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GIVE THE GIFT OF THARG 2013

6 Jan

Futurshockd took the year off this year. Sorry. Well, it was nice out. However in our absence the world seemed to take distinctly more notice of 2000AD with both the Dredd 3D movie (hurrah!), IDW’s Judge Dredd (hummmm) and increased coverage on major comics sites (much love and respect to Forbidden Planet’s Prog Pledge for the weekly effort). However Futureshockd is ready to return to the enjoyable task of whipping though the decades of 2000AD’s short stories so its fitting to return where we left off, with a review of what has happened in the last years Prog and Meg. As with a calendar year ago the time is ripe to jump on the Prog as Prog 2013, in shops over the New Year, contains the jump-on point for the next 5 tales which will doubtless take readers trough till the end of February. And for new subscribers the second volume of Tharg’s Futureshocks ‘B / Manga format’ Collections is your exclusive reward for subscribing to the House of Tharg’s hard-copy. This collection is a particular joy for fans of Belardinelli with no fewer than 10 strips illustrated by the departed weirdsmith.

thargs futureshocks vol 2 cover

Future Shocks Subscribers Exclusive Vol.2
Cover by Grant Perkins and Jamie Roberts

The stories in this exclusive collection are plucked from various Progs published between 1987 and 1989 (prog 539 – 648) and features such writers as Mark Millar, John Smith, Jim Campbell and future-Tharg Alan Mackenzie. As well as Belardinelli the art duties include such luminaries as Glenn Fabry, Mike Collins, Will Simpson, Richard Elson, Kev Walker, Jose Ortiz, Paul Marshall and the classic Dredd artist Ron Smith.

Future Shocks Subscribers Exclusive Edition - Art Various Copyright Rebellion

Art from Futureshocks Subscribers Exclusive Vol.2 – (clockwise from top right) by Will Simpson, Paul Marshall, Glenn Fabry, Mick Austin, Ron Smith, Kev Walker, Chris Weston, Massimo Belardinelli, Nigel Dobbyn, Richard Elson, Massimo Belardinelli, Mark Farmer

Tharg’s droids have made a fine selection from the time and the collection marks how Futureshocks were being used to test new talent rather than being given to old professionals. Indeed only Jose Ortiz and Belardinelli feature from the group who handled duties on the first 200 progs. Names such as Weston, Fabry, Marshall and Elson would all go on to have successful spells on strips such as Dredd, Slaine, Kingdom and Indigo Prime as well as successful careers in US comics. As for the Shocks themselves, well reviews of those will have to wait till the blog gets to them but there are many quality thrills, several of which will ping instantly back to the minds of former readers. Sadly the large Belardinelli count does not find room to include the magnificent Smith / Belardinelli ‘One Man’s Meat‘ from Prog 563, surely the finest strip to ever feature a cute alien-hippo with a gun to its head. For this delight from the Era check the still available Best of Future Shocks. 

One Man's Meat - Prog 563 - Art Massimo Belardinelli - Copyright Rebellion

One Man’s Meat – Prog 563 – Art Massimo Belardinelli

Wisely avoiding overlapping the Best of Future Shocks can be seen to have taken a few of the better tales from the Era out of consideration but that doesn’t mean there aren’t gems aplenty in the subscribers exclusive and the art work, especially from Weston, Belardinelli, Smith and Marshall is top notch. Fans of Golden Era comics will especially appreciate the formalism and style jokes in He Met the Moonmen, a strip which demonstrates Paul Marshall’s neat flare for aping past stylisms that would also feature so effectively in Prog 2010′s festive Dredd tale O’ Little Town of Bethlehem. Future Shocks Vol. 2 is, like its predecessor volume, a great reason to make the move to a full subscription with the House of Tharg.

Of course the primary reason to subscribe to 2000AD is the content of the weekly Prog and Monthly Meg and the proof of value is best illustrated by looking back on ‘what you would have won’ had you taken the plunge last year. Subscribers hauled in 50 editions of the Prog:

13 Issues of the Judge Dredd Megazine:

Judge Dredd Megazine 2012 - Art Various Copyright Rebellion

and 13 reprint Graphic Novel ‘floppies’:

Judge dredd Meg floppies 2012

As with last year, a sub buys you just over 1800 pages of new comics, and an additional 700 plus pages of reprints, as well as interviews, star scans, the odd gift (this year Chris Weston’s magnificent multi-cast cover as poster) and advanced delivery a few days before it hits the shelves in town. Be the envy of squaxx everywhere by spoilering Dredd for them on a Monday morning.

However pretty covers and page count don’t make up for content (hiya Clint readers!) so what was contained in 2000AD in the last year? As with the 2011 review we’ll pick a top ten list of moments in Dredd and a slightly expanded top 12 of non-Dredd stories. Feel free to quibble over the choices and let Futureshockd know what you’ve have had in the lists instead! For those that take exception to our selections there is plenty of pretty artwork for you to enjoy instead.

The Year In Dredd

Dredd in 2012 was dominated by two towering achievements – the first half of the year saw John Wagner’s Day of Chaos leave readers reeling while the months of November and December brought Dredd, The Simping Detective and Lowlife into an astounding cross-over that left everyone applauding just how darn clever it was. Very few strips managed to deal with the post-Day of Chaos expressly. Robbie Morrison’s Innocent contained some flashbacks and Michael Carroll’s Debris made best use of the ‘new’ city so far but still there was very much a feeling of writers not yet having got around to Wagner’s new rules. Given the length and impact of the stories that book-ended the year a great many other shorts can’t make it into a ‘best of’ but there was a great deal of good stuff outside of this list. Mark Harrison produced fantastic art in a rare strip appearance for Asleep (Prog 1804-05), Michael Carroll grabbed former exile Judge Doleman and returned him to assist in the clean-up (Debris, Prog 1792-1796) while Alan Grant took Ratfink out of his cell for a run-around before returning him for safekeeping (Ratfink’s Revenge: Meg 328-330). Gordon Rennie and Paul Marshall’s Killer Elite (Meg 328-331) only narrowly missed out on the list and ensured the Meg ended in rude health with a great tale of humour, revenge, stonewalling Dredd and a high body-count.  Whether it also marked the end of Rennie’s ‘Global Psycho’ stories will be intriguing to see.

10) Prog 1786 – Wot I Did During the Worst Dissaster in Mega City History: Script: John Wagner, Art: Henry Flint

Right on the cusp of the ‘actual’ Day of Chaos John Wagner throws a curve-ball at the fan-base who had speculated that arch-foe PJ Maybe, elaborately escaped from prison during the prologue to the epic, would play a significant role in its conclusion. However Wager punts Maybe and the long-absent Dark Judges into the long grass via a comedy 6 pager where Maybe outfoxes the slightly naive Fear Fire and Mortis and goes back to stealthy wealthy domesticity. Wot I did, blessed with the ever excellent Henry Flint on art duties, was a fun change of pace and showed that while Dredd’s world may be going to Hell, PJ’s wealth and cunning allowed him to, yet again, be relatively unfazed by the fate of Mega City One.

