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2000 AD Prog Slog

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Prog 1068 11/11/97

I’m in two minds about A Life Less Ordinary appearing in 2000 AD. On the one hand it really does seem to be faddish and inappropriate. It’s faddish because it looks like an attempt by Tharg, let’s call him David Bishop, to cash in on the popularity of Trainspotting by adapting its less memorable and successful successor. Inappropriate because this is supposed to be a science fiction and fantasy comic, categories which neither A Life Less Ordinary or Trainspotting fit into.

On the other hand, 2000 AD has adapted other media successfully before, The Stainless Steel Rat being an example, and thanks to the appearance of angels in the story I suppose there is a slight fantastical element to A Life Less Ordinary that makes it appropriate. It’s always great to see Steve Yeowell’s artwork and story telling skills while the un-credited scripted adaptation, co-written by David Bishop, let’s call him Tharg, is actually well done. On top of this, for all I know, because the strip is also supposed to be appearing on the movie website at the time, this might be an early and worthwhile experiment in mutual internet cross-promotion. Finally, I’ve never seen the film but, at the end of the day, I’m enjoying the comic strip version, which is good enough, right.

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Friday, February 26, 2010

Prog 1066 28/10/97

Groan. It’s the prog of no return; The prog that jumps the shark; The Sex Issue. Urgh. Even Tharg is ashamed of the whole thing as he hands most of his editorial over to Bish-OP. Although, Bish-OP is Tharg so why he would feel the need to do such thing, I don’t now. Perhaps Bish-OP knows he’s taking a risk with this issue and wants to manfully take responsibility for it should reaction be bad. However, I can’t help wondering if he sincerely expects it to be a raging success and wants to ensure full credit for it.

So, we get Judge Dredd in Attack of the Sex-Crazed Love Dolls which, actually, with a bit of tweaking could have appeared in a non-sex issue, Sinister Dexter in The Mating Game, more about courting than full on sex and A Life Less Ordinary in a business as usual, sex free episode. Space Girls appear in their final episode of this run in Bazzajan Quitly’s A – Z of Bizarre Sex. It isn’t just this issue in which this thrill has been lewd so for me to say recently that Space Girls could have appeared in a kiddie version of 2000 AD was really rather stupid of me. I’m glad it’s over and I hope it never comes back. The only thrill to provide anything that could be construed as only being appropriate with this prog’s theme is Nikolai Dante. Beautifully drawn by ‘Spaceboy’ (aka Chris Weston, perhaps even more ashamed than Tharg), Dante ends his story complaining of stubble burns after making love to a woman with a long beard. Now, ladies, maybe you can confirm something to me; I thought you only got stubble burn if your partner has gone a day or two without shaving and not once the beard has grown soft. But then, what do I know about sex.

It’s the cover stamp, ‘not for sale to children’ which makes the real statement this issue. There really is no going back from this point on as the semi-erect penis from a 2007 prog demonstrates. 2000 AD doesn’t appeal to grown ups as it imagines itself to. Instead it’s aimed at a narrow corridor of an age range; somewhere between fifteen and eighteen years old. As good as 2000 AD might be in 2010, the long term fall out of this period of the comic is a publication that doesn’t appeal to a casual adult customer and can’t be trusted to be appropriate for the ten year old sons of old Squaxx Dek Thargoes.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Prog 1062 30/09/97

There it is, running across the cover above the logo for the entire world to see, should it choose to look, all the evidence we need. ‘2000 AD… Forever sinewy, pert and sexy – Loaded’. So, all of that hard work courting Loaded Magazine has at last paid off. It’s a shame that Loaded has past its peak by this time and is on the descent.

There’s nothing quite like a re-launch prog blah blah blah. This time we get a double-sized helping of Judge Dredd drawn by the continuously improving Alex Ronald, another dry Vector 13, a Sinister Dexter painted by the excellent Paul Johnson and, dare I believe my eyes, a strip called Space Girls?!

I’m not entirely sure what the thinking is behind commissioning a strip designed to exploit the popularity of girl group The Spice Girls in 2000 AD. We’ve established already that the comic is now aimed at ‘grown-ups’ so what is Tharg doing trying to appeal to twelve year old girls? It feels a bit like grooming to me. Besides, haven’t The Spice Girls already passed their peak of success with Geri Halliwell due to leave the group in just eight months time?

