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 The second summer of love was just finishing so a strip earnest about the political state of the world felt out of date.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 Hitle
r 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.
Labels: Brendan McCarthy, Carlos Ezquerra, Crisis, Fleetway, Garth Ennis, Grant Morrison, Jim Bakie, John McCrea, John Smith, New Statesmen, Pat Kane, Pat Mills, Pete Milligan, Steve Yeowell, Third World War