Judge Dredd - Prog 1786 - Script John Wagner - Art Henry Flint - Copyright Rebellion

9) Meg 328 – Top of the World, Ma-Ma: Script Matt Smith, Art Henry Flint

2012′s investment into Dredd saw different versions of the character emerging, both IDW’s take and this movie-prologue which appeared online and in the Megazine. Written by Tharg’s earthly ambassador, Matt Smith, and illustrated with a ‘movie-uniform’ look by Henry Flint, this was a very different Dredd world, much more in keeping with the low-rent broken tenement look of the movie and notably with contemporary curse words aplenty. A simple tale, elaborating the movie’s brief synopsis of Ma-Ma’s career given by the Peachtrees’ Paramedic, it gives a creditable world-view of what a ‘Dredd the Movie’ comic spin-off would have been. Ah, if only. Well, at-least it filled the void between the movie closing and the DVD release. It also acts as a very nice tester for Smith’s forthcoming IDW Dredd mini-series in Dredd: Year One.

Judge Dredd - MEG 328 - Script Matt Smith - Art Henry Flint - Copyright Rebellion

8) 1806 – The Cold Deck pt 1: Script: Al Ewing, Art: Henry Flint

The Cold Deck morphed into something bigger and wider but the first episode’s handling of  low-level crime shows why Al Ewing is the 2i/c when it comes to writing Judge Dredd. Ewing’s nails Dredd’s retreat into isolating tasks down to one-at-a-time as his way to deal with the harrowing destruction, emergency and new rules needed to survive in the post-Chaos Day city. His mantra of ‘One Job at a time’ make Dredd a near automaton dealing with the post-traumatic order by concentrating on what he’s good at… kicking ass and dealing with dumb perps. The McKluskys Brothers certain fit the bill of the dumbest of the dumb and it takes one page for Dredd to dispatch them with ruthless efficiency and a dry wit. ‘Not on your best day…. dummy‘. Fantastic.

Dredd - Prog 1806 - Script Al Ewing - Art Henry Flint - Copyright Rebellion

7) Prog 2012 – Choose Your Own Xmas: Script: Al Ewing, Art: John Higgins

The Xmas Dredd has always been a special case, a rare time the Prog affords Dredd more than 6 pages and fine tradition in linking to either festive citizen joviality or brooding winter reflection. This time Ewing made each panel a ‘Fighting Fantasy’ style chapter and readers could role-play being gormless lab tech Jackson Packard as he ventures into the unforgiving Mega-malls in search of finding X-mas presents and avoiding Christmas Day in the Iso-cubes. An ambitious exercise in subverting the unique nature of sequential panels and with wonderful goofy Cam Kennedy-alike citizenry from John Higgins Choose made for a very different, ambitious and, most importantly, hugely fun tale to add to the 2000AD banks. If ever Diceman gets a revival Ewing probably has a few drafts mapped out already.

Judge Dredd - Prog 2012 - Script Al Ewing - Art John Higgins

6) Prog 1798-99 – Innocent: Script: Rob Williams, Art: Lawrence Campbell

Rob William’s Innocence is both a fantastic read and a great missed opportunity due to the savvy and style with which it dangled a concept, a drug making citizens incapable of crime, and swiped it away. The tale side-stepped tackling that fascinating issue, despite setting Dredd’s objections to it front and centre in the set-up, to switch into a ‘who-dunnit’ as the Judge advocating the measure is slain after a show-down with Joe. The art from returning driod Lawrence Campbell and coloured atmospherically by Chris Blythe helps lift an already well written tale into the best of the year. Campbell’s use of shadows and Blythe’s use of harsh lighting emphasise that MC-1 is broken and what light there is is glaring and artificial.  Evoking past tales of attempts to chemically pacify citizens (Oz) and Dredd’s reflections on the influence of his Apocalypse War actions on the Day of Chaos the tale flirts with something greater but eventually settles for being a straight forward murder mystery all too quickly resolved. Pairing the murder with the conduct of the drug’s trial and the dilemma’s of doping a population to such an extent could have made for a great multi-part story but alas we’ll never know.. unless William’s decides to ‘rediscover’ the missing formula for the drug. If so, get Campbell and Blythe back on board and see what dark broken corridors of docility can be explored.

Judge Dredd - Prog 1799 - Script Rob WIlliams - Art Lawrence Campbell - Copyright Rebellion

5) Prog 1774 – Day of Chaos: Eve of Destruction Pt 10: Script: John Wagner, Art: Ben Willsher

The remarkable Day of Chaos had already been through 29 episodes (or 32 including the PJ Maybe prologue) and was still the ‘day’ itself had not arrived but Prog 1774 marked the turn of the screw in brilliant fashion. For long-term readers the toppling of the Statute of Judgement (not for the first time but far more important since the role of PSU had been constantly increased) came as a blot from the blue, with the majority of the tale before concerning biological warfare. However the grand sweep of the Statute toppling is brilliantly counterpointed by the stomach turning lonely inglorious demise of one of MC-1′s ‘beautiful’ adversaries. Having slinked her way into MC-1 as rich-man’s plaything, then danced infection in skimpy attire the beautiful Titiana dies alone, decomposing and pecked at by a pigeon destined to spread her deathwish further. Willsher’s art is mercilessly intense as he depicts her leg breaking in a high impact fall and then the once beautiful body rotted like the fate of MC-1. A brilliant page of art, a brutal passage of Wagner prose and six pages that show the scales of death, large and small.

Judge Dredd - Prog 1774 - Script John Wagner - Art Henry Flint - Copyright Rebellion

4) Meg 325-327 – Great Executions: Script Robbie Morrison, Art Dave Taylor

Outside of The Day of Chaos / Trifecta one Dredd story towered head and shoulders about the rest, that was the Dickensian riffing, heart crushing sadness of the tale of reluctant hitman Charlie Wackett in Great Executions. Wackett’s unwanted assignment to kill the woman he loves, and the betrayal of those few close to him, made for a compelling story with the years most beautiful art drawn by the peerless Dave Taylor. Morrison easily matches the language of Dickens with the vocabulary of MC-1 and keeps Dredd to a effective background role until his low-key contributions to the tale’s conclusion. The final panel deserves to be added to the pantheon of the very very best of Dredd. Prog-only readers should seek out these three Meg’s and see what a modern classic they missed.

Judge Dredd - MEG 327 - Script Robbie Morrison - Art Dave Taylor - Copyright Rebellion

3) Prog 1812 – Trifecta: Script: Al Ewing, Si Spurrier, Rob Williams, Art: Carl Critchlow.

Trifecta was HUGE. Huge in all sorts of ways. A single story prog, a rare multi-author script collaboration, a finale to three existing major series arcs of very different Dredd-world stories and, seemingly, a massive publicity bonus for the House of Tharg. As a story it deserves applause on all sorts of levels, most notably the retention of the distinct voices of the different characters within the concluding tale. Returning, and all too-long absent, artist Carl Critchlow nails each character and maintains the depth of personality imbued by their regular weekly artists.  A real risk of switching away from artists as distinct as D’israeli and Coleby would have been to have disengaged the audience but Critchlow and the power of the tale sweep the characters out of their respective strips and into this cross-over conclusion. Whether the deus ex machina of Judge Smiley is convincing or not remains another matter but in 28 pages Trifecta has more good lines, more whip and zing and more than enough success to pass over whether Smiley has really been able to evade and supervise through all the disasters since Judge Cal. The one shame of the tale is the all-too soon exposure of Bachmann who had far more potential than to be introduced and disposed of in 18 months (see last years praise of Ewing’s establishing strip The Family Man). The Simping Detective and Lowlife would have made it into this years non-Dredd top list were it not for Trifecta, Ewing’s Bachmann machinations (Prog 1803′s Bullet to King Four) likewise for this list. Together there can be no doubting the impact and success they had on Dredd in 2012. Trifecta was tri’riffica.