At the time, I remember seeing this prog’s cover in the newsagent and thinking how glad I was to not be buying 2000 AD anymore. But actually, if it were still an all ages comic, Space Girls would be a nice bit of pop fun. Writer John Tomlinson, always professional, manages to capture the flirty energy that the actual Spice Girls generated while Jason Brashill’s fast art style adds further momentum.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Prog 1061 23/09/97

Sinister Dexter Murder 101 ends this prog with a double sized episode. Once again, it’s all been painted by the prolific SB Davis. Increasingly, I find myself mystified as to why some characters are painted with pale blue faces. It’s a skin tone that Davis seems to have applied to random characters that makes no sense to me at all. Murder 101 hasn’t been as good as previous Sinister Dexter stories as far as I’m concerned. It’s lacked the same rhythm of earlier tales, outstayed its welcome when it could have all been finished in eight episodes and Dan Abnett’s Americanisms have really irritated me. For example, last episode, one of the characters says, “do the math”. Apart from this being annoying to any intelligent person English or American, it’s especially irritating to read in a British comic in a strip supposedly set in a Europe sized city. It’s “do the maths”, with an S in the end!

Also outstaying its welcome is Anderson PSI Division Crusade. All of Mega City One’s children have wandered out into the Cursed Earth thanks to the lure of a powerful and seemingly kindly mutant. Because Alan Grant has decided to be lyrical with this idea, Crusade has become another story that could have been done in eight episodes. Children giving up on adults is an intriguing idea and had Grant decided to get us amongst the crowd and expose us to some of the kids instead of keeping a wishy-washy distance it might have been a more fulfilling story.

Also finishing this prog is the first run of Witch World. Co-created and written by Gordon Rennie, the writer responsible for one of the few successful Megazine strips not to feature Judge Dredd, The Missionary Man, this is his first major project for 2000 AD. Tharg has decided to use a rotating team of artists, a tactic that proved successful for Vector 13 and Sinister Dexter, but hasn’t helped here. Maybe because of its fantasy tone, its changing environments, the vagaries of the characters and the mystical monsters, more than just one or two artists makes it feel inconsistent, even if they’re all masters of their art such as John Burns and Will Simpson. Witch World is due to return, so hopefully it will hook me next time, but at the moment, I feel it to be an honourable failure.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Prog 1059 09/09/97

Item: Well, The Slog is entering an all new era as I now encounter a run of progs that I’ve never read before. It means that, on the whole, it may be harder for me to contextualise them and I may now experience them in their own right. Whatever, I also have only just over three more months before The Slog is all over and then I’m FREE! Free, to read what I want, any ol’ time.

Item: Check out this ad for 2000 AD’s subscription service from this prog. Wha ha ha ha ha ha haa! Oh ho ho ho ho ho ho ho! A ha ha ha ha ha ha! Oh, Durham Red, what happened to you?

Item: I Was a Teenage Tax Consultant, by the mighty, old school team of John Wagner and Ian Gibson, finishes this prog. Jimmy Root is a young, motorbike repair man who, after being bitten by a rabid tax consultant one night, turns into one himself every full moon. I’ve been told that this thrill was original commissioned for elsewhere although it’s hard to imagine where. Perhaps it was drawn for the old shaped 2000 AD, as the entire series has appeared with a top banner running above each page to make it fit the current format.

Tharg, let’s call him David Bishop, has been describing this thrill as ‘bizarre’ and he’s correct. It’s not really sat right with me from the start, as if it’s an idea that Wagner should have lived with for longer, giving it the opportunity to evolve into something more… accessible. That’s not to say that it hasn’t been entertaining, but I’m glad that it hasn’t run for more than its sixty pages either.

Gibson’s art has been amazing on this one. We don’t see much of his work around the Nerve Centre these days. It’s probably some of the most beautiful work that he’s produced. My only criticism is that I’ve often found it difficult to work out what era the strip is supposed to be set in because of it. Sometimes I’ve felt Tax Consultant to be a satire the portrayal of fifties teenagers, other times I’ve wondered if it’s set in the seventies thanks to the gangs of bikers, and other times today (1997). I’m not saying that his artwork looks old fashioned but that this muddying of the time periods has only helped to make the strip seem even odder.

