Thursday, 29 March 2018

Comics - How I fell in love, out of love and madly back in love with 'em all over again - A ReadItTorial

2000AD Featuring Judge Dredd. First proper comic head-over-heels love
This is kind of a follow up to a readitorial from a while back where I confessed I'd started reading comics on a Kindle for the first time. Since getting my Kindle Fire I've found it almost impossible to resist those '99p' deals that often crop up on ComiXology and Amazon (though sensible folk will know that just like some exquisite drug, the first taste of a comic arc is always cheap - subsequent issues are crazily priced!)

Up till last week there was always one childhood comic obsession I never revisited for many, many reasons. I'd left 2000AD alone for years, giving up the regular prog and Judge Dredd Megazine habit some time around moving to Brighton in the mid 90s, never to pick it back up again.

Something seemed to happen to the progs in the 90s, I felt like things had gone off the rails and I'd shuffled off to cooler (short lived) climes such as reading stuff like Deadline before giving comics up for good around the time I got seriously back into work and stopped being an art student. To this day I've no idea why I stopped reading comics and graphic novels but looking back I realised it was more a question of having next to no spare time rather than totally disowning comics altogether.

2000AD (now owned and published by Rebellion) has kept the highest of high standards going for 40 years, seemingly with ease and when last week's issue kicked off with all new stories I felt like it was time to jump back in - for one issue at least.

Back in the day I was PROPERLY obsessed with this comic. I bought Prog 1 the day after my birthday back in 1977 with my meagre birthday cash and still had enough money left over for an obscenely large bag of Fizz Bombs (my tooth-rot of choice back then) and a Matchbox car.

I was hooked from the word go, and into the 80s I started to draw characters from the comics regularly, even taking on a nickname once 'online' became a thing, nicking P.J. Maybe as an assumed monicker, purely because that nefarious psychotic maniac's name was weirdly close to my own (middle name isn't Janet though, just for ref).

I grew up with the comic, watched some of its most amazing talent leave for the US (and to a certain extent I followed their moves to other studios and read pretty much anything Bolland was involved in art-wise including his phenomenal "Batman: The Killing Joke" for DC.

When my daughter was born I started to read comics again, realising that a little girl who loved stories might find a lot of love for comics as well (thankfully that panned out rather well with her sharing her old man's obsession with comics as an art form, a storytelling medium and a vitally important part of our culture).

C's comic of choice is another mighty Brit comic - "The Phoenix"

Taking a similar approach to 2000AD, it's fairly heavy on sci-fi and fantasy stories, often with an anarchic sense of humour just like 2000AD, and with a hugely talented bunch of artists and writers working on it - again just like the progs.

Through introducing her to the Phoenix early on and letting her 'own' that comic as her first proper comic love, she's since been introduced to all things DC and Marvel, a truckload of excellent independents and a few carefully chosen age appropriate classics to mix in with some of the truly stunning stuff kids get to read these days (the likes of Hilda, Gum Girl, Red's Planet and so many others really do make it feel like comics are truly going through an amazing time at the moment and riding a wave of popularity that I hope continues for aeons).

Like most comic fans, I'm exceptionally good at letting stupid comments about "Still reading comics at the age of 50" wash right over me. Like there was ever a cut-off date where it became unacceptable to read them, play with lego or play videogames.

Comics to me are still one of the most important ways that artists, writers and other creatives can push across important messages. Sometimes in the form of parody. Sometimes in the form of comic anthologies, graphic novels or story arcs for existing characters that reference and riff on the world we know today - sometimes exaggerating it, but quite often presenting the world as it stands - a sometimes deeply weird, dark and crazy place.

Picking up Prog 2073 of 2000AD was like coming home. All the exceptional talent I was familiar with back as a kid (the ones that are alive, at least) are still hanging on in there but the new blood are equally impressive, not only paying homage to those characters, story worlds and ideas but carving out incredible strips and stories of their own. It has morphed into a comic that feels more properly 'grown up' than ever (though that was never 2000AD's problem, you could never really lump it in with other 'kid' comics that were around at the time the first progs hit shelves). The new Judge Dredd strip featuring the nefarious SJS is truly fantastic (I'd not come across Judge Pin before but can't wait to see what that psychotic lunatic comes up with in this story run) and the alternative timeline story based in the Rogue Trooper universe is utterly compelling too.

Though I still miss rifling through comics in paper form (it's just not practical to do so any more - gone are the days where I could stack progs in thick bundles wrapped in plastic under my bed) digital has at least allowed me to play catchup with stuff I missed during those wilderness years. I almost feel like a 9 year old again, anxiously waiting for the next issue to drop. If you're like me, a lapsed Squaxx Dex Thargo it might be time to jump back in yourself. Bring it on!