2000 AD - issue 114
Issue 114 of 2000 AD was published way back on the 26 May, 1979, so why the blazes am I reading it? The thing is, I’m not just reading this old back issue of 2000 AD, I’m reading a whole bunch of them. It’s a nostalgia trip, mostly, but there is an awful lot to love about these old comic books, still. There is also a lot that is not so good about them, such as a white, male, heterosexual world view that is taken to such a ridiculous extreme that entire issues of the comic book can slip by without a single female character or person of color being presented within its pages. Of course, this is a problem that many modern comic books also have, but even while enjoying my nostalgia trip I shouldn’t fail to mention 2000 AD’s failings. With that out of the way, let’s get straight to the good stuff, because the good stuff is really very good.
The cover of this issue is an absolute thing of beauty, by one of the best artists ever to work on 2000 AD, Mike McMahon, at the height of his powers. McMahon’s art has undergone almost constant change, and this is one of his earlier periods. He has created art in different styles, but I think this is one of his absolute best moments. The cover also presents an image from the story I am most anxious to read, Ro-Busters, which is a nice bonus.
The first story presented this week is not Ro-Busters, however, it is an episode of the comic book’s most popular hero, Judge Dredd. It is drawn by Brett Ewins, whose art has its charms, even though it never reached the heights of images drawn by the likes of McMahon. This episode features Dredd’s robot servant, who has a comedy lisp, and his housekeeper, who has a comedy Italian accent. As I said at the start of this post, 2000 AD was far from perfect in these years.
Where Dredd has been in 2000 AD for decades, and is still its most popular character, the next story is a short-lived experiment named Rick Random. I remember quite liking it at the time, because it is the sort of old-school sci-fi with spaceships in deep space that I love. The art is by Ron Turner, who creates very stylized images. He didn’t appear often in the pages of 2000 AD, and I was curious enough to look him up on Wikipedia. Apparently:
Turner was born in Norwich, and became interested in science fiction at an early age, including film serials such as Flash Gordon.
This doesn’t surprise me, and you can see the influence of such old style serials in the art. They look like they are taking place on a Hollywood sound stage.
His career started way back in 1936, at the age of 14, before being interrupted by the Second World War, when he was drafted into the British Army in 1940. It was in 1954 that he started drawing for Super-Detective Library comic, which had recently started running a science-fiction strip titled “Rick Random: Space Detective”. This late 1970s strip is a revival of that Rick Random. Wikipedia completes the entry with the sad but not unexpected news that Turner is no longer with us.
Turner died of a stroke and a heart attack in 1998. His artwork has continued to appear posthumously on books published by Gryphon Books and Wildside Press, drawing on many previously unpublished pieces as well as re-printing his earlier book cover illustrations.
Strontium Dog is the next story presented this issue, and it is given the honor of the center spread of color pages. The art by Ezquerra is great, as usual, but the story, after issue after issue of strong plotting and action, is starting to lose focus and become a little too trippy, even for a story about bounty hunters chasing their target all the way to Hell itself. This episode is like a dream, like Alice in Wonderland, except with cool, futuristic cars.
The cars Ezquerra draws are huge, almost architectural, with enormous wheels sticking out the side like tractor tires. Not only are the futuristic car designs wonderful, but he draws them from cool perspectives to accentuate the action. The art is black and white, apart from the center spread, but I imagine the car has a beautiful striped color scheme of the type used by Chris Foss on his spaceships.
In contrast, there is a strange, futuristic hovertank in Dan Dare that looks like a children’s toy. It is a more disciplined drawing, and has an impressive level of detail, but it does not have that certain power that Ezquerra’s designs have.
Then comes the story from the cover, Ro-Busters, and it does not disappoint.
This issue is a giant chaotic fight, full of the dynamic poses and detail McMahon excels at. Every single panel is action, as the battle to get a freighter full of escaping robots, throwing off the yoke of human oppression, ebbs and flows. It is an absolutely virtuoso performance of sci-fi, action comic book art, and it is worth hunting out this ancient issue of 2000 AD for this story alone. You actually feel the tension build until…
Looking at the last heroic pose of this episode, it does almost seem like 2000 AD are toying with the idea of making this the last story to feature Ro-Jaws and Hammerstein. They’re going out like Butch and Sundance.
This was a classic issue of 2000 AD from a golden age, long ago, and it even featured female characters. They were a mixed bag, with a femme fatale and a sidekick from Rick Random, and a distasteful comedy stereotype from Judge Dredd, but at least there was a female presence. It would be nice if the stories were more modern in their representation and diversity, in order to be able to stand alongside the art, but even so, an undoubted classic of 2000 AD back issues.
Start Reading the Dark Galaxy Trilogy
Galaxy Dog is an epic space opera. What starts as an ordinary invasion of an alien planet, brings to light an ancient archaeological site of huge importance. A young man called Knave makes a life-changing discovery there and rises from a lowly position as an infantry trooper to become a player among the powers of the galaxy. This is the story of his rise, and the story of the fierce and independent woman and the feisty robot who help him.