2000 issues? Who’da thunk it? When 200oAD launched in 1977, even the biggest fan probably thought it might make it a year or so, and then be absorbed into Battle or similar, just like Action was… just like any interesting comic was. These things had a shelf life, and it wasn’t 40 years.
And I was as big a fan of 2000AD as you could hope to find. I bought the first issue, already excited by ads in other comics in the way that only small boys can be – and I bought every issue after that, and all the annuals, and all the Judge Dredd annuals, and the summer specials and everything else, into the start of the 1990s… when for some reason I stopped and, like someone who suddenly misses several episodes of a favourite TV series, I got out of the habit. Oh, I’ve bought a few Dredd books since then, but not the comic. So I missed the ‘difficult’ years, the characters that came and went in that time and the slow but steady move from the kiddies section of the newsagent to the newsagents to the top shelf.
Which is where I found this issue, and dammit if I wasn’t going to snap up such a historical edition. Okay, it’s not the 40th anniversary – that’s next year. But 2000 issues of 2000AD – that means something.
Of course, this anniversary issue is, in many ways, aimed at nostalgic slackers like me. Famous names from the 2000AD past – Brian Bolland, Kevin O’Neill, Carlos Ezquerra, Dave Gibbons, Mick McMahon, Pat Mills, John Wagner – are back (some of them never really left,admittedly) on the strips that they created or which made them famous. And the strips here are single, self-contained stories for the most part, ensuring that we are not thrown into the middle of of an on-going tale.
There are changes, of course. The £3.99 price tag is rather more than 1977’s 8p, and a reminder perhaps of why many people prefer graphic novel compilations of strips than the regular comic these days – £16 a month is a hefty price to pay. Of course, in 1977, 2000AD was printed on something not many steps up from toilet paper, and mostly in black and white; this edition is lovely and glossy, and the black and white strips seem to be an aesthetic choice. It’s also much more ‘adult’ – a touch sweary, a bit sexy and so on. But it maintains the important part – it tells stories that are enjoyable, anarchic, and unpretentious.
There’s the return of old favourites here. The Dredd strip guest stars Johnny Alpha from Strontium Dog, and brings Dredd face-to-face with one of his oldest enemies (or at least his clones). Nemesis the Warlock is back to battle Torquemada for one more time. Rogue Trooper returns, and Judge Anderson does battle with Judge Death once again. Sinister Dexter (after my time) come back too, and several characters from the past pop in in Tharg’s linking pages and the pull-out poster. It’s not all nostalgia though, as impressive new strip Counterfeit Girl kicks off to close the issue in defiantly non-nostalgic form.
All the stories are fun and fresh – no mean feat. In a world where comics have become ever more pretentious, it’s good to see that 2000AD still maintains the mandate to entertain; and thank God no one has decided to reinvent Dredd in some headline-grabbing new form in a desperate bid for publicity.
2000AD is something of a national treasure. Thank God it is still out there, and long may it continue.