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2000 AD Prog Slog

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Prog 1045 03/06/97

Nikolai Dante is a thief and a brigand who, a few episodes in, is bonded to the bio-crest, a sort of computer weapon thingumy, that apparently proves he is a son of the Romanov dynasty. I didn’t like this thrill first time around but I imagine, thanks to enjoying it for The Slog, this is because of my overall indifference to 2000 AD at this time. If I couldn’t follow a story, usually because there was a week between episodes, I could no longer be bothered to work at following it, and I suppose Nikolai Dante was a victim of that.

Simon Fraser’s art is very good. It has a wonderful, flick of the wrist flare to it that I really like. Some sequences are brilliantly naturalistically told. Nikolai Dante is also the first Robbie Morrison strip that I’ve liked. Previously he’s worked mainly for The Megazine and I’ve found his strips there convoluted. Here, his creation is accessible with a highly likable lead.

One of the problems I had first time with Nikolai Dante remains however and that is, is 2000 AD really the right place for something like this? The strip is packed with sexual innuendos, most of them unsubtle. In recent episodes for example, Dante fights a shape changer who, for several pages, looks like a giant vagina with tentacles and pointy teeth. In a way, this creature says everything about the poorly developed sexual psyche that the comic is trying to appeal to these days. The suggestion that Nikolai Dante is the antidote to more traditionally uptight characters such as Judge Dredd is a misunderstanding of the nature of the comic. At one time, 2000 AD seemed like an antidote itself to magazine like Epic Illustrated and Heavy Metal. These were science fiction and fantasy magazines that, if you were lucky, featured pages and pages of beautifully drawn, big titted, round arsed women for boys of a certain age too embarrassed to buy Men Only. The presence of Nikolai Dante suggests that the creators of Dredd have never been aware of the absence of sex from from the thrill where as I would say that that’s one of the main points of it. Nikolai Dante doesn’t fill a vacuum left by the other strips, like Dredd, in the comic. Instead, it goes to the place that during 2000 AD’s early years it avoided going to for a reason and in doing so helped to make it the success it became.

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10 Comments:

  • Yeah, I know what you mean, but I also don't think 2000AD should be in denial of who it's readership is. Its readership is, by and large the same guys who were reading it as 5-13 year-olds in 1977, only now we're much older. When the readership get scandalised by cursing or nudity in 2000AD, it's usually a bunch of old men hankering nostalgically for the comic of their childhood, rather than a more reasoned or thought-out reaction.

    By Blogger Mark, at 8:06 pm  

  • I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have made that typo sober.

    By Blogger Mark, at 8:07 pm  

  • Hmmm, interesting point, but as one of those who gets off put by the T&A and occasionally the swearing, it actually doesn't bother me when it's used in context, rather than when its just there to appeal to the stereotypical "comic book guy".

    Don't get me wrong, im no puritan and have frequented many fetish clubs over the UK in my youth, so not much shocks me, but the way boobs and swearing came over to me in later progs was very juvenille.

    Yup, the mag needed to grow up, but perhaps stayed too long in adolecence for my tastes.

    I was definately a Mega-zine Chap at this stage.

    all very subjective stuff though and reminds me that 2000ad was produced especially for "me".

    rgds

    LoK

    By Blogger OrLoK, at 8:59 pm  

  • opps! i ment wasn't made just for me...

    scuse typo.

    Lok

    By Blogger OrLoK, at 9:00 pm  

  • For me the thing is that 2000ad isn't in its early years by this point. It has changed and moved on as has the people who typically buy it.

    It may seem that 2000ad was once an antidote to the tits and ass sci-fi comics out there but was that an intent, or rather a function of its origins as a kids comic?

    As OrLoK says as long as the smut serves the character and the story who cares. In Dante's case it certainly does and as the story progresses the smut actually serves a very stark and real purpose as the character goes through some incredible growth. Admittedly that assessment is gained with the benefit of hindsight but even it getting there I don't think Dante is an example of tits and ass for tits and ass sake. There are examples of that in the comic, just don't think this is one of them.

    As so the female characters in Dante, the reoccuring one's have a great diversity and don't suffer from being blokes with tits as many (not all) of 2000ad's female characters have done.

    By Blogger Colin, at 8:35 am  

  • "... a bunch of old men hankering nostalgically for the comic of their childhood, rather than a more reasoned or thought-out reaction."

    Now now, I think that's a little unfair! I'll own to being an old man, fair cop, but God knows this is a topic I've mulled and cogitated (or "codger-tated", ho ho!) for a decade or more. There's certainly an element of nostalgia, there's no shame in that (when did it become a dirty word?) but for me the 2000AD of this period is like Winnie the Pooh skateboarding or that Bugs Bunny extreme make over of a few years back.