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Prog 1057 26/08/97

I think that this is the one. It might have been last prog or the next but I think it was this one. The last regular prog I ever bought. The one that broke a previously unbroken thirteen and a half year run. I don’t really know what happened. I think one Wednesday, instead of stopping off at the newsagent in the morning, I went straight to work and that was that.

Like I’ve said before, it wasn’t one thing that eventually drove me away; it was more a death by ice. There isn’t anything particularly memorably bad in this prog. Tharg, once again, opens his editorial by describing 2000 AD as a ‘fusion of science fiction and fantasy.’ (How many months has this been happening for now?) There’s another fatty contest in Judge Dredd. PSI Judge Anderson is still moaning about the children. ‘But what about the children?’ I don’t think I was even reading Witch World and Sinister Dexter (sorry, guys). In fact, I think I had been skipping thrills, such as Nikolai Dante, for months by this point.

I can’t really blame editor David Bishop entirely for this either. 2000 AD has been on the slide for ten years nearly, around the time John Wagner and Alan Grant split up, strips started being commissioned for girls and Harlem Heroes got rebooted. Before, to me, it was vital and defied expectations. Defying expectations when you’re a weekly comic printed on cheap news paper costing only 20p is easy but surpassing them by as far as 2000 AD did is extraordinary. What happened with 2000 AD is that its vitality waned away so that, in the end, even normally reliable creators seemed to be stuck in a funk. The longer this went on for, the more likely each successive editor was going to be informed by the pale imitation as well as its former self. By the time Bishop became editor, he had just as much below par 2000 AD guiding him as the good stuff.

All of the strips in this prog are okay. Judge Dredd’s Fast Food is a touching fatty story; Sinister Dexter a buddy farce; Witch World an intriguing fantasy; I Was a Teenage Tax Consultant a bizarre romp and Anderson PSI Division a colourful tale. But many of the ingredients that made 2000 AD a success to me, such as its self-deprecating wit, its hyper imagination, its sense of a whole, its vitality and its surpassing of expectations, are no longer present. Bishop, more so than any other Tharg before him, put himself forward to the loyal Squaxx as a provocative personality and it seemed clear to me that under his editorship, there was absolutely no chance of any of those qualities I missed ever returning. My only shame is, really, I should probably have stopped buying the comic ten years earlier.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Prog 1055 12/08/97

Item: In the entry for prog 1050, I mistakenly claimed that Mercy Heights was co-created by artist Greg Staples when, actually, it was by Kevin Walker. Despite this error, I think my stupid point remains valid, right?

Item: In this prog, a series of difficult to decipher images of 2000 AD characters in attendance at the 1997 Tribal Gathering festival start to be serialised on the back cover. The first, appearing over two weeks, features the ABC Warriors raving and 3-in-1-oiling their bolts off in a painting by Jason Brashill. The next, by Dermot Power and appearing over four progs, features Ukko the Dwarf smoking a great big spliff. I went to this Tribal Gathering festival and let me tell you something, if you smoked a spliff their as large and as openly as Ukko seems to be, the organisers would have wasted no time in escorting you out of the event. Besides, isn’t more in character for Ukko to be pick-pocketing all of the spaced out ravers?

Tharg has made several mentions over the last few progs about how 2000 AD has a presence at the festival. What I want to know is, why? What is editorial, let’s call it David Bishop, thinking organising an out-reach stand at an event like this when it could be doing a similar thing at book festivals, schools and children’s day at the Milton Keynes Bowl. I know the answer to that question. 2000 AD readers are older now but not that old that it doesn’t worry about if people think it’s cool or not. Of course, what might have happened is, a bunch of artists who didn’t want to pay to get in to the event got together at talked Bishop, I mean Tharg, into exhibiting there.

