Thursday, November 13, 2008

75. Veteran's 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.

I had a moment of very odd coincidence when I read Judge Dredd Megazine # 57 last night. See, I should explain that while this feature appears on Thursday mornings, I do the writeup and the scanning on Wednesday afternoon, meaning that I read the featured issue on Tuesday, which of course was Veteran's Day. The Meg lineup is the same as it was the last time I stopped by; it contains a new, extra-length Dredd episode (here, part two of "Doomsday" by John Wagner and Colin Wilson), some pages of Daily Star Dredd newspaper strips by Wagner, Alan Grant and Ian Gibson, and an issue of Preacher by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon. And so it was, on Veteran's Day, that I read one of the most stunning episodes of that series, in which Jesse bumps into an old army buddy of his dad's in an airport bar. The vet, who was called Spaceman to John Custer's Texas, still holds onto his "FUCK COMMUNISM" lighter that the actor John Wayne had delivered to their unit on a goodwill tour to Viet Nam. Jesse still has his dad's lighter as well. It is the only thing he has of his father, who died while he was four, in events recounted in the earlier Angelville storyline. I still stand by my assessment that Preacher is just too unpleasant and too unrestrained for me to like it, and this violent installment of shit-talking soldiers won't change the mind of anybody who has written it off. However, this episode, which closes with a quote from Mark Baker's Nam, is unbelievably effective and moving, and a heartfelt tribute to all the men and women who've given time and blood for freedom.

Interestingly, around the time this issue was in production, 2000 AD's present owners at Rebellion made their first, unsuccessful, bid to buy the comic and all its intellectual properties from Fleetway. The events are recounted in Thrill-Power Overload by David Bishop, who explains that Rebellion's Jason Kingsley was, surprisingly, rebuffed in his efforts to license Strontium Dog for a video game, and so made the offer to purchase everything outright. The negotiations were carried out in secret, but Bishop and Diggle were unwittingly clued in, and encouraged Kingsley to give it another try once his effort was turned down. Perhaps even more surprising than Fleetway's reluctance to license Strontium Dog is that it's been almost ten years, and Kingsley owns the character, and yet we've got no game. Hey! Get a move on, will ya?

As for the actual Dredd content, Colin Wilson's return to action in Mega-City One has been really effective. Wilson had been among the artists in the rotation for both Dredd and Rogue Trooper in the early '80s before finding jobs with various French publishers. His best known work was for the Western series Blueberry, but Wikipedia notes that he also penned several volumes of Dans l'Ombre du Soleil. At any rate, he returned to 2000 AD for a pair of Pulp Sci-Fi one-offs before rejoining the Dredd rotation for about three years at the suggestion of assistant editor Andy Diggle, who also booked him for a few issues of The Losers in 2005. Among other work, in 2006, he illustrated that excellent Battler Britton miniseries by Garth Ennis that I enjoyed greatly.

As far as I'm concerned, any comic which gives you fifteen pages of Wilson art and twenty-odd pages of Dillon art is doing the right thing, but of course the reprints of the Dredd newspaper strip, about which I spoke at greater length in a Reprint This! feature last month, are bringing you wonderful artwork by Ian Gibson. Really, if you're going to have two-thirds of the comic reprint material, this looks like a lineup worth following, doesn't it?

And now, an appeal from your host.

Gang, I still need to track down nine issues of the Megazine - volume three # 69-77. Either the issues themselves or scans of the Dredd / DeMarco / Mean Machine episodes. These are issues I used to have, but lost when my house flooded three years ago. Can you help? I've got a giant stack of double progs, and some graphic novels, that I can swap, or PayPal you some cash... please drop me a line ASAP!

Next time, the Doomsday business continues in Mega-City One, and Devlin Waugh continues the hunt for the Herod. See you in seven days!

(November 13, 2008)

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