Judge Dredd - Simping Detective - Lowlife - Prog 1812 - Script Ewing Spurrier Williams - Art Critchlow - Copyright Rebellion

2) Prog 180 – The Cold Deck Pt 2 (Script: Al Ewing, Art: Henry Flint) / The Simping Detective: Jokers to the Right Pt 4 (Script: Si Spurrier / Art: Simon Coleby)

You have to feel a tad sorry for Lowlife‘s Rob Williams and D’israeli. Dirty Frank is in so many ways the heart of readers affections for Justice Department. He’s long since become a prog favourite, gets many great lines in Trifecta and is the constant hero throughout the story yet still it fell not to his tale of moon-side machinations with which to finally reveal to readers that Ewing, Spurrier and Williams had been playing a cold deck on us all. Ewing audaciously flags it up in his very first line (Prog 1806′s victim staring directly at the reader and asking ‘you know what a cold deck is‘) and yet is there anyone who can creditably say that, until the first panel of The Simping Detective carried on from the final panel of Dredd, they saw what was coming? Not here. Not in this household. Nuh-huh. Futureshockd ain’t ever going to be playing Ewing, Williams or Spurrier at poker. Of course a few pages on and Dirty Frank gets in on the act by receiving the message that the Simping Detective sent that Dredd tried to stop but… well by then it was out. We’d been duped, long-conned, played, dumped on our butts like chumps and our mouths open in amazement. Poor Dirty Frank. Late to the party as ever. Even more so than the excellent conclusion (Trifecta) Prog 1807′s ‘moment’ will remain one of ‘those’ 2000AD things people will discuss years from now. Do you know what a Cold Deck is? You do now.

Judge Dredd - The Simping Detective - Script Al Ewing - Si Spurrier - Art Henry Flint - Simon Coleby - Copyright Rebellion

1) Prog 1788 -  Chaos Day, Part 2: Script John Wagner, Art Henry Flint

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper

In Chaos Day Part 2 the city whimpered. In Chaos Day Part 2 Judge Dredd, the Judge Dredd (as the movie’s Judge Lex so admirably snarled) whimpered. Chaos Day ended just as it started. It ended because there was nothing left but fall. No redemption. No saving. Nothing but a whimper and the city father, John Wagner, laying out the dictum: ‘This city is dying before his eyes‘. The end of the Day of Chaos wrong-footed so many who assumed that the long-running  ‘Nadia‘ and ‘Eve of Destruction‘ were mere preludes rather than the ‘mega-epic’ itself. But by the time the Day of Chaos arrived so much had been torn down, the vestiges of power and authority so dismantled that there was no force left to save the day. There is rot and containment. Small stories and despair. Wagner’s tale is post-hollywood, post-post-Watchmen, not everything needs to have significance, not everything needs to be foreshadowing, some things become important, some wither and die. PJ Maybe wasn’t relevant, the Dark Judges just fizzled out, the villains died by their own actions not those of heroes. Are there even any heroes? The Day of Chaos was messy, a bombardment of varying successes and failures for the characters, a scramble for survival and at the end the answer is did the city survive? Maybe not. 2013 should be the year writers sit down and really reflect on what Wagner has done to his plaything. This isn’t just another ‘carry on with what’s left’, not another post-Necropolis, Post-Apoclaypse War. Or it shouldn’t be. Sit down with all 50 issues and applaud the greatest Dredd tale yet.

Judge Dredd - Prog 1788 - Script John Wagner - Art Henry Flint - Copyright Rebellion

THE REST IN 2012

6 Jan

2000AD in 2012 was a symphony in three sections, with the dual Dredd movements flanking the supremely orchestrated conclusion to the much loved Nikolai Dante. Dante’s conclusion may not have gathered the press coverage plaudits that accompanied both Wagner’s terse unrelenting destruction and the contained trickery of Trifecta but for long-term readers the drawing of the curtain on a host of loved heroes and villains captivated the audience as had the strips glorious 15 year bolt through monarchy, masculinity and murder. 2000AD is rarely flawless but for the prog’s featuring The Day of Chaos, Dante and Trifecta everything else could well have been not great and the creds would have been well-spent. Thankfully, and due in no small part to the un-showy stewardship of the magnificent Matt Smith, the rest of the prog was far from ‘not great’, indeed it was bloody excellent and here are 12 of the best non-Dredd moments from the years Progs and Megs.

12) Meg 319 – 321 – Fay Dalton’s American Reaper Adverts

The Megazine featured a great deal of excellent art this year, Jock’s dynamics on Snapshot, Boo Cook’s lush colours on Anderson and Patrick’s Goddard’s magnificent inks on Armitage to name but three, however each instalment of Pat Mills / Clint Langley’s American Reaper also featured mock-adverts from Tharg newcomer Fay Dalton. In a year when the Prog had an abundance of naked ladies these gloriously sexy retro-sirens showed other droids how to put the fetish into the female form. Dalton’s retro technique contrasted beautifully with Langley’s own fumetti style and added an extra world-building layer to yet another joyously insane Mills-verse. More Dalton please Tharg.

American Reaper - Meg 319 - Art by Fay Dalton - Copyright Repeat Offenders Ltd

11) Prog 1805 – Hammerstein’s still a comedy Target.

Mills / Langley also served up another helping of The ABC Warriors with Langley turning to retro inks to evoke both Bisley Black Hole era Warriors and then stripping back even further for the return of Ro-Busters as more threads of the Savage / Ro-Busters / ABC Warriors / Nemesis patchwork were pulled together. In the midst of a tale came this sublime moment where Mills, who clearly never forgets 2000AD’s roots as a boys comic and knows exactly what boys want, puts the over-proud hero in-front of a gert big tank and repeatedly fires shells into him at point blank range. Detractors will call it silly, any kid reading with think GUN! ROBOT! x100! FANTASTIC! Once more Hammerstein’s pain and pomposity are the readers gleeful joy. ‘BOOM!’ and ‘DANG!’ indeed.

ABC Warriors - Prog 1805 - Script Pat Mills - Art Clint Langley - Copyright Rebellion

10) Prog 1797 – Aquila  vs Eryri

Prog 2012 saw the debut of Gordon Rennie / Leigh Gallagher’s Aquila and its popularity soon ushered in a full strip which took an unexpected turn when the muscular near-immortal hero started taking a beating from just about any other magical creature he encountered. Eryri, attack harpy of Boudicca, was the first to best him and suitably, as the strip rocketed to its conclusion,  a re-encounter with a different outcome signalled the eponymous hero’s return to form. Gallagher’s switch of panel style and dynamic composition added to that 2000AD classic storytelling economy of ‘done and dusted on a page’ made this a thrilling moment in an excellent new strip.

Aquila - Prog 1797 - Script Gordon Rennie - Art Leigh Gallagher - Copyright Rebellion

9) Prog 1801 – RoadGrave

There were many fine Futureshocks and other associated shorts this year, including the continuation of the very welcome 3hriller extension to the concept but none hit the mark quite as sweetly as the return of John Smith and Edmund Bagwell (Cradlegrave / Indigo Prime) with the slight but superb Blackspot. A simple tale of a road accident that isn’t as it seems and reminiscent of the opening salvo of many a modern horror movie the five pages of downfall reinforce what a major pairing these two talents are. Bagwell’s realistic noir match’s Smith’s bleak damp tales of woe perfectly. Blackspot acts like a coda for Cradlegrave and reinforces why this creative pairing need kept together.

