40 years of 2000AD

2000AD is 40 this year. Recently there was a convention celebrating the comic and those who created it and still produce work for it. Thankfully for those unable to attend the convention panels were put online and one (The Originals) stood out for me as it featured not just Mick McMahon and Dave Gibbons who were there at the very start, but Alan Grant and Cam Kennedy who came along not long after.

It’s a cracking bit of viewing and a bit of comics history. Enjoy.

 

 

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Happy birthday 2000AD

40 years ago this week I had in my hands the first issue of a new weekly boy’s adventure comic called 2000AD. It had a shite free gift as was the way with comics back then.

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The first issue featured Flesh!, a story about time-travellers coming from the future to harvest dinosaurs to help feed the future population’s desire for meat which was eagerly lapped up by me who’d lapped up the gore-soaked pages of Action. Excitement had been built up for some time as after all, Action had been neutered, and thanks to some gloriously cheesy adverts I was dying to get my hands on 2000AD.

It may look cheesy to jaded 21st century eyes but this was brilliant and along with thousands of other kids we enjoyed the first issue, and looked forward to the second which promised a new strip called Judge Dredd which surely couldn’t be as fun as Flesh! or as bizarre as the revamped Dan Dare which was no longer tired and old, but a bit disco.Whatever it was, it looked like no other comic out there in 1977.

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Of course Judge Dredd was an instant favourite as what boy wouldn’t love an ultra-violent fascist as a role model?

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1977 was a transformational year for the UK as the Queen’s silver jubilee rubbed against the growth of the Punk movement, while in the background Thatcherism bubbled away Sauron-like waiting for its moment to strike. Thanks to Pat Mills (who acted as father and midwife to 2000AD) Punk was very much written into the DNA of 2000AD and new, younger artists like Mick McMahon epitomised that new ethic.

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The Golden Age of 2000AD lasted years. For me the first 500 issues are brimming with creativity and I can’t think of a comic ever published that was so consistent in what was still basically children’s comics.

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Yet as I got older I drifted from 2000AD, especially in the 1990’s when the comic published some utter shite like Mark Millar’s Robo-Hunter. Possibly some of the worst comics I’ve ever read. In the 90’s the comics seemed burdened with bad editorial decisions or more realistically, the editors in the latter part of the 1990’s didn’t have a clue how to do their jobs hence why the comic came close to extinction.

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Yet it was saved thanks to Rebellion who cleared out the baggage, stripped the comic back to something it was previously and was left facing the 21st century looking positive. 2000ad2000 So happy birthday 2000AD. You’ve seen me through most of my life and in your own way have helped shape it and all the bad days are hopefully behind you now, and here’s hoping for another 40 years of thrills.

What I thought of Hook Jaw #3

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Last issue saw the plot thicken, and this one sees it becoming a gloopy soup as those familiar with Si Spurrier’s Crossed +100 run will spot the similarities. Both are weaving massive mysteries. Both have a quirky, satirical edge and both built up to short, sharp incidents of horror which is where we are in Hook Jaw #3 from Titan Comics as Spurrier racks up the tension, as well as the scale of the story, towards something far bigger than what one would have expected from the first issue, or indeed, the history of the character who up til now has been mainly to eat people in as many bloody ways a psychotic Great White shark can.

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This issue sees our core cast of environmentalist scientists, Somali pirates and CIA operatives joined by Greenpeace (not actually called Greenpeace here) activists and the media and more and more bodies keep getting lined up for a potential bloodbath. In this issue though there’s only one big death at the teeth of Hook Jaw, and it’s a pretty chilling one too, but we’ve been spared the gorefests of the Action strips so far as Spurrier slowly builds up his cast as well as why are there strange bones on an island off the coast of Somalia and who exactly has been feeding Hook Jaw with animals?

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This isn’t as fast paced as the original Action strips. After all they had to cram as much as possible into four or five pages to keep plucky British kids coming back next week for their diet of severed heads and mutilation. The monthly format is a slower burn, but this is still a surprisingly good, somewhat political, book about a pissed off giant shark.

Some truths about the ‘cancer survival gap’ in Scotland

Macmillan have released figures which show there’s a cancer survival gap between poorer and wealthier parts of Scotland. That’s a pretty damning statistic and one that any government has to work to solve because a person shouldn’t be at risk of dying because they live in a poor area or are poor themselves.

