2000 AD Prog Slog

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Prog Slog Blog Year in Review 2009

The Maddeningzine

The movement of The Slog slowed down early ‘09 thanks partly to the arrival of The Megazine. At last, Judge Dredd had his own comic, and it was pretty good too… for about a year and then The Drop began. Inside two years it was re-launched as a fortnightly, renumbered volume two and, foolishly, I had decided to cover it for this ‘ere blog. Why? Why did I track down volume two for The Slog? My memory was that even the usually reliable John Wagner became sluggish during volume two and I was right. I could have decided to avoid it altogether, like I did with Tornado, Dice Man and Crisis. Oh well. It still had some highpoints occasionally, most of which were provided by John Wagner, but also included the excellent Devlin Waugh and Missionary Man.

The Poovie

The other Judge Dredd inspired event that all us Squaxx dek Thargo had waited years for only to be disappointed by arrived in the summer of 95 and was also covered by The Slog in 2009; The Judge Dredd movie. It should have arrived like a Big Bang but instead it was more like a black hole sucking off what joy we got from the comics just like that. 2000 AD and The Megazine managed to survive but disappearing over the event horizon was the Judge Dredd comic for younger readers, the two original titles published by DC and Sylvester Stallone’s career. Perversely, on the plus side, John Wagner seemed to up his ante in the weekly, matching and, dare I say it, even surpassing his previous personal best.

2008 Updates

In my review of the year for 2008, I noted the announcement from DNA Films of their plans to make a new Judge Dredd movie. Well, very little was heard about it during 2009. So little in fact that I’m left wondering how reliable the 2008 announcement was in the first place. Jock posted some concept art he did for the film but I have doubts that he was actually commissioned to do it. Didn’t he just do the paintings out of enthusiasm for the idea? While this report on Bleedin’ Cool about Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning being involved leaves me thinking, well, I don’t know what I’m thinking. I also noted American publisher Dynamite’s plans to release original Judge Dredd comics written by Garth Ennis and John Wagner. I was actually excited by this announcement but, in 2009, I have seen even fewer updates about this than the proposed movie.

Mills Chillaxes

2000 AD fan comic, Zarjaz, announced an all Pat Mills tribute issue. This is interesting because prior to this, Mills has usually been very protective of thrills that he’s created, traditionally throwing a huff whenever someone else has had a go at writing Flesh or Savage or something. Mills did an interview to help promote the comic and to explain why he had changed his mind. Apparently, 2000 AD is the best it’s been for years whilst Mills is more trusting of those in charge at the moment. Frustratingly, none of this answers the Mills mystery that has bugged me for years; if Tharg commissions another script robot to write, let’s say, a Flesh story, what legal right does Mills have to stop this? When previous editors have honoured his feelings on this matter has it been because of the law or out of respect for the guy? I just wanna know, that’s all.

Two-Fisted Mills

On the subject of Pat Mills; I actually met him a couple of months back. I was exhibiting at a small press comics event being held at the London ICA. Mills also happened to be there thanks to being one of the guests on a politics in comics panel also taking place that day. At one point he took a wander around the hall in which all us small pressers where crammed in like battery hens to see what was going on. When he got to my table, I blurted out “I’m a big fan of your work” to which he responded very politely. We then had a lovely conversation about the small press comics scene during which I avoided saying a single word about this blog. It was all going so well until Mills committed a small press exhibition faux pas; he leant forward, resting his fists on two piles of my comic, There’s No Time Like The Present. If you bought some comics from me that day that featured indentations on the covers then you might be pleased to learn that they were made by the knuckles of the writer of Ro-Busters.

Shriek! Free comic!

Pat Mills isn’t the only creator droid that I had an encounter with in 2009. During September, I exhibited at the British International Comics Show. Every small presser needs a lure and mine for BICS was a free comic that I handed out to people as they passed. Everyone responded to it very well except for this one guy who threw his hands up in horror as if I had just tried to hand to him a packet of smallpox. It turned out that this guy was Andy Diggle. Apparently, he didn’t want to take a copy only to leave it in a bar somewhere which is fair enough although firing out the explanation at me as he ran away waving his arms in the air still seems like an over reaction. Comic events can leave the participants in a heightened sense of reality, believe me I know, so I totally understand why he might have reacted that way. Either that or the comic looked really shit to him.