I popped by the stand for a few minutes and I found the experience disconcerting. It might have been because I was feeling self conscious because I had just got my nose pierced at a stand around the corner. (My friends and I were one-upping each other with what we were getting done to ourselves. Fortunately, we were straight enough to stop shortly after my nose and not get anything daft done like a facial tattoo). It might have been because many of those in attendance, who may or may not have been creator robots, looked very much like Harry Enfield in Kevin and Perry Go Large; slightly too old for their clothes. Whatever, it was a blip in an otherwise very enjoyable day and night which, in my case, had the opposing affect to its intention on me as a long time consumer of their comic because, very shortly afterwards, I stopped buying it altogether.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Prog 1053 29/07/97

Item: In Judge Dredd one off, Holiday Special, judges trace of an illegal narcotic from its arrival in Mega City One, to its selling and distribution, all the way to its actual users. It’s only at the end of the story, after everyone in the chain has been arrested, we learn that the narcotic is cigarettes and not coffee or sugar as John Wagner has used in this type of story before.

Maybe Wagner isn’t exactly repeating himself. Maybe he’s appalled at the number of adult readers of 2000 AD (we’re mostly adults at this time, right) who smoke. He wrote that story in the seventies where we learned that Mega City citizens are only allowed to smoke in the smoketorium and now, twenty years later, all grown up, we’ve forgotten that tale and are puffing away like fools. Maybe Wagner’s using this classic story to express to us that smoking is actual drug addiction and in a society that criminalises it cigarettes would be smuggled into it in a similar way that heroin arrives in ours today.

Either that or he is just repeating himself, which he is allowed to do considering how many damn fine and original Judge Dredd stories he has told.

Item: As you know, the average Squxx dek Thargo is older these days and it’s unsettling to me seeing the comic trying to deal with this statistic. Is the average age higher because 2000 AD’s content is aimed now at older readers, or would the readership still be older had the comic continued to principally be aimed at smart twelve year old boys as it was during its first decade? Is chucking a few bums, tits and vagina monsters into your story enough to recognise the maturing of your readership or is it off putting to them?

The idea I’ve had that long term creators who remember the good ol’ days would continue to produce work suitable for that first decade is disproved by John Wagner and Ian Gibson in their current thrill I Was a Teenage Tax Consultant. In last issue’s episode, Jimmy Root returns to a party the morning after the night before and enters a room full of attendees, greasy bikers and sexy young women, unconscious with, in general, their tops off. In this prog, he goes skinny dipping with his girlfriend.

Look, I know to some of you that this subject makes me look like a prude or an old man unwilling to accept that his favourite comic has changed but if 2000 AD is now more mature then some bums, tits and vagina monsters aren’t enough for it to be grown up. If we’re all adults now then why isn’t Tharg commissioning work by, off the top of my head, Los Bros Hernandez or serialising From Hell, for example? Why isn’t he doing a proper job of it?

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Prog 1050 08/07/97

Item: I must have been doing The Slog for a long time now as, increasingly, I’m dry on what to say in these entries. So, thank God it’s a re-launch prog. There’s nothing quite like a re-launch prog although increasingly these days there is. (And I feel as if I’ve already said that at least once recently). It’s now standard practise for a re-launch prog to feature just four thrills and for the slack to be taken up with status pages and ads. Thing is, I don’t really have an opinion as to weather this is something to be annoyed about or if it’s perfectly understandable in the circumstances.

Item: At the moment, Greg Staples seems to be one of Tharg’s favourites. Recently he co-created Mercy Heights and for this prog he’s credited as co-creator of Witch World whereas in fact he’s not drawing Witch World at all but off gallivanting all over this week’s Judge Dredd strip. I wonder if the chance to pitch thrill ideas to the editor is part of Staples and Tharg’s special relationship or if it’s something that’s open to all art droids. I know if I was a script droid, the prospect of Tharg telling me I have to write another thrill created by his current hot artist who isn’t even going to draw it would irritate the hell out of me.

Item: I’ll write a better entry next time.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Prog 1049 01/07/97

Anderson PSI Division is back in the weekly after years away in The Megazine and like every other woman in the comic these days, she wastes no time in showing off her underwear. In Wonderwall, Anderson finds a homeless girl who has been exposed to such awful abuse that she has to take a trip into her head to save her mind. Rather tediously, she encounters the characters from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, partly for some meaningful reason but mainly because they’re out of copyright and in the public domain.

