Thursday, April 1, 2010

128. Meg in America

June 2003: One of the strangest little bits of 2000 AD lore came around this time, when some distributor made a halfhearted and half-baked effort to sell the Judge Dredd Megazine on newsstands. It was never broadcast or announced on any blog and if anybody ever found out about it, it was totally by accident, but I remember the incident clearly, and the lovely way my eyes popped out of their head.

So that summer of '03 was the first after my first wife and I split up, and the kids and I moved into our stately manor in Marietta. One day that summer, I got word that the Georgia Music Hall of Fame had a small display at Discover Mills, the Atlanta-area site of the Mills chain of mega-malls. It was on the other side of town, but a lot closer than the actual Georgia Music Hall of Fame in Macon, so the kids and I drove out there on a Sunday.

Talk about small! This display was just teeny - four little kiosks! And there was a sign for this on the interstate? I felt fairly ripped off, but it's not like it cost anything other than gas. So while we were out that way, we decided to walk the mall and see what there was to see. It turned out one of the anchors was a big Books-a-Million. If you've never been to one of these, it's sort of like a downmarket Borders with three or four extra shelves of Bibles. And there, knock my socks off, was the latest issue of the Judge Dredd Megazine, a comic which I had never seen on a newsstand in America. But the really impressive thing was the price: $4.99.

For years, the Megazine wasn't available in the US at all. Diamond finally started soliciting it to comic shops in early 1997, and they did their customary half-assed job, routinely skipping it and losing issues. I had actually dropped it for a while myself, because I didn't like paying six bucks for a comic that had a few pages of Dredd and many more pages of Frank Miller and of Preacher, but resumed reading in 2000. A glance over my collection suggests that I only (only!) had to replace about three of the next eighteen issues, but when the Meg went to its modern, 100-page format, the distributor finally got their act together.

They just charged $10.99 a copy.

Now, for a hundred pages, that's actually a pretty reasonable deal. American superhero books are about twenty pages long and cost $2.99 at the time, so the price-per-page was pretty good, especially considering the high quality of the strips in the Meg. Under Alan Barnes' aegis, the Meg's quality skyrocketed, with a super lineup of strips. In this issue, you've got Judge Dredd, featuring the return of the recurring serial killers Homer and Oola Bint, by John Wagner and Graham Manley, Middenface McNulty by Alan Grant and John Ridgway, Devlin Waugh by John Smith and Colin MacNeil, Family by Rob Williams and Simon Fraser, Black Siddha by Pat Mills and Simon Davis and the one-page comedy strip Apocalypse Soon by Alan Grant and Shaun Thomas. Plus you've got reprinted Slaine by Mills and David Pugh and the classic Darkie's Mob, from the pages of Battle Picture Weekly, by Wagner and the late Mike Western. It's certainly not a package I object to spending eleven bucks on. Especially, he said with a mercenary glee, since it really only cost me eight with my store discount. But suddenly here the damn thing was on the magazine rack, next to Shonen Jump and the American books, for five!

Sadly, it didn't last very long. I started hunting down the Megazine at every place that looked like it might have a newsstand, taking a copy to the register and thanking the manager for carrying it. I'd usually say "I picked this up earlier, and I just wanted to say I'm so glad that you carry it." I did that ten or eleven times.

But I never canceled my existing order for it, figuring, rightly, that the experiment would not last and, indeed, by the end of 2003, the Megazine was gone again, with no indication it was ever there. I sometimes wonder whether anybody found their way to thrillpower through it. I went to the real Georgia Music Hall of Fame the following summer. Everybody should.

In recent news, I reviewed the 14th in the series of Dredd Case Files over at my Bookshelf blog. Did you catch it? Link to it? Tell your friends and neighbors?

But it's funny that we should be talking about a previous attempt to break into North America right now, as the news about the Simon & Schuster-distributed 2000 AD collections continues to swirl. Here's the news from Publisher's Weekly as appeared there Monday, and on the website yesterday. The first two books are solicited in the current issue of Previews. Spread the word!!

Next time, 2000 AD in plastic! Get ready for this blog's first two-part entry, as 2000 AD invades the tabletop miniature game called Heroclix!


Anonymous said...

I meant to post in an article about Battle Weekly you did a while back but I never got around to it.
Have you seen this website

I got it off the letter pages of the latest Battlefields comic book from Dynamite The Firefly and his Majesty by Ennis with art by Ezquerra
The website has Darkies Mob and others.
The Battlefield comics are excellent work. Are you reading them?
I'm probably in the top 10 in 2000AD fans in the U.S. and really enjoy your websites. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

excuse me it is