Good Job

The Slog has had its own encounters with ex-creator droids too in 2009. During February, American script robot Paul Kupperberg commented on this entry about his thrill Trash. His response to my entry was upbeat and positive. It’s a good job I liked it. Ex PR and script robot for the house of Tharg, Igor Goldkind, commented on this entry I made about his Judge Hershey story for The Megazine, A Game of Dolls. He kindly put me straight about a few assumptions I had made regarding the circumstances under which his scripting work was commissioned. All I can say is, it’s a good job that I liked the strip, although I was in something of a flippant mood that day and I don’t think that came across too clearly in the entry.


New entries on The Slog have been a bit thin since Christmas due mainly to me enjoying my gifts. Normal service will resume in a day or two. In the meantime, for your perusal, here’s a list of what I’m currently enjoying
Richard Stark’s Parker The Hunter by Darwyn Cooke. Beautiful two-colour adaptation of the crime novel of the same name. I love Darwyn Cooke.
Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi. Not a sequel, more of an accessory to the excellent Persepolis. Very enjoyable.
George Sprott by Seth. Giant, tabloid-sized hardback by the master cartoonist and craftsman. Strangely affecting. I fucking love Seth.
Luba by Gilbert Hernandez. Big fuck-off hardback follow up to the big fuck-off hardback Palomar. I’ve waited twenty five years for this!
Also, en route to my house right now, Asterios Polyp by David Mazzuccheli. I can’t wait!

In 2009, I read 233 progs of 2000 AD, 103 issues of Judge Dredd The Megazine, as well as various sci-fi and winter specials, yearbooks and other one-offs. My reading for The Slog slowed down during the year but only by a tad. I have 216 progs to go before it’s all over. I calculate that at this rate I’ll be finished by the end of June although I suspect that these final progs might be the hardest ones of all.

Happy New Year.

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Friday, December 25, 2009

Prog 972 29/12/95

What are the chances of this happening; a Christmas prog appearing in The Slog on Christmas day? At a guess, I would say 26 to 1. If I wasn’t a man of science but a superstitious fool, I would interpret this as a good omen.

To celebrate, this prog’s Vector 13 tale is less dry than normal and is about a Christmas themed conspiracy theorist whose obsession drives him to killing Santa Clauses. I always remember the grey in black narrator saying this; “Early texts report that the legendary “Santa Klaas” wore a coat of reindeer skin. Turned inside-out so that he might enjoy the warm fur. Perhaps, this is how the cosy 20th centaury image of the man in red began.” I think I always liked the idea that this might actually be true and I repeated it to several people as if it were.

Also this prog, the latest in a series of unlikely one-off appearances. Last prog it was Red Razors, this time it’s Luke Kirby. I like these established characters popping up like this from time to time but I wonder if these are tales originally prepared for yearbooks that didn’t happen rather than being especially commissioned for the weekly.

Finally, Parasites reaches part 9 and I still have no real idea of what is going on. It just reads like a series of random events to me. I don’t know who to blame for this thrill’s lack of clarity. Is it the writer or the artist or both? I’ll be honest with you, I’m perfectly willing to accept that Parasites is a good strip, take personal responsibility and accept that I’ve been unfocused whilst reading it.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Prog 971 22/12/95

Finishing this prog is ABC Warriors Hellbringer II. Joe Pineapples does a fancy bit of shooting which results in the chaos, I’m sorry, khaos embracing planet of Lo-Braseel being saved. It ends with a big three year long party for which Ro-Jaws turns up.

It’s not really an adequate synopsis of the story, is it? That’s because I’ve not really been as into it as perhaps I was earlier ABC Warriors adventures. The characters have gradually become crueler, more sadistic and less likable over the years. I don’t like the smug tone with which Pat Mills and Tony Skinner seem to write the thrill together and I don’t like the big, square head Kevin Walker paints Hammerstein with. He looks likes an even more deformed Jay Leno. Most of all, I don’t like seeing Ro-Jaws relegated to the role of party going team acquaintance who pops up for only a panel at the end of each adventure when he should be a full time member as far as I’m concerned.

Perhaps the ABC Warriors represents in microform what has happened to 2000 AD for me. They’ve both changed and become different things. They’re no longer what I thought they were anymore, no longer meant for me.

The good news is that Judge Dredd The Pit has started. I remember loving this first time around. It’s really important when you’re engaged in a project like The Slog to have something to look forward to and The Pit is one of the last of those. Three cheers for The Pit!

