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2000 AD Prog Slog

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Yearbook 1993

It’s not like when I read the annuals for The Slog. I can’t get two done in a day, like I used to. These Yearbooks have a lot more content and take longer to read. I suppose I shouldn’t complain.

Thanks to the cover, some of the strips have an art theme. In the Tharg strip, Walter the Wobot and editorial assistant droid, Burt, race across London with the head to a Judge Dredd statue trying to make it in time to a 2000 AD art exhibition. It’s always good to se a new Tharg story although it’s curious to see Walter appear here. Normally he appears in Dredd and, even then, he barely does that these days.

There’s a clever line written by Alan McKenzie in Brigand Doom. Investigator Nine is asked if she is a lover of art to which she replies, “Not so much a lover, more a fighter.” Doom is cross because the money for an art exhibition could have been better spent on feeding the starving of the city. However, his rage extends to the gallery security guard and the artist himself. Now that he’s turning on the poor, working saps, I have no sympathy for any of the main characters in this strip at all.

In Robo-Hunter, a robot goes on a relentless massacre and in Rogue Trooper, Friday gets buried under a pile meat. I think writers Mark Millar and John Smith are developing themes here; tedious, repetitive themes.

My favourite strips are the Judge Dredd story by Alan Grant, Tony Luke and Brett Ewins in which alternative versions of Dredd and Anderson visit Mega City One and Bix Barton, by Milligan and McCarthy, who goes on the hunt for The Mouth Thief. Isn’t it great how Bix Barton never disappoints?

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Judge Dredd Mega-Special 5

After weeks of pointless slaughter in the weekly and the fortnightly, it’s nice to read a more traditional Judge Dredd story written by John Wagner. Joovz ‘n’ the Hood is an inter-block gang warfare tale, the type that he writes so well. It runs for twenty-two pages which, as a reader of American comics, I find aesthetically appealing. Artists Richard Preston and Edmund Kitsune provide an impressive job. It’s a very assured style; like a cross between a Deadline cartoonist and Geof Darrow. As the strip goes on however, the colouring becomes over reliant on oranges and browns and is difficult to see what is going on in places.

Alan Grant writes an anti-drug Anderson:Psi Division story, which you might find amusing if you’ve read Wasted from 2008, which I haven’t, so I don’t. Russell Fox, who has already made his premier in The Megazine, draws it. Fox has an interesting style. If you hold the comic at normal reading distance, his work looks like it’s been done by a very enthusiastic amateur, but if you get up close to it you can see strong characterisation and detail. I like it, and so does Foxy as he seems to sign every other page.

Mark Millar and Steve Yeowell give us a Red Razors short. In it, we learn that Ed was so desperate to get away from his clingy ex-girlfriend that he ran all the way to Russia and had surgery to turn him into a horse. I like Red Razors. Morecambe and Wise make a cameo appearance as hit-men; I can’t help thinking that this is the sort of thing Millar should be doing more often in Robo-Hunter but with robots.

This years Special isn’t bad value for money as it features no reprinted material. Having said that, I miss The Daily Star strips a little, even though I know that they are no longer being drawn by Ron Smith. You just can’t please some people, can you, David Bishop?

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sci-Fi Special 1992

In this year’s Sci-Fi Special, Tharg explains that a software error occurred, mixing up script robot assignments. This means that John Tomlinson, who you would normally associate with Armoured Gideon, is writing Brigand Doom while Alan McKenzie, who normally writes Brigand Doom, scripts Armoured Gideon. I like to imagine the selection of script droids standing at a starting line and a clanking, old, over the top cockney robot shouting at them, “Run around …. NOW!”

It’s an interesting experiment. For example, John Smith writes a Robo-Hunter story which manages to be even less charming than Mark Millar’s version. When Sam isn’t falling into skips filled with headless torsos and severed limbs he’s telling the reader about three escort girls he had booked for a “quiet night in”. It does suggest that this grotesque interpretation of Robo-Hunter used at this time is the consensus.

Mark Millar writes an equally unpleasant Rogue Trooper which sees Friday captured and tortured, including, at one point, talking about having his lips sliced off. Actually, I say “Friday”, but old school Rogue artist Brett Ewins seems to wilfully ignore the reboot that the character has gone through recently and draws the original version, including Mohican and bio-chips.

