Thursday, December 4, 2008

77. It's Easy to be a Fanboy

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.

Welcome back to the little ol' sub-blog at my LiveJournal, for another few weeks of looking back at the run of the Galaxy's Greatest Comic! I already know that I'll be taking a few weeks' break again at the end of the year, but, as Kermit the Frog often said, "before we go," I'd like to finish up the issues that originally saw print in 1999. Prog 1162 is a very, very good comic. I'm not completely keen on the cover, by Dylan Teague, which spotlights the imminent conclusion to the Judge Dredd epic "Doomsday Scenario" (creators this week: John Wagner and Charlie Adlard). I was also a little underwhelmed by the Pulp Sci-Fi one-off written and illustrated by Allan Bednar, but the rest of the lineup includes Downlode Tales by Dan Abnett and Simon Davis, the completely brilliant Nikolai Dante romp "The Courtship of Jena Makarov" by Robbie Morrison and Simon Fraser, and more of Devlin Waugh by John Smith and Steve Yeowell.

One thing that I can't help but experience when I reread a bunch of old comics is that occasional sense of nostalgia for the original moment. And who'd have it any other way? Of course, now we know that Devlin Waugh survived the apocalyptic events of this epic storyline and would go on to several more stories. But back in 1999, John Smith had quite a reputation for killing off or maiming his wonderful characters. The casts of Indigo Prime, The New Statesmen and Tyranny Rex had met bloody demises throughout the 1990s, so how could you fail to be concerned that Devlin would join their number with so much at stake in this adventure?

So it was with no small amount of fanboy thrill, and no small amount of fanboy terror and paranoia at the possible death of a much-loved character, that I took up an offer from the fanzine Class of '79 to interview John Smith. The interview, available online here, is, I think, quite remarkable for how much Smith was willing to talk about the background and stories behind his stories. I'm not sure how many people will, before we're all good and done with fandom, be interested in piecing together histories of the Galaxy's Greatest Comic, but since Smith was so forthcoming and so full of information, this is honestly one of the better secondary sources currently available to amateur researchers.

It's also, embarassingly, a face-in-hands gushfest on the part of the obnoxious interviewer. I still stand by my conviction that the final Indigo Prime series, "Killing Time," is one of comics' most thrilling moments, and I can't wait to see what Paul at the Prog Slog has to say about it in a couple of weeks, but Jesus, what an over-the-top fanboy I was with those questions. The format was kind of unfortunate; rather than a proper e-mail interview over an evening, Class of '79 asked that I compose all of my questions quickly, and I hammered them out with the help of my girlfriend-of-the-time, Victoria, typed 'em all up at UGA's Memorial Hall computer sweatshop, mailed 'em in and never saw them again until the finished piece appeared a few months later. I don't think I ever spoke with John Munro, who added some very good questions which appeared at the end, after mine.

Well, Tom Spurgeon I am clearly not. Although I remain convinced that Tom'll find room for some British talent sometime soon, and do his peerless job of interviewing them, and not look like a complete spazz when he does, unlike certain LiveJournallers you might be reading. (Check out Tom's interview with James Kolchaka from last month if you haven't; all of Spurgeon's interviews are really fascinating reading, and a highlight of every weekend, even if I've only heard of maybe one creator in five.)

In other news, I decided to take a break from the What I Just Read feature/tag in my LiveJournal, mainly because I've grown tired of finding new things to say about my reading pile. But I did want to continue spotlighting the 2000 AD books, because many occasional readers miss the announcements elsewhere, and they are, as ever, very poorly promoted in the comic news-blog-world.

Back in '05, DC released a collection of Anderson: Psi Division which compiled the three 12-part adventures that originally appeared in 1985-87. Rebellion did not follow up on this book until recently, and they've made the curious decision to make this book an artist-focussed trade. Shamballa is a nicely satisfying chunk of a book, and it contains something like forty episodes, originally published throughout the nineties, all featuring fantastic color artwork by Arthur Ranson. It is not a complete Ranson collection; his first story, the black and white "Triad" serial, is not here, and neither is some of the more recent material from the Megazine, the stuff with the strange demon Half-Life, and Psi-Judge Shakta and Juliet November. But what is here makes for some pretty good reading. Ranson is a wonderful artist and some of these stories are very good. Well, apart from the brow-furrowing, disappointing damp squib of an ending to "Satan," a story which was very promising for many pages before petering out.

However, I can't completely get behind this book because while an incomplete Ranson collection is understandable, an incomplete Anderson collection is completely baffling. Alan Grant navigated the character through a fascinating series of stories, with character growth you certainly do not see with Judge Dredd, and there are, as a natural effect of the character-based continuity storytelling, several maddening references to the things skipped by this reprint. For example, between the incidents of "The Jesus Syndrome" and "Satan," there were three lengthy Anderson stories in the Megazine, all of which are missed in this collection but are nevertheless referenced in the stories that Ranson illustrated. The result is very piecemeal and felt very frustrating to me. Honestly, it's less of a spotlight for Ranson than it is a missed opportunity, regardless of how gorgeous the artwork is.

Next week, some serious thrill-circuit overload. Nemesis returns. Drawn by Flint.

(Originally posted December 4, 2008 at hipsterdad's LiveJournal.)

No comments: