2000 AD Prog Slog

Friday, May 29, 2009

Prog 831 17/04/93

On the Output page of The Nerve Centre, Tharg writes about “certain grexnix thrill merchants” (stupid newsagents) racking 2000 AD on the top shelf out of reach of younger readers. My memory of this is that it wasn’t just on the top shelf but directly next to Mayfair, Men Only and the rest. We really shouldn’t be too surprised by this. The huge success of Viz at this time meant that, because of its adult content, it and its inferior mimickers (remember Smut, anyone?), were placed for sale well out of reach of minors. There’s no denying that 2000 AD was now aimed at an older age group than it originally was so it seems likely that some busy newsagents thought of it more of a Viz styled comic rather than a Beano one. Furthermore, older newsagents might have remembered publications such as Heavy Metal and Epic Illustrated, fully painted comic magazines from the very early eighties which were certainly inappropriate for children and, thanks to their fully painted content, increasingly reminiscent of current 2000 AD. Of course, placing the weekly on the top shelf with the soft porn magazines is completely unsuitable. These days, in 2009, it’s either sold alongside the cult sci-fi film and TV magazines, which is more appropriate, or not at all.

I want to give a special mention to this prog’s Judge Dredd story, The Judge who lives Downstairs by Garth Ennis and Brett Ewins. In it, we learn that once a week, Dredd takes a wander around the block in which he has an apartment just to remind everyone to behave. Not so long ago, I was critical of Ennis’s recent bout of Dredd stories however, this one is particularly strong.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Prog 830 10/04/93

This week’s free gift is an Official 2000 AD Writers’ Starter Kit or, as it more widely known as, a pencil. Why it can’t be an artists’ or letterers’ starter kit also, I don’t know. It reminds me of a Christmas where I got given a single pencil, wrapped up as a gift. I love the free gifts Tharg has been giving away recently. On the one hand, they are completely what Squaxx dek Thargo want, like 2000 AD postcards and stickers, but on the other, they seem quaint when compared to the great, clunking lumps of plastic that fall apart within ten minutes of being opened kids get for free with their comics in 2009.

Kelly’s Eye finishes a ten episode run this prog. Like I said yesterday, this thrill has had the disadvantage of having been read by me with a break in the middle. I don’t imagine that we see the return of this strip to 2000 AD in the future as the rights to the character aren’t owned by Fleetway and Tharg never had permission to use it in the first place. Oops. Kelly’s Eye is drawn by the mighty Brett Ewins who, since the latest re-launch, has also been drawing Bad Company Kano as well. That’s at least twelve pages of Ewins goodness a week. It’s hard to imagine getting at least half that output from Ewins a year these days.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Monday, May 25, 2009

Prog 828 27/03/93

There’s nothing quite like a re-launch issue. This prog, all stories start from the beginning except for Kelly’s Eye. I’m already struggling to remember exactly what’s happening in it thanks to having been away for a while reading The Megazine. I think the indestructible man is working as a body guard for Marianna Trench who is experiencing continuous attempts on her life by her super rich husband’s goons.

Another consequence of returning to 2000 AD from reading a run of The Megazine is it’s more clear how much better the weekly is. Even though The Megazine has the advantage of John Wagner written Judge Dredds, 2000 AD has no filler pages, the art is better, the strips more immediate and diverse and the overall design aesthetic is superior. Plus, it’s half the price. I’m surprised to hear myself saying all of this considering some of the entries I’ve made about “The Slide” of the last few years. Could it be that things are back on track at Tharg’s house?

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Judge Dredd The Megazine 2.26 17/04/93

All stories get wrapped up this issue. Considering the bitty way strips have run so far in The Magazine, it’s a wonder that this doesn’t happen more often.

Judge Dredd’s second round against Mechanismo is painted beautifully by Peter Doherty this time. First time around I was irritated by Mechansism. It seemed to me that it was an okay idea that John Wagner revisited too often inside a short space of time. Amongst the benefits of reading a bunch of comics inside a contracted period for The Slog are a casually paced story can be better appreciated and poor decision making in regards to its scheduling can be picked up on. I can see now that “Mechanismo Returns” takes place the same day that the first story happens and should have followed on from it immediately rather than being interrupted by three one-offs.

