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Tuesday, 20 September 2016

2000AD hits prog 2000

First combined 2000ad Starlord cover
Back in the mists of time (or 1977 as we also called it). Before the video game revolution, before mobile phones, before superhero movies had real special effects.  When Star Wars, was the only Star Wars movie. Something happened in the world of comic book publishing which remains in many ways unique even now. The self-proclaimed Greatest Comic in the Universe was born, and for me at least that is just what it was, or would be when I started reading it 18 months later after the slightly ill-fated Starlord which tried to repeat its success merged with the big boy of British comics.
Starlord, which I had read from the first issue, was perhaps my first flirtation with grief as I mourned its passing. It had gripped me from the first issue, and I had been there at the start. 2000AD, on the other hand, was foisted on me because I wanted to keep reading my favourite strips. I was in truth a little aggrieved by this, (I was also eight years old, the death of my favourite comic loomed large in my psyche). I almost refused to buy the new combined 2000AD featuring Starlord, as it was obvious to me who was the shark here, eating up the little fish.
However, nine-year-olds are fickle with their grieving and 2000AD's editor, (who it was alleged was a green skinned alien from Betelgeuse but was, in fact, Steve MacManus who took over the job just as the two comics merged and did the job for the next 10 years) knew exactly which strips he wanted to keep from the junior partner.
Two of the mainstays of the early years of 2000AD in Strontium Dog a space western and Ro-busters a thunderbird like a disaster team run for profit and staffed by robots started out in Starlord. Over the years they have morphed and changed, and driven by the storytelling 2000AD is famous for they became greater than the original workaday strips which fascinate the eight-year-old me.
Johnny Alpha, Strontium Dogs main character's back story was developed into an epic that looked at racism and fascists through the lens of mutants and the Keelers. Doing that most subversive of things, educating young minds while entertaining them. Much of my own abhorrence of racism and the far right I can trace back to reading 2000AD and the long-running 'Portrait of a Mutant' Not bad for a strip that started bout as a bounty hunter western set in space.
Ro-Busters too took on a flashback story with 'Hammerstein's war memoirs' telling the tale of one of the two star robots, a hammer fisted first generation war droid fight a war for humans, against humans and despised by humans. This further morphed over the years to become the A.B.C. Warriors, a strange mix of the seven samurai (or Mek-nificent seven) and weird techno-sorcery. Once again this opened up a young mind to some strange concept, cross redressing hyper cool sniper Joe Pineapples and techno-sorcery Dreadlock were at once weird and wonderful.
The badge of Judge Hayes
sits proudly on my mantle piece
Thrown into this mix of my two favourites form Starlord were the king of British comic book characters, Joe 'old'stoneface' Dredd. A strip never short of a bit of subversive satire. A Character that has lived long with me since, replacing even Johnny Alpha in my fertile mind as my favourite charcter. Dredds world has always juggled satire and action with hard hitting ideas, but its real power is and always had been in the story telling. Its the charcaters that you encounter that make Dredds universe so compeling.
Copper the grafiti artist, a kid who see no future, so sets out to become the king of the taggers before Dredd pulls him down, comes back a few years down the line as a slky surfer, making a bid to win a highly ilegal race, before escaping to OZ to liev in teh out back befroe he returns to surf once more. Just one of hundreds of charctesr who come and go but draw you into Dredds world.
If you watch the Dredd movie form 2012 (and if you havn't you should) you can see a chopper tag high on the side of one of the blocks. A moment of personal glee when I found it after watching the movie several times .
Image result for 2000ad covers
2000 AD's cast of thousands 
Rogue trooper, Sam Slade, Nickoli Dante, Nemisis the Warlock, Slaine, Halo Jones and dozens of others run through the pages of 2000AD and formed a back drop to my imagination as a child. But more than this grew with me as I go older. 2000AD grew up with its audiance. The simple hard fast action of the late 70's gave way slowly to cleverer more thoughtful strips and the years went by. And with it I grew to look at the world through eyes that looked for layers in story telling.  acme to understand that you could talk about homelessness, depresion, mental health, racisum, sexisum, politics , indeed anything through the lens of science fiction, fantasy or just good stroy telling. A story could be about anything, but you could work other things into it.
Cider lane is at heart a love story, that talks about depression, drug abuse, self harming, bullying, grief and a dozen other 'serious' subjects at the same time. Mostly by not taljking about them directly. Passing Place even more so in some ways covers big subjects like who we are and how we percieve the universe, but does so with a sutle touch ( at least I hope it does).
The point of this all is simple, without 2000AD there would have been no Passing Place, no Cider Lane, no Hannibal Smyth (who your yet to meet) or Maybes Daughter (ditto). Because it was 2000AD as much as anything that taught me about stories. All the authors I later read built upon that fertile foundation it is true but as a linchpin, it was always there.
I stopped reading 2000AD about ten years ago. Not for any reason other than I missed a few issues and never got back to it, before long a habit long formed had slipped away.
But next week there is a landmark, Prog 2000.
The 2000th issue of a comic which way back in 78 when it merged with Starlord in a desperate attempt to salvage something of the two titles looked to be dying.
It's an institution, A great British institution of storytelling at its purest. Satirical, smart witty and wonderful.
Seems a great time to restart my subscription...

#2000AD #prog2000 #Dredd