Terror Tale - Blackspot - Prog 1801 - Script John Smit - Art Edmund Bagwell - Copyright rebellion

8) Prog 1774 – 1785: James Mckay Gives Good Dino

Pat Mill’s revival of the Prog 1 hit Flesh has been a clear success and in no small part must that be due to the fantastic dinosaur art of James McKay. Despite cramming in the arrival of strange dino-humanoid ‘reptoids’, the future anti-corporation plot and giant spaceships shaped like Stetsons, as well as a great deal of male and female bodice-ripping, the series started with dinosaur carnage, continued with dinosaur carnage and finished off with a great finale of dinosaur carnage. Its a damm good thing McKay is prodigiously talented when it comes to depicting dinosaur carnage.

Flesh - Prog 1777 - Script Pat Mills - Art James McKey - Copyright Rebellion

7) Prog 1768: Absalom Vs Racists

Gordon Rennie / Tiernan Trevallion’s Absalom second full-length outing for grumpy dying cop Harry Absalom reinforced its position as a new fan–favourite with much the same recipe of ghouls, diseased toffs and corruption as before but with a focus on fascism and racist near-do-wells from England’s past. Harry, naturally, comes down on the right side without need for drama or grandstanding, just witty pointed Rennie dialogue when Absalom visits his ex boss at HMP Wormwood Scrubs. While the series gets much due praise for Trevallion’s distinct style, the character would be useless without the great lines given to him by Rennie. Absalom is as good as any twist on the Detective genre in any medium.

Absalom - Prog 1768 - Script Gordon Rennie - Art Tirenen Trevallion - Copyright Rebellion

6) Prog 1771 – The Invisible Boner (aka: ‘Everything that is wrong with comics today’).

35th Anniversary Prog contained a slew of nostalgia treats, from Chris Weston’s character montage cover to the ‘what if’ series but none was more welcome than the pairing of Pat Mills and the diseased afterbirth of a 2000AD artist orgy that is the splendid Henry Flint on the long absent The Visible Man series. Prog’s 1771 outing, with glorious faux drama ending, may or may not be the full-time return of the unlucky translucent experimental guinea-pig Frank (since returned for a second one-off in Prog 2013) but fears must exist for Flint’s tenuous grip on sanity if he has to draw this insane level of detail every page on a ten week strip. But sanity be dammed, lets hope these two masters of mania keep showing us with treats like the moment when Frank meets his future boo, the (obviously) Visible Woman. Phowar!

The Visible Man -Prog 1771 - Script Pat Mills -Art Henry Flint -Copyright Rebellion

5) Carry On Up The Valleys

John Smith specialises in dank weird unsettling tales of urban horror or alternate realities. Colin MacNeil is one of John Wagner’s go to men for brooding Judge Dredd and all-out action. So quite how this delightful comedy soufflé of suspenders and satanic goat sex  came about is not high on the list of ‘Obvious Stories Soon appearing in 2000AD.’  To even begin to describe what is going on in Strange And Darke is too complex to attempt but its mix of cheek, cheeks, rude subconscious voices and  Beryl Cook-like picture postcard art was a riot and one of the best strips to appear this year. Benefiting from the slightly more adult nature of the Meg to sustain its (mild and comic) sexuality the good-natured rudeness demands a quick sequel.

Strange and Darke - MEG 323 - Script John Smith Art Colin MacNeil - Copyright Rebellion

4) Prog 1781 – The Zaucer goes Zick

Brendan McCarthy’s return to a long-form 2000AD strip, The Zaucer of Zilk, was every bit as deliciously oddball and colour saturated as his many admirers hoped. With Al Ewing on board to help lyrical flow and Len O’Grady invaluable assistance on vibes the Zaucer oscillated wildly through worlds and dimensions as if not very much could touch him. However Ewing and McCarthy had a bad hand ready to deal to Zaucer’s instagram generation super-fan TuTu as her adoration caused her to turn into something something much much worse.

The Zaucer of Zilk - Prog 1781 - Script McCarthy and Ewing - Art McCarthy - Copyright Rebellion

3) Prog 1804 – Brassed Off Planet

Brass Sun, a new strip from longtime Droid Ian Edginton and  I.N.J. Culbard seems destined to replace The Red Seas  in the ‘fantasy twist’ strand of the Prog as Jack Dancer’s crew sail to their final confrontation early in 2013. The series took an assured and expansive leap from Game of Thrones fantasy to steampunk mechanics with endless planets possibilities in Prog 1804 as waif protagonist Wren discovers there is much more to her world than fleeing a murderous Theocracy and finding somewhere less in need of central heating. Culbard’s stellar year (with Image’s The New Deadwardians) found his minimal neat style find favour with an audience who often criticised the more fluid work of Yeowell on The Red Seas and brought a distinctly different look to 2000AD. Wren’s adventures seem set to run for many years as Edginton strikes winning formula yet again.

Brass Sun - Prog 1804 - Script Ian Edginton - Art INJ Culbard - Copyright Rebellion

2) Death To Everyone, Will Come.

Icabod Azrael is 2000AD black turned up full whack. Despite delays, losing its iconic primary artist and an unfortunate incidence of art plagiarism the character itself retains the potential to be a 2000AD icon.  Book II chronicled the dead killer’s travels through time looking for the embodiment of his love (who, naturally, turns out to have merely been a fiction constructed to trap him and return him to Purgatory). And upon it all unravelling and Icabod and the Ferryman of the river Styx being returned, the series ended pure black in heart and fired by Icabod’s brutish ignorance and love as he, marvellously, declares his intention to kill everyone in Purgatory and what lies beyond. Given his record in the first two series one wouldn’t count against it.

Icabod Azrael - Prog 1799 - Script Rob Williams - Art Antonio Fuso - Copyright Rebellion

1) Goodbye

Much of this top 12 could have been taken from the last flourish of Nikolai Dante which graced the Prog in three passages in its final year. Simon Fraser’s magnificent spread-pages, John Burn’s final cover, the various deaths, the victory, the final page, the reference right back to the first page fifteen years ago… But to pick one moment of the many to sum up the joy of the series Futureshockd plumps for the departure of the gentle faithful believer in Dante, his mute half-brother Viktor who, having lost his wife in the penultimate battle, finally breaks his silence, embraces Dante and then departs civilization for good. In a page Viktor breaks the Russian Rogue’s heart in ways few women managed through the odyssey. Morrison, Fraser and Burns constructed something truly magnificent over the years and could well have taken the strip into another decade or more but sacrificed the comfort of a guaranteed fan-base to bow out on a finale which, if open-ended, took out the support characters with swaggering aplomb. Dante, now available complete in 11 trades, deserves a place at the high table of not just UK comics but the whole of the genre. It simply is that good. Goodbye Nikolai.

Prog 1786 - Nikolai Dante - Script Robbie Morrison - Art Simon Fraser - Copyright Rebellion

Elsewhere…

Picking 12 moments naturally leaves out a lot of other great strips and fantastic artists: Yeowell, Jock, Goddard, Holden, Cook, Harrison, Willsher and more. So the following is a role call of other tales which appeared in 2000AD in 2012 listed in order of appearance. If they catch your eye their start issue is listed in the Barney link contained in their title and they are available to purchase on the iphone app or by direct download from the 2000ADonline shop.