I might have actually watched Ewin McGregor and Charlie Boorman in Long Way Round had they travelled across The Cursed Earth like the bikers in Garth Ennis’ and Nick Percival’s strip, Sleeze ‘N’ Rider. In it, crazy robots resurrect notable American presidents of the past as brains in jars. One of them is Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s always worth noting when an event from a science fiction comic strip turns out to be a bit prophetic even if the political position is inaccurate… so far.

Normally, I don’t read the letters page of The Megazine but I happened to notice an announcement that David Bishop “would never again write a series for a title of which he is a staff member – So no more The Straitjacket Fits or Soul Sisters!” Thank God for that.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Judge Dredd The Megazine 2.24 20/03/93

Al’s Baby isn’t an idea that, on the surface, lends itself to the prospect of a sequel particularly well. Hit man for the mob gets pregnant to please head of the organisation who also happens to be his father-in-law. Once the baby is born, where else is there to go? However, first time around, John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra created a cast of such strong characters that it seems stupid now not to revisit them.

In Blood on the Bib, Al Bestardi and his pal Sal have been ordered by Godfather Don Luigi Sorcoma to rub out the heads of five rival families. Joining them on the road trip is eighteen month old Little Al and Tony, Sorcoma’s collage graduate nephew who, it has been announced, is first in line to replace him when he passes away, jumping ahead of Big Al. So, in addition to having to perform the five dangerous hits, Al is also looking after his son and trying to knock off Tony accidentally on purpose.

Of course I enjoyed this. Wagner and Ezquerra nearly always work well together but it’s also a relief to encounter a strip in The Megazine that’s fun, farcical and filled with strong character interplay. I must say that I was a slightly troubled by the scenes where little Al mimics his father and shoots a couple of people. It made me imagine a sequel to the film Junior where Arnold Schwarzenegger’s eighteen month old baby mimics its dad and enters the Little Mr/Miss Universe competition. Those muscle kids freak me out, man.

Labels: , , , , ,

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Judge Dredd The Megazine 2.22 20/02/93

When John Wagner and Alan Grant went their separate ways writing Judge Dredd after Oz years ago none of us ever imagined them reuniting for the dumbest version of the character so far, Heavy Metal Dredd. Originally commissioned for Rock Power magazine, each self contained, six paged episode features Dredd up against some lank-haired, cat suit wearing metal head who wants to win an illegal bike race or to abduct the Big Meg’s most idiotically named rock star.

Originally the strip was created for superstar artist Simon Bisley to paint but even he seemed to realise how dumb it was and bailed out very quickly to be replaced by a succession of artists until settling with John Hicklenton. It turns out that Hicklenton’s style is perfectly suited for Heavy Metal Dredd. I’m not saying that his work is dumb but the raw energy of his art coupled with his improved (since his time on Nemesis the Warlock) story telling totally works. In fact, his work here is colourful, fun and energetic.

There’s another obvious big positive for Heavy Metal Dredd; the six pages that the strip occupies might otherwise be used as fillers and house ads. I imagine, because it’s technically a reprint, running it in The Megazine is more affordable although if they have to do this then I might actually prefer seeing the slightly smarter Daily Star strips. However, Wagner/Grant/Hicklenton dumb is completely valid, especially as a reaction against some of the duller strips that have appeared in The Megazine recently.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, May 15, 2009

Judge Dredd The Megazine 2.20 23/01/93

I am currently going through what I call Slog Crisis. That is, I have a sense that I’m writing such comments here as “that could have been better written”, “that art wasn’t quite up to scratch” and “that editor is a bit stinky” more and more often. The truth is that the further The Slog goes along the deeper into a period of 2000 AD history I am in that not very fond of. I try to be truthful, reasonable and contextual when I write these entries but I often wonder if I’m being unfair to some of the creators whose work they must have been proud of at one time.