My favourite stories are Strontium Dog by Peter Hogan with artist John Ridgway and Armoured Gideon by Alan McKenzie. It’s always nice to encounter a new Johnny Alpha and Wulf adventure especially now that they’re both dead while McKenzie, the artist’s writer, works with the man who can draw absolutely anything, Sean Philips, and the result is fun.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Prog 799

Latest Judge Dredd epic, Judgement Day, ends after twenty episodes. That’s a little shorter than your average super-epic, even shorter in time to tell if you consider that a third of the episodes appeared in The Megazine. In it, Dredd uses Sadu’s sword to lob Sabbat’s head from his tentacled body and the entire world’s zombies drop to the ground, just as I predicted. (Although, of course, I didn’t really predict this as I first read this episode sixteen and a half years ago). Dredd sticks the head on the peak of the loadstone, keeping Sabbat alive for eternity, and sentences him to life, no remission.

Had Judgement Day been written by John Wagner and Alan Grant, we would have seen it killed off weeks ago, just like they did with City of the Damned. But Garth Ennis is writing this during an era of editorial long term planning and multi-publication co-operation. It’s hard to imagine a young man at the start of his career feeling able to approach Tharg at this time and saying, “Judgement Day; it’s just not working out”. Just think of all the people he would be inconveniencing. Supposedly, Wagner and Ennis came up with the story together but Wagner bailed out very early on. The whole thing does feel uncertain; like a tale that even the writer of is unsure of what it is about.

There are moments to like in Judgement Day, particularly the presence of Johnny Alpha. The art was as good as Squaxx dek Thargo have come to expect from an epic and it’s fitting that Carlos Ezquerra draws this final part where the two major characters he helped to create walk battered and bruised but triumphant from the cave where they have defeated their enemy. However, the unnecessary slaughter of billions and the crass serialisation of it in two separate comics makes this an epic worth reading but quickly forgetting, in my opinion.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Jose Casanovas Sr 1934 - 2009

Steve Holland reported yesterday on the death of 2000 AD artist, Jose Casanovas Sr who died on March 14th aged 75. His obituary can be read here

2000 AD readers will be familiar with the work he drew with his son on Mark Millar’s re-imagining of Robo-Hunter, currently taking place here in The Slog. Being the first artist to draw the character after Ian Gibson’s long and successful run on the strip and making such a strong impression is an achievement in itself. Those of us reading 2000 AD during the late seventies and early eighties will remember his striking style on many one off strips including Future Shocks and the occasional Judge Dredd. My most vivid memory of his work is on the Max Normal solo stories that appeared in the very early Dredd annuals. Jose’s style was intricate and packed with character. His work always looked to me like he had a great sense of humour.

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Prog 797

Last time we saw Bradley, we left him travelling through time, pop star bothering. Now, somehow, he’s back in his present, reading warped fairy stories to his little sister. I would say that if I was one of his parents then I wouldn’t let him anywhere near his siblings but I wouldn’t want such a comment to be seen as legitimising the strip in any way.

In Bradley’s defence, Simon Harrison’s art is stunning on it. Now fully painted, Bradley’s landscape is awash with colour that’s amazing to look at. Furthermore, Harrison’s story telling has improved significantly since his Strontium Dog work. He’s even reigned in the personal commenting that left me not just disliking but resenting the character’s last run.

The problem with Bradley remains however; it’s Bradley. It’s just not a very good idea. You can send the character travelling through time or subverting classic children’s stories but it’s all been done more effectively before in Judge Dredd shorts by John Wagner and Alan Grant and Future Shocks by Alan Moore. Perhaps that’s the real problem here; I’ve been around too long.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Judge Dredd The Megazine 2.8

You might think, quite reasonably, being the comedy strip (I think this is what it’s supposed to be) sitting between the Judge Dredd genocide and Devlin Waugh slaughter that you wouldn’t have to work very hard at being funny. Introducing Soul Sisters, the only humour strip that succeeds at not providing light relief even in the midst of these ideal circumstances!

In Soul Sisters, nuns Susan Hope and Jocaster Faith leave their convent and become Brit-Cit vigilantes. It isn’t long before they encounter a robot pope called Bob, a two headed gangster and, I don’t know, some other stuff. (Actually, once again, by describing a poor story, I’ve made it sound better than it actually is.)

After the complete script stink that was The Straitjacket Fits, you might think that even Megazine editor David Bishop would be hard pressed to top (or bottom) that, which might explain why Soul Sisters is co-written with Dave Stone.

“Dave, I want to write a strip that’s even less funny and engaging than The Straitjacket Fits. Can you help?”

“I’ll do my best, boss.”

In typical Straitjacket Fits fashion, the art is by Shaky Kane is great. His Jack Kirby inspired stylings are imaginative, bold and colourful. In fact, like Roger Langridge before him, it’s surprising that someone this good got hired to just draw the gig when he should be writing it as well.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Prog 794

As Judge Dredd mega epics go, Judgement Day isn’t quite hitting the spot as far as I’m concerned but then I am an old school Squaxx dek Thargo whose definition of what constitutes a good saga has been set by The Cursed Earth, The Day the Law Dies, The Judge Child Quest and The Apocalypse War. The premise of Judgement Day has some guy called Sabbat travel back through time to Dredd’s age to reanimate the world’s dead and have them attack the Mega Cities.

The real problem happens a couple of episodes ago when Dredd orders the nuclear destruction of five Mega Cities because they have become over run with Sabbat’s zombies. That’s two billion living people killed as a consequence of Dredd’s sense of realism; “Then we nuke ‘em!” Firstly, there’s no real logic to this course of action because this prog, the international unit of Judges led by Dredd are on a mission to attack Sabbat before the surviving cites get overrun. This suggests that they hope that stopping their leader will mean all zombies will drop down on the spot. In which case, why wipe out five overwhelmed but remote cities when it doesn’t really matter where the living dead are when they collapse?

Also, as decisive and pragmatic as Dredd can be he wouldn’t decide to destroy five Mega Cites without giving it very serious consideration first. Here, it seems to be the first option that pops into his head. “Drokk it, I can’t be bothered. Let’s nuke ‘em! We all wanna get home in time for The Apprentice tonight, right?” To add out of character insult to injury, as soon as the cities get wiped off the face of the Earth, instead of a moments meditation on the two billion people that have been vaporised, Dredd has a revenge brawl with Sadu and Alpha in the back room!

For me, this is where the story really falls apart. Which is a shame because Garth Ennis has proven to be a strong writer elsewhere, the art by Carlos Ezquerra, Peter Doherty and the rest is great and Johhny Alpha and the best of the world’s judges being in the same story as Dredd really appeals to my pre-2000 AD Marvel Team-Up loving self.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Prog 793

ITEM: Last prog, Tharg writes in the Nerve Centre about the problem with nostalgia, particularly in regards to Squaxx dek Thargo who say that 2000 AD isn’t as good as it used to be. “They are forgetting that for every classic Rogue Trooper story there were Return to Armageddon and Angel. For every original Robo-Hunter there were Fiends of the Eastern Front and Colony Earth”. Ignoring the fact that Tharg seems to be saying, “Yes, some of the strips we run now aren’t very good but there have always been thrills that don’t cut the mustard”, I actually liked Fiends of the Eastern Front and thought that Return to Armageddon got quite good by the end.

Tharg is missing an important point, however. The creators who wrote and drew those listed strips worked in an uncertain environment. There was no reason to believe that the thrills they were starting would ever finish given that comics were beginning and ending all the time in the UK back then. They could never have envisaged their stories being collected in expensive albums and being kept in print. They couldn’t imagine their careers taking them to American publishers let alone to Hollywood. And yet they still defied expectations and rattled against the boundaries. To the reader encountering these thrills in this altogether more fragile environment there’s an added potency.

ITEM: You’ve heard of Future Shocks. You’ve heard of Time Twisters. Well, now there’s Tharg’s Dragon Tales. Short, sharp, tales with a twist at the end featuring (sigh) dragons. Is it just me or do the possibilities of such a strip seem limited? I guess it is 1992 and a generation of roll game players are growing up, having to earn a living somehow and are afraid by the thought of engaging with the real world.

ITEM: Current Judge Dredd epic, Judgement Day, reaches part eleven. As you might remember, this is Dredd’s first cross over story with every third episode appearing in The Megazine. At the time, I seem to recall someone involved in it trying to claw back some credibility from this gross commercialism by commenting on how, because the two comics were a different shape to each other, publishing a collection later would be impossible. Tell that to Rebellion who have since published said collection and got around the page shape problem in classic Quality Comics manner by stretching the artwork to fit. Why not just publish the collection and leave a wider border around The Megazine chapters? At least then the Dean Ormston painted zombies marching on Mega City One wouldn’t all look like they have fat arses.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Judge Dredd The Megazine 2.6

While zombies take over the world in Judge Dredd Judgement Day, vampires overrun underwater prison Aquatraz in Devlin Waugh’s first story, Swimming in Blood. Normally, zombies win every time for me as I find vampires a bit too goth-teen-girl but Devlin Waugh is written by John Smith who manages to portray them as grotesque, meat starved monstrosities. Anyway, I thought this was supposed to a science fiction comic!

Swimming in Blood is a simple but good idea. An underwater prison, brilliantly designed by artist Sean Philips to look like a seahorse, is infested by vampires and the surviving guards attempt an escape before they get infected too. Smith writes the story with clarity using his disjointed pros style sparingly and with effect. The real genius however is the presence of Waugh himself, a highly camp cross between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Noel Coward, who, thanks to his knowledge of such things and the sheer strength of his personality, now leads the team of survivors to, hopefully, safety.

I think I’ve made clear in The Slog my general dismay at the direction both 2000 AD and The Megazine have chosen to go in after the opening decade but there is one aspect that positively separates this line of comics from their American counterparts. Where Marvel and DC seem perfectly happy not to have created a new character and world for at least thirty years, 2000 AD and The Megazine continue to do so, often at the expense of established and successful strips. It might seem that not continuing to run, say, Nemesis the Warlock stories without the approval of Pat Mills and with a new thrill in its place is commercially unsound, particularly if that strip is The Clown, but it is admirable, especially when results like Devlin Waugh come along. He really is a strong character although, I must admit, if I ever met him in real life I’m sure he would get on my nerves within five minutes.

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Prog 790

ABC Warriors Khronicles of Khaos Book Two ends this prog with a big party followed by all the robots lying around with hangovers. I thought droids drank oil when they wanted to let their cables down but now, thanks to Deadlock’s teaching in the ways of chaos or to artist Kevin Walker, they drink Pina Coladas. I must admit, I’ve not been a hundred percent engaged in the story. This could be down to the wearying affects of The Slog but those moments I was alert for I enjoyed.

Last prog, the Warriors completed their mission and collected seven severed heads for the planet of chaos, Hekate. These heads, belonging to a tax man, a chaplain, a tycoon, a scientist, a politician, a colonel and “the emperor of order himself”, could have done with being contemporised a bit and including a tabloid journalist, a reality TV producer and my boss (if I had a job, that is). This prog, Deadlock seems established not just as spiritual leader of the team but as actual leader as well. When he tells them what to do Hemmerstein replies, “Swivel, baby”. Deadlock could have commented on his idea of chaos being influenced by early episodes of Happy Days in some way, but instead seems outraged saying, “What? How dare you question my orders?” Later, Deadlock congratulates the warriors on “passing the final test”, as if Hammerstein rebelling is what he had planned for all along now that the entire team has mutinied as well.

Sometimes Khronicles of Khaos has felt too educational, even preachy, so it’s been the character moments that I’ve really perked up for. Like when Joe Pineapples became a transvestite or Deadlock admits that Ro-Jaws is the true master of chaos. Despite my moments of inattention, I feel that it’s right for the ABC Warriors to have a presence in 2000 AD and I’m pleased that this story exists.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Prog 789

Sometimes in your comic reading life you encounter a strip that is a union of creators at the peak of their craft and anything you say about it fails to represent it anywhere near accurately enough. One of those strips is Button Man by John Wagner and Arthur Ranson.

Harry Exton used to be a mercenary. Now he’s a Button Man; a hired killer paid to take part in “the game” where people like him come up against each other. That round of “The Game” is only over when you’ve collected your opponent’s token, usually by causing their death. Now Harry wants out but his “voice”, the mysterious man of privilege who hires him, doesn’t want him to leave. Now Harry is up against four other players, with only three bullets left.

Wagner’s writing is pitched so perfectly. I imagine him composing the dialogue and then going through it again with a pot of Tip-Ex stripping it down to its absolute minimum. Ranson’s art is perfectly detailed, insightfully spaced and rich with atmosphere. The whole thing feels like a BBC drama from the seventies, classically acted and shown after my bedtime so I never got to see it. I half expect to see it repeated on BBC 4 soon and all ten thousand viewers marvelling at how good it is.

There, see? Very word I wrote took something away from how good it is. I’ll shut up now.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Judge Dredd The Megazine 2.4

The flip flopping between 2000 AD and The Megazine is a necessity now thanks to the latest Judge Dredd epic, Judgement Day, starting. I’ve found a lot of the promotion for it a little off putting. The big deal seems to be that three billion people will die. Why is it that whoever came up with this tag line thinks that global death tolls is what Judge Dredd readers like from a mega epic. The Apocalypse War saw 400 million die, Necropolis 60 Million; once you start hitting these sorts of numbers my mind can’t comprehend the difference between the amounts. Three billion is a lot but then so is sixty million. They would have been much better off promoting Judgement Day as Judge Dredd teams up with Johnny Alpha again.

The promise of global extinction hangs over Armageddon The Bad Man as well. By Alan Grant and Carlos Ezquerra, it’s set in the 1990s against a backdrop of global political unrest and is meant to bridge the gap between now and Judge Dredd’s time. The strip seems to be about a young woman called Lori LeMayne who, after being forcibly made homeless, is on the run from a stone cold killer who wants her for some reason.

It reminds me of the Terminator films. A mysterious, seemingly unstoppable killer hunts down an innocent woman against a backdrop of inevitable global destruction. Ezquerra’s art is great, as usual, and Grant’s script seems slightly more invested than much of his other recent work that I’ve seen for The Slog. However, once The Bad Man finishes, I don’t remember the creators returning to Armageddon to finish the job that they had started.

Perhaps this is a good thing. Do we really want to see getting from here to there being mapped out in such detail? We’re better off with that ambiguity regarding the origins of Dredd’s world being present, I think. Once certain aspects get over rationalised, what were once just fun elements start to receive too much scrutiny and the whole thing begins to wobble.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Prog 756

Big faceless corporations seem to be the common enemy at the moment in 2000 AD. In Rogue Trooper, it’s a big corporation that’s responsible for the war. In Button Man, “The Voices” who sponsor “the game” are the super rich, some of who probably gained their fortunes from running corporations. But the meanest of them all is perhaps the Okay Kola Korporation.

In Kola Kommandos, unassuming office worker Hector Doldrum is being thrown from pillar to post after uncovering illegal animal experiments on a hidden floor of the Okay Kola Korproation’s head office. He’s been fired from his job, dumped in the middle of a war zone by a robot taxi driver and beaten up by a super terrorist’s sidekick.

The thrill is being written by Steve Parkhouse who I usually remember as an artist on strips like The Bojeffries Saga. I sometimes forget that actually my first encountering of his work was as a writer for Marvel UK’s Hulk Comic during the late seventies where he wrote The Black Knight and Night Raven, both strips I loved. For Kola Kommandos however, I don’t feel as if I’m connecting with the story as successfully as I should despite my own personal issues with large corporations. It feels as if the gaps are there due to oversight rather then deliberately existing to create mystery.

I’m curious to know why it is that Parkhouse never seems to both write and draw the same strip. Kola Kommandos is drawn by Anthony Williams whose loose cartoon style gives it a zaney quality. As much as I enjoy his work here, I wonder how much different the strip might be if it were also being drawn by Parkhouse.

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Monday, March 09, 2009

Prog 784

Meanwhile, back at 2000 AD. The ABC Warriors are only four episodes into book two of Khronicles of Khaos and already it’s going on a break. A relatively short break but a break nonetheless. Like I’ve said before, these are consequences of running fully painted strips.

Rogue Trooper Apocalypse Dreadnought reaches part 5 and, at the risk of repeating myself again here, I’m not engaging with it particularly well. Once again it’s being written by Michael Fleisher and thanks to the disappointments that he’s delivered in the past I read the words but they just ain’t sinking in. Ron Smith’s art is great though. It has all of the quirky personality that you expect from his work but now with an lavish colour pallet. I wonder if I would be reading this strip at all if it wasn’t for the artist.

Finally, in the interests of full disclosure, I need to tell you that I no longer read most of the Nerve Centre and none of the letters for The Slog. I’m not interested in Ig-Roid’s promotion of related 2000 AD product while the reader’s letters and art have lost their pizzazz. I guess this might be down to the average age of the Squaxx dek Thargo being higher than it was ten years ago. There’s something charming about a ten year old engaging with a shared joke with the editor. It’s a wonder that I even read Tharg’s editorials any more given that he seems to be tiring of the whole process too.

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Friday, March 06, 2009

Judge Dredd The Megazine 2.3

There was a time when Judge Dredd was responsible for just twenty four new pages of comic a month. Now we’re getting closer to forty and that’s not including peripheral strips such as Soul Sisters, Devlin Waugh and Armageddon. It’s sometimes easy to forget amongst all of this output the simple joy of reading a John Wagner penned Dredd tale.

In Texas City Sting, Dredd has gone to Texas City to have extradited known perps back to Mega City One. However, because the Chief Judge there has an aversion to Big Meg types, Dredd has to exploit a loop hole in Texan law by operating as a debt collector and duping those on his wanted list into returning home. It’s a story told with such perfect pitch that you can’t help but feel joyous at the experience of reading it.

