2000 AD Prog Slog

Monday, February 16, 2009

Prog 763

As you know, Anderson PSI Division is the antidote to the fascistic brutality of Judge Dredd. Often a story will see Anderson on a mission but usually she’s away on some sort of personal journey that Justice Department has to patronise because of her special skills. In Engram by Alan Grant and David Roach, she has a complete mental breakdown after encountering a mutant baby in the Cursed Earth and ends up straitjacketed in an asylum.

One important thing to note about this story is that it’s the first to appear in black and white after 2000 AD went full colour a few months ago. Why this is, I don’t really know, although I suspect it is because Engram started when the comic ran two black and white strips regularly and then went on a break.

The other important thing is the revelation that Anderson experienced regular sexual abuse at the hands of her own father who she later went on to kill. Sexual abuse is a pretty heavy subject for a genre driven strip aimed at young people to handle. Grant seems to know this and decides not to deal with it directly but uses pretty unsubtle symbolism instead. The result of this and the long break is a story that seems to fail to evoke the connection in the reader that it should. Which is a shame because not only do I think that this subject matter can be dealt with in genre based comic strips meant for young people but I also know that Grant could have been more successful at it had he taken a different approach. For me, seeing Anderson not killing her father but living her life as the best person she can be with her memory always intact resolutely refusing to feel sorry for herself would have made the revelation much more effective.

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  • Interesting - was 2000AD still being aimed at a younger audience at this stage? I think sexual abuse can be an appropriate topic to address for the varied age of the readership and how it's possible that some readers might have related to the topic (more so than flamin' dinosaurs and ray guns). Though it sounds you're not sure that Grant dealt with it very well here (I've not read it but sounds intriguing).

    By Blogger dmstarz, at 1:29 pm  

  • Hi Dmstarz. I would say that 2000 AD was aimed at teenage readers although I was older than that at the time (don't tell anyone). Of course the subject matter isn't inappropriate whatever age you are, whatever genre (sci-fi/fantasy) or art form (comics). My reservations are based on the sense that Grant might have written this story the same way that he was writing most of his other stories at this time and not given the subject matter the consideration he should have baring in mind the weight of it. It just felt a little obvious and trivial to me.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 5:36 pm  

  • it can't have been a very involving story because I don't even remember reading it. Funnily enough, that older Anderson story Triad really stuck in my mind as a very moving portrayal of child abuse, in its various forms.

    By Blogger Tam, at 5:00 pm  

  • Now that you mention it Tam, Triad was altogether more successful in handling the subject matter.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 5:15 pm  

  • I felt at the time that Grant was writing with an agenda rather than just trying to write a good story. I think without Wagners hand on the tiller Grant got a lot more political in his strips and that didn't always make for a satisfying read.

    By Blogger Derek, at 10:11 am  

  • I also wonder Derek is his workload at this time, he was doing a lot of work for DC I recall, meant that he wasn't focusing as hard on some strips as he otherwise might have.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 5:05 pm  

  • Good point Paul, if I recall correctly the batman films were coming out back then and the batman comic was selling half a million copies a month. Grants fee for Anderson would be small beer compared to his royalties checks from DC

    By Blogger Derek, at 10:18 am  

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