Tag Archives: john-wagner

R is for Robot Wars

Call-Me-KennethI’ve already written several times about pivotal moments in the development of the Judge Dredd series; points which proved decisive in the survival of the strip and its development. Robot Wars (progs 10-17, 1977, with a prologue in prog 9) is the first of these pivotal moments.

It is easy to forget given how it came to dominate the comic, but in the early days there was no reason to regard Judge Dredd as different to any other strip running in 2000AD. It was not “featuring Judge Dredd” – indeed the character only first appeared in prog 2. If anything, it was “featuring Dan Dare”, the 1950s space pilot who editor Pat Mills had revived to spark interest in the new comic. True, it is clear that Pat Mills felt he was onto something with Dredd, which is why its development process ended up being quite so tortuous, but that was no guarantee that the character would survive if it couldn’t prove itself.

John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra’s decision to walk away from their creation was a severe blow. The first seven Dredd strips to appear in 2000AD were written by Peter Harris, Pat Mills, Kelvin Gosnell, Charles Herring and in particular Malcolm Shaw. With the exception of Judge Whitey (prog 2, 1977), Dredd’s first appearance, none of these stories are remembered with any particular affection.

Robot Wars was the first multi-part storyline. More significantly, it was also the first story written by John Wagner to appear in print (and the first story drawn by Carlos Ezquerra, albeit only for one episode). The difference in quality is quite striking.

The story revolves around a robot called Call-Me-Kenneth, a carpenter droid (and yes, that is a Biblical reference) who kills his brutal master and leads a rebellion amongst the robots. Dredd defeats this rebellion, assisted by his robot servant Walter, who is granted full citizenship at the end of the story but chooses to continue working unpaid for Dredd anyway.

This is the first time the satire in the Dredd strip really bites. The analogies being drawn between African slavery and the brutal treatment of the robots by the humans are pretty easy to spot. Call-Me-Kenneth is enjoyably villainous, but the humans and in particular Judge Dredd don’t exactly come off well in this story either. It is the much put upon robots caught up in between we are really being invited to sympathise with.

Robo-HunterThe both the theme of robots-as-oppressed-people and the comic potential of robots were to go on to become recurring themes in 2000AD. Killer Car (progs 53-56, 1978) recycles a lot of the comedy in Robot Wars, and Wagner went on to collaborate with Ian Gibson, artist on both Robot Wars and Killer Car, on Robo-Hunter. Meanwhile, Pat Mills went on to make the plight of intelligent robots a theme in Ro-Busters and ABC Warriors.

Back in Judge Dredd, Walter would go on to be a recurring character for many years, even getting his own series of one-page strips drawn by Brian Bolland. Rejected by Dredd, Walter ends up founding a Call-Me-Kenneth worshipping cult in Giant (Megazine 2.50-52, 1994). And there was a second robot war, this time lead by crimelord Nero Narcos, as recounted in the Doomsday Scenario (progs 1141-1164 & Megazine 3.52-59, 1999).

Robot Wars was a triumphant return to the Judge Dredd strip by John Wagner which set the tone of the series for years afterwards. While simplistic by today’s standards, it’s quality shines through. As with The Pit almost 20 years later, if Wagner had not returned to write was in effect a manifesto for the strip at this point, it is very unlikely that the strip would have lasted the year, let alone 35.

P is for The Pit

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I would argue that there are four main eras of the Judge Dredd strip. The first, which ended at the conclusion of the Judge Child saga, was mainly focused on world building and having the strip find its identity. During the second era, dominated by John Wagner and Alan Grant’s powerhouse writing partnership (and Ron Smith’s art), the strip had a very clear identity. The “golden age” of the strip, this was the era of future crime, zany crazes and at times very broad comedy. It sort of came to an end when their partnership ended, but staggered on until the conclusion of the Necropolis saga, which wrapped up a number of plot threads which had been developing throughout that era.

The third era nearly killed the strip. This is the era dominated by Garth Ennis, Mark Millar and Grant Morrison; three writers who, regardless of their individual qualities as writers elsewhere, completely failed to understand the world John Wagner, Alan Grant and Pat Mills had established. The series declined as a series of worthless and often downright offensive stories took their toll.

