I only had time to write about one comic this time. Sorry. But do please feel free to all club together and make me independently wealthy. I’ll probably manage, oooh, three comics then. Gee, thanks for thinking about it, anyway. This time I continue to big up The Home Side by looking at the very latest issue of 2000AD. It might only be one comic, but it’s a fresh ‘un! Hmm, still breathing so it is! JUDGE DREDD by Sexton, Carroll, O’Grady & Parkhouse
Anyway, this. 2000AD Prog 1965 Art by Mark Sexton, Richard Elson, Clint Langley, John Burns, Carlos Ezquerra Written by Michael Carroll, Dan Abnett, Pat Mills, Kek-W, John Wagner Coloured by Len O’Grady Lettered by Annie Parkhouse, Ellie De Ville, Simon Bowland Cover by Cliff Robinson(a) & Dylan Teague(c) JUDGE DREDD created by Carlos Ezquerra & John Wagner KINGDOM created by Richard Elson & Dan Abnett ABC WARRIORS created by Kevin O’Neill, Brendan McCarthy, Mick McMahon & Pat Mills THE ORDER created by John Burns & Kek-W STRONTIUM DOG created by Carlos Ezquerra Rebellion, £2.55, weekly (2016)
You know, it has belatedly occurred to me that I have, characteristically, set off on this whole 2000AD thing more than a little half-cocked. So here are the answers to a few questions I should have probably addressed at the very start of this pointless exercise:
1) It’s all a bit creaky isn’t it? Why don’t they update it? You know, give some characters cancer, or a womb, or both even? Make one into a womb that fires cancers, even? Maybe give them those ridiculous beards Ver Kids are sporting these days? Why? Oh, why? Oh, why, oh why, oh why?
I admit I too was a little surprised and not a little dismayed on my return to the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic, after a hiatus of some 8 years, only to find that just one series was unfamiliar to me (THE ORDER). Truth to tell, it did occur to me to start wailing, gnashing my teeth and rending my garments over the lack of original concepts on show. However, I just couldn’t be bothered. (I suffer from idleitis, a recognised medical condition named by my Mum.) This, for once, was to my advantage. Because in the meantime it occurred to me that at present Marvel©™®’s biggest selling comics (to Retailers) are based on the popular children’s entertainment STAR WARS. Which, despite it currently thrilling the easily thrilled with a fresh instalment in cinemas right now, started off in 1977 as did 2000AD. More than likely 2000AD’s inception was hastened, if not occasioned, by the blockbuster success of the popular children’s entertainment STAR WARS. Both of them were pretty derivative as well. STAR WARS, the popular children’s entertainment, being basically Kurosawa’s HIDDEN FORTRESS (1958) with the dogfight from 633 SQUADRON (1964) bolted on the back. But in space! And with some New Age bum chunder about The Force! (Peter Cushing’s performance is ****ing immaculate, however.) While 2000AD in its rather more vulgar turn smashed and grabbed with abandon from hither and yon to great success, mainly by adding lashings of violence with a topping of topicality. In 2016 the only Force the popular children’s entertainment STAR WARS cares about is that of the market, so while 2000AD might still be trotting out Judge Dredd, ABC Warriors and Strontium Dog it wins, because they are good comics and have progressed within themselves. Basically, until 2000AD gives up the creative ghost completely and just becomes a billion dollar advert for toys and ancillary revenue streams across multiple platforms (UGH!) we’ll let it off. As for DC©™®, their biggest sales (to Retailers) are currently based on Batman, who was created in circa 1938, so they can’t point any fingers either. Sticking a hipster beard on Shaggy isn’t a paradigm shifter, you know, DC©™®. And, yeah, what is it with those beards. The beards on The Kids these days. I mean, seriously, kids. It’s like I woke up one day and I was in Philip K Dick’s THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE; every third youth looks like a U-Boat commander on shore leave. What’s that all about? Sort yourselves out.
2) John, you complacent oaf, you failed to tell us why it is called 200AD in the Year of Our Lord 2016AD. So do that! NOW!