Actually, it’s really nice to see both the thrill and Alan Grant back. Grant has so totally made Anderson his own that it’s very difficult to imagine anyone else ever successfully writing the strip, even John Wagner. My old acquaintance, Steve Sampson, paints it, and it looks great. His artwork is colourful, clear, easy to follow, accessible and improves with each new strip he does.

So why a cover like this one, commissioned, I imagine, by the editor, let’s call him David Bishop, and painted by the popular Dermot Power, is used to mark the character’s return seems utterly idiotic to me. My first reaction is that it’s a tacky attempt to appeal to readers of Loaded Magazine. Then I think how out of spirit those knickers are. I thought it had been established long ago that Judge’s wear designated underwear. The men wear boxer shorts with big red spots on , so it seems reasonable that the female Judges would wear underwear that is equally contrasting and therefore amusing. Then I think, Judge Dredd has aged in real time in his strip, so hasn’t Anderson as well? Aren’t the frillies and the upper buttocks of a middle-aged woman the last thing we want to see? Then I think, is it appropriate for the lead character in a story about organised child abuse to be sexualised in this adolescent way? It isn’t enough for me that the strips in this era of the comic are quite good if the overall voice of 2000 AD is inconsistent, confused and often idiotic.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Prog 1047 17/06/97

Further to my last entry, it’s not just Nikolai Dante that the adolescent sexual preoccupation I talked about is present; I just thought that this thrill was just a good springboard onto the subject. For example, the latest episode of Slaine The Grail War opens with a large panel of a giant woman exposing her arse to a bunch of worshipers. Naked shapely women are becoming increasingly common place in Slaine, often as an offer of what awaits the Goddess’ bravest soldiers in the afterlife.

In Slaine The Grail War, Slaine and Ukko join Simon De Monfort in his crusade against The Cathers in Southern France. The Cathers seem to be the forerunners to Judge Death believing, as they do, that life is Hell and the only way to escape it is by dying.

The Grail War might have been just another Slaine story if it wasn’t for the discovery that De Monfort is Niamh, his eternal love, reincarnated. Seeing the two mighty warriors react to the discovery like a pair of uptight rugby players in a changing room has been quite amusing in a strip where the main character has been a bit of a Goddess bore recently. De Monforte and Slaine‘s attraction is proving to be an interesting narrative that I find myself hoping sees the two of them get together by the end of, whatever genders they are.

Steve Tapper is the robot who provides the fully painted artwork. Tapper is a perfectly competent artist, who might not have the surface appeal of the likes of Simon Bisley and Dermot Power, but paints as a strong story teller and for reproduction. I would like to see him on Slaine more often, I think.

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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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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

prog 1043 20/05/97

A Judge Dredd trip out into the Cursed Earth is always worthwhile and The Hotdog Run is no exception. Dredd and Demarco lead a party of cadets across the irradiated wasteland in a test of their abilities that will either make or break them. Eleven episodes in, near to the end I believe, and so far they’ve encountered a town of cannibals, been thrown back through time to the day that the Atomic Wars started and hung out with a tribe of spider worshipers.

What makes the thrust of this John Wagner story so interesting is that it’s the first time we’ve seen a group of cadets dynamic be more representative of their age closer in the foreground. Previously, cadets have always surprised us because of their indoctrinated maturity. Here, they find mutant girls desirable or tease each other because of their nationality. It stops short of them worrying about spots, though.

The overall story has been subdivided into shorter runs drawn by different art robots all of whom are great. Sean Philips, Trevor Hairshine, Calum Alexander Watt and, my current favourite Dredd artist, Henry Flint.

Also nearing its end is another John Wagner thrill, Al’s Baby Public Enemy No. 1. Previously, Al’s Baby stories have appeared in The Megazine and it’s the first time it’s appeared in 2000 AD. In it, once again Al is pregnant. He’s also on the run from the mob and the law disguised as a woman. It’s whilst in hiding that Al becomes the focus of the over privileged and always persistent Rear Admiral Dagwood’s amorous advances.

Public Enemy No. 1 isn’t quite a sequel too far but it does feel like it’s a good place to stop. Apart from apparently forgetting to write in the character’s eldest child there have also been sections of the story that feel as they’re missing. A significant chunk of Al’s pregnancy has been skipped over altogether for example. Nonetheless, it remains a very entertaining read, especially Dagwood, and Carlos Ezquerra’s art, as always, is superb.