Wagner and Grant have to take their share of the blame as well. While Alan Grant’s strips at their worst were better than the best Mark Millar certainly could conceive, they were hardly groundbreaking. While treating the character with somewhat more respect, his vision of the character as little more than a fascist who shoots litterers proved too limiting. John Wagner’s work during this period stands out as consistently superior but despite that they are generally unimpressive with even the Mechanismo/Wilderlands story arc failing to rise above average.

In short, the Dredd strip was in the last chance saloon even before the 1995 film failed to shine. Fortunately, it would appear that John Wagner realised that and on his return as head writer of the series, decided that radical changes were needed. This lead to The Pit (progs 970-999, 1995-1996) and the start of the fourth era of the strip (which may be ongoing or have possibly just ended; it’s too soon to tell).

Arguably, the shift in style can be dated back to The Cal Files a few progs earlier (progs 959-963, 1995); but The Pit is where it all came together. The story was a departure in two ways. Firstly, it shifted in emphasis from action adventure to police procedural – this may seem obvious for a strip about a future cop, but this sort of story had in fact been relatively rare until this point. Secondly, it shifted away from being just about Dredd himself to being more of an ensemble piece. Over the years, Dredd had acquired quite a large supporting cast but this was the first time they were presented less as sidekicks and guest stars and more as teammates.

The overall plot of The Pit is small scale in comparison with the other so-called mega-epics. Concerned by the suspicious death of its Sector Chief, the Chief Judge appoints Dredd as Acting Sector Chief of Sector 301, the eponymous Pit so named because of its high crime rates, high corruption and use as a dumping ground. Dredd sets up a team of disaffected judges to investigate the old Sector Chief’s murder and eventually helps the local force uncover a widespread conspiracy being coordinated by the Frendz Crime Syndicate.

Such a simple plot for a series famous for its nuclear wars and supernatural threats. And yet it was the most enthralling Dredd story to appear in years – quite possibly for precisely that reason. For the first time in years the strip had relatively rounded characters and actual drama (as opposed to simply blowing lots of things up). It was a winning formula.

The story introduced three significant recurring character. In addition to Galen DeMarco, there was Buell – who would go on to become the head of the internal affairs-style Special Judicial Squad – and Guthrie, a Wally Squad operative forced to go underground who Dredd decides to bring in from the cold. The story ended up having a direct sequel, Beyond the Call of Duty (progs 1101–1110, 1998) – which blended the threads left at the end of The Pit with the developing Edgar story arc, and eventually Doomsday, in which the head of the Frendz Nero Narcos decides to declare war on the judges, frustrated by their repeated attacks on his crime syndicate.

Before The Pit, it was starting to look worrying as if the Dredd strip had simply come to a natural conclusion and that there was nothing left to do with it. After The Pit, the series has never really looked back. It marked a significant change in style and tone for the strip which Wagner has now turned into a fine artform (to the extent that while Day of Chaos is superficially a retelling of Block Mania and the Apocalypse War, in style and tone it could not be more different).

Indeed, it is possible to read The Pit as analogous to the fate of the strip itself: neglected for years, Wagner returned to give the strip a new sense of purpose and pride in itself.

E is for Edgar

While Judge Death is a relatively well known Dredd antagonist with certain basic flaws, Judge Jura Edgar is an example of a less known antagonist who is done to perfection. Edgar was, for 22 years, the head of the Justice Department’s Public Surveillance Unit – a division which specialises in spying on the populace.

The Public Surveillance Unit (PSU) is used in several stories to explore the growing trend for universal surveillance in daily life but the obsessive, secretive and downright paranoid Edgar is more like a figure out of the Cold War. Part George Smiley, part Margaret Thatcher (artist John Burns clearly modelled her on the former Prime Minister) and, yes, part J. Edgar Hoover, she embroils Dredd in a number of intrigues, including holding out the possibility that Dredd may not be a clone of Fargo but actually his son (The Cal Files, progs 959-963, 1995). After her introduction, Dredd and Edgar rapidly fall out and Edgar becomes obsessed with bringing about his downfall, eventually using a partial account of Galen DeMarco‘s romantic proposition to Dredd as a pretext to discredit him (The Scorpion Dance, progs 1125-1132, 1998-1999). This fails, but so too does an attempt by Dredd’s allies – including then newly instated Chief Judge Hershey – to convict her with criminal charges for secretly keeping sensitive information on senior judges. Despite this, Hershey removes her from the head of the PSU and transfers her to head a penal colony in the Cursed Earth (The Cal Legacy, progs 1178-1179, 2000).

