2000 AD - issue 3

Here we go with another post about that ancient British institution, the comic book called 2000 AD. I write a lot about 2000 AD, it was a very formative experience for me, and I still read it today. I have a 2000 AD page where I link to all the issues I have talked about on this site.

I’m at pretty much the very start here, which means this is an issue that was published way back on 12 March 1977. Just to give you a taste of how long ago this was, Elvis and an entourage of thirty people were on holiday in Hawaii, at the Hilton Rainbow Tower.

This was Elvis' last vacation and he looked happy and pretty fit for 42, according to ElvisPresleyMusic. It was into this world, still inhabited by a relatively slim Elvis, that issue three of 2000 AD was released. The free gift takes up less real estate this issue, so we actually get a hint of a cover. It shows a cowboy being eaten by a tyrannosaur. That’s some nice bloodthirsty action, and it sure makes me want to take a peek inside.

The first story this issue is again Invasion, and the hero, lorry driver Bill Savage, is described at one point as:

> A big geezer with a shotgun.

That about sums this strip up, right there. Savage takes over the resistance because they are too posh and useless to be freedom fighters without him. He also has an old-style transit van, giving the strip a vibe like a grim British 70s TV show, like The Sweeney. It’s a terrible old-fashioned strip with not a single female character, but that transit van did make me smile.

The post continues below. If you are enjoying it, why not check out the sci-fi novels I write. They belong to a series called Dark Galaxy, which starts with Galaxy Dog. Here is some of Galaxy Dog's blurb:

What starts as an ordinary invasion of an alien planet brings to light an ancient archeological 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.

The entire series is ripsnorting space opera in the style of Doctor Who and Blake's 7, and they are available to buy from Amazon. Just click the link and take a look.

Flesh comes next and continues the bloodthirsty cowboys vs dinosaurs action of the previous two issues. Again, there are no female characters, and again, everyone is white, but this strip has a lot of goofy charm. The star of this issue is a tyrannosaur that we are told has lived to be 120 years in age. I'm not sure about the science there, but it is drawn wonderfully, with scales like slabs of slate and teeth like scythes. The beast eats a couple of cowboys, then gets its jaws on another, before one of the heroes of the story hops on its head and puts out its eye with a goad. What we are seeing here is the birth of a legend, the moment of creation of Old One Eye.

The next strip is called Harlem Heroes and it is also completely lacking in female characters, but instead of a cast of white men, it is about the adventures of a team of black athletes of the future. I have never been a fan of sports stories, finding them often extremely formulaic, but this episode grabbed me. The all black team is pitted against a team of police officers, and in these days of Black Lives Matter, that is a spectacle that is hard to look away from. It seems the writers were already aware of this tension back in 1977, and one of the Heroes is written as having an explicit grudge against cops. It’s all quite progressive, and it is interesting to see it in the same comic book as Invasion.

Next we get Dan Dare, and an honest to goodness female character, the first in this issue, and maybe even the first in 2000 AD’s run. She is Ziggy Rodann, and she's a doctor tasked with dissecting an alien Dan wrestled into unconsciousness. Then Dan and his team investigate Jupiter, and the craft he uses, a kind of diving bell called a SHARC is really quite interesting. It is a sphere encased in a stasis field and the sheer scale of Jupiter is very well portrayed by Belardinelli's art and by the writing.

Next comes MACH 1, the closest thing to a superhero in these early issues. His powers are considerable, and he gained them via... wait for it... computer controlled acupuncture. That is a silly idea, but it also has a touch of genius. We get more cool kit this week, this time in the shape of a nicely drawn NATO mini battleship. MACH 1 is tasked with finding out why it sunk, and he hops into the ocean in flares and a leather coat – priceless. He then proceeds to kill numerous members of an enemy ship's crew, before blowing up the entire vessel. He then swims back to the British Navy ship he started from, still in flares, to be met by his boss, who observes:

The mission was to investigate not annihilate.

This is a very funny and violent story, and certainly not a nuanced look at the cold war in the 1970s.

The last story this issue is Judge Dredd, and it is fascinating. I'm pretty sure almost the whole thing is drawn by Mike McMahon, who is imitating the drawing style of Carlos Ezquerra. What I'm not sure of is the last panel. I can't tell if it is drawn by Ezquerra, or if it is again McMahon, doing an excellent job of drawing in his style. Whichever it is, Mega-City One looks organic and futuristic in a way that architects and engineers are only now starting to be able to build. The architecture is beautiful, but the story is a real vision of ugly human psychology, of crime, and totalitarian surveillance and punishment. It is gonzo comic book writing, and I can’t wait to read the scans I have of the next issue.

Before we wrap up here, just a reminder that the best way to support this blog is to buy one of my books, so why not go over to Amazon, or Kobo and see if there is one that catches your fancy.