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Prog 969 08/12/95

In Supersurf 13, Chopper goes to Mega City Two recently rebuilt by Hondo-Cit after it was nuked to a cinder only last year during Judgement Day by a trigger happy Judge Dredd. And I thought they knocked houses up fast in Milton Keynes. Written by Alan McKenzie, the story serves as a reminder to both the character’s charm and why there hasn’t been a new Chopper story for several years. His appeal seems to limit to him just taking part in competition sky-surfing. The big pull of the thrill is, however, John Higgins’ art, which is superb here; Colourful, bright, detailed and expressive. Like I say, McKenzie is a great artist’s writer.

Meanwhile, over in Judge Dredd The Man Who Broke The Law, all the judges in Sector 28 have gone futsie. They’re having one big blow out before, well, what I don’t know. They’re copping off with each other and projecting juvenile messages into the moon’s surface such as ‘Judge Dredd wears a bra.’

Steve Yeowell’s art here is a return to form, as if his recent run on Maniac 5 was done in a hurry. Mark Millar writes a great little pop story, bristling with notions before it’s wrapped up and doesn’t out stay its welcome. I still feel that Millar gives good Dredd and thinking, mistakenly, that John Wagner wished to vacate the character and his world at this time, felt that he was an ideal replacement.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Prog 967 24/11/95

Perhaps I’m feeling jaded by The Slog but not only am I finding 2000 AD unimpressive at the moment but I’m unable to muster up enough fury about it either. That’s how I feel about the comic at the moment; under-whelmed. For example, although Steve White is a superior writer of Rogue Trooper to his predecessor, the truth is I have somehow lost track of it. How many sides are there in this war now? Is there even a war on any more? It’s as if now that the witch is dead I’ve realised that the thrill lost its clarity all those years ago when the original Rogue caught the traitor general.

I’ve already lost track of new thrill Parasites. Some kid called Eddie Zulo runs away from a children’s home then gets trained by some guy in a green hoodie with a view to him eventually leading an entrainment corporation called APE or something. It’s only four episodes in and I’ve already lost interest. While the constant bullying of Hammerstein in ABC Warriors these days has worn me out. Morrigun’s revelation that being nice is unnatural and the universe hates a nice guy is wearying. It’s nice to be nice and, besides, we all know that Morrigun isn’t a proper ABC Warrior anyway.

At least Tharg returns this prog after being in silhouette for the last three months due to the ‘shedding’. He’s reappeared all computer generated and fresh looking and of these X-Files loving times. It doesn’t bother me that he looks a little like a more sophisticated version of those aliens that appear on the front of those ‘take me to your dealer’ t-shirts, just as long as he is his old arrogant and humorous self.

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Prog 964 03/11/95

There’s nothing quite like a re-launch prog and this one manages to be memorable by being relatively low key. I suppose being the first re-launch after the Judge Dredd movie’s release would make the most spectacular jump on prog seem underwhelming. Still, great cover by John Higgins, even if Rogue Trooper looks a little crazy in the coconut and it’s disfigured by that thuggish logo.

Inside, five new thrills start. Rogue Trooper returns in a story called Descent which follows on from the story before last. It’s a bit of a relief actually because I wasn’t entirely sure who had survived and who hadn’t and the last tale confused me by ignoring the death of the original Rogue and the rest altogether.

Other new thrills are the long awaited return of Chopper, ABC Warriors in Hellbringer II and brand new strip, Parasites. Highlight of the prog is Judge Dredd in Dead Simple, another entertaining one off written by John Wagner in which Dredd guards against an assassination attempt on Ken, spokesperson for Simp Pride. The strip is drawn by the excellent Cliff Robinson who has pretty much developed his own style by now, even if descended from Brian Bolland’s. Robinson’s a bit of an enigma to me. His work appears only very occasionally and it leaves me wondering if he is either very slow or has another job and only draws comics in his spare time. An amazing thought considering how many artists would give their non-drawing arms for a pop at Dredd.

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Batman Judge Dredd The Ultimate Riddle

Whilst in pursuit of The Riddler, one of his lamest villains, Batman is snatched away to another dimension where he is forced to take part in a contest to the death with aliens to earn his way home. Amongst the brutal ugly-buglies is our very own Judge Dredd lumbered with a hapless perp in just his underwear in tow.