Years later, with Edgar dying, she attempts her final revenge on Dredd and Hershey. She passes Dredd information about the Citizen’s Court, an illegal execution squad set up by a small group of judges in the 2090s. As per her plans, the surviving members of the squad attempt to kill Dredd as he carries out his investigation, but fail. The final twist however is that it emerges that Edgar herself was the ringleader of the Citizen’s Court – which is how she knew about it – but by the time Dredd returns to her penal colony to bring her to justice, she has died (The Edgar Case, progs 1589-1595, 2008).

While there are probably not enough of them, the Dredd strip has a fairly good track record in producing strong female characters, albeit with an occasional tendency to lapse into cheesecake (Anderson and DeMarco in particular appear to have managed to get the artists and editors into a lather). Edgar is relatively unique in being a female character where her gender is not made an issue of at all (the handling of McGruder, Hershey and Beeny is also quite strong, although the former tends to be presented as a crone while Hershey has had her cheesecake moments – particularly in her younger days). She has a character arc and was thankfully not overused.

She also marks a distinct change in John Wagner’s writing style. Between Necropolis and the Cal Files, Wagner had only written a handful of Dredd tales, including the arc which was kicked off by Mechanismo and ended with the Wilderlands. The rest of the writing duties particularly in 2000AD (Wagner and Grant mainly wrote for the Judge Dredd Megazine at the time) were handled by Garth Ennis, Mark Millar and Millar’s then occasional writing partner Grant Morrisson. None of these writers really “got” Dredd; Millar and Morrison never really got past the fascist overtones, while Ennis seemed to simply run out of ideas quite quickly.

It is fair to say however that even Wagner’s MechanismoWilderlands arc failed to really catch fire. It had any brilliant ideas within it but ended up less than the sum of its parts. Throughout the first half of the 90s, it really did feel as if Dredd was in terminal decline.

Ironically, it seemed to be the prospect of a film which in retrospect is widely regarded as a failure which appeared to turn things around. With The Cal Files, Wagner changed the whole tone of the strip from action-adventure to something more akin to police-procedural thriller.

It might seem obvious for a strip about a future cop to borrow from police TV shows, but at the time the change in tone seemed quite extraordinary. The Cal Files was immediately followed by The Pit and eventually lead to Wagner changing the style of the whole strip, expanding and deepening the supporting cast, focusing on cases rather than just shooting things and ramping up the political intrigue.

The bottom line was that after 20 years, we’d all grown up and needed a bit more from Dredd than zany fashions and future crime. John Wagner realised this and responded at pretty much exactly the right time.

Highlights include:

  • The Cal Files, progs 959-963, 1995. Reprinted in Blind Justice (out of print)
  • The Scorpion Dance, progs 1125-1132, 1998-1999. Reprinted in The Scorpion Dance Featuring Beyond The Call of Duty (out of print)
  • The Cal Legacy, progs 1178-1179, 2000. Not reprinted.
  • The Edgar Case, progs 1589-1595, 2008. Not reprinted.

E is also for…

Carlos Ezquerra
I’ve written quite a bit about John Wagner thus far but failed to write about his co-creator, Carlos Ezquerra.

Spanish born, Andorra (via Croydon) based Ezquerra was a celebrated artist in the 70s even before 2000AD was first published, mostly due to his work on Action and Battle. Chosen by editor Pat Mills to design Dredd, he developed the leather biker look quite quickly (while Wagner may have had half an eye of the Dirty Harry films, Ezquerra had been watching Roger Corman’s 1975 film Death Race 2000). But it was arguably his city scape designs that really elevated the project to a new level. Up until that point, the idea had been to set Judge Dredd in a future version of New York; it was Carlos Ezquerra who created the deranged vision of Mega City 1, with a cityscape that more resembles a series of giant termite mounds than high rise buildings.