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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Prog 1041 06/05/97

Mercy Heights reaches part 9 this prog. Set aboard a space hospital in a galaxy on the brink of war, Mercy Heights is like a soap opera in a comic where characters are more traditionally inspired by cop dramas, westerns and sword and sorcery. John Tomlinson’s plotting is tight and because there’s only one six paged episode an issue (the standard soap opera rate at this time is four 30 minute episodes a week) the pace is fast.

There’s no time for character subtlety. Lilla Ferro is an abrupt, out spoken woman on who the slightly naïve Leo Kintry has a crush but she’s already dating Stig Lydecker, who is arrogant and obnoxious and also, frustratingly, an exceptional surgeon. Each episode is prefaced by a page long roll call so readers are reacquainted with the cast that they might have forgotten about over the last seven days. Only the character Tor Cyan seems understated but he can afford to be. He’s a blue skinned, Mohawk wearing, grizzly war vet who looks to me like he might be the long, lost Rogue Trooper, if you consider just a few progs of absence long. He’s Rogue Trooper, isn’t he? Go on; tell us he’s Rogue Trooper. It’s been nine weeks now; you must be confirming he’s Rogue Trooper soon. The problem with Tor Cyan is that his very presence undermines the rest of the thrill. I’m waiting for his character to swell and take over the strip and for the rest of the cast to become his support and I’m getting slightly frustrated that it hasn’t happened yet.

Artist Kevin Walker co-created Mercy Heights and drew the first few episodes in his pencil and ink style which I much prefer. I think he’s a great comic artist when he draws this way. Andrew Currie replaced him after only a few weeks and is also doing a strong job. Taking over a strip with a large cast from another artist must be difficult but Currie’s done an excellent job of capturing the character likenesses without missing a step.

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Monday, February 08, 2010

Prog 1039 22/04/97

A relatively shorter Slaine story finishes this prog. In King of Hearts, Slaine aids William Wallace in his final battles against the English before guiding him onto the afterlife. This involves fulfilling Wallace’s painful destiny by having Ukko betray him to the English before Slaine spiritually consoles him as he’s hanged and quartered. (Slaine’s spirit leaves his body and appears next to Wallace as he dangles from the rope. He can do almost anything now. He’s like Superman.)

I like that editorial, let’s call him David Bishop, seem to be working hard at making certain thrills work by enabling and encouraging them to run continuously for many weeks. It’s a good way for characters to win the hearts of readers, I think. Slaine has been running for months now, with no breaks between sagas, and I like that. It makes an enlightened change form stories appearing in fits and starts. Pat Mills writes another fine tale in King of Hearts but ultimately the art lets it down. For most of the episodes, the reproduction of Nick Percival’s fully painted work is dark and murky and difficult to follow. What I find especially annoying about is that this sort of thing has been happening for years now.

ADDITION: At the back of this prog is a two page photo-feature on a recent Oxford Union debate for Comic Relief. Some of Britain’s brightest minds grappled with the question ‘Do blondes have more fun?’ and in attendance were Venus Bluegenes, Durham Red, Page 3 models and soft porn stars.

Two thoughts occur to me. The first is; 2000 AD is now a very different comic to the one I fell in love with. During the seventies and eighties, it felt as if it was aligned to the punk and indie attitudes of the time, both politically and creatively. Now it’s trying to be friends with readers of Loaded Magazine. Well, educated readers of Loaded Magazine. The second is; did many of the attendees even know who Venus Blue Genes and Durham Red are? No offence, but they’re hardly premier league 2000 AD characters are they. I can imagine the majority of attendees being baffled by the woman wandering around in blue body paint.

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Sunday, February 07, 2010

Prog 1037 08/04/97

I can’t remember reading any of the stories currently appearing in 2000 AD which is a bit of a surprise considering I was still buying the comic at this time. I can only assume that it was now a habitual buy. That I would have been reading it but each story would have been going in one eye and out the other. I’m only a few progs away from the final one I bought and I’ve been trying hard to recall the last straw but it seems to have been, in the end, a death by ice. I grew so indifferent to it that I eventually stopped buying it.

