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.