Cover of the first issue of 2000 AD, 26 February 1977. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
For those who aren’t aware, 2000AD is a weekly sci-fi comic produced in the UK. Originally, I think, under the ownership of Fleetway – one of the biggest comic companies going in their day – it was more recently bought by Rebellion who have done an incredible job of raising its profile and ensuring that the publication will be around for many years to come.
Thirty seven. That means it was first published in 1977, the same year as Starburst magazine‘s first incarnation and some film called Star Wars. Indeed, 2000AD was released to jump on the sci-fi bandwagon created by George Lucas’ blockbuster. Such was the way back then – quick release, short run, then pinch the more popular characters to put them into your flagship title.
Only 2000AD surpassed all expectation and became a flagship title. Starlord was published to run alongside it as its peak, lasted a few months and a couple of still-familiar faces (including Strontium Dog) joined the ranks of 2000AD. Hell, even the mighty Dan Dare graced the pages of 2000AD for some time, in between incarnations of The Eagle.
But when did I start reading it? Given that I wasn’t even four years of age when the first issue came out, I’ve obviously not been reading it since day 1 – although I have managed to go back and fill in all the gaps with the help of pretty much all of my Christmas money one year.
I started reading in the early 80′s. I would have been 10-11 years old and to this day I cannot recall why I started reading. Therefore I’m blaming Tharg the Mighty and some kind of mind control device. I just remember going to the newsagent’s where I worked (Sunday deliveries) and asking them to hold it for me every week. I don’t even know if I’d read it before then. Maybe an annual or something.
What I do remember are little moments around then. One in particular was walking to school with my new issue. It was a sunny day, because I was with a friend and leafing through the pages. The cover depicted Messerschmitts attacking Mega City 1 after flying through some kind of hole in time. After a quick Google, I’ve found this to be prog 446 from November 1985. Not my first issue, but one I remember for some reason.
Then there was the short-lived Diceman series which jumped onto the “Fighting Fantasy” bandwagon. Comic-quality storylines involving choosing your own path, sometimes with combat based on rolling dice. Brilliant.
Judge Dredd got his own fortnightly title in 1990 (the “Megazine”) which, though now monthly, is also still going strong. He was played by Stallone in a risible film in the 90′s and again, far better, in last year’s “Dredd” – but was one of the key influences on the original RoboCop. Dredd has battled aliens from Mars, Batman, the Joker, Lobo, Aliens and a Predator or two. He’s also featured in at least two computer games, a role playing game and a desktop wargame. Then there’s his musical influence (the band Mega City 4 and Anthrax’ “I Am The Law” to name but two).
Rogue Trooper has ended up as a computer game and a desktop game, Strontium Dog ended up in development hell as an idea for an ongoing TV show.
But it’s not just the characters. A huge number of writers and artists making their way in US comics cut their teeth in the pages of 2000AD. It’s a testing ground, and still a risk-taker – something that the “big two” in American comics can’t afford. They’ve tried stuff that’s fallen utterly flat… but, hey, it’s an anthology comic so there are always other stories in the issue to back it up.
For a single title to last this long is staggering. To maintain ongoing quality and to be making a bigger imprint on other media now than it ever has is incredible.
I’m the proud owner of a (near) complete collection of the weekly comics, annuals, spin-offs and so on. The amount of merchandise these days is a little out of my budget, but I did get a fantastic Dredd-themed cake for my birthday and treated myself to a similar tattoo last year. I can’t wait until our son is a bit older so we can start going through all these old comics that dad keeps in the loft and share the excitement I had reading them for the first time.
So happy birthday, 2000AD. Thirty seven years old and in far better shape than I am at forty. Long may you reign!
Ah, remakes. For when you haven’t got an original idea in your head. After an enjoyable couple of hours at a Yelp! meeting (free food and drinks, yay) we had time to run over to Cineworld and catch the RoboCop reboot.
“I wouldn’t buy that for a dollar.”
Plot-in-a-nutshell: Man creates robots. Then Man put man into robots. Then man in robot tries to show he’s more man than robot.
See it if you like: sub-standard rehashes of classic ideas
OK, wasn’t going to compare this reboot / re-imagining / rehash to Paul Verhoeven‘s classic 1987 original. Mainly because, barring the most basic of premises, there’s little in common between the two. However…
The satirical view of a dark future is gone to be replaced by something that looks like it could be set next week but with bigger buildings. The closest to the interjected fake TV ads are the comments running under the news items – and even they are repeated throughout the film. A bit poor given that one news report is supposedly being broadcast months before another. Besides, some of them are just poor jokes rather than biting witticisms.
I can’t fault the cast – it’s not their fault that the story is just so “by the numbers” as to be bordering on dull. The collection of Wall Street-esque self-centred men in suits who care nothing for their cyborg creation has been replaced by one corporate head (Michael Keaton) and a few hangers-on who aren’t even annoying enough to be yes-men.
The special effects are also rather good… mostly. It’s painfully obvious when Joel Kinnaman‘s “man in a suit” is replaced by a fully CGI RoboCop. However, the updated ED-209 units are definitely more evil and realistic than those from 1987.
I enjoyed the opening sequence, but after that the film just lost it with no real central bad guy. The original had two, this one has one bad-guy’s worth of character split between two individuals, one of whom hardly gets any screen time.
Stepping back, it was OK to watch but just nowhere near as satisfying as it could have been. It’s also not as bad as the risible RoboCop 3 (let’s just pretend that didn’t happen). However, they also don’t have the excuse that they had to rush out a quick sequel to make some cash like Orion did back in the day. In fact, the budget for this version jumped from $60m to $120m. Part of the problem is the 12A/PG-13 rating that the studio insisted on, but that can’t be blamed for the unimaginative script.
Taken on its own merits, it’s watchable. Put into context alongside its aging source material and it’s very weak indeed.
I think I’ve mentioned before, but this blog’s turned into more of a film review thing than an actual “blog”. Very little in the way of random or personal posts like it used to be back in the day. Work, family and all that get in the way as you get older!
Family is what this post is about.
See, 2013 lived up to the unlucky last two digits. It wasn’t great – though it had its upsides – but what downsides it did have majorly outweighed them. Worst is that they were, in the main, down to me.
You see, I’m married to the most amazing woman you could hope to meet. We have three of the most staggering, beautiful, wonderful kids anyone could ever wish for. We share a house with my mother-in-law who does so much for us and asks nothing in return. My folks, as well, jump through hoops for us when needed. The phrase “beyond the call of duty” could have been coined with them in mind.
This year I’ve let them all down. Things are not going swimmingly in our household at present and I have a lot of work to do to make things right. Putting up this blog post is one step in that direction. Essentially, I like to paint a rosy picture of how things are going – and in fairness I’m incredibly lucky to have the life that I do. As such I like to emphasise the positive notes. But underneath, I’ve let a lot slide this year. Done some things I’m not proud of, hurt people I love and risked everything I have for… well, nothing of any import. Don’t worry, it’s nothing illegal but beyond that it wasn’t anything I want to discuss in detail.
Essentially I’ve been a crap husband, a poor father and a really shitty son. While I have tried on some occasions and done the right thing, I’ve been bloody awful on far more and my lows are significantly lower than the highs have peaked. I am very lucky to still have Gillian with me. Hell, I don’t know why I do. I guess it just highlights exactly how lucky I am to have her.
This isn’t a post to gather sympathy or “it’s OK, we’ve all been there” comments. This is a post to let people know that I am on shaky ground, that I’m not as nice a person as I often make myself out to be and that I need to change. I need people to be aware of this and hopefully that will help me in some way towards righting the wrongs and moving our family on so we can leave 2013 well in the past where it belongs.
I don’t “do” new year’s resolutions, but this seemed as good a time to post this as any other. My job this year is to improve me for the benefit of those around me. To give back to them what they’ve given me and to prove to them that I deserve them. Trust me when I say that I’m aware it will be an uphill struggle and I have my work cut out to “fix” things.
Gillian is a woman who deserves to wake up every morning knowing how much she’s loved. She should be happy every minute of every waking day. Over the last year she’s been in tears more often than I can count, and is very much not in a “happy place”. Our first wedding anniversary passed without the slightest blip on the radar as it wasn’t something she felt that she wanted to celebrate.
This is all due to me and I have a limited time to sort it (and myself) out otherwise I will lose her. That’s it in a nutshell.
As I said, it’s been a while since I posted anything really personal on here, so I’m hoping I’ve not bored people to death.
Time for a kids’ afternoon out to give the wife and mum-in-law some peace and quiet…
“Some people are worth melting for.”
Plot-in-a-nutshell: Not so wicked ice queen must be convinced to return summer
See it if you like: the more traditional Disney animations
First thing – if you don’t like cartoons with too many songs, then consider looking elsewhere right now. Having said that, at least none of them run on for too long. I went with our eldest daughter (11) and our son (5). She thought it was too “singy”, but otherwise OK. He enjoyed it but found one scene a little scary.
The story is a decent enough one, and a take on “The Snow Queen”. Two sisters (Anna and Elsa, Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell respectively) brought up by nice parents (king and queen), but discover that one of them can control ice. Well, “control” is a bit of an exaggeration. It’s more like the ice can control her.
After an accident with her younger sister, the two are separated and the eldest hidden from the world… until the day of her coronation when all frost breaks loose.
Foremost, the animation is superb (as expected). The story isn’t too schmaltzy except where the songs are concerned, and it’s not got quite the ending you’d suspect – I liked that.
On the other hand, the animated two-some of Sven the Reindeer and Olaf the Snowman (Josh Gad) who starred in the “trailer” used to advertise the film don’t appear until a fair bit in. By the time Olaf turned up, Little Mister had asked me 3-4 times where he was and was convinced we were watching the wrong movie!
The laughs follow the obvious characters and the story is just different enough from the traditional fairy-tale stereotypes to keep the interest going. Visually it’s superb (no surprises), but those darn songs made me cringe.
Overall a good film and the kids did enjoy it, though they weren’t harping on about it in the car or later on in the day as they have done with other films. So good to keep when quiet for a while, but no lasting appeal.
Do note that there’s a post-credit sequence, but we missed it as Little Mister likes to run out of the cinema the moment the credits come up. Grr.
Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation
So here’s a perfect reason for digging into your pocket and chucking some money at something worthwhile. This is the xmas letter from the wonderful staff at the Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation in Vietnam:
Dear Friend of Blue Dragon,
Those of you following my blog will know that this year has been both challenging and exciting for the children at Blue Dragon in Vietnam. In response to cries for help, we’ve rescued more children than ever before from factories and brothels. The rescues are difficult and dangerous – but every mission to bring freedom this year has been successful.
Since January we have conducted 19 rescue trips, both within Vietnam and also to China in search of trafficked young people. Altogether, we have rescued 82 victims of trafficking, including 12 girls from Chinese brothels. With support from Blue Dragon, these girls are all back with their families, or in education. Two have even married, and one has opened her own small business! These are all great successes we’re very proud of.
In Hanoi, we are currently working with 35 children who we have met living and working on the streets. This is an unprecedented number of kids in need of special protection and assistance. These children require not only accommodation and material support, but also counseling and psychological services to help them deal with trauma. Building trust and restoring psychological damage takes time, but it is an essential part of our work with Hanoi’s street kids.
Nearly 1,000 children throughout rural Vietnam are in school with financial assistance from Blue Dragon. Many of these children are supported by sponsors whose monthly donations ensure that families can pay school fees, and students have all the gear they need to attend school. Without this help, the vast majority of these kids would already be out of school, leaving them vulnerable to human trafficking.
Blue Dragon’s lawyers continue to achieve incredible success in supporting children through the legal system, prosecuting traffickers and providing legal identities. This year alone our team of three Child Rights Advocates have given legal advice in 715 cases and defended 19 children in conflict with the law. The Red Stocking Christmas Campaign has now raised enough money for 55 children to obtain a legal identity, and our team has plans to legally register over 1,000 children and their families in remote Dien Bien province in coming weeks.
THANK YOU for being a part of the Blue Dragon story with me this year. I appreciate your generous support in providing us with the funds to rescue children and assist Vietnamese children to a new start in life. All of us here at Blue Dragon – staff and kids – wish you a safe and happy Christmas.
Warm wishes for the holiday season.
The Blue Dragon kids also wish you a Happy Christmas. Click here to see some smiles.
CEO and Founder
Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation
Join the Red Stocking Campaign
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