Thursday, August 16, 2007

17. That Time in London

We're back! Did you miss us? Well, I've found a place for a couple of other 2000 AD-related articles while waiting for my son to return from vacation. If you're one of my many non-Livejournal readers, you can click on the "2000 ad" tag below for more entries of note. Anyway, the reread brings us to prog 933, from March 1995. The lineup is much the same as the previous entry: Judge Dredd: "Crusade" and Harlem Heroes on the "poor" side of the fence, and Finn and Armoured Gideon on the "readable" side. Unfortunately, the kind-of readable Rogue Trooper, with the nice art by Henry Flint, has wrapped up and is replaced by a really dire Brigand Doom installment by Alan McKenzie and Dave D'Antiquis about vampire accountants. So, yeesh.

So, since I don't have much of anything nice to say about this prog, I'll point out that it is memorable to me for another reason. This was one of the issues that was available on newsstands when I was last in London. This was the trip I mentioned in the twelfth installment, when I spent a fair amount of money replacing all the subscription copies of 2000 AD which arrived in beat-up shape. The ex-Mrs. Hipster and I were in England for ten days that spring, and the faux-newspaper cover reminds me of the unusual experience of reading English newspapers.

The line on this prog's cover about Canadian model and actress Pamela Anderson reads "ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH PAMELA ANDERSON INSIDE - (SOB)." While an unusual sentiment for a science fiction comic, the London tabloids that this cover evokes feature a daily photo of a young starlet on page three or page five in a state of undress totally unacceptable for American publications. We thought this was the funniest thing in the universe and bought two different papers a morning. This gave us a wide range of editorial content, all of it incredibly heavy-handed, over-the-top and reactionary. It was through these eyes that we learned of the death of two celebrities during our vacation.

First to pass, shortly before we arrived, was Ronnie Kray, who, with his brother Reggie, was in charge of an organized crime network whose legend and myth have grown in pop culture since the 1960s. Monty Python's Flying Circus parodied the Krays as "Doug and Dinsdale Piranha;" Morrissey immortalized them in song as "The Last of the Famous International Playboys." The papers were full of letters from readers about Ron's passing, most praising them as gentlemen, but others reacting with disgust to so much media attention being paid to criminals. One paper used Ron's death in prison to question whether, after 27 years, Reggie had spent enough time behind bars, his sentence not equivalent to the mere decade that "child murderers" were getting these days. In the end, Reg served another five years before being released on compassionate grounds about a month before he passed away from terminal cancer. It's one of my big regrets - and Lord, I have a few - that we didn't join the thousands lining the streets for Ronnie's funeral, just to see it. One thing's for certain, you could sense a genuine difference in the mood of the city that day. It was quieter, more sober and solemn.

A few days later, a Mexican-American pop singer from Texas named Selena was murdered by the woman who ran her fan club. This was weird. To hear the papers tell it, ALL OF AMERICA MOURNS THE LOSS of the Tejano celebrity, and EVERY MAN, WOMAN AND CHILD IN THE NATION WEEPS A SINGLE, SILENT TEAR OVER THE LOSS OF THIS MAJOR TALENT... which was news to us. I remember Deb and I read this report together, and our eyes met, heads shaking, asking "...who?" London tabloids were certainly prone to exaggeration and hyperbole. We asked around upon returning to the States; exactly two friends had heard of Selena prior to her death, and five or six others had heard she died.

Just to prove that we didn't fly to England with our brains fully screwed on - given the devastation the trip did to our finances, we learned that real quick - it didn't even occur to me for days that Judge Dredd appeared in a daily newspaper strip in the Star, and if we had any sense, we'd have been buying that as one of our two tabloids a day. Then again...

The strip was in its final, faltering days at that point. A major motion picture was months from screens, and this bilge by Carlos Pino and, yup, Mark Millar was the best they could do?

The strip started in August 1981 as a weekly six-or-seven panel story by John Wagner and Alan Grant, with art by Ron Smith. It changed over to a Monday-Friday strip, telling ongoing stories over 65 installments (13 weeks) in 1986. Ian Gibson came on board as artist in the late 80s, and then it was passed off between a variety of creative teams until the Star finally cancelled it in 1998. Most of the strips have never been republished, although some have made their way into annuals and the late-90s, reprint-heavy Megazine.

So that's British newspapers in the mid-90s for you: iffy Judge Dredd comics, topless blondes, hyperbole, occasionally news, and every once in a while, a giant annihilating robot. Maybe next Thursday, there will be more in the prog to discuss, although it's unlikely Pat Mills will have started writing believable villains by then. I mean, the story's pretty exciting and original but oh, look: comedy Freemasons!

(Originally published 8/16/07 at LiveJournal.)

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