Another contributor to my Slog Crisis is my personal circumstances. For the last few months I have been out of work which means I’ve had the time to write these entries and do the other stuff that I do. But the reality is that when I find employment, I might not have the time to write this and do my other time consuming and, let’s face it, even more obsessive projects.

I’m not telling you this because I intend to change the tone here, because I don’t; I’m telling you this because it’s a side effect of The Slog I think might be interesting. Normal Slog service will continue as it has been, don’t worry.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Judge Dredd The Megazine 2.18 26/12/92

I’ve always felt that I should like Armitage more than I do. It has a quality to it that makes me think that there’s something about it that I’m too thick to get properly. However, the truth remains that no matter how hard I try I remain pretty much indifferent to the strip. Armitage’s second big run comes to a finish this issue. In Influential Circles, Armitage and Steel investigate the massacre of forty-eight people. It starts off as a tantalising mystery as one of the bodies has been removed from the scene of the crime for some reason. However, that’s more or less where the story’s allure finishes for me.

Charlie Adlard replaces Sean Philips as artist for Influential Circles and does an impressive job. I like his quirky style framed by the panel layout scheme established by Philips first time around. Some of the action is difficult to follow thanks to the dark reproduction; a common consequence of fully painted artwork at this time.

Dave Stone seems to be a fine writer. I say “seems” because although his dialoguing is strong and his single episode pacing capable the overall story leaves me a little indifferent. Armitage feels as if all of the elements are there but the treble needs to be turned up to one and the bass to two for it to work properly. There’s a suggestion at the story’s end where the characters talk about the loose ends of the case, as if one of the themes of Armitage is that life is filled with small mysteries that never get solved, but that’s little consolation to me.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Judge Dredd The Megazine 2.16 28/11/92

The real reason I have included the second volume of the magazine in The Slog isn’t because of the shameless Judgement Day cross over with the weekly but because of the nuggets of John Wagner gold that appears here. Wagner seems pretty much absent from 2000 AD at this time with the majority of his work appearing in the fortnightly.

Last issue there was a neat little epilogue to Young Death with Dean Ormston in which Mrs Gunderson, Judge Death’s landlady, visits him in the cubes and asks about unpaid rent while this issue sees the start of the return of Al’s Baby. It’s nearly possible to forget how insubstantial The Megazine can be when half of the comic strip content is being written by John Wagner.

First time around, I was a little disappointed by Mechanismo, Wagner’s current Judge Dredd story painted by Colin MacNeil. I think it was the long publicity the story endured thanks to the empty pages left to be filled by editorial content in previous issues. That and the fact that it is by the same team that brought us the outstanding America; Mechanismo would find it difficult not to seem a let down when compared to it. MacNeil’s artwork is looser while Wagner’s pacing is extended giving the impression that it lacks the same consideration when read in fortnightly chunks. The fact, however, is that when read within a contracted period of time, like, for example, for The Slog, the story has a sense of foreboding.

In Mechanismo, to combat the shortage of Judges, Justice Department puts Robo-judges onto the streets. Dredd is very much against the idea but his protests are ignored. Very quickly, the Robo-judges start to malfunction and begin to humiliate and kill innocent citizens. The obvious comparison to draw here is with the Robocop films and the malfunctioning robot police officer from them, ED 209. However, Robocop is itself at best a tribute to Judge Dredd and, more accurately, plagiarises heavily from it. Wagner deciding to loosely satire the film in his comic strip is completely legitimate even if it is six years after the first movie’s release.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Friday, May 08, 2009

Judge Dredd The Megazine 2.14 21/11/92

Another method The Megazine uses to save money, in addition to status reports and the house ads, is the one in four black and white strip. This issue, Judge Hershey fills that space but for the previous four it’s been by Calhab Justice. One way editors at this time justify the black and white strip is by claiming the artwork to be so good that they don’t want to soil it by applying colour. (Incidentally, I don’t read the editorial or letter pages of The Megazine for The Slog, so I’m not claiming this from a position of authority). John Ridgway, who drew Calhab Justice for your information, does indeed provide impressive black and white work but I’ve also seen his colour comics and let me tell you, they look very good too. Aprat from being a little insulting towards colourists, monochrome reproduction of artwork for purity’s sake has never washed with me.