The good thing about these inter-company team-ups at this time is they read more like a 2000 AD special. Gone are the days when Marvel and DC editors would argue for months over Perry White appearing in more panels than J Jonah Jameson in a Superman and Spider-Man team-up. I guess this is down to Alan Grant, writer here with John Wagner, who is a representative of both characters now.

The Batman/Judge Dredd team-ups are getting increasingly less special. The story, despite the lameness of the main villain, is fun but doesn’t seem to feature as much thought as the average Wagner scripted Dredd short. Carl Critchlow provides the majority of the art and opens the story with a splash I really like. It’s a shot of an overbuilt Gotham street by the docks. A tiny figure can be seen running along the rooftops of the lower buildings and casting a shadow against the larger. You don’t see enough images like this in superhero comic; shots of the hero in his environment; blink and you miss him.

Dermot Power colourfully provides the final fifteen pages where The Riddler’s lame inter-dimensional plot is undone and our hero’s with harmless perp get to go home. The Ultimate Riddle is okay I suppose, but everyone involved is capable of much better.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Prog 963 27/10/95

In Luke Kirby The Old Straight Track, Luke has been walking across the country with Zeke, a magician who knows all of Britain’s secret walkways, to attend a coming of age gathering in Lunstead. It’s another methodically paced and utterly engaging tale written by Alan McKenzie. Although I haven’t always enjoyed Bradley, McKenzie is a script robot whose work is usually always worthwhile.

Interestingly, The Old Straight Track made me think of the Black Knight strip which ran in Hulk Comic during the late seventies. In it, a character called The Walker walks the Black Knight across Britain in a similar way. Coincidently, that story was written by Steve Parkhouse who is this tale’s artist. Here his work is awash with water colour and is probably the best artwork I’ve seen him do so far.

Also finishing this prog is Maniac 5 Maniac 6. I guess Maniac 5 is Mark Millar’s analogy for the stupidly of the arms race; you create a terrifying weapon then you create an even more terrifying weapon to neutralise it, although any intelligence the thrill has is dumbed-down by the writer’s love for action movies and his trademark sadism. It’s neither Millar’s nor artist Steve Yeowell’s best work but I enjoyed it just the same.

Finally, ABC Warrior Hammertein gets written into Judge Dredd continuity by Pat Mills and Tony Skinner. This is another example of movie fall-out. In the recent Judge Dredd film, Hammerstein appears, sucking up a major portion of the budget that might have been better spent elsewhere. In the comic, he’s a robot who has been left on sleeper mode in The Cursed Earth until waking up forty years later and making his way to a shop in Mega City One. It’s just like the olden days when Mills tries to establish 2000 AD thrills as existing in the same universe that don’t catch on. Still, it’s a fun strip with strong art by Jason Brashill.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Prog 961 19/10/95

It’s a busy time for 2000 AD which is why I haven’t covered Slaine’s current run until now. This prog features part 4 to Lord of Misrule which is a continuation from The Name of the Sword which is a continuation of previous stories in which Slaine travels through time as a warrior for the Goddess. Currently, he’s in the eleventh centaury masquerading as Robin Goodfellow. I don’t know about you, but I think that if he keeps going he’ll end up in the future hanging out with the ABC Warriors or amalgamating into Finn.

In Lord of Misrule and The Name of the Sword, his mission is to locate the sword of the Blood God and to learn his real name. While Slaine runs around chopping Normans up with his axe and eating uncooked bull flesh for the divine visions it causes (of course, why didn’t he do this earlier?) the real engaging narrative is that of nunnery bound Sister Marian, the reincarnation of his wife, Niamh. Sister Marian is in turmoil, torn between her loyalty to the false Christian god (the real one) and the real goddess (the false one). In this episode, she eventually flees the nunnery, tearing her clothes off as she goes (corr!) before being stopped by the appearance of Christ, stigmata and all. Naughty, naughty Pat Mills.

I’m enjoying this run of Slaine stories; they seem more memorable than the other post Horned God tales I’ve read for The Slog so far. Slaine has become a likable character again, re-established as a man’s man for all the ages, and writer Pat Mills seems to be enjoying himself which always shines through. Art wise, Greg Staples fully painted work on The Name of the Sword was too Bisley-like for my taste; great looking when the reproduction was up to the job but often too murky and dark. Clint Langley’s work on the Lord of Misrule has been great though. Not fully painted but more traditionally drawn and everyone benefits for it.

