Thursday, November 20, 2008

76. It's Tough to be a Girl

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.

If the only measure of success in 2000 AD was "how often Tharg reprints your work," and mercifully it is not, then Nigel Long might get the booby prize for least successful of all of Tharg's script droids. Writing under the oddball pseudonym "Kek-W," he worked for the House of Tharg for about a decade, but try as I might, I cannot think of a single story of Long's that has ever been reprinted, collected, dusted off or even recommissioned for a second series, unless it was in one of those godawful American-sized reprints in the mid-90s. And that's a shame; when garbage like the Michael Fleisher Rogue Trooper and Harlem Heroes was able to find new homes outside of the weekly, there was no reason for Long's whimsical and quirky stories to be ignored. Of course, I'm writing this at work, and I could go home and look him up on Barney and have a face-palm moment when I realize I've overlooked something*, but the promising Kid CyBorg was nowhere as awful as its reputation suggests, and the strange little throwback story Second City Blues, his last 2000 AD offering, from a couple of years ago, was charming if unnecessary, and he also contributed several good Vector 13 and Pulp Sci-Fi one-offs.

In fact, Long did the impossible in the spring of '96 and took Mark Millar's completely brain-dead Canon Fodder into a second series which was miles better than the first (see My Dinner With Einstein), but, bafflingly, it was the first series which was reprinted as a bonus "graphic novel" bagged free with the current Megazine, and Long's second, superior, offering was left on the shelf.

Long also gave us Rose O'Rion, the final episode of which appears in prog 1158 (August 1999). Now this really was a shame, and an awful missed opportunity.

Rose first appeared in a June 1998 Pulp Sci-Fi episode called "False Profits," which was not at all bad. But her second appearance, in December's "Hot Rocks," felt like the pilot for what should have been a fantastic, over-the-top, downright wonderful series. Rose is a thief and treasure hunter in the most delightfully pulptastic, goofball world of throwback sci-fi, where thousands of planets are just a few days' warpflight away, and each one of those wild worlds was once the home of a thriving civilization which was lost in some cosmic calamity, except for one lone relic of unimaginable power and value. Cherry-picking the universe of its lost treasures is the work of greedy, backstabbing, improvising brigands, tough guys and sassy broads, who forge alliances at the card tables in backwater casinos.

It's one part Raiders of the Lost Ark and one part Maverick and eight parts every schlocky '50s potboiler you read when you were twelve. "Hot Rocks" demanded a series. Unfortunately, the series we got was really, really dull, and nowhere as fun as the lively universe suggested in the Pulp Sci-Fi one-offs. It's full of big, boring galactic threats, and the dialogue sounds wrong. At one cliffhanger point, some giant alien with a big manly gun shouts "Intruder, identify yourself! Your actions have been designated hostile... prepare for immediate physical disincorporation!" This might just be the worst pair of sentences ever written. Just try speaking them out loud!

Rose never gets the chance to redeem herself after this misfire. The series is quietly shelved, and a promising character and universe derailed. Periodically, fans would mention they'd like to see her again, but the moment passed and Rose passed into obscurity.

Incidentally, the eye-catching cover to this issue by Steve Cook announces the second phase of the lengthy Devlin Waugh storyline and introduces several new characters, including the mysterious and wealthy actress Anji Kapoor, in another episode by John Smith and Steve Yeowell. Other stories in this prog include more of Judge Dredd's "Doomsday Scenario" by John Wagner and Colin Wilson, Downlode Tales by Dan Abnett and Chris Weston, and Mazeworld by Alan Grant and Arthur Ranson.

*note: I looked up Long's credits at Barney, and see that I didn't overlook anything.

Thrillpowered Thursday will be taking a week's break while my young co-readers take a Thanksgiving vacation in Kentucky. See you in December for more Dredd, and a graphic novel review or two.

(Originally posted Nov. 20 2008 at hipsterdad's LiveJournal.)

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