I’ve just been told I’m in remission after discovering I had cancer last year when I was still living in Bristol. I now live in Dennistoun in the East End of Glasgow as I spend some time recovering and recuperating. Dennistoun is by no means a desperately poor area, but it wasn’t as wealthy as where I lived in Bristol on the Gloucester Road or even Stokes Croft. It’s an area going through gentrification due to it’s close vicinity to Strathclyde University and the city centre (five minutes car/bus, 15-20 minutes walk) and a pretty cheap rental market (a 2-bed flat is as cheap as £500 p/m), relatively cheap houses/flats to buy in an area increasingly becoming full of Hipsters, young professionals and students. What though has this to do with Macmillan’s findings?

There’s a quote from the article linked at the start of this blog and I’ll highlight it here.

Health inequality is closely linked to income inequality

I’ve had a few physio sessions to help with my stroke recovery (its been a year since I had a stroke) in Shettleston health centre. This is Shettleston.

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It is a poor area that’s been left to rot. It’s also ‘famous’ for having a desperately low life expectancy  but it is slowly improving. It isn’t ‘poor and edgy’ in a contrived way that say, Stokes Croft in Bristol is, but it’s just poor and edgy.

So here’s a couple of truths that’s dawned on me since returning last year and undergoing cancer treatment and stroke recovery.Poverty kills people. Having to deal with a potentially life-threatening illness is a full time job in itself, and if your support structure is weak, or you simply live in a poor area that hasn’t got a good local butcher or fishmonger, and you can’t work anyhow, then it becomes an additional struggle on top of your daily struggle. I’ve seen the sort of poverty in the East End of Glasgow that I thought no longer existed in the UK and it should shame us all that people live in such conditions but we’re also very good at screening this sort of poverty out.

Here’s the big one though; if you’ve suffered generational poverty and never seen your life get better and your basic human self-respect has been whittled down to nothing then you won’t put in the same fight as say, I did. I’ve lived in a nice wealthy city for 17 years. I’ve been lucky enough to have my life saved by some brilliant doctors and nurses at the Bristol Royal Infirmary, and I’ve got enough to live for, to fight for, to make me want to go through what has been an awful year. But what if I was say, living in a poor area resigned to my fate? You may think people don’t fight and won’t give up but I’ve seen it since returning to Glasgow. It shocked me into a realisation of just how lucky I’ve been in life that I can still walk with some pride in me. I’ve seen people crushed by the weight of their lives so they’re giving up before the fight has started.

That quote, Health inequality is closely linked to income inequality is important. If people don’t have the same chances in life, then they won’t get the same chances when they’re fighting for that life, and if you’re used to losing then what’s the point? This shouldn’t be a party political issue and I don’t care for the SNP and Labour throwing jibes at each other. I do think independence is something that may, and should help, but the fact is people have to be taught how to live. They need chances. You shouldn’t have a larger chance of dying because you’ve got a postcode in an area where poverty is rife? We need to make a better world for all, and whether or not we agree on how to get there, there’s an urgency here. I said this is generational and it is. Children born just over a mile from where I’m typing this now won’t live as long as I have because of where they were born. That isn’t right and to make things better it means people from all sides have to confront hard facts and that won’t be easy.

One year ago I nearly died but I got over it thanks to the NHS

On the 19th February 2016 I had a stroke. That was a Friday, and it was at work. I thought it was a hot flush because you know, you don’t think a stroke as anything like a hot flush as from film and TV you think you’ll agonisingly clutch your side and you slip just out of shot as dramatic music plays in the background…

Yet the soap opera drama never seemed to stop. The ‘mass’ on my neck with contributed to my stroke (it was ‘bouncing on my jugular’ as one doctor put it) turned out to be papillary thyroid cancer, and last May I underwent an eight-hour operation to remove the tumour as well as the lymph nodes around it that it was safe to do so. Then I had a slipped disc partly brought on by the shift in my body that happened after my stroke, but added onto the stress I was undergoing thanks to the stroke recovery, the fact I was still working. My employer at the time acted in a manner where they were offering paper-thin support, barring my line manager and a few individuals. As a company they fucked up with two individuals in particular who are quite frankly, more interested in making themselves look good than the welfare of their employees. That added to the stress of worrying about dying while dealing with the imminent death of my father meant that 2016 was a bastard of a year that felt like this…

