2000 AD - issue 308

I found myself thinking today about a comic strip called Skizz, which was first published a long time ago, in the Thatcher years in fact. That first run was serialized in 2000 AD in three installments across more than a decade (according to Wikipedia), and it was written by Alan Moore with art by Jim Baikie. All I could remember about it was that it was a kind of cross between E.T and Boys from the Blackstuff.

I knew Alan Bleasdale's gritty chronicle of Thatcher's Britain, Boys From the Blackstuff, from popular culture of the time, but never watched the show. It's fame came from just a single character, Yosser Hughes, played by Bernard Hill (Peter Jackson’s Theoden). He's described in the Guardian as a unique character, trawling across a rubble-strewn Liverpool in search of work with his three young children following him like ducks in a row, headbutting anyone foolish enough to stand in his way, chanting his mantra "Gis a job" over and over. The headbutting, accompanied by chants of "Gis a job" were the big take away for most of the people round my age who saw the show, rather than the frustration of a society being deliberately torn apart and remade in the mold of a neoliberal fever dream, accompanied by crushing unemployment.

I guess I was just reminded of the story because we are again living through a time of society being ripped to shreds, and again it is the neocons who are in charge. I remember that I had quite liked Skizz at the time, but that time is almost half a century ago now, of course, so I thought it would be interesting to take a look and see how I reacted to it today. I decided to read it in its original, serialized form, in 2000 AD.

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.

So I went to the Wordpress archive where I get all my scans of old copies of 2000 AD, and I downloaded issue 308. I have a 2000 AD page where I link to the many other issues I have talked about on this site. Issue 308 was published 19 March, 1983, and sold for just 18 pence (in Earth money). I remember buying it with my pocket money, a single twenty pence coin, which had just been introduced less than a year before, on 9 June 1982.

The cover depicts Skizz, drawn by Jim Baikie, and it is an intriguingly strange and beautiful image. We see Skizz from a weird, low angle, like a selfie, and he is encased in a silver space suit. We are told he is an interpreter, rather than something cool. Like a space knight or transformer. I remember its strangeness made me want to find out what Skizz was about.

Skizz is then the first story presented in the comic book, and we see the alien interpreter crash land on Earth. We also see his ship malfunction, which is well written, with the ship presented as a bunch of alien and organic technology. Even so Baikie probably made the right call in drawing these textual flourishes as bolted together metal plates and components. It looks a lot cooler than trying to draw ‘shield fungus’ or ‘lymph batteries’. We also see Skizz from a normal angle, unlike the selfie shot on the cover, and see that he is kangaroo shaped. I remember thinking this was pretty cool back in the early 80s, and it is still cool today.

The ship self-destructs to stop advanced technology falling into the hands of the inhabitants of Earth, who are considered likely to be too violent and unevolved to be allowed to have access to it. Skizz escapes the explosion, and we see from a road sin that he has arrived in Birmingham. That’s all that happens in the first episode, but it is an intriguing enough start.

According to Tor.com comics blogger Tim Callahan the two-year span from the beginning of 1982 to the end of 1983 were big years for the writer of this strip, Alan Moore. In that time he moved from being a music magazine cartoonist to being considered a revolutionary comic book writer. It is the period were he wrote for Marvelman, V for Vendetta, and Captain Britain. Skizz was his chance to write his first serial for the most important UK sci-fi comic book, 2000 AD. They wanted a rip off of the big movie that had just come out called E.T. and Alan Moore was happy to oblige, but an awful lot in Skizz owes more to Alan Bleasdale than Spielberg. But instead of Bleasdale's Liverpool we are going to get E.T. set a few miles away in Birmingham.

Jim Baikie, as Fortress of Solitude notes, uses every page and panel to create maximum impact, and helps the story to flow so smoothly that it has an almost cinematic quality to it. In this first episode Skizz leaping like a kangaroo and cowering below the Birmingham road sign are particularly beautifully drawn.

Next up is a story called The Reversible Man, which is also by Alan Moore, with art by Mike White. There are only two lines of dialogue in the whole thing, with the rest of the story told in text boxes. It is quite a slog to put it mildly.

Next comes the color center spread, which is occupied by a Judge Dredd story drawn by Carlos Ezquerra, which includes Judge McGruder and her cool skull earrings. The story is great, especially the disguise used by the prankster criminal. I smiled at the artificial chin he puts on when he pretends to be Judge Dredd himself. He turns out to be an idle billionaire playing tricks to relieve his boredom.

Invasion of the Thrill-Snatchers with art by Massimo Belardinelli is next, and I can’t imagine anyone who would be interested in reading something like this. It takes some conceits from the editorial pages, such as the fact that the comic book claims to have an alien editor, with enemies called thrill suckers, and makes this thin concept into a story. It is not good, though Belardinelli tries his best, and produces some attractive panels.

Rogue Trooper is next, with a frankly nonsensical and sexist story by Gerry Finley-Day that is only made at all interesting by some nice art from Cam Kennedy. Except that Kennedy too turns in some ugly, objectifying art when some female soldiers turn up. Kennedy is the outstanding artistic talent of this issue, along with Ezquerra, but having to illustrate the ugly and bonkers story penned by Finley-Day really lets him down.

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.