Sunday, 29 March 2015

2000 AD Comic

2000 AD was a British sci-fi comic I read in my early teens. By this time I'd gotten bored of the regular kids comics like The Dandy, The Beano, Jackpot, Topper, Beezer and Whizzer. I'd even gone off the regular boys comics like Action, Battle and Tiger as they seemed to contain nothing but the same old sports and war stories. I wanted to find something a bit more cutting edge with more varied and interesting story lines and in August 1981 I found it.

Prog 001 with free space spinner

I had bought the first issue (Prog 001) of 2000 AD back in February 1977 but, being three and a half years younger, that was just to get the free space spinner taped to the front cover. I didn't think I was really interested in the content of the comic although strips such as Flesh, Harlem Heroes, Invasion and M.A.C.H 1 are still buried in my memory. Judge Dredd wasn't until Prog 002.

Flesh and Harlem Heroes

Flesh was a story of time-travelling back to the age of dinosaurs. Harlem Heroes was a future sports story. Invasion was an alternate reality war story and M.A.C.H 1 was a Six Million Dollar Man rip off. The Dan Dare comic strip did not interest me at all. I maybe bought two or three further issues for the free gifts and then I didn't buy anymore for a few years.

Invasion and M.A.C.H 1

But in that summer of 81 as soon as I saw the fabulous art on the front cover of Prog 225 I knew that was MY comic. On reading it the stories seemed to be written specifically for me. Every Tuesday when the latest Prog came out I lost myself in the sci-fi fantasies that took my mind away from real life which sometimes wasn't great. In 2000 AD life was always entertaining, even if it was a bleak and violent vision of the future most of the time.

Prog 225 with Judge Death

In Prog 225 it was half way through the second Judge Death story, in the comics most popular strip Judge Dredd, but I didn't care. All the comic strips had a degree of artwork that I'd never seen before and sometimes it was no holds barred. It seemed like the future was going to be very dystopian. But I liked it that way.

Judge Dredd, the comics most popular character.

So many stories and characters captured my imagination. My favorite strips were Judge Dredd, a cop in the future who also acted as judge, jury and executioner. It was brutal. It was action packed. It was satirical. The most lovable facist on two wheels. If 2000 AD itself was going to become this kind of future I was going to be ready for it. Well that's what I thought.

Strontium Dog

Strontium Dog, Johnny Alpha was a bounty hunter in space. He was a mutant. He was an outsider. If you felt like an outsider at all you identified with him immediately. He had a couple of great sidekicks. A very large, moustached, Thor lookalike with a German accent called Wulf Sternhammer. He liked to smash stuff and was very loyal to Johnny. Then there was the Gronk. A small alien that was never far from having a heart attack every time the action got under way.

Rogue Trooper

Rogue Trooper was the last genetic soldier of his kind after the other GI's (Genetic Infantryman) were wiped out in the quartz zone massacre. This was a traitors doing and Rogue Troopers main story arc centred around finding the traitor. Rogue Trooper had blue skin and was able to survive in harsh conditions. He could breath the toxic air on the planet of nu earth unlike the Norts and Southers, the two warring factions, who needed oxygen masks to breath. He also had three sidekicks in chip form, taken from his dead buddies and implanted into his equipment. Gunnar, Bagman and Helm. The banter between the four of them was priceless. I'd never seen future war depicted so well and the mini stories in each issue were awash with ideas.

ACE Trucking Co.

Ace Trucking Co took the CB radio craze and put it in space with spaceships instead of trucks and the wackiest alien crew imaginable. One was a crazy version of Chewbacca with mad hair and empty eyes called GBH, one was a small skeleton that wore a pirate hat and the captain had a very pointy triangular shaped head. They had there own lingo based around CB radio and crazy adventures usually involving the delivery of cargo for money or, well, anything for money. It was very weird and very funny.

The Mean Arena

The Mean Arena was a future sports strip but that's where the similarities with the Harlem Heroes ended. This was more like Gridiron in a different cityscape each week rather that basketball with jet packs in a stadium. The strip was kept interesting by offering readers the chance for their team costume designs to appear in the comic strip itself along with their team's name.

Harry 20 On The High Rock

Harry 20 On The High Rock, a one off story, was about a prisoner trying to escape a futuristic prison. There was even the obligatory evil prison warder. The art for this strip did not seem to match the quality of previous strips but the story still kept me engaged.

Tharg's Future Shocks

One-off stories of the future usually with a twist in the tail. Tharg was alien editor (mascot) of 2000 AD. He answered readers letters and used his own language mixed with English. Much more interesting and entertaining than most comic / magazine editors I think you'll agree.

Nemesis, Slaine, Skizz and Robo-Hunter

Other strips included Nemesis The Warlock which started a few Progs before 225, Slaine which started in Prog 330, Skizz which started in Prog 308 and Robo-Hunter which had been in previous Progs but this new series started in Prog 259.

The Annuals I got for Christmas

For at least two Christmas's I was also lucky enough to receive the hard cover 2000 AD and Judge Dredd annuals at the end of 1981 and 1982.

Some of my favourite Dredd covers.

I read 2000 AD every week for over two years but crazy as it seems when I moved house away from the newsagent I used to order it from every week I suddenly stopped reading it. I became more interested in other things that my friends were also into, like computer games on my ZX Spectrum, and unfortunately 2000 AD was not one of them anymore.

After a couple of years I lost interest

2000 AD is still published to this day, currently on Prog 1923 and just a couple of years short of its 40th Birthday. I don't have any regrets as I read it during, what I'd call, it's golden era. My one major disappointment was that the year 2000 itself was a big anti-climax and did not look anything like it did in the comics. Then again the new technologies that were not around in the early eighties, like the internet and smart phones, are taken for granted now. They don't seem like the big hi-tech leaps that they really are. Maybe they'd only be a culture shock to someone who'd been asleep for over 30 years. Now there's a not so original idea for a 2000 AD strip.

The latest Prog 1923

For anyone that wants to check out the three YouTube videos I created of an early Strontium Dog story follow the links below.

Finally for a brief history of 2000 AD check out the wiki link below.

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