What is it about 2000 AD at this time, when actually it’s quite good, with strong art throughout mostly, and when there have been periods in its recent history where the it’s been worse, that failed to keep me hooked? One of the reasons is that it’s post the Dredded movie. I was able to tolerate runs of Harlem Heroes and reprints because 2000 AD still had this sense of potential about it. After the film, it now feels like it’s the morning after the night before and there’s tidying up to do. It’s lost its sense of fun. It’s not as funny as it used to be. It’s taking itself far too seriously.

New thrill Mercy Heights sums up 2000 AD at this time in a way. It’s well written, well drawn, with a sophisticated plot and cast of characters but it’s absolutely impossible to get on board with from episode two. John Wagner stories, Judge Dredd and Al’s Baby, are easy to dip in and out of because at their core, conceptually, they are accessible. It only takes a caption recap to bring anyone who missed last issue up to speed. You can’t do that with Mercy Heights or Nikolai Dante. If you’re buying 2000 AD in a haze, week in, week out, when you eventually snap out of the funk and find it impossible to follow most of the strips it makes the decision to stop buying the comic easier.

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Friday, February 05, 2010

Prog 1034 18/03/97

I might spend a lot of my time here bitchin’ about the current state of 2000 AD and blaming, not always rationally, certain individuals, let’s call them David Bishop, for it’s condition but, let’s face it, this prog’s free gift is probably the best since the MACH 1 ‘bionic’ transfers given away with issue 2 in 1977. This time, we get a copy of 3000 AD, a cover version of the very first 2000 AD programme. It’s like a re-imagining where the conceit is what if the comic had started twenty years later than when it actually did.

So, in Invasion, Britain is invaded by Euro-forces instead of the god damn dirty Volgans (Russians). In Flesh, dinosaurs are farmed by crime cartels because eating meat has been criminalised in by the 22nd centaury. A couple of the thrills don’t work quite so successfully. Hike Harlem Heroes emphasises the sports sponsorship aspect of the strip but, if memory serves me correctly, that’s exactly what the original did occasionally. Dan Dare is simply re-established as being fifty years old. Besides, as good as artist Kevin Walker is, I can’t imagine anyone ever being able to come close to the impact of prog 1’s original centre spread by Messimo Belardinelli.

The most notable strip is BLAIR 1, a re-imagining of MACH 1 as political satire. It’s not necessarily very good satire and, at the time, I remember thinking, Christ, the bloke’s just been voted in; give the guy a chance to fuck up before you start ripping into him. Now, post Blair fuck up and with the benefit of hindsight, I can see that it’s nothing more than a fun collision of ideas. What amazes me most about the strip is that it’s painted by SB Davis. I am impressed by the artist’s apparent page rate. He provides three pages here after only recently finishing eight weeks on Sinister Dexter, six pages of Vector 13 and at least two covers. The man’s a machine!

It’s a shame I think that the front and back covers don’t have artwork on them instead of photographs of this chick from Tron. The logo’s a bit weak and the suspension of disbelief that this might be a comic from the future is destabilised by a page size house ad for the latest issue of The Megazine. As a whole, however, it’s visually impressive and a genuinely great little item.

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Thursday, February 04, 2010

There's No Time Like The Present part 11

Normal Slog service is interrupted today to make you aware the latest issue of my comic, There’s No Time Like The Present. TNTLTP is my long comic strip or ‘graphic novel’ written, drawn and published entirely by me. The latest issue is Part 11, costs £2.50 and, if you order it from my website here, that includes the price of postage to any UK destination.

Although I’ve always known the overall story, I have usually written and drawn There’s No Time Like The Present a scene at a time. However, because of the way it concludes, I recently wrote it up until the very end and I can now confirm that the final issue of the series will be Part 13.

If you’re curious about TNTLTP, then the opening pages can be read online for free starting
here. Also, all previous issues have been kept in print and can be ordered from my shop here.

Thanks for your time. Normal half arsed Slog service returns next entry.

