Thursday, May 29, 2008

55. Political Bizness

December 1997: It's been promoted for weeks, and at last B.L.A.I.R. One makes its series debut in prog 1071. The series had its origins in a one-off gag strip from the 3000 AD supplement given away as one of the free gifts from the 20th anniversary celebrations the previous February. That story, by editor David Bishop, John Tomlinson and Simon Davis, reworked the old superspy series M.A.C.H. One into a very silly satire about Britain's new prime minister. Now it's been given over to Alan Grant to script, and the results are, honestly, wonderful. But I'm pretty far in the minority!

Simon Davis was perfectly chosen to paint the bizarre series, in which the superpowered prime minister battles everything from Tory MPs to demonic taxpayers. Since Davis is so very good with likenesses, the many politicians throughout the strip probably don't need to be named for British readers, even if I don't know who the heck some of them are. There is a great moment in a later episode where Bill and Hillary Clinton are at a photo-op, frowning with sour faces as the cameraman calls "Say cheese!" Then he says "Say power!" instead and their eyes brighten. In the first episode, B.L.A.I.R. One solves the crisis of closed mines and too many single mums on welfare by sending them all down the mines. By the end of the four part series, the only Britons with jobs are employed as wardens and guards at a giant prison that holds everybody else.

You could see how this might could polarize readers. Again, I think it's hilarious, as do my kids, but it's about as subtle as a brick to the head and deeply unpopular. However, it will return in 1998 for both a one-off and a two-part final appearance B.L.A.I.R. One, which has never been reprinted, is the last of the "media-friendly" strips that came with press releases attached, aimed at the mainstream media. In the early months of '98, Bishop looked over the results of the two months experimenting with the format and concluded that they were alienating regular readers and not getting any new ones.

Other material in this prog: Judge Dredd in the first part of "Escape from Old New York Street" by John Wagner and Paul Marshall, a Vector 13 story called "Angels" by Robbie Morrison and Lee Sullivan, Sinister Dexter in "Things to Do in Download When You're Dead" by Dan Abnett and Julian Gibson, and finally Nikolai Dante in "The Full Dante" by Morrison and Charlie Adlard. Yes, three complete stories in one issue!

December '97 is also notable for bringing a new face into the Command Module, the new assistant editorial droid Dig-L. Andy Diggle was a lapsed fan who'd resumed reading earlier in the year. He will have a huge impact on the title in the future when he takes the editorial reins himself.

Apologies for the short entry this week; work sort of caught up with me. Next week, we close out 1997 with a look at the rest of the regular features...

(Originally published 5/29/08 at LiveJournal.)

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