Thursday, April 5, 2007

Thrillpowered Thursday - 1.

A few weeks ago, a couple of the reg'lar comic blogs linked to Paul Rainey's 2000 AD Prog Slog, a great site documenting one reader's "Big Reread," which is one of those things some of us sillier fans do every few years: start from as early as we can and reread the giant volume of 2000 AD stories. This isn't done in a hurry; I started mine in the summer of 2005 and I'm sixteen years in. There are, after all, close to 1800 issues of 2000 AD plus the Megazine. That's not counting all the other sister books; Paul is in 1978 and detouring into Starlord right now.

Naturally, I thought, "Damn, I should have thought of that."

There's also AlexF's Meanwhile, on the Dark Side of the Moon, another 2000 AD-themed blog, which is endlessly fun to read. (And which, GAGGGH!!, spoils something from a prog I'll not see for another three weeks!) (That tends to happen in 2000 AD fandom, sadly.)

So here's me carrying on those coattails for a few weeks, one entry each Thursday until I get an idea about whether it's entertaining people enough to continue. For the unfortunately thrill-starved majority of my reg'lar readers, it's yet another Hipster-entry you can page down past, at least until you finally cave in and join the ranks of the squaxx dek Thargo. For my readers without LJs, you can bookmark my 2000 AD tag, and get the data you need without all the yammering about minor league hockey and my awesome kids.
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Anyway, I just finished Megazine v.2 # 42, which has two stories written by John Wagner and two written by Si Spencer. No points for guessing which episodes were worth reading and which... weren't. Actually, Spencer is two episodes into Creep, which is my pick for the worst thing the Meg ever published. On the other hand, there's Harke & Burr, which isn't really bad, but what good there was in the script was ruined by Dean Ormston's hideous art. It does, at least, contain one of the most awful puns in the universe, somehow managing to mention tulips in a story about vampiric rodents. That's right, Tulips from "Hamsters damned."

Wagner, meanwhile, has a great Judge Dredd story, the third book of the "Mechanismo" storyline about robot judges, but it's The Taxidermist I want to mention right now. This ran for ten 8-page episodes and is one of the funniest and most entertaining series of the early 1990s. It's a parody of the Olympics; our hero, Jacob Sardini, had been introduced in a 1986 Judge Dredd story which showed that in the future, human taxidermy had been legalised. Here, Wagner follows up on the bizarre mention in the backstory that Sardini, an overweight, bespectacled widower in his early 60s, had earlier won the Bronze medal in taxidermy in the Olympic games.

This series sees Sardini pressed to represent Mega City-One in the Olympics again. Even though he's in no shape to compete, he still has a reputation as one of the greatest taxidermists who ever lived. And there, he runs afoul of an awful conspiracy of the Chinese government.

On the one hand, it's a compelling little story because of the protagonist. Admittedly, it's madly early and I'm typing this because I can't sleep instead of at a sensible hour, but I can't think of many other comic book heroes who qualify for the senior citizens' discount at Shoney's. Sardini is plagued by self-doubt and, while he respects the younger competitors, doesn't think much of the games around him.

Ah, the games. Wagner and Gibson have a ball depicting an Olympics where athleticism doesn't play any factor whatsoever. In the future, the competitions include mountain climbing, sex, insulting, flatulence and staring. Mega City-One's great hope in the staring is with Agnes "Laser Gaze" Bolton, who doesn't get any dialogue but is among the funniest characters in all of fiction, to be blunt. A stern, unblinking harridan with a face like steel, you don't want to get on her bad side. And the games are narrated by a gang of smiling TV personalities who offer inane commentary and jingoistic gabble.

It's an amazing balancing act, countering the story of the Chinese conspiracy with this completely hilarious take on "sports" of the future, but honestly, this is the sort of thing Wagner does better than anybody else in comics. He'd done similar work before; in Robo-Hunter: "Football Crazy," he went for straight farce sending up the World Cup. In his Chopper storylines, particularly "Song of the Surfer," he balanced the carnage of the Supersurf with mindless, inane color commentary from the sportscasters on the sidelines. So you might can argue Wagner was repeating himself here, but with results this funny, who could complain?

"The Taxidermist" is not presently available in collected form. Sardini's appearances run to 126 pages, which would be ideal for a 2000 AD Extreme Edition or a graphic novel in the future. I'd certainly shell out for one.
Stop back next Thursday for another thrillpowered installment, fellow Earthlets!

(Originally published 4/5/07 at LiveJournal)

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