2000ad Annual 1984
Review By Seth
E bay is a vile temptress.
My current obsession is to fill the gaps in my collection of 2000ad specials, and annuals.
Annual s were always quite cool, a traditional Christmas treat. My brothers and I would get a selection of annuals for the festivities. Most of the time they were the DC Thompson fare, “Victor” , ”Beano” , the occasional “Valiant“ and “Battle” were in there from Fleetway. I had to specifically ask for the 2000ad annual, I don’t think Mum and Dad were too keen on some of the content.
2000ad annuals were no different from the rest on the market. A motley collection of reprint from the prog’ or its siblings (both ancient and modern); some vaguely relevant articles and the occasional new strip. Nice hardback covers sandwiching filler strips and text that wouldn’t have made the weekly, though they had the odd gem.
For Christmas 1984’s offering we have a spiffy Dave Gibbons cover (with Lionel Richie being used as the model for Johnny A judging by the hamster cheeks) and true to form, some great, and quite frankly not so great, content.
Kicking things off: Staccato (another of Wagner & Grant’s pseudonyms) and Ian Gibson’s “Robo Hunter”. Sam’s away and Hoagy minds the office, taking a call from a punter who needs to disable his rampant robo dog which is preventing him moving house. ‘Course this isn’t true, but it’s easy to have a battle of wits with an unarmed robot. Predictably it all goes badly wrong. Gibson’s art is great as usual, and Toby from Halo Jones has a pre fame cameo role. A well worn joke, but lots of fun with some fabulous Ian Gibson art.
“Anderson” stars in an early solo tale “The Haunting”, again with a “Staccato” writing credit , art by Kim Raymond . A cit‘ is possessed by a demon he released whilst working at the Museum of Antiquities. Cass’ has the task of fishing him out. Very much in the filler category. Raymond’s art is perfunctory; clear storytelling, but not dynamic, not a good fit for 2000ad. He works for Disney now dont’cha know?
In digging through old thrills, we hit the first reprint seam. “Bonjo From Beyond The Stars” by Kev’ O’Neill. 2000ad’s attempts at humour strips are a bit hit and miss, for every “DR & Quinch”, you get a “Captain Klep”, or “Bonjo”. It’s Kev’ and I can excuse him anything, but this just isn’t funny. It is interesting in that it shows O’Neill’s IPC humour roots.
“Invasion” written by Chris Lowder and the brilliant Ian Kennedy. Silk and Savage team up with the French resistance to destroy the channel tunnel (which at the time of publication still fictional). Lowder’s script is action packed, silly and nonsensical, but loads of fun. Volgs get offed , loads’ve “shoota” action and cockney geezer “ness”. Ian Kennedy is fantastic, clean, shiny lines, fantastic for “Dan Dare” but not gritty enough for Bill. Mike Dorey is more “Invasion’s” speed.
Next : an early Gibson “Dredd” with an early “John Wagner” script credit. Co Starring Giant, Dredd investigates the substitution of juves with robots in a case of industrial espionage. Very early Dredd and highlights how much the character had developed in the 7 years since the debut of the character, also it shows how far Gibson had come when you compare the art with that of “Robo Hunter”.
Finally breaking the through the reprint, some original content. The first of two Alan Moore strips is “Rogue Trooper : First of the Few” drawn by Jesus Redondo. Redondo is not known for his war art, and you can kind of see why. Again, a great artist, but not a good fit. Our hero stumbles across an old soldier in rags, Moore’s tale making the logical assumption that Rogue and buddies were not the first GIs. With an anti war and political subtext, this is a bit more sophisticated than the usual “Rogue Trooper” fare. Not great, and certainly not something you would hold up as one of Moore’s classics, but good stuff, but doesn’t fit easily into the original Rogue Trooper’s canon.
After the brief respite from old thrills, we’re back to reprint. This time it’s a few episodes of the original run of “Flesh”, and Earl Reagan’s first meeting with Claw Carver. Written by R.E. Wright and drawn by Sola, gory, gritty, and he draws great dinosaurs. This has the grindhouse “ b” movie feel that the revival is striving for, but which gets lost amongst the conflicting moralising, bombardment of ideas and illogical plot development. You can’t help but look at Joe & Reagan’s relationship in a different light after current developments; it’s gone all “Brokeback Mountain” (“Brokeback Cretaceous?”)
A rather humdrum, though occasionally blackly funny Dredd sees Joe coming up against an escaped exhibit from the alien zoo that is hiding out in a cit’s apartment. Scripted yet again by “Staccato” and drawn by a very stiff looking Robin Smith, antiseptic colours, unimaginative character design and all. He is a great layout artist (as backed up by the article on covers in the annual), editor and designer, but his strip art was never great.
For me the highlight of the package comes next “A Day In The Death Of Torquemada” which allows Pat Mills & Kevin O’Neill to go completely off it on their greatest creation. 4 pages of O’Neill’s bizarre and outlandish designs and characters, there is little story to speak of, but who cares?
A beautifully drawn but slight “Future Shock” (yep – reprint) follows, written by Jack Adrian and drawn by Brian Bolland.
Moore’s second strip a “Ro Busters” tale, with art by Joe Eckers, and winner of “who gave this guy a job?” 1984. A rival to Quartz’s disaster squad threatens to steal their limelight and more importantly their profit. Possibly (ahem)based upon a certain puppet show from the 60s’s whose family name rhymes with “Stacey”; “Storm Eagles Are Go” is a fun little tale, unessential and with a very unsophisticated and “unMoore” punchline . If Moore thinks “DR & Quinch” was bad, what does he think of this?
Yet more reprint! But you rarely go wrong with Wagner, Grant & Ron Smith’s Daily Star “Judge Dredd”.
Interspersed amongst the stories, are a plethora of crosswords, profiles on 2000ad villains and articles of how the prog’ is put together.
Droid profile pages, including script ‘bot Alan Moore, letter droid Frame and what they would no doubt call “media” droids today Spex, DJ1 and D Mil. A 3 page intro’ into Ace Trucking Co – please, please no one revive this, only Belardinelli could draw it.
Editor droid Burt interviews Billy Dee Williams “Lando Calrissian” from the original Star Wars trilogy and in quick succession, articles (or really a 4 page advert) on micro computers. Finally the Moore droid (and now professional curmudgeon and offence taker) returns with a short (for him anyway) article on the creative process behind undervalued 2000ad gem “Skizz”.
The bargain basement feel of the package is exemplified by the text Strontium Dog story that rounds it off, spot illustrations by Robin Smith.
If you haven’t got any of the reprint, then it may be worth hunting down and it’s definitely one for the nostalgic Squaxx. Personally I’d buy it purely for “Nemesis” if I didn’t have a dozen copies of that story already, but as you can probably guess, my ratio of money to sense is arse backwards.