As a kid, I used to read a comic book called 2000 AD, and I’m revisiting them now. I no longer have any back issues, but I found some scans of 2000 AD to download, so let’s look at issue 92. On the cover of this one is a rubber-faced green alien with his hands outspread in welcome. It isn’t exactly an action-packed cover, and it isn’t even extremely well drawn.
This grinning alien is Tharg the Mighty, the fictional editor of the comic, and I was never a fan. The character was introduced on the cover of the first issue in 1977 and appears on the editorial page every week. Tharg rarely appears in stories, but strips involving him did make it into the comic from time to time and he does sometimes show up on the cover. He is written as an authoritarian egoist and eats polystyrene cups.
Apparently, having a fictional character host a comic was commonplace in British comics in the 1970s. Warlord was edited by Lord Peter Flint, Bullet by a character named Fireball, and Starlord had the eponymous alien warrior, Starlord as its editor. This doesn’t excuse Tharg in my mind, and a Tharg cover is always a mark against an issue for me. I would prefer to see a scene from one of the stories inside the comic, Strontium Dog or Flesh, for example.
This week, Judge Dredd isn’t being drawn by Mike McMahon, but instead Brett Ewins is inking the future lawman. It shows what a huge difference the art makes, because I was enjoying the current story arc, an exploration of Dredd’s city becoming a totalitarian state in the iron grip of a dictator, but this week it just feels flat.
Brett Ewins’ art improves over the years, but this is some very early, and not very good work. His art also fits better in more stylized stories, such as horror. He isn’t at his best drawing technology, and certainly not vehicles or future architecture. Hopefully this is just a fill in and McMahon will be back for the next issue.
Next up is Strontium Dog, with art by the always dependable Ezquerra. I like his sketchy and heavily shaded style much more than the clean lines of Ewins, and Ezquerra is much more comfortable drawing vehicles and technology. He produces some beautifully organic designs for technology, that are quite visionary for the late 70s.
The story itself is a little crazy, where, by an unimaginable series of coincidences, our hero, Johnny Alpha, has ended up with plans in his possession that can stop an interstellar war. He is being hunted by a huge spaceship full of bad guys, and he has to avoid being caught by them so he can deliver the aforementioned plans into friendly hands.
In a sequence where the astrophysics is hard to swallow, Alpha hides behind a planet, and the creatures hunting him, called Walrogs, destroy the entire planet that he is hiding behind, just to get to him. From the point of view of physics, this scene does not make a lick of sense, but Ezquerra’s art makes it more palatable. I almost find myself swallowing this preposterous scenario… almost.
Johnny makes it through the destruction of the planet pretty much unscathed, though one of his sidekicks, a space Viking called Wulf, does end up with a bit of a headache. They destroy an enemy battleship and get picked up by the good aliens, but despite everything seeming at last to be going so well, I don’t think their troubles are over. That’s because next issue we are promised a “Return to Hell”.
Next we get a full-page add that put a huge grin on my face. The add is for a line of snacks that were on sale back in 1978. They were called Atom Smashers and I had forgotten they even existed. Seeing them again, after over forty years or thereabouts, I instantly recognized and remembered them. I found a TV advertisement for Atom Smashers but I don’t remember ever seeing it. The kid in the advert looks amazing in his seventies outfit of wide-bottom jeans and a floppy red hat. You can see a packet of Atom Smashers, in all its glory, here on Flickr.
The issue also includes a story, called Flesh, about big game hunters paying to go back in time and shoot dinosaurs. If that were possible, I’m sure there would be plenty of customers, probably including the Trump sons. The Trump sons have a well-documented love of hunting. The two have been photographed posing with a dead elephant, kudu, civet cat, and waterbuck. In one shot Donald Jr. proudly holds an elephant tail in one hand and a knife in the other. They are exactly the sort of rich tourist we see hunting dinosaurs in the strip.
Of course, this being a comic book published in the bloodthirsty 70s when Jaws was hugely popular, it doesn’t take long before the dinosaurs get their revenge. The American big game tourists get what they richly deserve. Bellardineli excels at drawing this sort of gleefully grim animal attack, and I find myself cheering on the prehistoric monsters.
Ro-Busters is next, with art credited to Mike White. His drawing style is described, even by fans, as solid and professional, which is probably why I don’t remember him. The stars that went on to have careers in America, such as McMahon and Bolland made an impression on me, enough of an impression for me to remember their names, but not Mike White. He is most famous for his collaboration with writer Alan Moore on the Time Twisters story The Reversible Man. The story appeared in 2000AD a few years later, in 1983.
Apparently he himself believed he left no lasting impression on the world of comic books, unlike talents like Bolland and Gibbons. That’s quite sad, really. Reading this issue has turned into quite a roller-coaster of emotions. Ro-Busters is given over to Hammerstein’s war stories again, but thankfully they seem to be coming to a close. In the last couple of frames we see that there will be more robot memories next week, this time from Ro-Jaws the sewer robot.
I’m looking forward to reading about Ro-Jaws and what happened to him before he joined Ro-Busters. Until then, it is time to plug one of my own books.
Galaxy Dog (Dark Galaxy) Start Reading the Dark Galaxy Trilogy
The first book in the Dark Galaxy Trilogy, always the best place to start, is Galaxy Dog. It’s a little more old-school and fun than a lot of the sci-fi that is around at the moment. It has spaceships, robots, battles, and brave warriors rebelling against an evil empire. Click the book cover and go to the storefront you prefer to buy it now, or follow this link.
This is a universal book link (UBL) and you will be greeted with a page displaying all the places the book is available online. Just select the storefront you prefer and, if you want, also make this your default bookseller. From then on, every time you click a UBL you will be taken directly to the book you are interested in, on the storefront you prefer. The UBL even allows you to go to the Amazon store that matches your region.