Ezquerra however grew disenchanted with the development process of Judge Dredd and eventually peeled away. He was further put out by the fact that his replacement, Mick McMahon, was extremely good at copying his style – although he very rapidly developed a style which was unique to himself.

Ezquerra was to walk away, instead focusing on developing Strontium Dog for 2000AD’s sister publication Starlord (also in collaboration with John Wagner). He didn’t return to the strip for five years but when he did, his illustration of The Apocalypse War (progs 245–267, 269–270, 1982) was magnificent. The character design had developed significantly since he had left the project, but he instantly made it his own.

Ezquerra has subsequently become established as one of the main Dredd artists. He is the only artist other than Ian Gibson to have worked on the character in every decade since it’s creation and while Gibson is limited to the odd 6-pager these days, Ezquerra’s work rate remains extraordinarily high, albeit with the help of his son Hector. He remains active despite being treated for lung cancer in 2010.

C is for Chopper

Marlon “Chopper” Shakespeare is the Judge Dredd series’s own rebel without a cause. Originally appearing as a graffiti artist in Un-American Graffiti (progs 206-207, 1981), for true Dredd fans it is this they think of whenever they see a smiley face, not Watchmen or acid house. He went on to become best known as a sky-surfer (literally, someone who rides on a flying surfboard fitted with an anti-gravity device) and the winner of illegal world championship Supersurf 7 (The Midnight Surfer, progs 424-429, 1986). Most stories since then have focused on the fictional sport of sky-surfing.

The Midnight Surfer was followed up by Oz (progs 545-570, 1987), a Dredd epic which is framed around Chopper’s escape from prison, journey to Australia to compete in Supersurf 10 and the contest itself (the story also focuses around an attack on Mega City 1 by the Judda, but I’ll cover that elsewhere). This story is cited as one of the reasons John Wagner and Alan Grant decided to end their writing partnership, which had begun towards the end of writing the Judge Child saga. In short, Wagner wanted Chopper to lose the championship but live, while Grant wanted Chopper to win the championship but die. Wagner got his way.

After Anderson, Psi Division, Chopper is the second Judge Dredd character to get his own spin-off series. The Song of the Surfer (progs 654-665, 1989) focuses on Supersurf 11, this time taking place in Mega City 2. The championship turns deadly when its organisers decide to make it more exciting by firing guns at the contestants. This time, almost as if to show Alan Grant how it should be done, Wagner let’s Chopper win – but apparently dies. The story also marks the first major collaboration between John Wagner and artist Colin MacNeil, who went on to draw America and a number of other classic Dredd stories.

And there is should have ended. Unfortunately, Chopper was then brought back with the launch of the new Judge Dredd Megazine, in a story called Earth, Wind and Fire (Judge Dredd Megazine vol 1, 1-6, 1990). This story was written by Garth Ennis (and drawn by frequent Ennis collaborator John McCrea), at the time still at the early stage of his career. Ennis has many qualities as a writer, but one of his weaknesses is a tendency to turn everything he writes into meandering bromances which focus more on drinking alcohol than on character or plot. Earth, Wind and Fire is a particular low point of his career – and one he appears to readily acknowledge himself.

Chopper, now a character who had entirely run out of a story to tell, limped on to appear in yet another story in 2000AD – this time written by Alan McKenzie and drawn by John Higgins (Supersurf 13, progs 964-971, 1995) – before the editor’s finally decided to give him a rest. Even then, Wagner himself attempted to revive the character in 2004 in a fairly forgettable story (The Big Meg, progs 1387-1394, 2004).

Chopper’s run therefore is a tale of two halves. His first four appearances are as great as his latter three are forgettable. It is easy to see how the readership easily identified with this character, a kid who was about the same age as most of the people reading his stories. The best Chopper stories are all about an ordinary guy achieving extraordinary things in the face of adversity, but there comes a point when there just isn’t anything left to kick against.

Highlights include:

  • Un-American Graffiti (progs 206-207, 1981). Reprinted in the Complete Judge Dredd Casefiles vol 4.
  • The Midnight Surfer (progs 424-429, 1986). Reprinted in the Complete Judge Dredd Casefiles vol 9.
  • Oz (progs 545-570, 1987). Reprinted in the Complete Judge Dredd Casefiles vol 11.
  • The Song of the Surfer (progs 654-665, 1989). Reprinted in Chopper: Surf’s Up.