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Prog 958 22/09/95

Item: This prog runs a two page feature on the Judge Dredd 1 FM radio drama. I didn’t read it (too many words, not enough pictures) but I thought it was worth mentioning as a good example of movie fall-out. What I heard, I didn’t like. Although a more literal adaptation of the Judge Cal saga The Day The Law Died, I remember it sounding overly camp and zany.

Item: Since the re-launch, Judge Dredd has appeared in a series of especially strong one-off and short story runs written by John Wagner. I noticed very early on in The Slog that Wagner seems to see each re-launch as a psychological fresh start for Dredd and often the result is superior to the returning thrills that we’ve all missed and longed to see again. One possible exception to this is Awakening of Angels, in which we learn that Pa and Junior Angel didn’t perish in the Judge Child Quest after all. I could just about accept Mean returning from the dead a few years ago but this is really pushing it.

It turns out that this story is a prologue of sorts to the main event beginning over in Judge Dredd The Megazine 4. This looks like a bit of a scheduling gaff to me as according to the blurb, number 4 is on sale August 18 but this prog is dated Sept 22. There’s also an ad inside for The Megazine issue 6 dated Sept 16. Any Squaxx who don’t normally read The Megazine intrigued enough to follow the continuation is too late, basically. Thanks for that, Tharg.

Item: In Slaine, we learn the origin of the two finger salute. During their occupation of Britain, Normans would remove the two fingers of suspected indigenous bowmen. During confrontations, men would raise their bow fingers to the occupying forces as a gesture of defiance. It’s hard to believe, I know, but history isn’t my forte but I loved this fact. I would reel it out every now and then to give the impression I was more knowledgeable about things than I actually am. So I was devastated when, a couple of years ago, Stephen Fry dismissed this Pat Mills fact as myth in an episode of QI. I’m still unwilling to accept that this isn’t true, mainly because I’m too lazy to learn a new fact, and personally speaking, if such a position were to become available, I would nominate Pat Mills as national treasure over Stephen Fry any day. So there.

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Prog 957 15/09/95

It’s probably quite right that the hold of the Future Shock over the self contained short, sharp, shock style of thrill be reappraised. The problem with it over recent years is that it has become the training ground for new talent with varying degrees of ability and this approach to it undermines the overall tone of the strip. Whether Vector 13 should be the thrill to replace it, I’m not so sure.

Vector 13, up to ‘Case Seven’ this prog, is a series of self contained tales inspired by the nineties fad for Fortean styled stories hosted by mysterious aliens in black. Each one is usually by a rotating team of established creators, for example, this prog’s, Are They Cats?, is written by Peter Hogan and painted by John Ridgeway, thus raising the expected standard above those of the typical Future Shock.

The problem with Vector 13 is often the way the story is told. It’s dry and characterless, unlike a typical Future Shock. Often, a whole episode will pass with absolutely no lines of dialogue, if you exclude the opening and closing by the narrator. The ideas for the stories look as if they have been got by turning to a random page in the Fortean Times or watching a random episode of The X Files which results a more limiting boundary of possibility than, say, a Future Shock. If the new regime at 2000 AD want rid of Tharg, I mean, Tharg’s Future Shocks, then the Tales From Beyond Science is the way to go as far as I’m concerned. It’s big enough to accommodate those dry Fortean styled stories as well as completely made up stuff containing personality and humour. Having said this, all of the ‘Case Files’ so far have looked great and some have been more enjoyable compared to others, a good example being this prog’s.

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Prog 955 01/09/95

The last in a series of three interlocking covers painted by Chris Foss appears on the front of this prog. Except, once the masthead and bumf has been applied and the image shifted to accommodate them the covers end up not interlocking at all. So, to resolve this, the same image is reproduced on the back. So, what we have here is actually a series on interlocking back page pin-ups. This irritating repetition of the cover image in the same issue is something that The Megazine has been doing and, sure enough, after a bit of web research, it turns out that David Bishop has been acting as Tharg for a few months now.

Another last this prog is Urban Strike by Brian Williamson, Steve White and Mick Austen based on the computer game. I’ll be honest with you; I’ve never been interested in computer games. My eyes glaze over whenever a kid talks to me about them in exactly the same way adult’s eyes did when I talked to them about comics when I was little. In fact, in exactly the same way their eyes glaze over when I talk to them about comics now. Having said that, despite being a franchise spin-off, Urban Strike seems to be a well spirited thrill even if not to my taste.