The Prog:

Strontium Dog – The Life and Death of Johnny Alpha pt 2: The Project : Script: John Wagner, Art: Carlos Ezquerra

Strontium Dog - Prog 1766 - Script John Wagner - Art Carlos Ezquerra - Copyright Rebellion

Grey AreaScript: Dan Abnett, Art: Karl Richardson & Lee Grabett

GREY AREA - Prog 2012 - Script Dan Abnett - Art Karl Richardson - Copyright Rebellion

Dandridge – A Christmas Ghost Story: Script: Alec Worley, Art: Jon Davis Hunt

Dandridge - Prog 2012 - Script Alec Worley - Art Jon Hunt Davis - Copyright Rebellion

Sinister Dexter- Now And Again: Script: Dan Abnett, Art: Anthony Williams

Sinister Dexter - Prog 2012 - Art Anthony Williams - Script Dan Abnett - Copyright Rebellion

Age of the Wolf – She Is Legend: Script: Alec Worley, Art: Jon Davis-Hunt

Age of the Wolf - Prog 1776 - Script Alec Worley - Art Jon Davis Hunt - Copyright Rebellion

Cadet Anderson – Algol: Script: Alan Grant, Art: Steve Yeowell

Cadet Anderson - Prog 1782 - Script Alan Grant - Art Steve Yeowell - Copyright Rebellion

Durham Red- The ‘Nobody Wants This Job’ Job: Script: Alan Grant, Art: Carlos Ezquerra

Durham Red - Prog 1785 - Script Alan Grant - Art Carlos Ezquerra - Copyright Rebellion

3Hrillers – 1947: Script: Kek-W, Art: Michael Dowling

3HRILLERS =  1947 - Script Kek-W Art Michael Dowling - Copyright Rebellion

The Rea Seas – Beautiful Freak: Script: Ian Edginton Art: Steve Yeowell

The Red Seas - Prog 1793 - Script Ian Edginton Art Steve Yeowell - Copyright Rebellion

Lenny Zero -  Zero’s 7: Script: Andy Diggle, Art: Ben Willsher

Lenny Zero - Prog 1795 - Script Andy Diggle Art Ben Willsher - Copyright Rebellion

3Hrillers – 15:  Script: Tom Taylor, Art :Jon Hunt Davis

3Thriller - 15 - Script Tom Taylor Art Jon Hunt Davis - Copyright Rebellion

Bob Byrne’s Twisted Tales: Script & Art: Bob Byrne

Bob Byrne Twisted Tales - Prog 1802 - Script and Art Bob Byrne - Copyright Rebellion

The Judge Dredd Megazine

Armitage: The Underground: Script: Dave Stone, Art: Patrick Goddard

Armitage - MEG 319 - Script Dave Stone Art Patrick Goddard Copyright Rebellion

Snapshot: Script: Andy Diggle Art: Jock

Snapshot - MEG 328 - Script Andy Diggle Art Jock Copyright Andy Diggle and Jock

Samizdat Squad – Grey Zone: Script; Arthur Wyatt, Art: PJ Holden

Samizdat Squad - MEG 326 - Script Arthur Wyatt Art PJ Holden - Copyright Rebellion

Hondo City Justice – Project Behemoth: Script: Robbie Morrison, Art: Mike Collins and Cliff Robinson

Hondo City Justice - Project Behemoth - Meg 324 - Script Robbie Morrions Art Mike Collins and Cliff Robinson - Copyright Rebellion

Judge Anderson PSI - Stone Voices: Script: Alan Grant, Art: Boo Cook

Judge Anderson PSI - Stone Voices - MEG 330 - Script Alan Grant Art Boo Cook - Copyright Rebellion

That was the Prog and Meg in 2012 – as strong a year as there has been and one showing no signs of weakening as Prog 1813 launches into the new year with Dredd, The Red Seas, Ampney Crucis, Strontium Dog and Savage forming the opening salvo.

Photo 05-01-2013 15 59 17

Prog 1813 – In shops and the 2000AD ipad app / 2000AD digital direct download site now.

The rest of the year promises the return of firm favourites such as Mills and Gallagher’s Defoe, Edginton and D’Israeli’s Stickleback, Abnett and MacNeil’s Insurrection as well as Edmund Bagwell taking over art duties on Aliens-as-Gods-as-Superheroes-Gone-Bad apocalypse strip The 10-Seconders….

The 10 Seconders - Script Rob Williams - Art Edmund Bagwell - Copyright Rebellion

And much-in-demand cover artist Greg Staples returning to strip work with the highly anticipated Dark Judges by John Wagner:

Judge Death - Script John Wagner - Art Greg Staples - Copyright Rebellion

Physical Subscriptions are available from the 2000AD online shop and from the i0S app for apple users.  Apple users can also fill the void between weekly prog’s by playing the free Judge Dredd shoot-em-up game which received a movie-related tarting up at the end of the year as well as appearing in an android verison.

In addition tons of additional reading hours can be wasted enjoyably on the 2000AD readers forums, the excellent Everything Comes Back To 2000AD news / podcast /reviews site and the stunning cover-art tips, treats and insights blog Covers Uncovered – which has just revealed the results of the readers ‘Cover of the Year’ vote. From there its just a short link the the scary Cellar of Dredd, Dread Reckoning, HipsterDad’s Bookshelf… Hell, by the time you’ve done with all those, spare 5 minutes to come back to Futureshockd as we return next week with our quest to document every short tale to have appeared in The Galaxy’s Greatest Comic…

Credo!

http://hipsterdadsbookshelf.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/2000%20ad

GIVE THE GIFT OF THARG THIS XMAS

13 Dec

2000AD is an institution, and all too often one that is overlooked in online comics reporting. Clearly Futureshockd has a bit of a love for it, but while working through all the one-off stories has so far only brought us up to the mid-100s Prog wise, the thing that might not be reflected so often is just how good the current run of 2000AD is. Every year more and more old readers return to it remarking how it has recaptured its bite and is in a second ‘golden age’. Now with the excuse of a lovely new Future Shocks book being exclusive with a subscription to the Prog & Meg, and with a mere handful of shopping days left till Xmas, this edition of Futureshockd is going to  tell you why you should forget the bad Boot’s box set perfumes, the BBC tie-in book, and the ubiquitous M&S scarves and  give the gift of Tharg for Xmas.

Thargs Future Shocks – Subscriber Exclusive

The first reason for any tempted comics fan to subscribe this winter is the current ‘subscriber exclusive’ gift – a unique ‘B-Format’ (19.5 x 12.5 cm) Future Shocked graphic novel which comes wrapped in a glorious wrap-around cover from the talents of Grant Perkins & Jamie Roberts. A hefty 128 pages of Future Shocks and contains a great many formerly un-reprinted works by the likes of Brian Bolland, Massimo Belardinelli and Kevin O’Neil.

