Sunday, 27 December 2015

Annual Report:
2000AD / 1979AD
(Part # 2)

Returning to the wanton carnage gleefully doled out to impressionable youngsters as 1978 gave way to ’79, and first up we have the annual’s only ‘horror’ strip, wherein generic occult investigator Doctor Sin (no relation to Doctor Syn?) kicks some Satanist ass in a few pages of exceptionally enjoyable Wheatley-inspired mayhem.

Lest we forget, when 2000AD debuted in ’77, it rode in on the coattails of what we might today term a ‘reboot’ of iconic ‘50s British comic book hero Dan Dare. With some beautiful, somewhat Moebius-esque sci-fi artwork and a touch of icky space-horror, plenty of effort has been taken to make clear that this ain’t yr granddad’s Pilot of the Future. In fact, even Dare himself looks a tad sinister in his portrayal here. Pretty brilliant stuff all round, to be honest.

Given that it would initially seem to have exerted a hefty influence here, it would seem natural at this point to observe that ‘Alien’ hit cinemas in 1979, were it not for the fact that this annual was most likely on sale by the final quarter of ’78, with the material therein presumably being prepared considerably before that, whereas ‘Alien’ didn’t premiere until June ’79. Curious, no?

Meanwhile, regardless of 2000AD’s futurist agenda, it seems to have been more or less compulsory for mid-twentieth century Earth publication to include at least one page like this. Who DREW all of these damn things anyway? Were they made in-house, or was there an agency or something that editors could ring up and say “give me a page’s worth on a vaguely sci-fi theme, stupid as possible please”? Who knows?

Next we move on what is probably my favourite strip in the whole annual. As was demonstrated by the M.A.C.H. 1 strip featured in the first part of this post, 2000AD at this stage in its evolution seemed perfectly happy to serve up its action-adventure hi-jinks with a hefty dose of the kind of unreconstructed quasi-fascist/anti-commie survivalist fantasy stuff that would never have flown (or at least, would have been rendered heavily satirical) after the comic moved toward a more socially conscious / left-leaning outlook in the ‘80s.

Political concerns aside though, nothing can distract from the sheer, unmitigated charm of ‘INVASION’, an ongoing strip in the weekly comic at this point, in which a valiant underground network of honest, god-fearing, flares & flying jacket favouring blokes fight to defend old England from the invasive ravages of the –uh – ‘Volgans’, whose skull-insignia flouting fascism and failure to appreciate the majesty of the Clifton Suspension Bridge just won’t do in the West Country, old son.

A thing of beauty and a joy forever, I present this strip to you in its entirety with no further comment.

Next up, the inevitable crossword! Admittedly, this annual keeps it pretty high on comics, low on rainy day puzzles and other such filler, but you didn't think we were going to get away without one of these did you?

Ok, now we’re talking. Dredd. Brendan McCarthy (??). The future. Artwork here emanates ‘cool’ so strongly, I'd recommend protective eye-wear before scrolling down.

After a pretty lame installment of future-sports strip Harlem Globetrotters (never liked that one much), things wrap up with the continuing chapter of another one-off strip, a rather lovely, tentacle-heavy Quatermass-esque sort of thing entitled ‘Guinea Pig’. Again – great stuff.

The final pages leave us with a few bonus thrills, as reproduced below, and then it’s splundig vur thrigg, bloglets!

In conclusion then: boy children of the 70s and ‘80s may have had to amuse themselves without the aid of Playstations, noxious energy drinks or 24/7 access to porn, but nonetheless, they don’t know how lucky they were, having such unhinged pulp storytelling and exceptional graphic art thrown at them on a regular basis as they browsed the magazine rack in the Co-Op. Truly, those were the days, etc etc.

As a final note, it occurred to me whilst going through this annual again for scanning purposes that, with the exception of the space lady being menaced by some sort of reptilian beast on the cover illustration, I don’t think I spotted a single female figure portrayed anywhere in this annual – not even in the background, or in crowd scenes. Which is… some kind of an achievement. I mean, talk about yr ‘boy’s own adventures’, wow. Even the sacrificial victim in the Satanist strip is male!

Actually, thinking about it, I suppose one of the reasons for 2000AD’s early success was probably its willingness to give pre-teenage boys exactly what they were looking for at the point just before those pesky hormones started to kick in, dumping such conventions as sappy romantic sub-plots and ‘characterisation’ in favour of simply portraying crazed, amoral brutes blasting each other to pieces with an arsenal of over-sized military hardware, in a universe where scary things like girls and human interaction need not concern them. (For a demonstration of what might have occurred had this trend been taken to its logical conclusion without the intervention of the more enlightened minds who helped raise 2000AD’s artistic stock in the ‘80s & ’90s, perhaps see the entire existence of Games Workshop.)

Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed this Annual Report, but if not, rest assured – as the name suggests, I promise this will only happen once a year.

Breakfast In The Ruins will return in January with all the usual nonsense, dark gods willing, and in the meantime, let me take the opportunity to say thanks fro reading, and to wish each and every one of you happy and fulfilling 2016.

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