Review by Eamonn Clarke as originally posted on the Thank You For Your Attention website
Here’s Brijit Elouise with her take on prog 1859
Still playing catch up and nursing a furious sunburn injury, here is Orlok with a grumpy look at 1859…
Aren’t comic histories great?
I love reading the genesis to my favourite comics and characters, the conflict and drama involved in getting a favourite strip or magazine on the stands can sometimes be more enthralling than the printed story itself. One of my favourite features in the Meg’ is the “Interrogation”. The, revelatory ones are always the best, the ones where you are reading an article, saying to yourself “I did not know that”, or “wow, really???”; usually something perhaps trivial to everyone else, but that I find fascinating, a minor eureka moment, clearing up that niggly little query that has been bothering you for years; for example : what’s a “Mills bomb” in the world of 2000ad, who (and more to the point why) let Morrison, Millar and Smith run riot in 2000ad, recent example:– I knew Will Simpson was now working on the completely awesome “Game of Thrones”, but how did he get there? What’s he doing now? Why isn’t he doing more comic work? Perhaps it’s just me, and perhaps I’ve just revealed far too much me, in which case just ignore the last paragraph. Nothing to see here, move along.
Aren’t comic histories great?
None of the above questions are answered in this, but it’s still a great read.
This is a more than satisfying collection of articles on some of the strips, creators and comics that fell within the orbit of 2000ad, and occasionally made planetfall.
It’s a short history of the creation and demise of the comics that were fated to be folded into the ‘Prog, the introduction of sci fi novel adaptations, details of projects that began elsewhere, developed, evolved and found at least a temporary home in the “ver Toof”.
The better print quality in-house rival to Toothy, “Starlord” creations is probably already well known. Interviews with the creators of Strontium Dog (Wagner and Ezquerra) are present, though hardly insightful or revelatory – nothing gossipy here, nothing controversial, and more to the point, nothing that we didn’t already know. It does reiterate the shot in the arm that the “Starlord” gave “2000ad”. In that syringe of thrills were : One John Alpha & Wulf Sternhammer, and an amusing strip called “Ro Busters”, which led directly to the creation of “ABC Warriors” and “Nemesis The Warlock” and was a bedrock of the “Millsverse”.
“Tornado” isn’t as fondly remembered, the second and final title to be folded into “2000ad”. A flawed publication from the start, it may as well have carried a donor card with it as a free gift, not that many of its’ “organs” were used to help prolong the Prog’s existence. Hampered by the publishers and a confused identity and marketing from the start, “Tornado” was never going to take off (sorry, there was no avoiding that). “Tornado” doesn’t have much of a legacy, other than the lineage of 2000ad‘s “Aquila” which can be traced back to “Blackhawk”.
The acquisition and publication history of the strip adaptation of “Stainless Steel Rat” is enlightening. Like Michael Moorcock, Harry Harrison wrote comics, one – the “Phantom Patrol”, strip I remember being reprinted in the 1981 2000ad annual. This highlights the connection between the more “respected” medium of the novel with the trashy, bog paper boys adventure strips found on the newsstands, but making the appearance of “Rat”, Slippery Jim Di Griz in 2000ad perfectly logical.
Where this really kicks arse are the bits on the lost or forgotten strips, Mills and collaborators grand project of a robot strip “Mekomania” including a page from Ian Gibson reprinted here which led to “Metalzoic” one of the best strips Mills has ever done. The brief experiment of “mature” strips in a Sunday newspaper – Mills and Fabry’s “Scatha the Witch” reprinted here, Mills and Gibson’s “Masquer”, Milligan and McCarthy’s “Summer of Love”. Previously censored Belardinelli artwork from “Inferno” makes an appearance, doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the subject matter, but is a welcome bonus, even if they seem a bit tame compared with the stuff published in 2000ad these days.
It also cleared up quite a few questions I had over the Eagle and Quality reprints, whose idea were they? Who commissioned those awesome Bolland “Dredd” covers? Their publication history is more than a little chequered, and features some quite (in)famous British comic industry personalities. There is a fascinating insight into the publication of the Daily Star Dredds, though I’m surprised that they refer to Ron Smith as “never a big fan favourite”, Ron Smith? THE Ron Smith? Have I missed something?
Wrapped up with self penned retrospective on a long career in comics by Doug Church – who came up with the concept of Mega City One, this is not overly detailed and perhaps is only a summary of the topic good overview, which (un)fortunately overlooks some significant (if not in quality) licensed strips that ran in 2000ad (“A Life Less Ordinary”, “Urban Strike” (dear god) and the “Shaun of the Dead” strip). Where it proves fascinating are the pages of lost, rare or unpublished art, and, yep, those insights into the publication of the stories that we did see, and those that were never realised. Print version – perhaps a tad pricey, but the digital version is good vfm. Great for anyone with even a passing interest in the Galaxy’s Greatest.