Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Prog 1 - Meet Tharg!

Tharg is the alien editor of 2000ad or rather, the smart-ass persona that the Editors hid behind when readers pointed out mistakes etc.

Pretty fun concept to have a 'fictional' character as Editor. Tharg wasn't the only one either...Starlord had...well...Starlord and Tornado had Big E or rather Dave Gibbons dressed up in a Superhero costume (I kid you not!)

Tharg even appeared in a good few strips in 2000ad written by various writers including Alan Moore. Tharg is so much part of 2000ad culture that to get rid of the 'Green Bonce' 2000ad would never be the same.

Tharg had his own language too. For example - Splundig Vur Thrigg! meant Farewell!
Here's the list of 'Editors' that have been 'Tharg' over the years -

Pat Mills (1977)
Kelvin Gosnell (1977–1978)
Steve MacManus (1978–1987)
Richard Burton (1987–1993)
Alan McKenzie (1993–1994)
John Tomlinson (1994–1996)
David Bishop (1996–2000)
Andy Diggle (2000–2002)
Matt Smith (2002–present)

You also got money for each letter printed in the comic...waaaay better than Stan Lees 'No-Prize'.

The best thing on this page though is the promise of a great new strip in issue two - Judge Dredd!!!

Next up - Prog 2!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Prog 1 - Harlem Heroes

Like MACH 1, Harlem Heroes had it's roots in Hollywoodland. The movie 'Rollerball' was very popular at the time and Mills had decided to include a Future Sport strip in 2000ad. So, Harlem Heroes was born!

Sports strips were always popular in the UK, In fact 'Roy of the Rovers'...a strip following a soccer players career from his teenage days all the way up to fatherhood and onwards was really popular. The strip ran from 1954 to 1995 and even was given it's own title.

Mills had a bit of a tough time writing the script for this and even tougher time finding an appropriate artist. One of the early drafts of the script had spectators hurling bottles at the players and one player bursting into flames. Those scenes were taken out so they wouldn't cause any controversy, especially after the Action witchhunt. (More on Action in a later post!)

So, Mills handed the writing chores over to Tom Tully. Tully was the perfect choice to write the strip as he was a comics veteran and he wrote a lot of sports stories...heck, he was the writer of Roy of the Rovers for most of 'Roys' career.

The original art for the strip was drawn by an artist called Trigo. His artwork wasn't what Mills wanted and he was taken off the strip. Another artist Barry Mitchell had a go and, again, it still wasn't what Mills had in mind. So, in stepped a young Dave Gibbons to save the day. You can see the sheer energy and fantastic layouts that Gibbons brought to the strip. Below I've posted a the splash page for comparison between Trigos effort and Gibbons published page. The only Trigo art to make the cut into the first issue was the last page of the strip.

The story starts right in the thick of the action as the Heroes are beating their opponents, The Greek City Gladiators 7 - 2 in the preliminary round of the World Aeroball Championships.

On the second page of the strip, the rules are briefly explained.

After a 80mph, Kung-Fu drop kick! (yes, you read that right!)The Heroes get another strike and it's game over. The Heroes are on their way to the first round of the World Championship.

They're optimistic that they can win the championship and are on their way in their Hover powered road-liner when the controls go haywire and they skid off the road.

All are dead save four!
Three of the remaining heroes go to visit the fourth member in hospital. It seems that the three escaped the crash without even a scratch but the driver and team-mate, Louis Mayer, wasn't so lucky. He survived the crash, but he's in a bad way. Bad way as in...he's got no body...only a brain! And thanks to the miracles of 'modern' medicine, he can still communicate with his fellow Aeroball players. The three remaining members have come to tell Louis that it's over. That the team is disbanding. But in true Heroes fashion, Louis wants them to continue on and win the World Championship!

And so the journey to the World Championship Final begins!

What's interesting about the 'Heroes' strip is, that I think it was the first UK strip ever to have it's main characters be all black. Also, later, the main Hero is revealed to be the father of Judge Giant in the Dredd strip. It was Mills way of trying to have a 2000ad shared Universe.

Also of note is that, on rereading the strip, it reminds me of the Munich Air Disaster.


In that disaster, a few of the players survived as well as the manager, Matt Busby. Busby rebuilt the team with the survivors and they went on to win the European Cup.

Coincidence, probably, but I reckon that the trajedy was still fresh in peoples minds back in the late 70's. That's how much of an impact it had at the time.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Prog - 1 MACH 1

It's Steve Austin - The Six Million Dollar Man...er...nope!

