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!
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