Happily the book contains a good many of the Future Shocks already discussed on the blog -

  • FS 4Wings (Kev O’Neill),
  • FS 5Just Like Home (Peter Harris, Ron Turner)
  • FS 7A Promised Land (unknown / Horacio Lalia)
  • FS 9Fangs (Chris Lowder, Carlos Ezquerra)
  • FS 11Play Pool (Kelvin Gosnell, Kevin O’Neill)
  • FS 13Space Prospector (Martin Lock, Trevor Goring)
  • FS 14The Runts (Steve Moore, Pat Wright),
  • FS 15Time Past (Martin Lock, Jose Luis Ferrer),
  • FS 17Time Was (Martin Lock, Ramon Sola)
  • FS 18Enemy Agent (Nick Tufnell, John Cooper)
  • FS 19Substitute (Robert Flynn, Giorgi)
  • FS 21The Guardian (Mike Cruden, John Cooper),
  • FS 23Solo Flip (Chris Lowder, Brian Bolland),
  • FS 25Stasis (Charles Swift, Brendan McCarthy, Brett Ewins),
  • FS 26Space Bug (V Wernham, Jose Luis Ferrer),
  • FS 27Monkey (Alan Hebden, Mugallanes),
  • FS 29Tin Can (Mike Cruden, Jose Luis Ferrer),
  • FS 30Timeless Secret (SJ Grimes, Ramon Sola),
  • FS 33Dead Hit (Robert Flynn, Pierre Frisano),
  • FS 34The Illusion Man (Martin Lock, Pierre Frisano),
  • FS 36Nothing On Earth (Chris Lowder, Pierre Frisano),
  • FS 37Breaking Out (Jan Garczynski, Carlos Pino),
  • FS 41The Fourth Wall (Mike Cruden, John Cooper),
  • FS 43Date With Destiny (Mike Curden, Massimo Belardinelli),
  • FS 47Cold Kill (Mike Cruden, Garry Leach),
  • FS 50Dear Mum (John Richardson),
  • FS 55Colin’s Dream (Chris Stevens, Massimo Belardinelli),
  • FS 56Hand of Friendship (John Richardson)

A hearty 28 of the 57 Future Shocks that constituted the first swath of Future Shocks are included, with Tharg doing his best to plunder the gems of the early strips. It’s hard to argue with the choice of strips for inclusion – 7 of the 9 ‘best’ strips selected in the periodic Futureshockd summaries are chosen and the exclusion of one of the remaining 2 (FS 2First Contact) is likely down to it being a colour strip. It is however a great shame that FS 48Brain Drain (Steve Moore, Ron Tiner) isn’t included as it stands as one of the best early stories and much more indicative of the black humour of 2000AD than other stories. The other notable absence is ‘Many Hands‘ (FS 32) which features some beautiful Jose Casanovas art that certainly deserved a reprint. Also absent is the famed Alec Trench tale, but perhaps Tharg has other plans for the work of his best-worst ever writer. Aside from those three Future Shocks the selection well-considered with some of the best stories and much of the best art. Both early Massimo Belardinelli strips appear as well as great art from Pierre Frisano, Garry Leech, Trevor Goring and Carlos Ezquerra. It is particularly nice to see both the stories of Mike Cruden and the art of Pierre Frisano well represented as these are two names who have largely been forgotten about in 2000AD lore but whose contributions to Future Shocks early days was particularly strong. The same is also true of Martin Lock and Jose Luis Ferrer who are likewise well represented in the selection.

The remaining stories in the book come from the second wave of Future Shocks and contains work by the likes of Ian Kennedy, Jose Casanovas, Garry Leech, Mike Collins, Mark Farmer, John Ridgway, Grant Morrison, Alan Davis and Will Simpson. The collection concludes with a fantastic six-page strip by Massimo Belardinelli (Resentment, Prog 537) which is chock full of future cityscapes, weird aliens and, yes, dead bodies. In the hands of the departed Italian master that combination is as strong a conclusion as any omnibus could hope for. The three Belardinelli entries alone make this book a must-have for a 2000AD reader.

Belardinelli-in-a-Box sneaks into Thargs Future Shocks 2011 Collection (Subscribers exclusive)

The stories have been reproduced beautifully, despite the smaller size, and the reproduction team deserve great credit for the crisp look of the lovely B&W artwork. The only small shame is that some of the tales which work best by hiding the reveal behind a page-turn have their ‘shock’ image printed on a facing page, robbing the impact of the reveal. However that doesn’t detract from the overall fun of the collection. It’s a lovely book, a real incentive to take out a subscription, and a nice companion piece to anyone who has been enjoying this blog.  And yes, it does contain that wonderfully weird drawing of Neil Armstrong (FS 19).

However the real reason for getting a subscription to 2000AD is the strength of the modern comic. Probably the easiest way to show just why any comic reader should be subscribing is to show you just what you missed in 2011. In pure numbers thats 50 progs:

2000AD 2011 Progs – click to enlarge

A year of Judge Dredd Megazines

2000AD 2011 Megazines

A year of  Megazine Reprint Comics

All of which weighs in at a whopping 1862 pages of new comics and a generous 766 pages of reprints. Which, for the statistically minded, works out at 8.5p per new page or 6p a page if you throw in the lovely shiny reprints. Plus the famed ‘Star Scans’, old cover art reprinted, interviews with creators and the odd free-gift from the House of Tharg.

But cost per page is an odd way to judge a comic, tempting new readers to 2000AD very much stands or falls on the stories and art, which in 2011, as every year, consisted of a whole heap of Judge Dredd.

2011 in Dredd

In 2011 Dredd included the massive new on-going epic ‘The Day of Chaos‘ (Wagner, MacNeil, Willsher, Flint, Gallagher) which kicked off with a prologue that saw PJ Maybe break out of captivity (The Further Dasterdly Deeds of PJ Maybe- Prog 1740-43) before kicking off proper with ‘Nadia‘ (Prog 1744 – onwards) in July. Returning old droids saw the psychotropic madness of Brendan McCarthy in The Walking Dredd (Rob Williams, Brendan McCarthy(Meg 311)), the return of Bryan Talbot in Caterpillars (Mike Carroll, Bryan Talbot & Alwyn Talbot (Prog 1730) and Mike Collins team up with Dredd stalwart Cliff Robinson (In the Absence of the Sacred (Meg 315)). King of the returnees this year was undoubtably Liam Sharp with two astounding graphical turns in Blaze of Glory (Al Ewing, Liam Sharp (Meg 305)) and  Dredd Set (John Tomlinson, Liam Sharp (Meg 309)). Prior to Wagner’s embarking on The Day of Chaos his only other strip was the atmospheric 30 page ‘Hot Night in 95‘ (Meg 307, 308 & 310) which saw Dredd and the returning Hershey team up to crack some skulls. Dredd’s other elder-statesman writer, Alan Grant, chipped in with several short tales including the wonderful dark ‘In the Absence of the Sacred‘ (Meg 315) and the sweet crazy-citizen tale of ‘The Pusher’ (Prog 1736). Relative newcomer Michael Carroll scripted a flawless one-off in Downtime (Prog 1752) and returning champion Gordon Rennie gave laughs in Persistent Vegetative State (Prog 1726-27) and a procedural meets PSI with vintage Dredd dialogue in Scream (Prog 1737-39). Taking the ‘best non-Wagner’ crown for the year was undoubtedly the 48 page Parker-esque noir classic from Al Ewing (Served Cold – Al Ewing, John Higgins, Prog 1718-25) which showed the young tyro can do gripping procedural drama every bit as well as the sick humour he is more associated with.

Given you can fill several posts with what happened in Dredd in 2011 Futureshockd will limit itself to a top 10 of Dredd moments (be they art or script) that made up the best of Dredd 2011

10) Scream – Gordon Rennie & Lee Carter – Prog 1737-39:  Dredd & PSI Judge Hamida investigate an illegal Brainbloom operation. Immersive art, classic Dredd qips and antagonism towards indulgences of PSI Judges from Dredd.

9) The Family Man – Al Ewing & Leigh Gallagher – Meg 312-13: Al Ewing installs his first major long-term opponent for Judge Dredd in the sinister whiter-than-white black-op’s fronting administration Judge Bachmann after a meaty two-part ‘someones killing mutants’ tale set in the under resourced townships.

