Thursday, March 2, 2017

2000AD - How they crammed the whole future into a single comic and how it changed my life - A ReadItTorial

I've probably blogged about this before, in fact I'm sure I have - but there seems no better time than to reminisce about the Galaxy's Greatest Comic than on its 40th anniversary.

I remember the first time I saw the comic. I was 9 years old, living in Islington in London, and just around the corner from the grotty flats where we lived (which happened to be right opposite where Pink Floyd used to stash their gear and sometimes practice back in the 70s) was a newsagent. Mum didn't have a lot of money but she scraped together enough for me to be able to buy a comic and some sweets (yes, you'd actually get change out of 20p back then for both items).

I'd always read funny stuff like Krazy Comic and Cheeky Weekly but something made me pass on those that particular week, and pick up 2000AD instead.

It had a space spinner on the cover. It had science fiction stories, and from a very quick read it looked like my cup of tea. I should point out that up till then, comics were just something you read and usually disposed of pretty quickly but 2000AD was completely different. If anything, it was a turning point for me, blasting me towards the sort of obsession with comics I've had ever since.

The first issue was astonishing. Real proper 'grown up' action stories set in the distant future,  with a revamped Dan Dare leading the charge amongst other amazing strips.

But Prog 2 was the game changer and probably the reason I kept on reading from then on. Prog 2 saw the introduction of Judge Dredd, a character who dispensed his own form of justice, tackling criminals in a sprawling future city.

It really captured my imagination and I was completely hooked. For the best part of the next 20 years I religiously bought 2000AD every single week (for some reason I stopped buying it in the late 1990s when Kelvin Gosnell took over editorial duties but resumed again some years later - Nothing personal Kelvin, but some of the mid to late 90s stuff was a bit too up itself IMHO). Staying loyal though, I'd switched to Crisis and Judge Dredd: The Megazine by that point - I felt like I'd aged out of the sort of stuff that was going on in 2000AD a bit. How daft.

The comic still had such a huge influence on me that I even took a character's name as a nickname in my Uni / College days. Philip Janet Maybe - AKA P.J Maybe (or in my case, mostly shortened to Peej) is still a nick that some people know me by. I loved the idea that you had this teenage foil for Judge Dredd who pulled off near-perfect crimes before succumbing to his complete psychotic insanity (I've actually lost count of whether he's still alive or not but I like to think that he's a sprightly 49 year old who exacts sweet revenge on anyone who has done him wrong, and still believes he'll get the better of Dredd one day!)

The stories have become legendary, the characters often cited as the reason artists got into comics, or drawing, or writers got into writing. It's never been afraid to confront the issues of the day with razor sharp parody and it still continues to push the envelope for comics, even though the US still have a bit of a weird attitude towards it (and Dredd in particular, who you'd think would be hugely popular over the pond but somehow isn't!)

2000AD has survived just about all its peers at the time, and continues to be one of the standard bearers for British comics. Characters that were back then completely unknown in other parts of the world have since leeched into popular culture, and it's fair to say that a lot of Hollywood script writers and directors owe a great deal to the influence of this mighty comic. It's also fantastic to see Oxford-based Rebellion go from strength to strength, putting out fantastic videogames and being deeply involved in any process where their licenses are used (I hope). I still crave a second 'proper' Dredd movie and still hope it happens at some point with Karl Urban back in the saddle as JD himself.

I also love the fact that the Rebellion guys have picked up the rights to classic IPC titles. More comics from my youth brought back into the light for a whole new audience to discover. Kids who have no idea who The Leopard of Lime Street is, or who Faceache is - or even how terrifying Misty is.

Happy 40th Birthday 2000AD, I'd be happy to see you still around in 2100 (and the way things are going, that's a distinct possibility!)

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