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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Prog 1033 11/03/97

Item: Tharg’s back in the editorial box and it’s like he’s never been away. Really, whoever writes Tharg’s voice pretty much uses the same tone as they did when they wrote the Vector 13 characters. But at least he’s back spiritually, superficially or whatever. Tharg returned last issue in a special episode of Vector 13 written by real editor David Bishop (although credited to ‘MIB’). In it, editorial robot Bish-OP is spared a visit to Mek-Quake by Tharg because all of the upcoming thrills he has commissioned are zarjaz. We’ll see about that, won’t we? Looking at my entry for Prog 1017, it might seem to some of you that I overreacted to him being replaced as he’s only been absent for twenty weeks but you have to remember that, for all I knew, the change was permanent.

Item: There’s nothing quite like a re-launch prog, although the previous owner of the copies currently being used for The Slog didn’t seem to think so. This and the next three issues are still shrink-wrapped with their free gifts. Was the guy I bought this collection off so jaded by 2000 AD at this point that even though he bought it every week he threw it straight into a box without reading it?

This issue comes with a format change. It’s now slightly narrower meaning, I guess, it’s more open to reproduction in the standard US comic format. That doesn’t happen from this point on but I do prefer the taller looking comic. The logo has been tweaked to look less dominating although, so far, Dredd’s name is still absent from it. We do get two Judge Dredd stories as compensation, though.

Item: Mercy Heights starts this prog. This is a thrill that I never got into, I suspect mainly because of my own increased indifference to the comic at this time. It’s going to be interesting over the next few issues to see if I actually like it or not. My intention was to read the opening episode for The Slog and see what I felt about it in its own right. To be honest, I’m not sure. The art is great and the story has a good momentum but there’s a lot of concept and characters to discover that the thrill could have made easier for reader. So, I’m still undecided. Sorry.

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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Prog 1031 25/02/97

The second half of Slaine Treasures of Britain ends this prog with the latest quest completed and King Arthur restored to his former glory. I’ve enjoyed this story more so than other recent Slaine tales. One of the reasons is that Ukko seems to have returned to form. While Slaine strolls around being all serious and self important, Ukko gets into scrapes, not always of his own making, which brighten the proceedings.

Another reason is Dermot Power’s artwork. As you know, I’m not often inclined towards the fully painted art style, but this is because, those artists that use it aren’t always strong story tellers or have over estimated the quality of 2000 AD’s reproduction. Power’s work always looks colourful and well told. He certainly deserves to be more highly regarded.

Another painty artist who has all of the good qualities that Power has but his own very definite style is Paul Johnson, whose run on Janus PSI Faustus also ends this prog. Johnson is another artist I’m surprised isn’t thought more fondly of. There’s dynamism to his work that I’m very fond of. He’s like a painty artist who looks to have been more influenced by silver age comic artists and very early art robots. I love it.

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Monday, February 01, 2010

Prog 1029 11/02/97

Clarification: In my entry yesterday, I said that somebody, possibly editor David Bishop, had chopped up and spliced together Janus PSI Faustus for serialisation in 2000 AD instead of the Megazine which it was created for. I should point out that I don’t know this to be the case. I recently heard a rumour that this was, and the change in flow mid part 3 seems to confirm it, but the truth is I don’t know for certain that this happened.

Sinister Dexter: In Gunshark Vacation, the two hit men for hire are trying to keep a low profile in holiday resort Asbestopol. There, they are working as door men at the club Bawdwalk managed by transsexual Kilopatra. However, their ‘low profile’ means that they have got themselves involved in a feud with local mob-king, Philly O’Fisch. Things take a turn for the worse when they’re reunited with Demi Octava and realise that they’ve been set up by The Czar for one hell of a big hit against them.

Gunshark Vacation is different to previous Sinister Dexter stories in that a significant run of episodes have been painted by the same artist, SB Davis. I like Davis’ art style. It looks like the object he’s painted has gone through various distortions before it reaches the printed page. Like he’s drawn it, photocopied it, printed it onto canvass and then painted over the top of it. Whatever the process, the result is effective and surprisingly humanistic.

I’ve decided that I have absolutely no issues with this strip anymore. When previously I wrote about it here and told you my Dan Abnett anecdote, I think I was looking for something to complain about, to justify my previous reservations. The truth is that Sinister Dexter is a well executed strip that deserves to do as well at it does in the readers’ polls. Here’s to Dan Abnett, SB Davis and editor David Bishop (for running it in the first place). Cheers.

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