2000 AD - issue 37

 I write a lot of posts about 2000 AD, I guess because reading it was a very formative experience for me. I have a 2000 AD page where I link to all the issues I have talked about on this site.This post is about a very early issue, and going back to it was made more interesting because I have just started reading a book about the early days of a British comic book called 2000 AD. The book is called Thrill-Power Overload, by David Bishop and Karl Stock, and the blurb claims that it covers the period from 2000 AD's humble and rocky beginnings to its current position as the Galaxy’s Greatest comic. There are exclusive interviews, hundreds of illustrations and rarely-seen artwork. The early pages certainly add an extra dimension to rereading early issues such as number 37, which is the issue I have reached in my epic attempt to read every issue of this comic book ever published.

The book confirms my suspicion that Invasion - which as a less sci-fi story, and more a conventional action oriented strip of the period - is intended to ease people into less familiar strips like Judge Dredd. What I was surprised at, however, is the way Pat Mills, the editor at the time, talked about artists and writers in this period. They are routinely called hacks, crap, and useless. Their work is routinely reworked and rejected and they are generally treated with something bordering on contempt.

As with previous titles, Battle and Action, Mills developed most of the early series for 2000 AD before handing them over to other writers. He took over the development of Judge Dredd when creator John Wagner temporarily walked out, and wrote many of the early stories, establishing the character and his world, before Wagner returned. He was undoubtedly a stellar talent, but at least in the early chapters of Thrill-Power Overload, he doesn’t come across as a very nice guy.

Like I said, this issue of 2000AD is number 37, and was published 5 November, 1977, for 9 pence (in Earth money). It has 19th of the series of Supercovers, and this isn’t a particularly bad one, with art by Brett Ewins and Brendan McCarthy. It’s generic, to be sure, but it does promise action, and violence, and that was what 2000 AD was very much about in the late 1970s. Sadly, it doesn’t refer to any of the strips within the issue, but it is a very good encapsulation of what 2000 AD aspires to be.

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.

The first story this issue is Inferno, which features the Harlem Heroes, written by Tom Tully, with art by Massimo Belardinelli. Belardinelli’s art is not at all like the detailed and mannered work he would go on to create. This is raw and visceral, at least by his standards. The story, however, is just confusing future sports action with motorbikes and jet packs, which doesn’t sound like a bad thing, but left me a little cold.

It looks like something a little more interesting might be coming next issue, because in the last panel of the episode we get a glimpse of Mr. Chubb and Mr. Torso. They are watching the game and discussing gambling on the next fixture and fixing the result. Dredd Alert thinks they have something of Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd from Diamonds Are Forever (1971) about them.

The next story is Judge Dredd, by John Wagner, and it is always a pleasure to read a Dredd strip with art by McMahon. The climax of this story is a little tropey, with bright light being used to blind denizens of the dark, but it is interesting to see the subterranean layers below Mega-City One.

Invasion, by Gerry Finley-Day, comes next, and again it has been demoted from first spot. The editorial team must now have become more confident that people would enjoy the sci-fi delights inside 2000 AD without being eased into the mayhem by a comparatively contemporary story like Invasion. The art is by Pino, whose work I like very much. He's great when he’s drawing military hardware, such as the submarine and jet fighters in this episode. There is also some nice world building for the strip's setting, a future invaded UK. We find out there is a King Over the Water in Canada, like James II, who was ousted by parliament in 1688, in the Glorious Revolution, and fled to exile in France.

Dan Dare is next story up, and for once it makes good use of the central spread of color pages it is given. Dare can be quite a solid story with quite static art, but this episode is exactly the opposite. The story is non-stop action, and Gibbons manages to inject more dynamism than usual into his, as ever, detailed and impressive art.

The next story is M.A.C.H.1, by Alan Hebden, and it too has a lot going for it. M.A.C.H. 1 is being attacked by a woman with the same computer-acupuncture-related superpowers as he has, but she decides to defect instead of killing him. Before the end of the episode they have teamed up and are already on a new mission in Eastern Europe. I love the break-neck pace of the storytelling in comic books of this period.

The last story in the comic book this issue is a Tharg's Future Shocks called Robot Repairs, by Robert Flynn, with art by Brett Ewins and Jim McCarthy. This is the first installment of what looks like it will be a two-parter, and it is all set up, so I will defer judgment until next week when we see where it is going. One thing I will say is that I’m not always a fan of Ewins’ stylized art, but it works very well here for this story.

All in all, this was a very solid issue of 2000 AD, and a great example of the strotelling and art of the period. 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.