2000 AD - issue 38

This is one of the many 2000 AD related posts on this site. Reading this comic book in the 1970s and 1980s 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, but this post is about issue 38 of 2000AD, which came out on the 12th November, 1977, and could be had for the tiny sum of just 9 pence, Earth money.

The cover this week is by Trevor Goring, and it is so bad it wouldn’t look out of place on a low-circulation fanzine. I assumed, based on the quality of this piece, that Goring was some minor, obscure artist from the forgotten history of comic books, but nothing could be further from the truth. This image comes from the very start of his career, and he had been the writer of a comic fanzine called Seminar just before this. He produced the fanzine while he was in high school, and it published Alan Moore's first article. At the same time as illustrating for 2000 AD he was also working on House of Hammer, and a TV show called Captain Zep. That work led to him founding an advertising art company named Helicopter Studios, and then moving to Los Angeles. There he began working for Dark Horse Comics and also began storyboarding films including Independence Day, The Cell, X-Men 2, Watchmen, and Cabin in the Woods. It's hard to imagine such a successful future while looking at this muddy, ill-defined image with laughable, child-like attempts at drawing an astronaut, and space capsule. The dragon is pretty good though.

The first story this week is Inferno, featuring the Harlem Heroes. It has a great panel that shows the effects on a player of being nobbled with hallucinogenic drugs before the game. The art by Massimo Belardinelli really captures a reality dissolving under the effects of mind-altering chemicals. The way the player's motorbike starts melting is particularly effective. The writer, Tom Tully is mentioned in the book I’m reading at the moment, Thrill Power Overload, which includes an anecdote about him spinning stories out for as long as possible because he got paid per episode, not per story. As a result he was one of the most prolific of all writers, although he only worked on a few stories.

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 second story this week is Judge Dredd with a script by John Wagner with what would be some nice art by Ian Gibson, except that it is spoiled by some absolutely appalling racism. The story features Judge Giant, a black man, and Gibson portrays him by painting his face a solid, inky black, except for fat lips that are left white. The effect is like The Black and White Minstrel Show which was still on TV at the time. But people in those days knew this was wrong. A petition from the Campaign Against Racial Discrimination asking for the show to be taken off air was received by the network showing it way back in 1967. Then in 1969, due to continuing accusations of racism, Music Music Music, a spin-off series in which the minstrels appeared without their blackface make-up, replaced The Black and White Minstrel Show. However after one series, The Black and White Minstrel Show returned. The Black and White Minstrel Show is an ugly embarrassment, despite its popularity at the time, and that’s what this strip is, too. An ugly embarrassment.

And this is not the only time that this sort of racism is presented in Gibson’s art, which along with his sexist, cheesecake depictions of women, prevents Gibson, otherwise a talented artist, from being considered one of the greats of 2000 AD. It is horrific to see such racism in 2000 AD, and also strange to see Judge Dredd relegated to second story behind Inferno. It seems he was yet to be recognized as the star he was to become.

The next story is Invasion by Gerry Finley-Day, with gritty art by Mike Dorey. This story also has a racist stereotype. A character referred to as a gypsy is depicted as lacking intelligence, prone to thieving, and willing too sell out his comrades for cash. It is hateful and sad that there is so much prejudice against Romany people in the UK, then and also today. This isn’t the first time I’ve read racially charged, nasty stuff from the pen of Finley-Day, but this sort of thing is particularly exasperating immediately after the racism just seen in the Dredd strip.

Dan Dare comes next, and after some explosive action it shifts focus to some evil aliens who have enslaved the population of a nearby planet. I’m a little worried about where this story will be going, seeing as it too is written by Gerry Finley-Day, but the art is by Dave Gibbons who, to my knowledge at least, has always avoided the ugly racist stereotypes that Ian Gibson had no trouble resorting to.

M.A.C.H.1 is next, and it is excellent. There is inventive stuff about the superhero process used to create our hero being used to create super powered animals and kids, and there is a lovely Easter egg where a guard at the secret base where these devilish experiments are being done is reading a copy of 2000 AD.

Next there’s a Tharg's Future Shocks, which is the payoff to the story started last issue. There is a twist ending, but not a great one. The art, on the other hand is very nice, with a scene of a robot being melted down that is reminiscent of Terminator 2.

There is a cutaway poster on the back of the comic featuring Dan Dare’s Eagle Craft that is really very nice. These cutaways were a regular fixture on the back of the comic book and they were a favorite of mine.

There is also an advert in this issue from Matchbox that features selected toys from their range of cars, trucks, and military vehicles. In pride of place in the center it includes a truly inspired toy design – the Adventure 2000 Raider Command Vehicle. This was later to star in the comic itself, in the Judge Dredd strip, in possibly the first ever product placement deal in UK comics. Raider Command was used by Dredd to cross the Cursed Earth to deliver an antidote to Mega-City Two. 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.