It's John Probe - M.A.C.H.1

"MACH1 was the rock 2000ad was built on in the first months - not Dredd" Pat Mills

It wasn't unusual in British comic books to ape popular tv shows or movies...and 2000ad was no exception. Action had HookJaw inspired by Jaws and 2000ad had it's own Six Million Dollar Man, Mach 1.

Sci-fi wasn't all that big in the UK at the time and Pat Mills, the then editor, knew that for 2000ad to suceed he needed a straight forward action strip.

Enter John Probe! No bionics here...just some needles and a computer brain.

In typical British comic book fashion, the Origin of MACH1 is told in one and a half pages! We don't know much about Probe and his past. In fact I don't think at any point in the series is anything mentioned about Probes past or if he had any family.

Just as soon as the 'operation' is complete Probe gets his first test. Terrorists have attacked a RAF base and Probe is to go in alone. We see Probe shatter a Nuclear Blast Proof door with one kick and outrace a motorbike! Probe apprehends the terrorist to realise that the attack on the base was a diversion and that the terrorists were after a bomber with a cargo of nerve gas...no doubt to unleash it on a highly populated area.

This is the perfect six page intro to the character and the series overall. We get the 'origin' of MACH1 and also the shock that Probe has been turned into a very powerful killing machine and he doesn't really know if he likes it or not.(This theme reoccurs every now and again in the series). The computer banter between Probe and his 'brain' gets better and better as the series goes on too. At times Probe completely ignores what his computer is telling him to do.

As usual, we have a cliffhanger that appears at the end of nearly every 2000ad strip.

The 'Next Episode' computer type box would be replaced soon by a Next Prog box with really clever next issue tag-line teasers.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Prog 1 - DAN DARE

The first ever 2000ad center spread!

Not really much to say on this strip. Dare seems to be the weakest in the 2000ad line-up, which is surprising because Dare was probably the main draw for a lot of adults to buy this comic book for their kids.

I'm sure fans of the 50's Dare opened up the center pages and recoiled in horror to what they've done with their childhood hero. Can't blame them really. This version of Dare was eons apart from the 'original'. Apart from Dares trademark eyebrows, and the presence of SASA, everything about the character had changed!

For information on the 'original' Dan Dare...click the link below.

A shame really...but again it was the late 70's and 2000 was trying to be cutting edge, which I think they acheived for the most part.

Apart from this not being your fathers Dan Dare...the art by Belardinelli, even though his characters are quite stiff, is unbeatable when it comes to drawing anything cosmic.

In this strip Dare and his compatriots are passing Jupiter when there ship loses power and the crew are all killed save for Dare who manages to escape. The Fleet controller removes Dare from command because of the loss of the ship. (He doesn't believe Dares story of alien interference.)

Dare takes matters into his own hands and stows aboard another cruiser that's due to pass by Jupiter to get to the truth! And we end the first chapter on the usually 2000ad trademark cliffhanger!

As you can see below...the New 'Drokk' swearing Dare(that always seems so out of place for me to read Dan Dare using a 2000ad swear word!) is a far cry....
from the 'Original' clean cut, stiff upper lip Dan Dare.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Prog 1 - FLESH

Another great in-your-face-splash page.
This strip combines two of the best things I loved as a kid...Cowboys and Dinosaurs!
Flesh was a strip that was waaay ahead of it's time. Before 'Jurassic Park' there was Flesh. The story was quite fun too.

The concept was really quite simple...In the 23rd Century animals have more or less disappeared and human are surviving on synthetic foods. But people want REAL meat. So, they go back in time and harvest dinosaurs. It doesnt't matter because the dinosaurs are going to be exstinct anyways.

This is actually a pretty cool concept because you can get a lot of mileage out of it...which is what Pat Mills later did with the other Flesh books. In this first installment we see how the cowboys round up the herd of plant eating dinosaurs and keep the tyrannosaurs at bay. Another interesting theme is how the arrival of 23rd Century man is upsetting the balance in the food chain. And in this episode we have the cliche of the poor sap who's finishing his tour of duty that day and is going home...but never makes it because...he's been eaten by a crocodile.

The smell of blood sends the tyrannosaurs into a frenzy and they attack the herd of Styracosaurs. Panicked, the styracosaurs blindly stampede towards the edge of a cliff. The cowboys do their best to contain them but it's the strips 'hero' Earl Reagan' that saves the day by prompting the leader of the pack away from the cliff edge. Earl looks a lot like Dean Martin from Rio Bravo in this strip.

