Thursday, September 13, 2007

21. I cannot imagine a comic worse than a Mark Millar take on Prez.

July 1995: This is the week that prog 947 ships and the week that viewers in America got to see the Judge Dredd film, and shake their heads in sad disbelief at what a turkey it was. It would be three more weeks before the UK premiere, to tie in with prog 950.

Mambo (by David Hine) and Strontium Dogs (by Peter Hogan and Mark Harrison) conclude their current stories in this issue. "Goodnight Kiss," which would be Garth Ennis's last Judge Dredd adventure for many years, has its penultimate part, and a surprisingly good Rogue Trooper installment, underrated by everybody, moves towards its extremely memorable conclusion. But the malaise is unmistakable; this is a comic marking time until the big, line-wide relaunch.

I try to avoid jumping ahead, but since neither 948 nor 949 are on the schedule, this is my only chance to mention Tracer by Dave Stone and Paul Peart. I was never a real fan of the twice yearly Specials that 2000 AD used to publish, but I picked up the December 1993 Winter Special when I was in London that time, and was pleased to see - this is a little funny in retrospect - the launch of two new series with pilot episodes in the pages of the special. These were Tracer and Canned Heat by John Wagner and Colin MacNeil. Tracer is a repo man in a violent future, and the visual hook is that most of the action takes place in these partially-completed skyscrapers, where the impoverished eke out a life while beset by criminal gangs who scale the skeletal infrastructures. It wasn't high art, but it just plain looked neat. Then 18 months passed, and the Tracer series finally started with a two-part story and that was the last we saw of it.

What I did not know at the time was, of course, this was using up old material. Tracer and Canned Heat were "survivors" of a proposed anthology book called Earthside 8 which was in development in the early 90s and axed by the summer of 1993. The book was aimed at younger readers than those currently absorbing 2000 AD. After learning about Earthside 8, I thought for some time that Stone and Peart had completed three episodes of Tracer before the axe fell, the pilot and this two-parter, and 2000 AD just found what place they could to make a little back on the investment. However, in part two, Paul Peart's signature is clearly dated "95," so at least 18 months had to pass before the art was finished. Perhaps the scripts sat in a drawer for all that time, and 2000 AD went ahead and paid for an artist, since the script droid had been paid two years previously?

Earthside 8 was also meant to have featured Dinosty by Pat Mills and Clint Langley. As the artist had finished five episodes before the comic's cancellation, it was decided to bring all ten episodes to 2000 AD; this ran in progs 873 to 882 in early 1994. There was also a hitman story by Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra called The Burning Man. The pilot episode for that was used as filler in the 1994 2000 AD Yearbook.

According to David Bishop's Thrill Power Overload, other strips planned for Earthside 8, which was briefly renamed Alternity, included work by creators such as Mark Eyles, Brett Ewins and Roger Langridge. The one I actually want to see, just because of the train-wreck factor, was Billy Whisper, a story about a teenage US president, as imagined by Mark Millar. The same concept had been used in an incredibly entertaining and goofy DC title called Prez in the early '70s. The Joe Simon comic has been a cult classic for years, and inspired my favorite episode of Neil Gaiman's Sandman. Somehow, I cannot for the life of me imagine a comic worse than a Mark Millar take on Prez.

Since this is a short entry this week, with little to illustrate it, I thought I would first leave you with the Shaky Kane panel from prog 947:

Also, 2000 AD Review has a new interview with Anthony Williams, who saved the day by stepping in for Ian Gibson on Robo-Hunter a few weeks ago. If I'm reading that right, Williams hasn't got the formal commission for the next story, "La Revolution Robotique," yet, though it's clearly a good few months down the line. Currently, Tharg has a heck of a lot of series ready to go: the new stories Dead Eyes, Domino and Cradlegrave, plus new serials for Defoe, Greysuit, Kingdom, Nikolai Dante, The Red Seas, Sin Dex, Stickleback, Strontium Dog and The Ten-Seconders, so it may be a while before Samantha reaches the shores of France. Le sigh.

Huh. That was a little longer than I thought it'd be. Next week, prog 950!

(Originally published 9/13/07 at LiveJournal.)

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