2000 AD - issue 14
Comics today are much more diverse in terms of representation than at any time in their history, and the progress still being made is enormously encouraging. The comics of the past, however, not so much... Many of them are non-diverse at best and actively offensive at worst. Going back into the archives and appreciating the good while recognizing shortcomings takes nuance. Recommending problematic comics responsibly is hard, but it is important to be honest about where modern comics came from. In that spirit, let’s take a look at an issue of a comic book from way back in 1977, caled 2000 AD, which has a lot going for it, but cannot be described as diverse or inclusive... oh no... not by a long chalk.
I write a lot about 2000 AD, reading 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. The cover of this issue doesn't have great art, but the colors are eye-catching, and it is funny. Being a cowboy in the age of the dinosaurs is a dangerous job, it seems, and the cover artist is having fun with the mayhem to come in the Flesh strip inside this issue.
A Message from the Author
I write sci-fi novels that belong to a series called Dark Galaxy, which starts with Galaxy Dog:
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 available to buy from Amazon.
We will have to wait for Flesh, however, because the brutal delights of a strip called Invasion are first up this issue. Invasion starts with an establishing shot of a nuclear power station, as an enemy soldier explains the setup. A neutron bomb is being built inside the nuclear power station, which the resistance will obviously have to stop.
The power station is called Doomsdale, but it is most likely modeled on Windscale, a grim nuclear site that I visited on a school trip just a few years after this comic was published. It is still there but has since been rebranded as Sellafield because of a small disaster or two.
There is an attack on the site by what the strip calls para-kites, a version of a hang glider, which was very futuristic at the time. Unfortunately, the hang glider soldiers all get killed, so Bill Savage is left at the end of the story having to take the site on his own (virtually - he has a couple of mates and a transit van). We’ll see him try next issue.
Flesh comes next, with its usual bananas mix of cowboys and dinosaurs. In this issue a time base in the Triassic is surrounded by dinosaurs and about to fall. Considering the wild setup, and the black and white morality of the strip, it still carries a tense and psychological load, as the time-traveling cowboys wait for the perimeter defenses to fail.
The first female character of the issue appears in this strip, in a non-speaking role as a secretary. Once again, we have an entire issue of 2000 AD here that doesn't pass the Bechdel test, not in any one of the strips presented in the whole comic book.
By the end of the episode, the defenses are down, and the humans in the base are attacked from above (by pterosaurs), from below (by giant spiders), trampled by stampeding herbivores, and hunted by a pack of t-rex. It is pulpy and dumb, but it certainly does not stint on the action.
Harlem Heroes is the next strip and features some comedy violent Scotsmen, which is regrettable, and only made worse by another female character in a non-speaking part. This time the lady in the boy’s comic book is a nurse. All we need is a housewife to add to the secretary and nurse and we will have seen the full range of roles that the writers of the day thought women should perform. It is the sort of casual sexism that gives me pause, I must admit, but I do stiffen my resolve and keep reading.
The strip also presents us with a brain in a fishbowl. He's the manager of the Harlem Heroes, and an amusingly pulpy idea. I've never been a fan of sports strips, which is all this is, though it's in heavy disguise, but I enjoyed this episode.
Dan Dare is pretty good this week too. For example, there are some entertaining results of a fault in Dan’s spaceship’s FTL drive, and these effects have nothing to do with physics. It's more like horror strip, with the FTL accident causing an actual zombie to go wandering round the spaceship. Dan then manages to mess up so badly that he pilots his spaceship into a sun - oops. Meanwhile, his nemesis, the Mekon, is hanging out with some alien friends. All the aliens this episode are just people with animal heads, a dog, a deer, and a gila monster, which is a bit lazy of Belardinelli, the artist on this one. Pulpy but fun.
Then the comic, after sexism and an insensitive portrayl of the Scottish, now seriously goes down hill with an extreme example of 70s-style racism. M.A.C.H 1 the superspy takes on a character named Shang Chin, who is a Fu Manchu on steroids. Then a Japanese samurai turns up on the Chinese side. It's not great – to say the least.
Then comes Judge Dredd, still dealing with a robot rebellion, in a story that, thanks to its art, is a foretaste of Robo-Hunter. It's a lot of fun.
This issue of 2000 AD is a period peace, to say the least, and it is hard to recommend something that is so dripping in sexism and racism. I have to admit that I did enjoy it, but that is very likely because of the power of nostalgia, thinking back to the 1970s and what comic books like this meant to me at the time. There is some very high quality art in this issue, as is almost always the case with vintage 2000 ADs, but... yeah... some not great stuff, too.
To end, just a reminder that the best way to support this blog is to buy one of my books. Simply go over to Amazon, or Kobo and get one.