Yan Shimony is an artist I just about remember from Blast magazine. His work (I presume Shimony’s a he) here is packed with expression, characterisation and momentum. He draws good machinery and cityscapes too. My only criticism is that, at least once, he draws Dredd grinning like a loon which, as all Squxx dek Thargo know, isn’t something the character ever does. I can understand that perhaps Shimony isn’t immersed enough in the character to not know any different but surely editorial should have firewalled the art and sent it back to be redrawn. Unless the editor doesn’t know this either.

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Thursday, March 05, 2009

Judge Dredd The Megazine 2.1

The Slog is going to have to zigzag back a forth between 2000 AD and Judge Dredd The Megazine over the next couple of weeks. Normally, when faced with having to flip between the main event and its auxiliary publications, I like to wait until a natural break but it isn’t possible on this occasion. This is thanks to upcoming epic, Judgement Day, running between the two. The result might be a bit dizzying, for me at least.

Anyway, Fleetway has decided to restart The Megazine, this time as a fortnightly. I don’t really know why they decided to do this. Perhaps the increased frequency is down to better than expected sales of the monthly and renumbering it is a way of encouraging curious sceptics to give it a go.

Those curious sceptics might be unsure of how they feel about the new Magazine. On one hand, all of the stories, Judge Dredd, Devlin Waugh and Armageddon, make strong starts but when you consider the comic strip page count to price ratio you’re not exactly getting value for money here. For twice the price you get 28 comic pages which is the same as you get most weeks in 2000 AD. The centre of The Megazine is puffed out with mock news pieces repeating exactly what we’ve just read in the main strips, an article on the creation of Devlin Waugh which seems a bit premature given that we’ve only seen one episode of it so far and reader survey results. Next issue does see the start of The Soul Sisters which, if memory serves, isn’t exactly good news.

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Prog 780

There’s nothing quite like a re-launch prog, although, according to Tharg, this now happens thrice yearly so, I suppose, now there is. My copy still has the free gift attached which is a “Security Clearance Unit” or, more accurately, one of those cheap wallets you get when you buy a rail card but with a couple of 2000 AD corporate logos printed on it. I guess the guy I bought the collection off of on eBay had outgrown the excitement that accompanies a free gift by this stage. Personally, I seem to remember thinking, “at last, something I can use”, and keeping my cash-point card in it until it fell apart one month later. The last free gift I had any use for were the MACH 1 transfers which I tried to get a sick day off school with.

Next week’s free gift is two ID cards, meant to accompany the SCU given away with this prog. In theory, these sound pretty cool, but in reality, it’s just designs for cards printed on slightly thicker cover stock. They don’t even have perforated edges so you can remove them easily; you have to cut them out with a pair of scissors. Any overseas readers reading this now, let me tell you something; you aren’t missing out. If anything you are better off; at least your cover doesn’t have a big sellotape mark on it.

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Monday, March 02, 2009

Action Special

The Action Special is an interesting curiosity. A one off companion to 2000 AD, these are new stories featuring old IPC characters from the sixties written and drawn by Tharg’s new wave of creators. It means we have the Steel Claw painted by Sean Philips, The Spider written by Mark Millar and, shortly after his recent guest appearance in Universal Soldier, Kelly’s Eye by the same team of Alan McKenzie and Brett Ewins.


At the time, despite unfamiliarity with the characters being reinvented here, I thought the special was interesting and I was intrigued by the possibility that this could lead to a new regular comic from Fleetway. Crisis and Revolver were noble experiments but it seemed to me that a title modernising these old comic strips stood more of a chance of being successful. Upon my revisit, I suspect it wouldn’t have worked even if it had turned out that the characters Fleetway are using here actually legally belonged to them. The overall tone of the stories is flat and lifeless. The Steel Claw and Mytek the Mighty (with art by Shaky Kane) might look great but there’s little else to them. The Spider is overly sadistic and Kelly’s Eye forgettable. The only strip that has any vibrancy as far as I am concerned is Doctor Sin, by John Smith and John Burns.



Like I say, it turns out that this special was published by Fleetway under the mistaken belief that they owned the characters which is why we never saw anything more of them, mainly. DC now owns them where they have appeared in a couple of limited run serials but that’s about it. Wouldn’t it be cool if one day DC decided to do something more substantial and British with them rather than continuing to leave them as being under utilised.

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