8 ) The Pusher – Alan Grant & Peter Doherty – Prog 1736 – Classic 6 page ‘citizens are crazy then Dredd shoots them’ from veteran Alan Grant as a perp pushes citizens to their death to measure their reactions. Doherty’s understated european realism is the perfect foil

7) The Return of Liam Sharp – Blaze of Glory (Meg 305, Al Ewing & Liam Sharp) & Dredd Set (Meg 309, John Tomlinson & Liam Sharp) saw the return to Dredd, after a near 20 year hiatus, of the co-creator of PJ Maybe. After Brendan McCarthy’s return in 2010 the trend of returning droids shows how much love there is for old stoney face amongst the very finest of industry talents. Sharp’s art encompassed a mass of different styles and techniques and excitement bleed off each panel.

6) Persistent Vegetative State – Gordon Rennie & Cliff Robinson – Prog 1726-27: Corporate Politics, The Wally Squad, Dredd itching as he has to act as security for an unworthy subject and the return of the MC-1 fad ‘couch potatoes’ make for a fun two-parter beautifully drawn by Cliff Robinson

5) Hot Night in 95 – John Wagner & Staz Johnson – Meg 307, 308 & 310:  John Wagner slides former Chief-Judge Hershey back into MC-1 with a  low-key night on the streets along side Dredd, with ruminations on the events in the past and unsaid lessons on their ages. Majestic.

4) Served Cold – Al Ewing & John Higgins – Prog 1718-1725: Al Ewing goes for the noir police procedural in this tale of an escaped perp seeking revenge on those that double-crossed him as the Judges close in on his re-capture. Riffing on Parker and echoing the best of John Wagner this tale confirms Ewing as not just a great fun Dredd writer but a heavy hitter likely able to carry the strip for years to come.

3) Brendan McCarthy is (still) back – The Walking Dredd, Rob Williams & Brendan McCarthy – Meg 311: Following on from his acclaimed return to 2000AD last year Brendan McCarthy indulged the Meg with more unique Dredd art in a fun tale that exists only to show off his art and make the pun in the title. The even better news is that McCarthy returns to the Prog in 2012 with his own series.

2) It’s Maybe Time – The Day of Chaos – Elusive Pt 5 – John Wagner & Henry Flint Prog 1757: Three months into the Mega-epic and the absconded PJ Maybe makes his move against the Presidential candidates seeking to replace him. Henry Flint brings a touch of the Zombo and Shakara gore-fest madness to the Presidential-debates-gone-wrong. It’s very likely he enjoyed drawing it every inch as much as you enjoyed reading it.

1) The Day of Chaos – Nadie Pt 7 – John Wagner, Ben Willsher – Prog 1749: There could be no other moment from 2011 at the top of the heap. The always excellent ECBT 2000AD podcast has a reading of the script, by artist Willsher, of the day they blew Old Stoney Face’s head off. John Wagner told Willsher to make sure Dredd’s head is a thing of the past and boy did he excel at the task.

(continued in post below)

THE REST IN 2011

13 Dec

The Rest in 2011

However the days when Dredd had to carry the comic are long since gone, nor is 2000AD living on past characters – with the exception of brief appearances by Slaine and Rogue Trooper in the festive Prog 2011 none of the ‘key’ characters associated with classic era 2000AD was called upon to fill the pages of Meg or Prog. 2000AD has cultivated a new slew of key strips – some revived classics, some spin-offs of Dredd, some unique stand-alone tales of the best of Sci-Fi comics. From the bowls of hell to the insanity of driving planets into an alien Armada, the contents of 2000AD in 2011 was, by turns, funny, sad, exciting, eye-opening, daring, imaginative and always mercilessly violent. Every reader will have their favourite strips, and no doubt one or two they don’t like so much, but the strength of the prog in 2012 is assured. If you are tempted to return to the comic then the simplest most enticing thing is to show you the eye-candy you missed in 2011:

Shakara – Robbie Morrison & Henry Flint

Necrophim – Tony Lee & Lee Carter

Kingdom – Dan Abnett & Richard Elson

Ampney Crucis Investigates – Ian Edginton & Simon Davis

Flesh – Pat Mills & James Mackay

Dandridge – Alec Worley & Jon Hunt-Davis

The Red Seas – Ian Edginton & Steve Yeowell

Bob Byrnes Twisted Tales – Bob Byrne

Nikolai Dante – Robbie Morrison & Simon Fraser

Absalom – Gordon Rennie & Tiernan Trevallion

Cadet Anderson – Alan Grant, Carlos Ezquerra & Hector Ezquerra
Sinister Dexter – Dan Abnett, Anthony Williams & Rob Taylor  
Savage – Pat Mills & Patrick Goddard 
Zombo – Al Ewing & Henry Flint 
Indigo Prime – John Smith & Edmund Bagwell
Low Life – Rob Williams & D’Israeli 
 Angel Zero – Kek-W & John Burns 
Samizdat Squad – Arthur Wyatt & Paul Marshall 
Lilly McKenzie – Simon Fraser 
Insurrection – Dan Abnett & Colin MacNeil  
Numbercruncher – Si Spurrier & PJ Holden  
Judge Anderson – Alan Grant & Boo Cook 
Cursed Earth Coburn – Gordon Rennie, Carlos Ezquerra & Hector Ezquerra 
American Reaper – Pat Mills & Clint Langley  
That was the Prog & Meg in 2011 – not including several Future Shocks and the wonderful short story series Tharg’s 3hrillers. For FutureShockd there were innumerable highs: the astounding script and art on NumberCruncher, the pathos of Dirty Frank in Low Life, the retro-thrills of Samizdat Squad, the twists and beauty of Nikolai Dante, Boo Cook’s art, Edmund Bagwell’s art, Colin MacNeil’s art the astounding debuts of Flesh‘s James Mackay and Absalom‘s Tiernan Trevallion, the madness of Henry Flint and the greatness of Pat Mills. 
Prog 2012 and beyond
Already some of what is to come in 2012 is known – the new end-of-year bumper ‘jump-on’ Prog 2012 hits the shelves this Wednesday (14th December 2011) and contains Dredd, Dante, Dandridge, Strontium Dog, Sinister Dexter and Absalom as well as new strips Aquila (Gordon Rennie & Leigh Gallagher) and Grey Area (Dan Abnett & Karl Richardson). 2012 sees Brendan McCarthy team up with Al Ewing for The Zaucer of Zilk, the second series of the astounding ‘The Grievous Journey of Ichabod Azrael (and the Dead Left in his Wake)‘  by Rob Williams & Dom Reardon and the return of Low Life‘s Dirty Frank, Stickleback, The Red Seas and half of Mega-City One set to die in the next twist of The Day of Chaos
The Zaucer of Zilk by Al Ewing & Brendan McCarthy starts prog 1775 (March 2012)

Subscibe!

2000AD do subscription packages in three varieties - Prog alone Meg alone and a combination of Meg & Prog. The latter has a saving of over 26 pounds on the shop-price as well as insulating against any cover price rise. Plus the exclusive Future Shocks book reviewed at the start of this post for subscribers to both comics. All this and the 35th Anniversary of 2000AD comes up in 2012 so no doubt there will be some special plans to mark the occasion. North American readers can find The Judge Dredd Megazine on the shelves of their local Barnes & Noble and digital editions of both comics are available directly from the Rebellion website.

2000AD is the finest in contemporary comics, pick up Prog 2012 over the New Year period and see for yourself.

