Thursday, September 18, 2008

67. Prog 1120: the bestest prog ever

Thrillpowered Thursday is a weekly look at the world of 2000 AD. I'm rereading my collection of 2000 AD and the Judge Dredd Megazine, one issue an evening, and once each week for the foreseeable future, I'll see what I'm inspired to write.

November 1998: Would you believe that this terrific Henry Flint piece was the one and only time that the great, shamefully ignored Sancho Panzer made the front cover of the Galaxy's Greatest Comic? Every so often, a series comes along which features just the right mix of script and art droids, and a perfect blend of comedy and drama, and the darn readers stubbornly refuse to give it its due. This is just a remarkably goofy, light-hearted strip full of puns and action, featuring a very agreeable lead hero in his sheepskin jacket, cowboy hat and cigar, driving around a wartorn planet in the far future in an unbelievably huge tank.

Perhaps Sancho Panzer was never destined for the all-time Hall of Thrills and a half-dozen bookshelf editions, but I am having a blast rereading his three-month tenure in 2000 AD. My son also loves it, although I fear that the Hipster Daughter's skeptical crosseyed look was echoed by the readership of the time. Dan Abnett's mix of witty wordplay and intense drama somehow seemed to work together a little better in Sinister Dexter, which, even in this week's subpar outing (more of the "Smoke and Mirrors" storyline drawn by David Bircham and mentioned last time), has an urgency and importance to it that Sancho Panzer lacks. So after this thirteen week run, Sancho hangs up his hat and sheepskin jacket ("his ma said it cost a packet"), and the thus-far unreprinted series is shelved for good.

Other stories in this prog besides the two Abnett-scripted ones are the second part of a pretty funny Judge Dredd by John Wagner and Peter Doherty, a one-off Pulp Sci-Fi written and drawn by Mark Harrison, and more from Missionary Man by Gordon Rennie, Alex Ronald and Gary Caldwell.

But what makes prog 1120 the bestest issue of 2000 AD ever? Well, he said with a gush, it was the first time I had a letter printed in Tharg's cosmic comic. I was so darn pleased that I decided to try and be a regular correspondant. According to Buttonman on the official message board's "Writing to Tharg" threads, I'm actually among the top three or four on the all-time list - I'm not sure whether that Kavanaugh fellow might have passed me - and, this year, have had two letters in the Meg and at least one in the prog (1600).

I never know what the current editor is really looking for in any given letters page, and I'm rejected more often than I am printed, but I've always figured that there should be a little room for being silly, and playing up the created-by-robots / alien editor / plastic cup / oil ration / Rigellian hotshot is something that I enjoy doing because it's just so darn goofy. I think, however, that Matt Smith tends to decline those letters which allude to controversies, as is his right. Looking forward to Andy Diggle's tenure on the comic in the early 2000s, we can probably learn a thing or two about allowing fandom too much access to the inner workings of the business. I penned a letter last year hoping that the unpleasant friction with Ian Gibson could be salved, knowing as I wrote it that it wasn't going to be printed. Still, it really saddened me as a reader and a fan and I felt like saying something. It's probably best, however, to not be all that controversial at all, as this first letter shows...

Oh, yeah, "Colonel X." There's a funny story behind that pseudonym of mine, which works its way from Press Gang to Lois & Clark and includes having a letter printed in Dreamwatch under the mangled "Colin Ecks." Some other time, perhaps.

On the other hand, I sent Tharg this missive back in March, and I still think that the big green Betelgusian bonce was wrong to bin it.

Dear Tharg,

It's very magnanimous of you to periodically send some droids to do a little work for publishers in New York City, but I wonder whether this is less the friendly hand of interplanetary co-operation and more some Zraggian plot. Invariably, your creator bots get sucked in by the bright lights and big city and are put to work on some tedious superhero property which had its day decades ago. I mean, look at poor Simon Spurrier. Not only is he trying to breathe life into the Silver Surfer, a trademark which should've been retired in 1970, but his obligations for these publishers have prevented him doing much work on your own mighty comic. Only the Dictators of Zrag could come up with a scheme so nasty that would see your titles forced to shelve (temporarily, we hope) the thrill-powered Lobster Random, Harry Kipling and Jack Point, while poor Spurrier struggles to find something new about a character which John Buscema exhausted long, long ago. And weren't we supposed to get a series out of that Domino character in Justice Department? What ever happened to her?

It's long past time you put a stop to this and sent some Rigelian hotshots New York's way. Let them keep the droids you've sent to their companies in the past, but we want our Spurrier back, and more Lobster Random. Actually, some new Tharg Tales in the comic every once in a while would be a fun little diversion as well. The production 'bots in Droid Life are entertaining enough, but we haven't seen Mek-Quake mangle a recalcitrant art droid in far too long.

For what it's worth, Lobster Random did return in prog 1601 late last month, and I do have some creator loyalty to want to wish 2000 AD alumni well in non-tooth activities, including Work For Hire. But, you know, there's Henry Flint drawing The Haunted Tank for DC this December, and then there's, well, the Silver Freaking Surfer.

Next time, Tough guy Tor Cyan becomes an Ice Warrior. See you then!

(Originally posted Sept. 18 2008 at hipsterdad's LiveJournal.)

No comments: