I have been reading comic books from my childhood. I read quite a few back then, but the one I read most was 2000 AD. I have found some scans of these ancient comic books on the internet, and so I am reading them all over again, one by one. Today I’m reading issue 97 of 2000 AD, which was published way back on 27 Jan 1979.
Interestingly, 27 Jan 1979 just happens also to be the date of the 36th Golden Globe Awards, where Midnight Express won big. It won Best Screenplay, by Oliver Stone, Best Supporting Actor for John Hurt, and Best Music, for Giorgio Moroder. At this point Moroder was most famous for his part in Donna Summer’s hit single, I Feel Love.
Midnight Express was a prison drama, based on Billy Hayes’ 1977 non-fiction book. Hayes was a young American student sent to a Turkish prison for trying to smuggle hashish out of Turkey. The film’s title is prison slang for an inmate’s escape attempt. Later, both Stone and Hayes expressed their regret about the way Turkish people were portrayed in the film as violent and villainous.
At the same awards ceremony, Best Series (Musical or Comedy) went to Taxi. Taxi is a classic sitcom about the everyday lives of a handful of New York City taxi drivers and their abusive dispatcher, Louie De Palma. The show is set primarily at the fleet garage of the Sunshine Cab Company in Manhattan. The drivers are Alex Reiger, Elaine Nardo, Tony Banta, and Jim Ignatowski, an aging hippie who is burnt out on drugs.
Taxi was gritty and dealt with issues issues as racism, drug addiction, single parenthood, blindness, obesity, animal abuse, bisexuality, teenage runaways, divorce, nuclear war, sexual harassment, premenstrual mood disorders, gambling addiction, and the loss of a loved one. I think Midnight Express and Taxi are good touchstones for the grimness of the late 1970s, and it is not hard to see why a kid might be tempted to escape within the pages of a sci-fi comic book.
The cover of this issue is undeniably cool, even though it has no relation to any of the stories within the comic book. The illustration is of a green giant in techno underpants with a helmet on, probably drawn by Pino, for me one of the iconic artists of the early years of 2000 AD.
I like the cover but inside the comic there is a wonderful full-page image that is even better. It may be black and white rather than color, but it is a powerful iamge. It’s drawn by one of the greats of comic book art, Mike McMahon. The shading of McMahon’s work is wonderful, as energetic as a woodcut, but infinitely more detailed. McMahon’s work has graced the cover of 2000 AD on many occasions, and a selection of his sci-fi covers have been collected at this link.
Dredd and his band of rebels have been revolting against a tyrant who has taken control of the city. This madman, Chief Judge Cal, finds Dredd and his band of freedom fighters, with the help of alien bloodhound-type lizards, and all hell breaks loose. This panel where Dredd and one of his team are looking at the carnage and explosions, calm as cucumbers, and trying to work out what is going on is priceless.
The episode finishes with a panel where an alien hound has swallowed one of Dredd’s arms. There is also a speech bubble specifically saying that he is done for. I remember that when I was a nine-year-old kid, unsophisticated in the ways of comic books and how cliffhangers worked I spent all week worrying about Dredd in this terrible predicament.
Now I know that a cliffhanger often is a peril that isn’t as serious as it appears. I’m a grown up, I am not going to be losing any sleep over Dredd, I now know that no matter how bad things look in the cliff hanger, Dredd is always going to be just fine. Back then I was really wondering if Dredd was going to lose his arm, bitten off and eaten by this alien beast.
Next up is a comic strip which is plain stupid, called Angel, about a guy with a computer accidentally grafted into his shoulder. That’s right, you heard me, he accidentally ended up with a computer grafted to his central nervous system! But there are some nice drawings of 70s vintage aircraft, drawn by the same artist as the cover, and that’s good enough for me.
There’s a Future Shock that isn’t very futuristic next. It’s just a few panels about a vampire with a robot thrown in. To say it seems perfunctory is overstating it. Then comes Flesh, and where usually this strip satisfies its insatiable blood lust with a dinosaur attack, this week we have a grisly industrial accident, by way of a change. We see a guy being thrown into machinery, and getting pulled into it until only his hand is left sticking out. This blood lust is typical of this strip, and part of its charm, but with the final panel it looks like we’ll get back to dinosaur killings as usual next week.
We see the square-jawed hero being forced to walk the plank, while dinosaurs leap from the water below, eager to snap at their coming meal.
This week’s Ro-Busters is the last installment of Ro-Jaws reminiscing about his life, which is nice, but feels like it was supposed to be printed at Christmas and missed by a few weeks. There’s lots of snow and Christmas Carols. Ro-Jaws is sold to a cruel owner who beats him with an electo-whip. Luckily his kindly previous owner finds him and buys him back.
In the little box saying what is coming next, I see that we can expect the Terra-Meks. There is a beautiful little picture, almost a doodle, showing the Terra-Meks emerging from behind some trees. It’s a lot of fun, and it shows the editors know they have something special coming. They are absolutely right, of course, as the Terra-Meks are some of the most characterful giant robots ever to feature within the pages of 2000 AD, or any other comic book. This was a great issue, but the next issue promises to be something very special. I can’t wait.
When I’m not reading comic books I’m writing sci-fi. Use the link below to buy one of my 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.