    2000AD followed its readers past the 15-16 year old cut off, whereas a more traditional approach (ie, from the sixties and seventies) would have stuck to its formula and relied on another generation coming in from the bottom. 2000AD left the eight to twelve year olds to themselves.

    The fact that it's still going would suggest that this was the right direction for the comic to go, but I feel that in throwing off the shackles of kiddy-friendliness a degree of sly wit was lost in favour of in-yer-face shock. I suppose in the olden days, the creative failures were those that fell back on cosy kiddy-fare, but I have to say I find that preferable to the shouty tits'n'blood emptiness that characterised the poorer strips in this era (and there's clearly still some good work being done - my mate lent all the Sinister Dexter collections and I felt that managed to combine the old and new in a very appealing way).

    I think the problem us fusty grey beards have is that despite the name on the masthead, it doesn't really have much relationship with the qualities we associate with 2000AD. In our day the tone was avuncular; now its more fraternal, I suppose.

    On its relationship to other comics, I don't think it was ever an antidote to t'n'a sci fi comics - I don't think they had much currency among the readership of the first decade of 2000AD. 2000AD was born out of the context of UK boys comics, not Heavy Metal or Epic! By the time 2000AD began to change (to stick to nuetral terms!) Epics was long gone and Heavy Metal was a quarterly and also a shadow of its former self. (At the time I was reading 2000AD first time around, my older bro was reading Heavy Metal, so I got to read both. Subsequently I can now be bitter about both. Yay for me!)

    Man, one comment and I can't stop! Volcanic logorrhea here we come!

    By Blogger Patrick Hudson, at 10:07 am  

  • Some interesting thoughts here. While dante is a completely different character than dredd, i see him more as an antidote to the grim and gritty feeling of 90s comics in general than dredd himself. A lot of these comics seemed to be filled with super powered beings who went from one depressing adventure as another whereas there seemed to be a genuing sense of fun to dante from the get go. The next part of the serial really adds some depth to both dante and his world which is what helped cement it as my favourite thrills ever. This is an example of one of bishop's better judgement calls as he ordered the extra 8 parts to really help in the long run.

    By Blogger kennyevil, at 11:40 am  

  • Hello everyone. Thanks for your comments. I've had a couple of pints so this should be interesting.

    Mark, you have a point, and it's one I have always imagined myself elaborating on in later entries. Sorry if this seems like a fob off.

    OtLok, all of the T&A, and I was talking about it in general in 2000 AD at this time, not specifically in Dante, is so juvenile it's embarrassing. I think this is what I was trying to express.

    Colin, when I was talking about 2000 AD as an antidote to Epic and HM, I was talking about how it felt to me at times. I always felt it was a good place for it to avoid going to. Please don't feel you have to defend Dante anymore - I'm really enjoying it at the moment.

    Hi Patrick, thanks for commenting. Epic and HM were at times great and I still have a couple of issues in the cupboard... for the comic work and not just for those lonely nights. I totally agree with you regarding 2000 AD's aging being a mistake. It's become a comic old Squaxx of my age can't trust to buy for their own ten year old sons (if I had one). It's a father to son thing that the Beano has relied upon for decades. I hope to talk more about this in later entries, if the opportunity arises.

    Chris, you're probably right. As I say, I am enjoying Dante this time around. It's very good. I just feel that it's a good example of several recent thrills that have gone to a place that I wonder if they should have. Maybe I should have used a less popular strip as a springboard.

    Thanks everyone. Sorry for the single comment. I’m off to drink more booze :-)

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 6:15 pm  

  • I dunno if it's a mistake exactly - 2000AD is still publishing, after all, and in pretty good shape compared to many of it's contemporaries. But it's a clear change of focus and mission that gives it a very different feel from the one we grew up with.

    Crisis and Revolver were earlier attempts to create this more adult-focused magazine, but they didn't endure and I think 2000AD benefits greatly from the strength of the brand established in the peak era. I think the lack of competitors on the shelves demonstrates the market's appetite is less for adult-oriented comics in general than it is for 2000AD in particular.

    By the by, I was pondering the question of why the reprints of classic scripts aren't marketed more agressively at kids. They're all tucked away in the rather mysterious "graphic novels" section of the bookshop (next to Persepolis and From Hell,eg). You never see them stacked with Harry Potter or Percy Thingummy and Lightning Watchamacallit. AAMOF, the whole "graphic novel" section in the bookshop's a bit of an odd mix!

    By Blogger Patrick Hudson, at 12:38 pm  

  • Good point. I don't suppose the re-aging is a mistake as 2000 AD is still being published. The GN section in bookshops is a whole other matter. Only Tin Tin and Asterix seem to escape it.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 5:48 pm  

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