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But on the 19th February 2017 I’m still alive having moved from Bristol to Glasgow in November last year to recuperate, recover and decide what to do next. Earlier this month my consultant told me I’m in remission thanks mainly to the superb work NHS staff in Bristol did in moving fast enough to act as the stroke brought to light my cancer at an early enough stage before it riddled my body so they took it out and when I finished my radiotherapy at the start of this month the chances of it returning are so small I no longer need to worry about it though I will have regular checks.

There’s a lot of bullshit being said about the NHS. It is under pressure, and several decades of both the Tories and Labour privatising it, or at least, opening it up for private exploitation while starving it of funding means it gets the sort of relentlessly negative stories we see on the news 24/7 yet for me, it saved me. The transition from NHS England to NHS Scotland was smooth beyond belief and my stroke recovery is now in the hands of a very capable physio who gets exactly what I want to get better. The irony is that a year on after from having not one, but two life-threatening incidents I’m coming out of this in better nick than I was going into it. I renewed my passport last January just before the stroke and looking at my passport picture I see a sick, unwell man. Looking at me now I feel healthier, although I still have bad days however good days are outnumbering them now though the boredom is creeping in which is far better than worrying about dying.

In less than a year my life has nearly ended, I’ve had major surgery, radiotherapy, a stroke, relearned how to write again and walk, moved cities and I’m still here. As for what’s next that’s something that’s going to become clear over the next month or so but I can’t thank the NHS enough for making sure I’m still here.

So, what’s next?

What I thought of Invincible #133

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Robert Kirkman’s Invincible is a comic I’ve dabbled with over the years and this issue isn’t just ridiculously cheap in order to celebrate Image Comics 25th anniversary, but it starts a new story arc which effectively acts as a sort-of jumping on point just for when Image promise that at the end of this 12-issue run then Invincible is over.

This issue starts almost wordlessly with a funeral. Kirkman likes to have long stretches of his work that are without any word balloons so the reader has to follow the narrative through the panels instead.It can be a massively effective technique and Kirkman does it well so when the silence breaks it’s normally to add an impact.

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We get an idea of what has been lost, and the conflicts (because superhero comics are all about conflicts) arising from them.

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Kirkman makes sure the reader is brought up to speed in exposition worthy of Stan Lee.

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And we get an idea of all the relationships of the main characters in the comic.

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There’s a mission to be carried out. A wedding and vows are made to enact revenge and we get the big story that’s going to crack on over the next 11 issues til the series ends. This isn’t anything hugely original (there’s been a touch of Steve Rude and Steven Grant’s Nexus throughout Invincible) but this is well told superheroics with a science fiction setting. It’s a good read, but as a jumping on point it’s a bit bittersweet with so few issues left to go, but then again it will make people go off and buy the trade paperbacks.

 

What I thought of The Dregs #1

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The synopsis for this new title from publisher Black Mask goes like this:

A gentrified city. Its homeless population restricted to six square blocks called The Dregs. When people start disappearing, a drug-addled homeless man obsessed with detective fiction becomes addicted to solving the mystery. Equal parts Raymond Chandler and Don Quixote set in a thriving metropolis that literally cannibalizes the homeless, The Dregs is the first homeless meta noir ever made.

The first two sentences of the pitch intrigued me. The latter two less so.

From the off the comic makes clear exactly what’s going on in the city of Vancouver and what’s going on with the homeless population.

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They’re being slaughtered for meat.

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In the city of the future meat is at a premium so with the homeless being disposable the solution to the problems of feeding a city is to turn the homeless into food. In terms of allegory and political point The Dregs isn’t exactly subtle in terms of dealing with the harsh reality of gentrification.

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There then follows a mystery to find out why homeless people are vanishing and the comic becomes a noir-ish mystery.

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The Dregs is a surprising good, as well as original book, or at least trying to do something different rather than just rehash old ideas. This is helped by a fine artistic style that steps away from traditional American comic art and feels more European, which is in fact quite pleasing to see. This is trying to be different, as well as political and the creators should be applauded for coming up with this interesting new comic.