The Mighty One
My Life Inside The Nerve Centre
By Steve MacManus
Review by Seth
I love reading about the creation of comics. But not just the creative process, the gossip, the politics and wrangling that goes on to ensure we get our fix. Reading “Thrillpower Overload”(hereafter referred to TPO) I was like a pig in doodah. The history of the creation of my favourite comic (I’ve kept the faith even when it has got particularly wobbly) so, I am right there at the front of the queue for any dirt dishing tell-all memoir. “So why doesn’t so and so work with so and so anymore?” “Oh,is that why wotsit was cancelled?” “Thingymummy got sacked for that ?!?!!?”
One of the differences between “TPO” and the “The Mighty One” is that Steve MacManus doesn’t dish the dirt and offers a more gentlemanly, but no less captivating, take on the Nerve Centre.
The book divides his career into 3 parts. His time starting out as junior editorial staff in IPC, on Action (as its’ mascot), Battle (as assistant editor) and his initial move to 2000ad. In the second part he is “handed” the editorship of 2000ad, guiding it through the eighties, commissioning strips such as Nemesis, Halo Jones and Rogue Trooper until he felt that it was time to step down. Part 3 is his mission to go to the states seeking inspiration for his next project, whilst on (by then) Fleetway Editions payroll. He comes back, presents his grand plan to Maxwell (he of belly flopping off a yacht fame) and becomes the driving force behind Fleetway’s drive into the newstand mature comics market with “Crisis”, “Revolver” and “Judge Dredd Megazine”.
And we know how that turned out.
For ECBT2000ad readers, the most pertinent bits are the parts of the book dealing with Mac 1’s 2000ad period, each chapter covers a year of time as editor of the Galaxy’s Greatest. But the bits pre 2000ad and post 2000ad are pretty enlightening. The differences between British comics’ publishing in the 70’s and the late 80’s are remarkable.
MacManus has a self deprecating style, he is self critical. Particularly when it comes to “Bad Steve” and refreshingly honest. Admittedly, you could accuse him of being biased, but from what is written here, I can’t help but think of him as a jolly nice chap. But there are going to be some creators he worked with that may disagree. In his introduction, Dave Gibbons hints that it wasn’t all bliss within the Nerve Centre, there is an almost throwaway comment about tension between him and Alan Grant, and Mac gives his account of a falling out with John Wagner. Surprisingly – no “Mills bombs”, but no kiss and tell here, no sirree. MAc 1 is a gentleman. You want invective, read “TPO”.
In fact if there are baddies, it would be management. MacManus tells of seemingly never ending battles with the higher ups, keeping one step ahead of them, at least most of the time. The way MacManus tells it, 2000ad was keeping the remaining boys comic line afloat.
Sometimes, books about comics can be more interesting than the comics themselves.Thoroughly enjoyable, don’t expect any dirt, but unmissable for anyone with an interest in British comics history.