Thursday, November 19, 2009

119. 2000 AD Gold

December 2002: Veteran art droid Cliff Robinson gets cover duties for the first issue of the stunningly neat new look Megazine. A year and a half after its last successful format change, it has now settled into what must surely be the best incarnation yet, and since the Meg starts getting smaller a few years down the road, I think this is the very best version of the Meg. This being a special Christmas edition, it's a shade different from what will follow, but basically, it's 100 pages long and comes bagged with a supplement that reprints the classic 1980 serial Fiends of the Eastern Front by Gerry Finley-Day and Carlos Ezquerra. With the reprint confined to the separate supplement, the Meg itself is mostly all-new material this time. A Devlin Waugh text adventure from an old Dredd Yearbook is dusted off, but everything else inside is new.

Starting with the next issue, the Meg's monthly reprints, now using the umbrella heading "2000 AD Gold," will shift into a separate section within the Meg's 100 page size. First to be serialized in its pages: the Slaine epic "Time Killer" and a classic serial which ran in Battle Picture Weekly from 1976-77. It's called Darkie's Mob and it was created by John Wagner and Mike Western. In 1984, Wagner adapted the format for a pilot in the Dredd universe called B.A.D. Company, which was later revised by Peter Milligan into the 2000 AD classic with a similar name.

As for the new content, it's a really nice mix of strip and text articles. Judge Dredd is represented by two strip adventures, a moody continuity piece by Gordon Rennie and Lee Sullivan and a lighthearted 20-page romp by Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra about gaseous aliens, along with a prose story by Rennie with illustrations by Adrian Salmon. The new Devlin Waugh epic, "Red Tide," gets started with a six-page prologue by John Smith and Colin MacNeil and an article by David Bishop detailing the character's background and his periodic publishing hiccups.

Bishop also contributes another installment of Thrill-Power Overload, taking the story of 2000 AD up to 1993-94, and an interview with IPC publishing bod Barry Sanders. There's also a one-page interview with Simon Fraser, artist on the brand new, Rob Williams-scripted Family, which starts this issue, and a one-off pilot episode called The Kleggs! by Ian Edginton and Mike Collins. A series is never commissioned, but it's always nice to see Collins' artwork. And in the next issue, two new series will start: Juliet November by Alan Grant and Graham Manley and Black Siddha by Pat Mills and Simon Davis. This is a really exciting time, with editor Alan Barnes bringing lots of new ideas to the table, and giving readers five new ongoing stories a month along with classic reprints. This is a hell of a package!

Family is pretty rough around the edges, but I am certainly enjoying rereading it. It is, alas, our only chance in this period to see much of Fraser's artwork. At this time, the artist was living in Africa and was taking an extended leave from Nikolai Dante. He and Williams came up with a great idea about a city in the near future being under the thumb of organized crime, a family of gangsters with super powers. It's a really good concept: what would happen in a world where such powers existed, but there weren't any super heroes?

And what if the only fellow to challenge mob rule in the city was even worse than the gangsters?

Well, Family doesn't quite live up to its promise, though it is still a good strip. It's really not suited to monthly serialization, and this is going to become a problem for the Meg during this period. Strips just need more than six pages to make a lasting impact and advance the story if they're only going to run every four weeks. It reads much better in the collected edition - Rebellion released a hardcover album in 2005 - than it did in 2002-03, much as the Devlin Waugh story did when "Red Tide" was released in the second Waugh collection the same year.

That's all for Thrillpowered Thursday for now - we're taking the annual Thanksgiving break and will be back on December 10. See you then!


David page said...

The two problems with family were the monthly frequency of it and the fact that it was hard to tell which one many of the mobster characters was which due to looking very similar

Grant, the Hipster Dad said...

I will grant you that. At least one of those fellows needed a moustache or something.