Regular Slog commenter, Kennyevil, has already posted that he likes Urban Strike, I guess pre-empting I would hate it perhaps due to the overall poor reaction to it from the majority of readers at the time. Personally, I feel there was much about it that didn’t work. The thrill is written as a satire of this genre, however it’s described, and yet the one good running joke of the series, where foul language is replaced by inoffensive alternatives, is compromised by the disclaimer published at the start of each episode therefore explaining the gag. However, Kennyevil makes an important point, “to an 11 year old like myself, it was the height of wit.” I would have been in my twenties at this time and probably too old for it. In fact, there’s a possibility that I had outgrown the entire comic, which is a thought that I was perhaps resisting at the time.

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Prog 952 11/08/95

I could have given up buying 2000 AD by now but I remember deliberately deciding to stick around to see how the comic reacted to the Judge Dredd movie release. All of the good thrills might have been in reserve for the what, until now, is the comic’s most important re-launch and I didn’t want to miss out on that. As it happens, I think that 2000 AD’s response to the movie is well proportioned in the circumstances.

For example, I like the eight extra pages and what, so far, is being done with them. I like that Pat Mills is retelling a classic Dredd story of his from the comic’s first year, The Return of Rico. Originally drawn by Mike McMahon and painted beautifully for the retelling by Paul Johnson, the strip sees a mysterious figure arrive in Mega City One. Those of us who are Squaxx Dek Thargos already know that the stitched up, half metal face belongs to Rico, Dredd’s clone brother, who’s back in the big Meg for revenge.

I suppose this retelling exists to familiarise those readers who have seen the film with the comic version of the Rico character. It does seem surprising that a five paged story that is one of many hundreds to feature Dredd should be considered important enough to feed the movie so significantly. I guess it proved so memorable because it’s the first time that we see Dredd humanised.

As writer of the original, Mills is perfectly entitled to revisit it and there’s no sense from the result of it feeling padded out for the extended mix. Some of his occasionally irritating more modern themes are present, such as what is right and wrong. For example, Rico is perfectly accepting of an inter-species relationship that somebody reports to him but is still murdering people for not paying him protection money. To any reasonable reader, that still makes Rico an unpleasant individual who needs to be dealt with severely by justice; learning of his surprising tolerance doesn’t make any difference. However, it's an enjoyable revisit and I remain slightly disappointed that it isn’t the first in a series.

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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Prog 950 28/07/95

There’s nothing quite like a re-launch prog, especially when that re-launch prog is out the same week that a movie version of your lead strip is released. That’s right; the Judge Dredd film is out at last and, my God, does it stink. Okay, maybe it doesn’t, I don’t know. I was too close to the whole thing having first read about a possible film version of Judge Dredd as far back as 1982, so it’s difficult for me to have an impartial view of the movie in its own right. I thought it was awful but the friend I went to see it with, who had never read a comic let alone an issue of 2000 AD, enjoyed it. She didn’t enjoy it enough to go out and buy an issue of the comic or rent the video released later, though. In fact, had we not lost touch with each other, I’m sure if I asked her now what happened in the film she wouldn’t remember. Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if she couldn’t remember ever having seen it. That’s the problem with this movie; at best, it’s forgettable. I find it impossible to believe that it has a warm place in anyone’s heart, like sometimes a good film can.

It was a bad summer for ‘comic book’ movies in general, thanks also to Tank Girl and Batman Forever. It was also a sobering one for me thanks to a double paged article about ‘comic book’ movies in The Independent newspaper (I think). The thrust of the piece seemed to be that the reason these movies were bloody awful is because of the source material. Most insulting of all, it claimed that all comic creators were frustrated film makers who only worked in their medium because they aren’t good enough. For years, many of us in comics saw the movie version as the ultimate validation of the art form that we love whereas the outside world, it turned out, saw it as another dumb distraction to kill two hours with on a Saturday night. The idea that cinema goers would think ‘wow, if the movie’s this good just think how good the comic must be’ is naïve. In the summer of ‘95, the movie versions did create a backflow to comics, but only in the plumbing sense.

So 2000 AD is prepared for a backflow in the media sense which is why starting this week, there is an extra eight pages, a free gift, a sly price increase, a computer game tie-in thrill, two Judge Dredd strips and a movie based cover. It’s going to be sad watching it all unravel again.

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

Prog 949 21/07/95

The latest Finn story, Interventions, ends this prog and what an epic it’s been. Or rather, it’s been running for a long time; twenty episodes for about six months. That qualifies as an epic surely.

In Interventions, the alien Newts tried to bring about the second intervention with mankind only for Finn to eventually succeed in stopping it. Previously he had attempted to defeat their champion, the Crusader, unsuccessfully at first, destroy their mother-ship, which had succeeded with its bright lights in seducing and destroying over a 140 thousand new-agers, before eventually waking a slumbering dragon to aid him in his final assault. How convenient.

Interventions was packed with conveniences. Finn falls from the mother-ship in Earth’s atmosphere only for his descent to be slowed by an idiotic Crusader determined to kill him before he hits the ground. Finn dies but is brought back to life by Amanda, the Earth witch queen lady from the pub. All hope seems lost until Amanda suggests trying to enlist the aid of a dragon she knows asleep ‘round the corner. Yet the story remains entertaining despite these conveniences. In fact, what am I saying; the story is enhanced further by these events.

Special mention should be given to artist Paul Staples who painted all twenty episodes with only a relatively short break early on in the run. This is what 2000 AD has been missing outside of Judge Dredd recently; great big long runs with relatively no breaks and a sense of the epic. It’s far more common these days for a thrill to have lots of short runs, for the overall story to be drip fed to us, and for us, by which I mean me, to forget what’s going on. Well done, everybody.

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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Prog 947 07/07/95

Isn’t it funny how you can not like a strip the first time around but on the second enjoy it? Okay, I know I sound like I’m talking as if re-reading the first one thousand or so issues of 2000 AD is common practice, that’s the mental impact that The Slog is having on me, but in the case of Judge Dredd Midnight Kiss, it’s true. First time around, I thought it was just a story about real men with big muscles squaring up to each other in gothic surroundings but this time I can see that it’s about real men with big muscles squaring up to each other in gothic surroundings.

I think that first time, it was me who had the issues. I had decided that Mark Millar was the natural successor to John Wagner should he ever decide to retire and so seeing Garth Ennis back, despite me loving his DC Vertigo work, irked me. This time, I know that his visits to Dredd are only occasional from now on and should be appreciated. I’m also really enjoying Nick Percival’s artwork for the story. Normally, I have a resistance to this style of fully painted art that focuses on the detail of the muscle bulk of all the male characters but Percival’s panel compositions and atmosphere, as if The Cursed Earth is thick with fallout, suits the tone of the story.

Another thrill I’ve enjoyed revisiting is Mambo Fleshworld which finishes this prog. Written and drawn by Dave Hine (that’s right, he used to do both in the olden days) this has been a strip where the balance between visual vitality and grotesquery has been perfect. Fleshworld finishes with Rachel and her assistant, Jaydee, suspended in space in bubbles of atmosphere as the planet below them finishes its transformation into a single bio-mass of writhing flesh. Rachel comments that they might have to wait there for a few months, even years, before a spaceship wanders by and finds them. Personally, I think she’s looking on the positive side.

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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Prog 945 23/06/95

Once again, Strontium Dogs seems to be going through a change with Peter Hogan apparently being appointed head writer of the whole franchise. We’ve already seen him write a Durham Red story and a Strontium Dogs tale drawn by the continually improving Nigel Dobyn, but now the two thrills have, quite rightly, been amalgamated.

I’ll be honest with you; I feel that Strontium Dogs has been directionless for a long time. Garth Ennis before wasn’t on the strip long enough to get his teeth into it while having Alan Grant dip in occasionally with his own Durham Red and Middenface McNulty stories seemed to dilute the thrill’s definition. For me, it goes back even further than that, to when it was just called Strontium Dog, to around the time John Wagner and Alan Grant stopped writing it together and Carlos Ezquerra left.

With Strontium Dogs High Moon, Hogan attempts to bring clarity to the line and so far, six episodes in, seems to be succeeding. He doesn’t have the same dark sense of humour that writers prior to him have had and brings sentimentality to the otherwise cruel world those before him avoided like the winter vomiting virus. However, these furry, pale skinned, ridiculous looking characters have a dignity to them that has me invested in them more so than for a long time. It’s just a shame that, if memory serves me right, Hogan doesn’t get to see his ideas through to the end.

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