The day is saved but at a high loss. Twenty rangers lost their lives stopping the Tyrannosaurs from destroying their payday. And Reagan leaves the reader with a ominous glimpse of what is to come.

What I remember about this strip as a kid and the intallments of 'Flesh' that lie ahead is, it was pure bloody carnage and mayhem. Everything a kid loves! As you can see from the crocodile panel and the panel below, 2000ad wasn't shy about showing the pure savagery of the dinosaurs or the ranchers...both vying for their pieces of the pie.

A great opening chapter to a strip that would get better and better as the progs went on..

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


What a great splash page to begin a story with.

Invasion wasted no time in getting straight into the action. In 6 pages we get the invasion of Britain by an East Asian army -The Volgans -(no doubt based on the Soviet Union.) The reluctance of other nations to step in and help Britain, raping of Britains natural resources, a glimpse of how harsh living under a Volgan regime would be and finally, last but not least Bill Savage's 'origin' story. All that in 6 pages!
You can tell by the art on the strip that the artist used photo-reference a lot. But this is photo-reference done really well as opposed to some artists today that more or less trace the photos. Here's a panel with Angela Rippon-esque newsreader. To those that don't know or where too young to remember...Angela was the first female news anchor for the BBC.

Bill Savage was based on Stanley bakers character from 'Hell Drivers'.
Watch the trailer here...www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8qFD2s0Fwg

It wasn't unusual for Pat Mills, who was editor then, to loosely base ideas or characters on popular movies or actors. For example...the Harlem Heroes was Mills answer to Rollerball and Dredd was basically Clint Eastwoods "Harry Callahan'.

The basic story is this...In a war that took only 8 hours, Britain has been invaded by a harsh and brutal regime from Eastern Asia. Bill Savage is a lorry (Truck) driver who's returning to his family when he finds out that his family have been killed by a stray shell from a Volgan tank. Savage finds his shotgun and takes out the nearest Volgan patrol.

Britain may have surrendered but Savages war has only just begun.

Savage is Britains 'Punisher' or is the Punisher the USA's 'Savage'?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Prog 1 - Cover

One of the major selling points for the launch of 2000ad was not only the free gift of the Space Spinner (Eagle did the same marketing ploy with it's relaunch in the 80's) but the return of Dan Dare.

I figure, the powers that be, decided to revamp Dan Dare for 2000ad to be a selling point for Dads to pick up the issue because they would have probably read Dan Dares adventures in Eagle when they were kids and wanted to share the same experience with their own children. But I bet they didn't expect this Dan Dare!

More on that later.

What I love about this cover is it's simple effective design, the 'coming straight at you' classic logo and the hyperbole text... 'Dinosaurs', 'Stop press: Great Britain Invaded', 'Hyper-Power' and of course the promise of a 'New' Dan Dare. What kid would not like all those things? Oh, and the neat little Kevin O'Neill drawn Tharg head!

On the inside we get a double page spread of what's coming next week. Notice that there's no Dredd in the ad even though he appeared in issue 2. There is an ad, however, in the back of the issue. I figure that they didn't have Dredd ready by then and they were still struggling with what to do with him. I love the nice curve and flow to this ad...there is a lot of information and in your face graphics. 2000ad really did pack a lot of punch...and of course the Free gift - stickers to make you look Bionic or 'Biotronic'.

Great Stuff!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Prog Slog!

I've been inspired by the blog http://progslog.blogspot.com/
I'm going to throw my hat into the ring and do something similar.
So, look out for some more posts!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Songs from the key of Dredd!

More 'music' from Dredd. Love that Bisley artwork.

Monday, April 14, 2008


Why I love Dredd...cracking heads to the theme of 'Rawhide'.
More dark comedy genius by John Wagner

Thursday, April 10, 2008


I love John Hickletons art on this Dredd strip. It's the John Wagner written 'Black Widow' strip from the Megazine circa early 90's.

Only John Hickleton can make the alien Nosferatu extremely sexy and horrifyingly disturbing at the same time!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Hey Kids...It's Judge Pal!

I absolutely love the dark humor in the Dredd strip.
What kid wouldn't want to rat out their parents after a good spanking?

Thursday, March 27, 2008


This two page opener gave me chills when I first read it and still does today.

Whenever fans of Dredd vote on the greatest Dredd stories ever, America is one story that, if not the top of the list, is always so damn close. Which is surprising in one respect...the focus isn't on Dredd and Dredd doesn't really make too much of an appearance. Then again, in most of the best Dredd classics...Dredd himself appears at the end to conclude the story.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Typical Dredd

I guess good 'ol Joe is in need of some sensitivity training.