In my very first article I mentioned the importance of 2000AD and its impact on the UK comic scene (and in fact the comics world as a whole), so this month I thought I’d pull out a top five unmissable characters and stories that, if you can track down (many are available as trades on Amazon these days), should give you a real understanding of just why this sci-fi compendium is so significant, and hell, just bloody good fun. I have to admit I haven’t read 2000AD for a few years now but I still think these are the pick from its pages since its inception way back in 1977.
Judge Dredd: Apocalypse War
Judge Dredd is perhaps 2000AD‘s most famous ambassador; a grizzled, future parody of Dirty Harry (the less said about the pitiful Sly Stallone film the better) and Apocalypse War has to be the greatest Judge Dredd story of all time. Cold war paranoia exemplified to the nth degree. First released at the height off the Regan/Thatcher power axis and their love of all things nuclear. This was a beautiful satirical caricature of the US vs USSR set in a future world, thus over exaggerated and packed with action. John Wagner and Alan Grant script with the chunky clean lines of Carlos Ezquerra. Both exhilarating and strangely moving in its bleak depiction of assured total destruction and the then current clamour for nuclear armament. It had fun with the concept, but there was a chilling reality that lay beneath its over the top world of ultimate destruction. Of course there have been many highlights in Dredd’s career that has tackled hard hitting aspects of democracy to frivolous trips across the galaxy, but this is its peak in my mind. He has a rogues gallery that could rival Batman’s with characters like Chopper, Judge Death (though in recent years he’s had a tendency to appear as a comedy character, which is a real shame) and the Angel Gang being highlights.
Slaine the Horned God
This was the story that launched Simon Bisley and his unique (and now much copied) style of art on the world at large. Though the rest of the early Slaine cannon can’t be over looked. A great story taking old England pagan and Celtic myths as it’s core. The art was astounding at the time, like nothing we’d seen before, Bisley’s flamboyant style was tempered compared to some of his later work and suited this tale of a hugely muscled warrior in ancient Britain. Though for many the art out shone the storyline, but the Pat Mills script mustn’t be overlooked. There was a thoughtfulness in the story as well as a heavy dose of visceral action, A Midsummer’s Dream meets Conan the Barbarian.
Grant Morrison’s warped version of the superhero, I won’t go into too much detail as Timothy Callahan is in the process of a long form review of Zenith (and the rest of Morrison’s work) as we speak on these very pages (well worth checking out).
Nemesis the Warlock
Nemesis is a biting tale of racial intolerance and revenge. Nemesis himself is an alien freedom fighter in a war against oppression on Earth as a new Inquisition is brought into effect, led by insane tyrant Torqamada. The concepts at its core are fairly basic and something that has been tackled many times in sci-fi from The Planet of the Apes to Alien Nation but there was a flourish and shot of adrenaline that Pat Mills brought to these stories that elevated them to another level. The early (and best, in my opinion) stories were all illustrated in the frenzied angular pen of Kevin O’Neil. Together they created a fascinating distopia, O’Neil’s scratchy pens at first seem coarse but are constantly fascinating with hidden depths of detail. The world was brutal and ugly but packed with bizarre ideas and a truly enigmatic central character.
Vietnam based sci-fi and an early work from Peter Milligan. He created a wonderfully dysfunctional squadron of warriors battling in a seemingly unwinnable intergalactic war all seen through the eyes of newbie grunt Danny. The Bad Company themselves are a great array of the weird and wonderful, and Kano was the all out hard man leader who had suffered brain experiments at the hands of their inhuman enemies the Krool. The jungle warfare, the alien adversaries and the scientific experimentation all lead to a straight down the line action comic with enough brains and quirky concepts to keep you hooked.
So that’s my pick of the bunch and here’s a brief list of others that shouldn’t be over looked if you happen to spy them for sale Alan Moore’s Halo Jones and Dr & Quinch (funny as hell with an added sci-fi inventiveness), Rogue Trooper, ABC Warriors and Robo Hunter. 2000AD deserves its reputation and these are just a small sample of the treats it had to offer.