.

    Toxic came along, and all was right with the world until that, too, folded.

    I subsequently peeked at things like Deadline and Blast! but was never sufficiently motivated to pursue them.

    The odd US Marvel or DC sequence would be collected, but that's all until much much later.

    Oh, BTW, I'm sticking with the Slog ;)

    By Blogger Ken Davidson, at 9:01 pm  

  • My first issue was 425 - by the time CRISIS arrived I was buying every little piece of 2000AD I could get my hands on!

    By Blogger Kevin Levell, at 9:14 pm  

  • I had only started getting 2000AD with prog 502 or so, so its a while in my opinion before the slide really kicked in (micheal fleisher I'm looking at you)

    I never bought Crisis, I remember it being quite expensive and I had just started getting into proper Marvel comics (as opposed to marvel uk reprints) and when theres a choice between the X-men fighting the brood and Pat Mills banging on about capitalism etc, there wasn't much difficulty in deciding.

    By Blogger Derek, at 11:46 pm  

  • I'll still read The Slog in the hope that maybe my interest will be piqued again, but I doubt I'll have anything to contribute.

    Last word: Pat Kane was ALWAYS a twat.

    Stavros out.

    By Blogger Stavros, at 2:20 am  

  • hey, i'm back.
    My main memory of Crisis was that even though Third World War was the main strip and received all the publicity, it soon became clear that New Statesmen was much better. As you said, there were bits that one couldn't understand but it was clear to me that it was brilliant. Go read it in entirety and you'll see.
    Christ but i hated Third WW though (even tho i'm a lefty). Why i stayed with it for so long is a mystery.
    I still have an almost complete collection of Crisis. Troubled Souls and Hitler were brilliant. There was another story about a young guy burning down churches that was also great.

    By Blogger Simon C, at 12:40 pm  

  • Sorry to hear you're leaving us, Stavros. Keep in touch.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 3:21 pm  

  • Cheers Ken. I was worried that everyone was going to disappear.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 3:22 pm  

  • Kevin, I was like you a year or two earlier, I think. Catching up thanks to the Eagle reprints.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 3:23 pm  

  • Derek, I understand. Those X-Men Brood stories were beautifully illustrated by Paul Smith, I remember. I didn't go near to those mutants again until Grant Morrison came along.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 3:25 pm  

  • Simon, that was True Faith by Garth Ennis and Warren Pleece. Another goldie.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 3:26 pm  

  • Stavros, thank god you're not leaving us altogether!

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 3:27 pm  

  • Paul - pretty much 'snap' here... I cottoned onto the US X-Men comics as fanboy fave John Byrne was getting into his stride, followed by Dave 'what's all the fuss about' Cockrum, then the lovely Paul Smith stuff, then John Romita Jr.

    I left the 'scene' here, only to rejoin for Morrison and Quitely's New X-Men. Here we go, I thought, at last a series I can get into for a long time: great scripts and great art. Hmmm, Mr Quitely didn't seem to agree with my timescales.

    By Blogger Ken Davidson, at 4:22 pm  

  • Great post. I remember loving the idea of CRISIS, but being incapable of actually loving the comic until TROUBLED SOULS. I know Ennis and McCrea regularly slag it off as juvenalia, but reading it as a boy on the cusp of adulthood in Northern Ireland, at a time when my life was full of new experiences, I loved it.

    It reflected a lot of the conclusions about life in Norn Iron that I, and a lot of my generation, had came to: total exhaustion and cynicism about the old certainties. It's no coincidence that the Troubles would be (largely) over in a few years time. My generation had came to the conclusion all dogma, all ideology, was a thin veneer hiding one truth. Religion. Politics. Everything's a big racket, designed by colluding enemies to keep us divided and unquestioning, incapable of empathy for the other community's perspectives. TROUBLED SOULS reflected that, albeit a little clumsily in places. Ennis returned to the theme a few times since: the last occassion, during his run on THE PUNISHER with Steve Dillon, was downright furious. I think he may have been a bit pissed off that we'd seemingly learnt nothing since, peace or no peace.

    As far as I remember, Deadline's first anniversary was around the time of CRISIS's relaunch. So they might have both been lauched circa UKCAC 1988. I remember the two titles as peers, anyway, with DEADLINE the MAGPIE to CRISIS's BLUE PETER, if you get my drift. Deadline just got on with the business of entertainment, but Crisis always had a worthy agenda or two lurking in the background.

    I'll just remind everyone of Carol Swain's contribution to SKIN, her collaborative role with McCarthy on that job all too often over-looked. Her pastels gave it real grit. I think she was also responsible for the colouring when CRISIS started running reprints of Munoz & Sampayo's SINNER. That might have been the only time Munoz's work was ever coloured for an English language publication (I don't remember RAW, ESCAPE of Fantagraphics ever doing it). I remember it looked rather spiffy.

    And Paul, when you reach the era of 2000AD I stopped reading at, I'll probably be reading MORE intently, just to get some perspective on the years I missed.

    By Blogger Mark, at 11:52 pm  

  • I remember loving Third World War as an over-earnest 15 year old. Looking back on it, New Statesmen was far better and probably doesn't seem half as dated. I think I stopped buying Crisis immediately after it [New Statesmen] finished and I can't really remember why, but I've always regretted missing New Adventures of Hitler. Stavros has Pat Kane's card well and truly stamped.

    You've got quite a long way to go before you get to the point I left (about 870) but, like Mark, I'll be keen to see what I missed in the ten years I was away.

    Only ever read True Faith years after it was first published and thought it was pretty dreadful. Of all the comics that Ennis has ever shoehorned his preoccupations about NI into, by far my favourite was Heartland: the completely non-supernatural, non-superpowered and only averagely foul-mouthed one-off spin-off from Hellblazer.

    By Blogger Peter, at 12:15 am  

  • Ken, it's like our comic reading lives are mirrored :-)

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 3:10 pm  

  • Mark, thanks for the considered comment and your thoughts on Troubled Souls. I've pretty much followed Ennis since and I'm always interested in any NI story he has to tell.

    You're right, it was very slack of me not to mention Carol Swain's contributon to Skin. I only really did this for brevity but you're right, she is equally as important as the other creators, I would say.

    I'm glad you intend to stick around at The Slog, even after your 2000 AD era. I continued to buy the comic for years despite, on the whole, no longer liking it which is a mystery I hope to sholve at least to myself as The Slog progresses.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 3:17 pm  

  • Peter, Rebelion , if rights permit, should consider collecting some of the stuff that appeared in Crisis such as the Millar, Morrison and Smith penned stuff, if only for those like yourself who left after the first year.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 3:20 pm  

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