2000 AD Prog Slog

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Prog 775

The presence of Pat Mills’ Finn in 2000 AD at the moment has me thinking about the context in which the strip and, more widely, his work at this time exists. More obviously, Finn is a sequel to Mills’ Crisis strip, Third World War, remastered for 2000 AD and its audience. Characters from the Crisis strip feature in Finn, only now it’s a genre story; a violent adventure fantasy for crusties and part time pagans.

Mills has not only recently seen the end of Crisis, the politically worthy Fleetway title in which he was heavily involved, but also the altogether more anarchic colour weekly, Toxic, for which he and his co-writer Tony Skinner conceived the majority of strips for. Toxic was an independently published comic which enabled its contributors to keep the rights to their creations. It’s said that its presence was the main reason for 2000 AD turning to full colour content about a year ago.

The theory is that Toxic existed partly as Mills’ own reaction against the worthiness of Crisis. However, I always felt that it was created to fill the gap in the market left by 2000 AD during its years of turbulence (covered here in The Slog). While the galaxy’s greatest comic went in search of its new identity in the changing comic marketplace before settling into the shadow of its former self in 1992, Toxic was 2000 AD as it was originally conceived only this time with better reproduction and without any boundaries.

Personally, I found Toxic’s editorial embrace of over the top violence and second rate swear words a little off putting and lacking in charm. That’s not to say that it didn’t feature a lot of great content like Marshal Law, Accident Man and Muto-Maniac. My personal favourite was The Driver by ex-Oink cartoonist Banx with David Leach. Editorially, however, Toxic failed by composing strips with the imagined collected album in mind. Further more; they seemed to appear for only short runs before disappearing mid-story sometimes never to appear again. Whether this is because a limited budget prevented the accumulation of a library of work I don’t know but I do know that many readers found these factors very annoying. In the comic shop that I worked in the time, I could see the sales of successive issues drop like a stone.

Toxic’s cancellation represented an end to a period that saw experiments in comic publication such as Crisis and Blast that occurred thanks to the successes of 2000 AD, The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen. For mainly that reason, its failure is sad to me. All we have to look forward to from here on is a glut in comics published by Marvel UK which, as far as I am concerned, weren’t real British comics at all but an imprint of the American publisher for direct sales shops. And after that, free gifts with beaten up leaflets attached that may or may not feature some comic strip content.

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  • It's only in the last year or so that I've even heard of Toxic. I'm not sure how I could have missed it at the time. I bought early issues of Crisis and Revolver and this seems to be much more up my street.

    No wonder it didn't last.

    By Blogger Peter, at 7:08 pm  

  • Toxic is mental. I too only discovered it about a year ago, bought a job lot on ebay, and was kinda impressed by the attitude, if not by the actual strips. There's some great art (and some not so great) married to interesting ideas but woeful scripts. The Driver was the only coherent thing in it, although I can see why people like Accident Man.

    The Bogie Man is a rare example of the mighty John wagner not being as funny as he thinks he is (sorry John).

    By Blogger alexf, at 10:52 am  

  • Peter, you might not have heard of it because it was published independantly. Although, the 2000 AD website acknowledges its existance as if it were an official spin off at the time.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 5:08 pm  

  • Alex, I haven't had my copies for years so had to rely upon my shoddy memory when writing this piece. I had forgotten that The Bogie Man appeared in it.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 5:10 pm  

  • I remember Toxic being pretty heavily hyped, I think there was even a TV ad for it. I never bought it, it looked a bit too crazily anarchic for me at that age.

    By Blogger Joe, at 1:48 pm  

  • There was an ad I saw at the cinema. It as awful. Becasue I was known locally as the comic shop man, I was mortified when it came on.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 10:29 am  

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