C is also for…

Cal
Chief Judge Cal is an early antagonist of Dredd’s. The head of the Special Judicial Service – the Justice Department’s own internal affairs unit who dress like members of the SS – Cal uses his position to kill Chief Judge Goodman and brainwash the judges, leaving only a handful of judges – including Dredd, Giant and the tutors at the Academy of Law – left to fight a rebellion.

Originally drawn to resemble Pat Mills, Mills objected and as a result Cal was quickly changed to instead resemble John Hurt’s portrayal of Emperor Caligula in BBC TV’s adaptation of I, Claudius.

The Day the Law Died (progs 89-108, 1978-1979) was the basis of the Judge Dredd motion picture (1995), albeit with Cal replaced by Dredd’s clone brother Rico and loveable oaf Fergee replaced by the distinctly unloveable Fergie, played by Rob Schneider.

An alternate Cal appeared in dimension hopping series Helter Skelter (progs 1250-1261, 2001).

Call-Me-Kenneth
Call-Me-Kenneth was the revolutionary leader of the robot rebellion in the Robot Wars, the first multi-part Judge Dredd story, which also marked a return to the strip by creator John Wagner after initially walking away due to conflict between him and commissioning editor Pat Mills (progs 10–17, 1977).

With clear allusions to Jesus, Call-Me-Kenneth is originally a carpenter droid who rebels against his brutal master. He is eventually brought to heel by Dredd and his sycophantic servant droid Walter, in what is a highly satirical story (a personal favourite).

A Beginner’s Guide To Comics: A Response

I had originally written this as a comment to Andrew Hickey’s Beginner’s Guide to Comics, but I thought I would add it here instead. First go away and read his article and then come back to this:

Andrew’s is a good list which I would broadly agree with. Jaka’s Story was one of those strips which was being hailed during the “Pow! Comics Grow Up!” period of the late 80s. I’d like my older self to give it a read – I certainly remember the ending being very powerful. But as he recognises there is that Dave Sim “ick” factor which stops me from rushing.

All-Star Superman is good but I wouldn’t put it above Morrison’s Invisibles or (more controversially) Doom Patrol. It is however, much shorter than those two.

I re-read Sandman earlier this year. It was actually stronger than I remember, although that was partly due to the fact that I was one of those people who read the monthly comic and thus got alienated by Gaiman during The Kindly Ones when he stopped writing a periodical and switched to novel writing. Reading it as a whole it stands up; as a series of (less than) monthly episodes it really didn’t.

One of the big problems with enticing people into comics is that sometimes they can be quite inaccessible from a visual impairment point of view. I won’t bother trying From Hell on my girlfriend not because of the subject matter but because I’m pretty sure she’d find it impossible to read because of Eddie Campbell’s scratchy lettering.

Alice in Sunderland is a book I suspect I will go back and reread every couple of years for years to come. It is such a rich, dense book. As a meditation about what it means to be English (and in particular Northern English) it is fantastic. It SHOULD be taught in schools in my view. One Bad Rat is currently high on my reread pile.

As for things Andrew missed…

The best non-superhero Alan Moore things would have to be V for Vendetta, Halo Jones and (controversially) Skizz. The latter is ET done properly, even if the South African bashing is a little dated.

For the Buffy fans out there, you should give Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men run a go. It is his best comics work in my view.

I read Mike Carey’s Lucifer in quick succession last year and loved it. As a meditation on the nature of free will it is required reading (for all those libertarian bloggers out there especially – and I’m not taking the piss there). His Unwritten is also shaping up well. There is a lot of Vertigo stuff which started in the early noughties which I missed completely for the simple reason that I had had enough of tiresome Sandman spin-offs.

Overall, 2000AD is a tricky thing to recommend. Dredd is almost certainly an acquired taste and I do appreciate that a lot of the 80s stuff has dated somewhat. I tend to find the “funny” stuff more difficult to justify than the “serious” stuff despite initially being attracted by the former. This is a shame because Wagner deserves much greater recognition than he gets. Far from being a simple fascist cop, the characterisation of Dredd is incredibly rich and yet understated in Wagner’s hands. One gets the impression it has become semi-autobiographical.