Okay, sure, it might seem odd that the comic is still called 2000AD since it is now 2016AD; so what was once, in 1977, unthinkably futuristic is now quaintly dated. I can assure you though that as the millennium loomed much discussion was had regarding the comic’s name in the letter pages, and several alternatives were indeed considered (2001AD, 2050AD, 3000AD, “Geoffrey”, probably even 2525AD (you know, if man is still alive, if woman can survive)) . In the end they stuck with what everyone knew. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”, we say over here, which is why Britain is a world leader in innovation. Me, I would have gone with 3000AD myself, plenty of future-proofing (ugh!), see, but there you go. No one listens to me. Which is why we don’t live in a Socialist Utopia, and 2000AD is still called 2000AD in 2016AD. In their defence part of the fun of watching something like ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK is admittedly that bit where it comes up with “1997 – NOW!” at the beginning. Also, whenever I visit my parents to remind them why they wish they had remained childless, I always pass this hairdressers called HAIR2000. That’s 16 years out of date as well, and nevertheless there are still women in there getting their rinses blued. (I have always wanted to ring people up for a night out and say “Let’s all meet up at HAIR2000.” But I don’t have any friends; largely because of jokes like that. And the fact I’m a big prick.) I guess the lesson here is: quality of content trumps a name, or 2000AD is such a strong brand that…ugh, sorry I passed out there. Anyway, amusing as I find HAIR2000, it’s not my favourite shop name; I once spotted a dress shop called SOPHIE’S CHOICE. Nice.
3) Is 2000AD really edited by a green alien from Betelgeuse called Tharg The Mighty?
Picture ganked from Down The Tubes
I hope that answers your questions anyway because if it didn’t, tough titty.
Meanwhile…back at the comics.
The pace of JUDGE DREDD (Sexton/Carroll/O’Grady/Parkhouse) continues to resemble my feet after I accompanied my son (“Gil”) and his Cub pack on a walk around Carsington Reservoir – blistering. Following The Set-Up (Ep. 1) and The Big Fight (Ep. 2) episode 3 of Ghosts is the investigative bit; the procedural part if you will. Because, no, contrary to popular misconception Judge Dredd doesn’t typically just ride up and shoot the perp du jour in the face and give with a quip; there’s more to it than that (unless it’s that regrettably dunderheaded Dredd run where Mark Millar and Grant Morrison were in charge). Here we get the bit where Dredd acts like a **** for the Greater Good. Since the Western mind set seems to currently be a trifle crypto-fascist, I should probably point out that we aren’t really supposed to be cheering Dredd on as he psychologically tortures an innocent woman to draw out the wrong ‘uns. Sure, it looks like it’s worked but at what cost; every action has an equal and opposite reaction, as Ray Palmer reminds us in that Godawful DKIII:TMR comic. And I think that’s true morally too. I do. I haven’t got any proof mind, but that’s rarely prevented anyone from voicing their opinion. Anyway, Nietzsche’s just popped in to remind us that “He who fights too long against dragons becomes a dragon himself”. Thanks, Fred. Nice ‘tache! Stay away from piano stools, now! Anyway, in this issue Joe gets a bit scalier and Mark Sexton continues to impress with his balance of detail and clarity; although I think he could make his Dredd a bit more iconic, you know, if I had to whine about something. VERY GOOD!
Now, I’m not saying the events so far in KINGDOM (Elson/Abnett/De Ville) test my patience exactly, but it is a bit like if after The Big Badness your nan wanted a biscuit with her Sour Grass Tea and you went out into The Big Dusty and after a hundred yards came upon a fully operational Fox’s biscuit factory. Massively convenient might be the term. Because it turns out that Gene and his pack have found exactly what they need to outrun the swarm and get back to warn the folks at home. Not only that but only Gene can operate it. Yes, I’d say massively convenient might do it. Which is fine because KINGDOM is just breezy action based larks, so it can get away with massively convenient. Not least because Elson’s art has a detail and a crispness which is never less than impressive. OKAY!
In the letters page there’s a bit of a kerfuffle over Pat Mills, as no less than two of the three letters therein find exception with the fact that Mills’ stories always basically end up being the same, no matter what colourful character fronts them. i.e. an uncouth Rip The System! riff with some clumsy exposition, endearingly silly wordplay and the odd off-colour joke chucked in. As a criticism it’s perfectly valid, and I can certainly see their point. However, it misses the larger point that the burden isn’t on Pat Mills to change the stories he tells, but for society to sort itself out so that Pat Mills no longer has to tell these stories. Come on, Society, pull your finger out and let’s see what Pat Mills has to say when we’ve all stopped ****ing each other over. Until such time I for one am more than happy for Pat Mills’ comics to remain perpetually chanting the lyrics to Soft Cells’ Best Way to Kill. Oh yeah, babies of the beard, raise your voices high, “…like a badge on a blazer at school – TEAR IT OFF!! RIP IT UP!! Stick your two fingers up at the world!” If you want comics about ****ing nothing you’re spoilt for choice, so in the meantime, personally speaking, I’m perfectly happy for Pat Mills and the Warriors to continue to age disgracefully. This week ABC WARRIORS (Langley/Mills/Parkhouse) continues to explore the (REALLY unlikely) idea that The System might exploit the fear of terrorism in order to pursue its own agenda of repression and profit. (Which is just CRAZY TALK!) As fantastical a notion as that is (I mean, AS IF!) it makes for very good fiction. On art Clint Langley manages to make a bunch of robots and wreckage extraordinarily atmospheric and expressive, despite the fact that that must be very difficult to do. And I greatly enjoyed his off-kilter choice to sparsely spot colour the odd bit here and there with a queasy green and a rosy red. VERY GOOD!
Although THE ORDER (Burns/Kek-W/De Ville) is set in the 1580s the odd burst of computer speak blaring out of the mystified face of our fiery headed lead (“10 print john rules ok [RETURN] 20 goto 10 [RETURN]”, he doesn’t say) suggests a futuristic aspect to the strip yet to be clearly revealed. Because I have a mind so finely honed that it would shame a VIC20, I think I have already sussed the twist. The clue is in its dung studded, infrastructure light setting in which squats a scrofulous population of downtrodden paupers, through which privileged fops can cut a swathe, thanks to the heavily armed police acting as their personal militia. Clearly, we are in fact in the future and the year 1580AD is actually 1580 After Dave, because when Tories dream it is this they dream of. And every day that dream comes closer. Or maybe my mind was tip-toeing through its own tulips because the whole thing was a bit generic for me, and the only solid pleasure was seeing what the estimable John Burns did with colour; just a really arresting series of loose washes which sometimes don’t even stay within the lines, and are often quite minimal in their range of shade within a single panel. Yet, always, always he takes pains to mark out the protagonist’s barnet with a blob of red. John Burns is great. Burns, baby, Burns! OKAY!
Okay, I was initially underwhelmed by the ease with which Johnny Alpha and his mutant chums pulled off their heist in STRONTIUM DOG (Ezquerra/Wagner/Bowland). But on reflection since it did depend on the ability to stretch one’s arm like reed Richards’ can only dream it was probably a lot more difficult than it looked. Plus, this is the lulling section of every heist movie. The bit where things get a bit tense but the objective is achieved. PHEW! we all exclaim in relief as Danny Ocean hides inside the guard’s anus with the crown jewels, and is walked safely out of the building to a sloppy but enriching exit. Things start getting interesting after this bit, where in all likelihood we'll get the Strontium Dog equivalent of Andy Garcia jumping out of the guard’s sock and threatening to flush the loo unless the newly excreted Danny Ocean gives him his career back. Or something. I forget; OCEAN'S ELEVEN was okay but I prefer that 2001 David Mamet heist movie. The one with Gene Hackman, Delroy Lindo and Danny DeVito doing a heist. It's a good heist movie. I wish I could remember what it was called, that heist movie. Anyway, STRONTIUM DOG this week is all smooth reading from both script and art, as the old pros Wagner & Ezquerra go back for one more job. Most likely though all the goodwill I felt was down to Kid Knee reappearing, and his being just as endearingly fractious as ever. GOOD!
NEXT TIME: I’ll hopefully look at more than one comic because that’ll mean I can use the plural which is – COMICS!!!