2000 AD - issue 243
Today I’m writing about issue 243 of a comic book called 2000 AD. Inspired by the original prog slog blog, I have been rereading very early issues of this famous comic book from my youth, back in the late 70s and early 80s. One of the most powerful emotions when rereading this old comic – along with appreciation of the art, being entertained by the stories, and disappointment at the almost complete lack of diversity – is a huge helping of nostalgia. I read these comics for the first time as a young kid, and at such an impressionable age they inevitably became a big part of who I am.
In my last post about reading ancient issues of 2000 AD, I reached an issue that I didn’t buy back them, that I had never seen before, because it was the start of a two-year gap where I stopped buying the comic. I switched my aliegances and my pocket money to Doctor Who Weekly. I said I would carry on reading through this two-year gap, for the sake of completeness, and I tried, I really did. I was, after all, intrigued to see what I had missed in that long gap, but it turns out I hadn’t been missing much. 2000 AD was going through a real lull in quality, in my opinion, in this period. The issues from this two-year period just don’t excite me. As I was reading them, I came to a realization. I’ve realized that this strange quest to look again at a childhood comic book isn’t about the comic book itself, it’s about me.
I’m reading these comic books to connect with that kid back in the late 70s and early 80s who was reading sci-fi comics and dreaming of the far-off future of robots and rocket ships conjured by the title of 2000 AD, a date still a couple of decades in the future at that time. With that in mind, I’ve decided to skip ahead in my prog slog to issue 243 – which came out right at the tail end of 1981 – the 19 December to be exact. This was the issue that tempted me back, after those two years, with a cover dedicated, of all things, to Mean Arena.
The cover features an artist I had not seen before, and a cool guy in armour. It is well drawn and well designed, and features futuristic warriors in a deindustrialised landscape. It is beautiful and, even though the story is a strange mix of sci-fi and sport, it is beautiful.
Mean Arena is not the first story in the comic book, however, the first story is something that I remember had me very much scratching my head. Despite this initial confusion, it is a story I grew to love, called Ace Trucking and it is a strange beast. It shares a lot of DNA with Red Dwarf by way of Smokey and the Bandit, but with freaky aliens. It has the humour of Red Dwarf, the CB lingo of Smokey and the Bandit, and no humans on the crew at all. It immediately spoke to me. Even confusingly picking this rich brew up mid story. The art is by Ian Gibson, and it works nicely, even if there isn’t a lot of detail. It is obvious, however that he is just swiftky copying the work of Bellarrinelli, rather than doing anything original from his own imagination. The language is tricky to understand, a mixture of made-up, sci-fi, CB radio, slang written with a slur because the characters are supposed to be drunk in this episode, but that just makes the strip more intriguing. I also want to mention how great the spaceship designs are, but I’ll save that till next week, when Bellardinelli is back minding the store.
The next story is Mean Arena, which is stupendously dumb, but well drawn, and – I guess – the reason I started reading the comic again. I wish it had been a cooler story, but Mean Arena it was. The art by Mike White is brutal and gritty, and looks great. You have men in futuristic combat gear a la Boba Fett, climbingvover the engine yards and wasteland of post-industrial Britain, just beautiful. Stupid, but beautiful.
The third story is undoubtedly the very first time I read Nemesis the Warlock, and it made a big impression. The art is by the sublime O’Neil in his pomp, and the stylised designs play to his strengths. No faces, which O’Neil struggles with, are required, instead we see only masks, monumental architecture, and detail. The anatomy of the characters is a little stiff, too, but that is O’Neil and I wouldn’t have it any other way. What you lose in dynamic poses, you gain in detail, such as the scaly hide and teeth of the alien named Ragnar, a beautiful thing. The chiaroscuro lighting is also a thing of beauty, and again the detail, all the straps, scratches, stubble, splinters, and strings of drool make every panel a tiny, dense work of art.
Then we get Judge Dredd, relegated to fifth story, and the art is easily as good as the O’Neil work on Nemesis the Warlock. The art is by Steve Dillon, joint creator of Abslom Daak, Dalek Killer, which I enjoyed, though it was stupid, and it is great to see his art employed on a classy strip like Judge Dredd. The story does, however, start with the death of Judge Giant, one of the few black characters in the comic book, which is not okay. It is very much not okay, and I was very dismayed about it the first time I read it, I remember. The art, though, is great. Dillon draws heavy, robust figures in very naturalistic and realistic poses. He draws great technology, too.
Then comes another great strip, Rogue Trooper. The art here is by Mike Dorey, not the greatest artist to work on the strip, but no hack either. He is drawing technology designed by others here, and shading it atmospherically and well. I particularly like the snow-speeder. I love a good sci-fi vehicle, as one of the most popular posts on this blog will attest.
This issue was dripping with nostalgia for me and I think I’ve made the right decision in skipping reading sub-par issues that I didn’t buy the first time round from that two-year gap.
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.