Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Zarjaz!

I was a wide-eyed and mop-topped youth of a mere seven years old when I was introduced to the many worlds of comic book 2000AD, home to such characters as Judge Dredd, Strontium Dog, Rogue Trooper and Nemesis The Warlock*. While I certainly was a fan of these main characters to varying degrees (Judge Dredd and Nemesis being top of the list with Rogue Trooper definitely lower; found him a bit repetitive), I also liked a lot of the lesser known, odder or one-off stories to pass through the pages of this weekly anthology. In the traditional style of this here place of run-off thoughts, here’s an expanded list of some of the ones that I like but which don’t always get the attention.

Sam Slade, Robo-Hunter
An action-comedy series in which downtrodden, cigar-chomping bounty hunter Sam Slade tracks down rogue robots, unably assisted by his idiot robot sidekicks Hoagy and Stogie (the talking cigar). The initial story, Verdus, is a relatively straight-forward action-adventure yarn but it really picks up once it discovers its sense of humour with the second serial, The Day Of The Droids. Also, regular artist Ian Gibson has a pleasing design aesthetic for robots that accents the humour nicely. It was later rebooted twice with one of the reboots being so reviled by fans that it has been pretty much ignored ever since.**

Ace Trucking Co
I absolutely loved this one as a kid. It was full of its own impenetrable lingo (inspired by the popularity of CB radio slang-featuring films such as Smokey And The Bandit), had character with great names like Ace Garp, Jago Kain, Fatty Arkl, Cap’n Evil Blood and Feek The Freek and featured some genuinely alien-looking beings courtesy of Massimo Bellardinelli.

The Stainless Steel Rat
Adapting storylines from three of the first five Harry Harrison books about an interplanetary and his equally deranged family, I read these before getting into the books. It features art by the incomparable late, great Carlos Ezquerra (to me, the definitive Judge Dredd artist - no one draws a chin like Ezquerra) and is a good fun intro to Harrison’s anti-hero.

D.R. And Quinch
Created by Alan Moore of Watchmen, V For Vendetta and The Ballad Of Halo Jones (another 2000AD classic), this is a big departure from pretty much all of his other work, relying largely on over-the-top excessive cartoon violence for comic effect. It really works though and has a real punk feel to feel it, accompanied by artwork from the always excellent Alan Davis.

Given that the comic’s been running for 42 years as of this year, there have been many other enjoyable stories passing through but, if you only seek out a few, give those ones a try.






* For those of you who don’t know what 2000 AD is, it’s one of the few surviving British comics that isn’t simply reprints of American ones. It’s been published weekly since 1977 with stories being told in parts of around 7-8 pages per week and has for the last 28 years been accompanied by a four-weekly Judge Dredd Megazine. Stories are all sci-fi themed. In the late 90s, the comic took a poll to see if it should change its name due to the upcoming arrival of the year 2000 (clearly weren’t expecting it to last that long when they launched it!) but the overwhelming feeling was that the name should stay.

** Said reboot being written by Mark Millar who would later create the comics that inspired Wanted, Kick-Ass and Kingsman so it worked out pretty well for him in the end...

2 comments:

cerebus660 said...

I was an avid reader of 2000 AD for the first couple of years and then kind of drifted in and out of its orbit ever since. This is why I'm mostly familiar with the early strips like Dan Dare, Flesh, Harlem Heroes etc. and not so much with later stuff. I do love DR & Quinch, though. It's hugely stupid fun and, as you say, Alan Davis' artwork is just lovely.
"Mind the oranges, Marlon!!"

That Baldy Fella said...

Ah, Flesh was always a favourite too - should have put that on the list...
I read up until about 8 years ago (and am currently catching up!). As with any anthology, it;s always hit and miss but there';s usually something worthwhile and, when John Wagner's on Dredd, it's generally good stuff.