Friday, May 1, 2015

The 2000AD post

If you've read any of my articles lately, you will know that I have something of an affinity for comic book anti-hero Judge Dredd, lawman of the future – he of the big shoulder pads, gravelly voice and awesome gun that fires a variety of useful projectiles for any and every occasion.

This affinity stems from my youth when, as an impressionable teen, I was introduced to the cult sci-fi comic 2000AD by my trendy cousin from London. I'd never seen anything like it before and was immediately hooked. A weekly collection of mostly serialised stories, 2000AD came onto the comic scene in 1970s Britain against the sci-fi obsessions of the time such as Star Wars and Star Trek. Many of the stories within the comic were pretty violent for the time and also contained huge doses of satire, usually with an undercurrent of social commentary.

To a pre-teen kid, this was exciting and captivating. I don't think sci-fi during the 80s was given much respect, especially in the cinema and TV – mainly because the expectations of special effects and the like were far higher than the current technology could allow. Comics, however, were limitless in their scope and could accommodate 22nd century cops fighting robot armies as well as mutant bounty hunters rescuing a time-traveling Ronald Reagan. Writers' and artists' imaginations ran riot across the pages and it was a sight to behold.

The thing I loved about 2000AD was its distinct British-ness. Even though a lot of the stories centred around American characters or locations, there was still heavy doses of wry British humor and wit. Some aspects of the comic were quirky or quaint (like giving all the 2000AD staff robot personas and monicas), but never unbearably cheesy. For some strange reason, I never bothered with American comics. All those superheroes in Lycra with secret identities seemed unoriginal to me. Give me a gang of anarchic robots fighting against oppressive humans any day. Even when 2000AD tackled the subject of superheroes, they put a unique spin on the genre (see Zenith) that others wouldn't have attempted. I would devour any 2000AD associated material – mostly reprints in 2000AD monthly, but also monthly US-format collections as well.

Apart from my London cuz, none of my friends got into 2000AD like me, which was a shame because I would have loved to have had someone to share my comic experience with. Some of the stories were so good, I would read each episode over and over, pining for next week's installment (which seemed so far away!). It also meant I kept fairly quiet about my comic collection. Back then, being a geek wasn't cool. In fact, geek didn't really exist as a label where I lived. Nerd, maybe. Or just saddo. I kept myself to myself in this regard and devoured the latest Dredd story in private.

My little brother, eager to copy his older sibling, read the Eagle comic which I think had been revived in the 80s to try and emulate some of 2000AD's success. Eagle was born in the 50s and is best known for being home to 'Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future'. I'm sure it is remembered fondly by those a few decades older than myself. The stories I read, however, never quite had the sophistication or frisson I was used to with 2000AD so I never bothered with it, which is a shame really because I had a deep respect for the old timer - Eagle paved the way for the likes of 2000AD, Tornado and Starlord all of which made a brief but significant impact on kids reading comics during the 70s and 80s.

Sadly, 2000AD is the lone survivor of those days and seems to be the only equivalent we have to DC and Marvel. I think this is a shame because the downside of the US comics is the whole 'universe' mentality where all the characters pretty much exist within one reality. This is fun for crossovers and stuff, but can cause all sorts of headaches when it comes to timelines, continuity etc. Why can't characters just live in their own universes and be done with it? I'll tell you why - money. Crossovers is a good way of churning out the same old stuff but with different characters and keeping fans locked in. The Marvel movies have done a pretty good job of doing this - even managing to hook people in enough to watch obscure titles that no-one had ever heard of (Guardians of the Galaxy, anyone?).

What I think is interesting is that 2000AD has been known as a launch pad for a lot of artists and writers who have gone on to work on American comics: Alan Grant (Dredd, Batman), D'Israeli (Judge Dredd, Leviathan, Batman), Frank Quitely (Dredd, X-Men), Steve Dillon (Rogue Trooper, Dredd, Preacher), Jock (Dredd, Batman), Garth Ennis (Dredd, Preacher) to name but a few. It's kind of a shame because it means artists 'move on' to the big American publishers (not always, though), but it shows how well 2000AD is at picking great talent.

Still, 2000AD has always been the little British rebellious upstart that refuses to play by the rules, and I applaud that. A full-length documentary all about the comic is being produced and you can see a trailer for it here (warning: NSFW for language):

It seems the producers are trying to find a distributor or something, so at the moment you can't watch it, but it looks like a great doc. Here's the production website:

2000AD may not have a string of blockbuster movies to its name. It may not be as well-known internationally - but at least it's original.

And sometimes that's all that matters.

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