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Saturday, 8 September 2012

Archive's Sunday Comics - 2000AD

Next to the Beano and Dandy, 2000AD is arguably the best known British comic. It first came out in 1977 and is still running today.

British comics always followed trends and with Star Wars and Close Encounters raking in so much money at the cinema screens. Pat Mills who had created both Battle and Action for IPC was given the job of creating the new comic and he brought on board John Wagner. Together they would create a British comic legend - for the first time Britain had a comic that was actually influencing its American counterparts and many of the creators would move onto the larger American  market and become household names. The name 2000AD was selected because it was suitable futuristic sounding in 1977 and no-one expected the comic to still be going strong in 2012AD.

The lead character in the early days was another version of Dan Dare - this time the revamp was extreme and the story saw Dare wake from suspended animation several centuries after his original timeline. The visual look - artist Belardinelli - was hallucinatory and very imaginative. But although popular Dare was soon replaced in the popularity stakes by Jude Dredd - a character that today still rules 2000AD and also has his own spin-off title. Interesting trivia is that Judge Dredd, although called a character from the original line up, didn't actually appear until the second issue.

When the comic initially launched in 1977 I was almost twelve years old - the perfect age for this sort of thing and the comic quickly became a favourite. I read every issue because after reading my copy of Battle each week I would swap in with a mate down the street who took the comic. Couldn't afford two comics a week in those days - 8p was a pricely sum, you know!

A favourite strip of mine was Flesh which was basically a futuristic western set in the prehistoric past - to explain in the future all animals are extinct and yet the human need for a Big Mac is as strong as ever, and so by travelling back in time vast food factories are built in the prehistoric period and dinosaurs are hunted for their meat.

The meat is then, processed, packaged and sent into the future where it is sold in the automated supermarkets. The strip toyed with the paradox that it was actually men who caused the extinction of the dinosaurs before the homo sapien species had actually evolved on Earth. The men who hunted the dinosaurs were called rangers and wore cowboys hats and everything.

2000AD really was a different comic and although Battle remained my favourite this ran a close second - Bill Savage was a classic character who battled the Volgan Army who had invaded Britain in 1999. Other than its futuristic setting it was the same intense action as depicted in the World War II strips of Battle - bloody fun though.

The Harlem Heroes was a cool story about a team of Aeroball players (imagine American Football with no rules, a little bit of basketball and jet-packs.) and it was tremendously exciting. In the first strip the team was involved in a hover-powered road liner crash and many of the team were killed. Louis, the teams leader, only survives as a brain in a jar and he tells the other three survivors that they must continue and rebuild the team to honour the dead.

The plastic space spinner toy given away with issue 1 was actually quite cool.

And then there was MACH 1, who I've written about before,. The character was very much based on TV's The Six Million Dollar Man and I remember the strip as being among my favourites from the early days.

2000AD these days is still thriving and has gone through changes in ownership several times. Although I must confess to not reading it weekly these days I do pick it up from time to time, recently because it was running another Bill Savage storyline. I buy the Judge Dredd Megazine ( Yep Megezine rather than magazine in reference to Judge Dredd's Mega City setting ) more often as I find the longer strips allow for far deeper story-lines than possible in the weekly format.

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