I’m almost pleased that Calhab Justice finished unexpectedly early in last issue as it gives me an opportunity to avoid talking about it. Jim Alexander’s dialoguing reads well, or rather I should say, as well as I can tell considering I’m not Scottish. Also, the characters suggest that they might be fun and warm. However, I want to reserve judgement on it. I don’t understand why the judges carry swords instead of guns or how they are even present at the gathering of the whiskey clans in the story. Also, I’ve a suspicion that creating yet another judge based on a clichéd perception of a British locale might be getting contrived now.

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Judge Dredd The Megazine 2.12 03/10/92

The third part of the free calendar appears in the latest issue. Given the current climate for cost reductions at The Megazine, you can be forgiven for imagining that the calendar might be a bit shit but, actually, it’s okay. It’s reproduced on card and each month features a nice piece of specially commissioned artwork for it. This issue there’s nice painted illustrations by Chris Halls, John Ridgeway and Carlos Ezquerra. I’m a little disappointed that the only event highlighted on the calendar is every second Saturday which is “new Megazine” day. The calendar’s designer could have had some fun and included things like Mean Machine Angel’s birthday or Dredd’s hatching day.

The issue’s notable first is a Judge Hershey strip written by Robbie Morrison. It’s a fun little tale about Mega City bigamy painted by Xuasus. Personally, I don’t see the appeal of Judge Hershey outside of her appearances as a support character in Judge Dredd. Through no fault of the creators, this might as well have been a Judge Dredd strip. In fact, it would have been a lot funnier had compulsive seducer Malcolm Witherspoon Windsor said, “I could never lie to someone with eyes like yours” to Dredd instead of Hershey.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Monday, May 04, 2009

Judge Dredd The Megazine 2.10 05/09/92

The Megazine has a format change this issue and goes for the squarer shape used by 2000 AD. I don’t know why this was decided but I presume it’s because they want any future cross-overs that occur, like Judgement Day, to be the same shape so collecting them into books later is easier. Or maybe, there is a lot of this paper lying around the office at the moment.

They have done away with the mock newspaper pages that told you what you have just read in the main features and replaced them with “Status Reports”. These are pages which appear directly before the strip starts, tells you about the feature and what has gone before. Let me tell you, I really hated these pages then. If you count them up with the house ads, there is enough altogether to make up another strip. It really irked me that we were paying over twice as much for The Megazine then 2000 AD and getting the same amount of strip pages more or less.

I might be answering my own point with this next observation. The first indication I had that The Megazine isn’t doing as well as I imagined occurred around this time when my local WH Smiths stopped carrying it. I had to place a special order to ensure getting it every fortnight.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, May 02, 2009

There's No Time Like The Present part 9

Around twice a year, I exploit my position as keeper of The Slog to promote my own comic, There’s No Time Like The Present, here. TNTLTP is my long comic strip or ‘graphic novel’ which I started work on in 2005. When I complete 24 pages, I publish them as a small press comic and attempt to sell it. The latest issue, Part 9, is finished and now available to buy.
The good news about part 9 is that I have found a new printer who is cheaper than my last one but has managed to match the High Definition quality used for Part 8. This means that I have been able to put the price of part 9 down to just £2.50.

When I started work on the story, although I knew what was going to happen, I didn’t know how many issues it would take to tell. Well, it now seems likely that TNTLTP will conclude with issue twelve. I say that but people more knowledgeable about these things than me have warned that an ending can often take longer than expected.

Part 9 can be ordered form my website pbrainey for £2.50. Also, all previous parts are still available for £3.00 each. All prices include postage to the UK. If you would like to sample TNTLTP before buying, the opening pages can be read here for free.