Of the relatively self-contained 2000AD stuff I would recommend Nikolai Dante, Caballistics, Inc. and Leviathan.

Finally, I would throw in Kyle Baker’s Why I Hate Saturn and You Are Here and Evan Dorkins Dork! (an acquired taste but brilliant nonetheless).

Fictional meme letters

Okay, I got this meme from Andy Hinton (not to be confused with Alex Hilton – learned that lesson!):

1. Comment on this post.
2. I will give you a letter.
3. Think of 5 fictional characters whose names begin with that letter and post their names and your comments on these characters in your LJ blog.

Because this is Quaequam Blog! I thought I would limit these to 2000AD characters:

Rogue Trooper: the gayest strip in 2000AD’s history (that’s not a criticism by the way, just an observation), the original run by Gerry Finlay-Day was about a genetic infantryman who is the lone survivor of the infamous Quartz Zone Massacre. Determined to track down the traitor general who sent his “buddies” to their doom, he goes rogue, kept company only by the personality-encoded “biochips” of his best friends. By astonishing coincidence, he is called Rogue while his marksman friend is called Gunnar (his chip is in Rogue’s rifle), his quarter-mastery friend is called Bagman (his chip is in Rogue’s, er bag) and his, er, fairly useless friend is called Helm (can you guess where they keep his chip?).

A typical GF-D strip would feature Rogue encountering a woman, flirting with her, his “buddies” getting outrageously jealous and for her to turn out to be an evil traitor. Seriously, I don’t think there is a single female character in the original run (up to the point when they track down the traitor) who doesn’t turn out to be a villain.

If that isn’t homoerotic enough for you, how about the fact that the lead character runs around topless (in a warzone – very sensible).

Original artist Dave Gibbons eventually did a reboot of the character (called War Machine), which was actually very good and reprinted in Heavy Metal. Sadly, the ongoing series that came out of that was Terrible McTerrible.

Durham RedDurham Red: Johnny Alpha’s putative replacement sidekick (after his, very-obviously-boyfriend Wulf was killed off). Shortly afterwards, Johnny went and died himself and Red decided to go into suspended animation to emerge, millennia later, as possibly the most obviously sexy character ever to appear in the comic, as drawn by Mark Harrison. In the future, apparently, clothing can defy gravity.

Not surprisingly, Durham’s reinvention was an instant hit with both boys and girls alike (even if the strips were rather shallow and not up to writer Dan Abnett’s best), but Mark nearly went bonkers drawing her mind-bogglingly complicated CG strips. He now appears to eschew Photoshop in favour of good old fashioned paint.

Rico DreddRico: sort of a two-for-one here as Rico can refer either to Joe Dredd’s twin brother or Joe Dredd’s rookie. Given that all three are clones of each other, the distinction is a fine one, although Rico Dredd becomes evil while Judge Rico is (at the time of writing) one of the good guys.

The whole “what’s it like being a clone?” thing has been used to good effect by John Wagner over the years. The exact reason why Rico Dredd went bad has not been fully explored, by Wagner at least. But Rico was originally created by Pat Mills, who had a go at the character in 1995 (during his chaos magick weirdie phase), which was not entirely successful and seems to have acquired apocryphal status during the years.

Rico occasionally appears in one of those dreadful “rogue’s gallery” type stories where Dredd is either haunted by popular villains past or, in the case of Helter Skelter by Garth Ennis, parallel universe versions of them actually team up to kick his arse. Generally speaking, if Wagner isn’t writing it, involving Rico in a story is likely to be a recipe for disaster.

Ro-JawsRo-Jaws: a waste disposal robot who spends most of the strips he appears in rummaging through the contents of a bin or “cludgie.” A gloriously loveable character from the early days of “Tooth,” who ended up a character in search of a plotline.

Tyranny RexTyranny Rex: an earlier attempt at a “sexy” female character in 2000AD, this time from the fevered imagination of erratic genius John Smith. Half “Saurian” Tyranny is just your ordinary, green, girl-about-town who happens to have a whopping great prehensile tail. Not sure the tail thing went down well with the boys, to be perfectly honest.

