Thursday, November 6, 2008

74. Who Will Save the Day?

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.

June 1999: Greg Staples' absolutely wonderful cover to prog 1149 features the long-overdue return of Devlin Waugh, following the path of his stablemates Missionary Man and Judge Anderson and making his move over from the pages of the Megazine to 2000 AD. It's the prologue episode to a really remarkable series, almost unique in 2000 AD's color era. This lengthy serial, known by the umbrella title "Sirius Rising," is by John Smith and Steve Yeowell. While it will be broken down into three separate stories, it will run without a break for six months.

It's the only time since Wagner and Ezquerra's 31-week run on the Dredd epic "Necropolis" that a writer-artist team has kept a six-month residency in the prog, and nobody since has come within spitting distance of their tenure. Other stories in this issue include the continuing Dredd storyline "The Doomsday Scenario," by John Wagner and Simon Davis and with the action now moved to the Mediterranean Free State, Downlode Tales by Dan Abnett and Calum Alexander Watt, Pulp Sci-Fi by Robbie Morrison and Siku, and, most importantly for future commissions, Nikolai Dante by Robbie Morrison and guest artist John Burns, who will, in time, replace Dante's co-creator Simon Fraser as the strip's regular art droid.

For those of you that have never met Devlin Waugh, he is a paranormal investigator in Judge Dredd's world, working chiefly in the employ of the Vatican. Certainly among Smith's finest creations, one reason he works so well is that while Mega-City One is extremely well-defined, to the point that the city is almost as much of a character as Dredd himself, readers just don't know much about the Europe of the future. Actually, most of what readers know about the rest of the planet is kept to tantalizing glimpses and references, but it's clearly not all radioactive deserts surrounding totalitarian dictatorships. Smith has helped define most of the rest of Dredd's world, a place where most people have the sense to avoid the lunacy of what used to be North America.

Devlin's world is populated by bon vivants and celebrities, with both a thriving middle class and mega-cities where the unemployment figures don't make you cry. It's a world of violent occult phenomena and freaky aliens. Taking a cue from both the strange exploits of Psi-Division in the main Dredd strip and from Grant Morrison's run on Doom Patrol, it's a world of bizarre collectors of paranormal oddities and supercriminals with amazing technology. It's a world, in short, that's too weird for Judge Dredd. But you drop Waugh, a steroid-abusing gay vampire with a Terry-Thomas grin and a Noel Coward way with words, into that world with his sharp suits and fisticuffs, and you've got one of 2000 AD's best series ever. That it doesn't appear for at least thirteen weeks every year is completely criminal. In fact, Devlin has only appeared in five stories since the end of '99, with a new one apparently due sometime in 2009.

The Sirius Rising storyline was collected in the second of DC and Rebellion's two Devlin Waugh collections, Red Tide, in 2005. Unfortunately, this would be the only one of all the Rebellion books that deserves to be skipped by buyers. The best anybody can figure, the films provided to the printer featured about sixteen pages towards the end of the storyline which were some sort of preliminary or interim drafts, and are each missing about half of the word balloons!

This was reported to DC early on, but DC was already in the process of backing out of the deal after flooding the market with too many (three a month!) books with no advertising support, and evidently didn't feel the need to issue a revised, corrected edition. Since taking over production and distribution themselves, Rebellion has not redone this book either. It's a shame, but the line has close to a hundred volumes in it at the time of writing, and this is the only one that I know of that has a production error that egregious. They do a pretty good job overall!

Next time, the Doomsday business continues in Mega-City One. See you in seven days!

(Originally posted Nov. 6 2008 at hipsterdad's LiveJournal)

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