FUTURES 26 – 50: A SUMMARY

9 Oct

John Richardson’s oddly un-2000AD Future Shock brought up the 50th installment of the series which was still 2000AD‘s only outlet for one-shot stories. As well as providing another numeric juncture from which to look at a few facts, trends and developments in the series, FS 50 (Prog 97) also approaches a point when the series moves from regular appearances (50 in 73 issues) to a semi-hiatus. Only six more stories would appear before Alan Moore’s debut in Prog 203 signaled a re-investment in the series. The 2000AD of Prog 203 was a very different beast to that of when the initial series debuted in Prog 25 and this summary will look at how that change was already underway and how the Future Shocks were maybe struggling to keep abreast of that change even by FS 50.

However before embarking on that analysis some facts and stats to be gleaned from the stories published so far.

WORDS

Letterer Peter Knight remains the name most often on the Credit Box with 26 appearances, one of nine letterers to have worked on the series.

Since the last Summary at FS 25 an astounding 12 writers have debuted in the series although only one, Jan Garczynski, has had more than one story printed. Mike Cruden leads the scripting credits with 7, Robert Flynn has 6 stories in print and Steve Moore, the writer of the first Future Shock, has 5. Jack Adrian (aka Chris Lowder) and Martin Lock each have had 4 stories in the series and Alan Hebden, Peter Harris and Jan Garczynski each have had 2 stories printed.

Examining subjects and twists several reoccurring themes dominate these early stories. In terms of setting Space Exploration features in eight stories, Time Travel in seven and Alien Invasion likewise in seven. Lesser used themes include Future War, four stories, Alien Abduction, four stories and Dystopian / Post-Apocalyptic Earth which has appeared three times.

As regards formulaic ‘shocks’ there have been several strips which defy classification, such as the beautiful spot gag of Casanovas’ 6-armed alien (FS 32), but dominant ‘twists’ do permeate. The issue of ‘Who Are The Humans’ – meaning aliens acting like humans or supposedly human characters turning out to be aliens or robots – is a theme that has been used seven times. The ‘Problem of Scale’, whereby aliens and humans are operating on radically different sizes, subverting invasion or contact, has been used five times. Technology Gone Mad has occurred four times and Vampires have been the shock three times.

Many of the strips that have worked best are those that have a joke as their twist rather than a big reveal. In those that do play it straight there have been times when a cramped final panel has limited the impact of the story; certainly the Shocks where Belardinelli (FS 43) and Garry Leach (FS 47) have been given a final full-page splash to deliver the twist are among the best stories in this batch.

As revealing as what subjects and themes are used is consideration of those that aren’t. Biology, Zombies, Werewolves, Nano-technology, Mysticism, drugs and any concept of religion or gods have never featured in the tales, topics such as Post-Nuclear War, pestilence, Space Madness, Mind-Control and Alternative Earths have only featured once. As the interview with Hunter Tremayne made clear, cold-war politics was also strictly verboten in the Command Module.

PICTURES

The first 50 Shocks have seen 28 artists (or art teams in the case of Ewins / McCarthy and Puchades / Martinez) used. Artists with more than one appearance include; Pierre Frisano, 5 stories, Brett Ewins, 4, Jose Ferrer, 4, Horico Lalia, 3, Trevor Goring, 3, John Cooper, 3, Kevin O’Neil, 2, Ron Turner, 2, Brendan McCarthy, 2, Ramon Sola, 2, Garry Leach, 2, Ron Tiner,2, Carlos Pino, 2 and Vanyo, 2.

Several important names for 2000AD have debuted in the series in the 25-50 period, including series stalwarts Casanovas and Belardinelli. Notable is that, with the exception of Garry Leach and Brett Ewins / Brendan McCarthy, very few of the British artists associated with classic early 2000AD have seen work on the series. Brian Bolland has drawn one Future Shock but Dave Gibbons, Ian Gibson, Mick McMahon and Ron Smith are all absent the Credit Box. At this juncture Future Shocks are still largely either being produced by artists with a very traditional British comic ethic (Cooper, Richardson, Dorey, Turner) or by continental artists. In this latter set there is a clear difference between conservative stylists (Frisano, Lalia, Vanyo, Ferrer) who vary between a light sketchy or furious dirty style and two very detailed creative artists, Casanovas and Belardinelli, whose manic creation would go on the be regular features in the Prog.

THE FUTURE OF FUTURES

As noted in the review of FS 45, these two schools of art, both with quite conservative design sense, are starting to stand out in contrast the art being produced in the rest of the Prog. FS 45 appeared in Prog 90 where the other artists were:

Belardinelli (Flesh):

McMahon (Dredd):

O’Neil (Ro-Busters):

and Ezquerra (Strontium Dog):

The art on display from all four artists,although vastly different, shares one element that the majority of artists given run on Future Shocks didn’t – a creativeness in their depiction of future worlds. Ezquerra’s wonderful mutants, McMahon’s bonkers vehicles, O’Neil’s astounding Spaceships and Belardinelli’s manic dino-hunts all typify the increasingly mature and richly detailed worlds 2000AD was creating. Combined with the creative anarchic fun in the writing of Mills and Wagner, the serialized strips in the comic were moving far beyond traditional cold-war paranoid pulp sci-fi fare. It is also clear that Mills and Wagner are notably more violent in their stories than the typical Future Shock dares to tread. Sadly few of the Future Shocks were keeping pace with this overall change in content and creativity.

That doesn’t make them inherently bad, indeed some are excellent comic strips, but it does show they are flagging to keep up with the creative revolution going on elsewhere in the comic. In 2000AD terms the Future Shocks were still Colony Earth, Angel, and Ant Wars, rather than Strontium Dog, The Day the Law Died or Blackhawk. In part the writing being handled by irregular and new writers must contribute to this, in addition the artists being outside of any developing cadre created by the regular free-lancers robbed them of the cross-pollination of styles and boundary-pushing. Perhaps also the age and influences of the agency artists used for many Future Shocks would have had input into the look of the strips. No doubt by the time of FS 50 this difference was becoming evident to Tharg as Future Shocks were to be radically reduced in number until the revival under a more focused small group of creators such as Alan Moore, Steve Moore, Peter Milligan, Massimo Belardinelli, Alan Hebden, Kelvin Gosnell, Garry Leach and Brett Ewins.

26-50: THE BEST

None of which should detract from the fact that several not just good but great Future Shocks have seen the light during the first 100 Progs and, as is customary with these summaries, here are three of the best as well as a panel that deserves a wider audience.

FS 48Brain Drain – (Script Steve Moore, Art Ron Tiner, Letters Peter Knight) – A future Future Shock before its time, Steve Moore wraps up a laugh at mankind’s pomposity in several layers of genre-poking fun that takes familiar fare and twists it just that slightest degree to provide something fresh.

FS 34The Illusion Man (Script Martin Lock, Art Pierre Frisano, Letters Jack Potter) – A simple joy of a Shock with a twist of the movie Moon which is taken to a superior level by an artist clearly enjoying the madness of lizard monsters with tridents and pouty-mouthed seductresses.

FS 43Date With Destiny (Script Mike Cruden, Art Massimo Belardinelli, Letters John Aldrich) A fun if slightly flawed script that works best as a simple shock and Belardinelli really delivers in a final page that shows a stunningly grotesque rotting corpse.

There have been several great images in the stories, Ron Tiner’s robot-with-a-brain, Garry Leach’s Parliament under ice, Vanyo’s smug alien zoo-keepers and Casanova’s whole alien world however the crown goes to the sadly missed genius of Massimo Belardinelli with the fantastic fate of the corrupt fame-hungry time traveler. From the aforementioned FS 43Date With Destiny‘, this un-reprinted tale shows what a gold-mine these stories can be.

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