Tyranny’s strips were Smith’s first attempts at a regular character, the first strip of which was about music piracy with a twist (“home cloning is killing music”). Very quickly her strips morphed into the Indigo Prime series. The promised ongoing series (featuring a transvestite dog apparently) which was to appear in first Crisis and then Revolver never emerged. I can’t help but feel this is a character which could get surprise us. It is certainly the case that Smith has got it in him.
Rogan GoshRogan Gosh: technically not a 2000AD character but I’m including it here since I couldn’t think of any more characters with the letter R and the strip appeared in one of 2000AD’s sister magazines, so it counts. Milligan and McCarthy’s Rogan Gosh is, in my opinion, by far the most successful thing to come out of Fleetway’s brief experimentation with “adult” comics (with Skin – also by Milligan and McCarthy – coming a close second even if they did chicken out of publishing it).

It’s genius because it works on so many levels – is it an hallucination by Rudyard Kipling, the adventures of two blokes in an Indian restaurant or the product of the imagination of a boy committing suicide? All three narratives merge into one. No-one had ever tried doing Anglo-Indian comics before (there have been attempts since but they have been nothing like as successful, namely Grant Morrison’s Vimanarama and Pat Mills’ Black Siddha). One of the absolute highlights of my teenage years.

Anyone else want a go? Just follow the instructions above.

Tooth Review: 1573 & 1574 (obligatory spoiler warning)

Prog 1573Prog 1574Quote of the Week: “First you say hello to Vulf’s little friend!” Wulf Sternhammer gets up close and personal in Strontium Dog (1574).

Covers: Dylan Teague draws Johnny Alpha versus Groule from Strontium Dog (1573); Richard Elsom draws a chained Gene Hackman from The Kingdom (1574).

Contents: Judge Dredd, The Kingdom, Stickleback and Strontium Dog in both progs. Shakara ends in 1573 to be replaced by a Future Shock in 1574.

Review in less than 10 words: There will be blood (1573), Hell is other mutants (1574).

Spoilers… Continue reading

Tooth Review: 1572 (obligatory spoiler warning)

Prog 1572Quote of the Week: “Who gains, who gains? That’s the clue Inga! Nobody kills for nothing – unless they’re a total psychopath like me, and even I like to turn a profit.” – P.J. ponders about his impersonator in Judge Dredd.

Cover: Cliff Robinson draws P.J. Maybe and Dredd.

Contents: Judge Dredd, Shakara, Kingdom, Strontium Dog and Stickleback all continue.

Review in less than 10 words: The worms turn.

Spoilers… Continue reading

Tooth Review: 1571 (obligatory spoiler warning)

Prog 1571Alternative design to Prog 1571 coverQuote of the Week: “Bhuu-rrpp! Ugh. Kid was stringier than he looked. Hey, Shockeye, what’s fer dessert? Y’got any more o’that blood custard an’ them sweet pickled twins left?” – Buffalo Bill Cody sings for his supper in Stickleback.

Cover: Brendan McCarthy is back from la-la land, drawing his first 2000AD cover since 1991. And what a great cover it is too. I have to say I prefer the final version compared to the alternate version I found on McCarthy’s website (also pictured). Credit too then to veteran 2000AD designer Steve Cook for the final design.

Contents: Judge Dredd, Shakara, Kingdom, Strontium Dog and Stickleback all continue.

Review in less than 10 words: Everything gets complicated.

Spoilers… Continue reading

Tooth Review: 1569 & 1570

Prog 1569Prog 1570Covers: 1569 features a rather odd picture of some mutants by Simon Davies, clearly still in his Stone Island phase. 1570 features Gene from Kingdom mid-battle with some giant insects. The latter is clearly the more obviously commercial, but I was surprised to see that 1569 had sold out in a couple of days at my local Borders.

It is interesting to note that just a few issues in, the new logo has already had a slight tweak. The big thick bar across the top of the page which I hated has gone transparent. Whether the redundant extra “2000AD” will stay for much longer remains to be seen.

Quote: “Gene did not even know there was a word called hide-rononiks. Your mouth is full of strange.” – Gene Hackman gets to grip with modern farming techniques in The Kingdom.

Contents: Both progs feature Judge Dredd (a new multi-parter starts in 1569), Shakara, Kingdom, Stickleback and Strontium Dog.

Spoilers… Continue reading