2000 AD Prog Slog

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Prog 993 24/05/96

This is my Dan Abnett anecdote. Around the time that The Slog is at, I attended a comic convention. During the evening on the first day, some friends and I were getting very drunk in the hotel bar. One of my friends knew Abnett so he joined us. At one point, I got a round in and being a nice guy I got Abnett a drink. He went on to commit what I consider to be two big faux pas. One; he didn’t offer to buy me a drink back. Two; the next morning, he passed me in the foyer and blanked me. These were the final factors I needed to decide that I didn’t like his work.

Currently, he’s writing new thrill Sinister Dexter which has been running for a few progs now. Clearly inspired by John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson’s characters in Pulp Fiction, Finnigan Sinister and Ramone Dexter are ‘gun sharks’, an assassins-for-hire partnership that work in the Europe sized city of Downlode and who take great pride in their reputation, often at expense to their own safety.

Now that I’m revisiting this thrill, I realise that I was wrong to dismiss it first time around as it’s actually enjoyable. Abnett clearly works hard at writing it. There’s a rhythm to it that I like and the scripts themselves seem tight and well executed. I’m particularly pleased that the stories so far have been short, often no longer than a single episode. At this time, it must have been tempting for Abnett to write them for easy collection in US comic book or graphic album formats later on. Like Vector 13, Tharg is working hard to make this thrill a success by commissioning lots of episodes and a strong, rotating team of popular art droids for it.

However, I can still see in the thrill what I doubted about it the first time around. Abnett doesn’t have the same subversive instincts that the strongest 2000 AD script robots have traditionally had. In fact, I sense an eagerness to please and to give the reader exactly what he thinks they want. His sense of humour doesn’t seem as well developed either. He writes characters whose idea of funny is to call women ‘babes’. I half expect to see the English being mocked for their dentistry in the near future. Having said this, Sinister Dexter remains a strong thrill and I can only put my initial conclusion about it down to the lack of drink, the snub the next day and an old Squxx looking for a way out of the comic altogether.

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  • Oooh, that's bad form. I wouldn't have blanked you until two days after the drinking session.

    By Blogger Mark, at 10:39 pm  

  • Well to be fair he might have blanked you to hide his shame at not having bought the drink? Oh Mr Abnett you always seemed such a nice man.

    Drinking etiquette aside these early Sinister Dexter episodes are fun but only hint at wants to come. This strip truely develops into one of the best to the next generation of 2000ad strips. At most times it'd be the best, but the not inconsiderable matter of Nikolia Dante is not too far away.

    At its core (as with Dante and Dredd) the reason this strip has gone on to become the classic it is, is the on the surface simple, yet attractive central characters, with depths that can be mined and revealed as the tale grows. With these two in place the stories can then take on a range and variety that keeps the stories continually fresh and interesting. They can handle short snappy punchy stories, witty little ditties, intriguing insightful character pieces and more protracted dramatic stories had really carry an emotional punch.

    Goes to demonstrate get the central characters right and the rest is just window dressing. I mean two paid assassins with a code that gives them the odd moral dilemma ain't exactly original but these fella's have been the stars of hundreds of fantastic tales.

    Sinister, Dexter and indeed Mr Adnett I raise my glass to you.

    By Blogger Colin, at 8:50 am  

  • I was never a big fan of Sinister and Dexter, I missed out on the first bunch of them, still not having gone back to 2000ad yet but it did go on forever and ever.

    David Bishop did say in TPO that S&D was a strong second place in the readers charts for a long time and that he wanted a thrill that could run almost constantly in the comic alongside Dredd and the gunsharks fit the bill

    By Blogger Derek, at 1:55 pm  

  • I never liked sinister dexter either I could not get past the fact that they spoke in an annoying way and were just a pulp fiction rip off. I thought it was quite good when they seemingly died at the end of the first run only to be annoyed that they came back.

    Having said that I bought a run of 2006 2000ads last year and sinister dexter was really good in it. the caracters were warm and 3d and the stories were funny.

    maybe he blanked you because he was so drunk on one drink that he lost his memory and forgot to get in a round

    By Blogger Victor Resistor, at 5:09 pm  

  • Two days is the standard, Mark :-)

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 5:50 pm  

  • Colin, I haven't seen those depths you're talking about yet. In fact, all the characters seem unlikable in one way or other (murderers, crime bosses, gangster's molls),. Even Dredd, Alpha and Nemesis who have done bad things, there's sense that the writers know what they're doing. So far, Abnett makes me think all he's worried about are his characters seeming cool.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 5:56 pm  

  • Derek, I think strong reliable back up to Dredd is always good. Some might ask, S&D might have come second in the polls but how far behind the first was it?

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 5:58 pm  

  • Victor, my reasons for not liking it first time are pretty much the same as yours. As for my personal encounter with Abnett; I never really belived he was blanking me deliberately, but saying that ruins the story I tell a bit :-)

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 6:01 pm  

  • I've never read these early Sin/Dex stories and it'll never be a favourite, but I do admire the skill with which it's written. You have a long run of seemingly inconsequential one and two part stories then, suddenly, you realise that a whole load of characters and storylines have been pulled together out of that mass. It's very well done.

    I also like his Abnett's penchant for wordplay.

    By Blogger Peter, at 9:20 pm  

  • Peter, I reacted so badly to him first time around that Abnett's feeling like a new writer to me now. I've yet to see the really clever side of S&D yet.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 5:34 pm  

  • "Abnett doesn’t have the same subversive instincts that the strongest 2000 AD script robots have traditionally had."

    Abnett always struck me as a Marvel UK writer, not a 2KAD writer. One of them, not one of us.

    By Blogger Pete Ashton, at 4:20 am  

  • I think that's how I felt about his stuff but, on revisiting, his work is better than I remember it being.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 6:01 pm  

  • Now I think about it, I always knew him as an editor - Marvel UK and then Toxic IIRC. So my prejudice was probably "editor thinks he can write, eh?"

    Completely unfounded, I'm sure.

    By Blogger Pete Ashton, at 12:46 am  

  • I think he had been around for a while before working for 2000 AD, like yo say, for Marvel UK and what not.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 5:41 pm  

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