A continued history of black, asian and minority ethnicity
characters in 2000AD.
|Art by Paul Marshall|
And so heading into the Rebellion years, in which lessons
had largely been learned. Basically, the modern approach to comics seems to be:
keep mixing up the ethnicities of more and more characters, both in named and
leading roles, but also in background characters. If a character doesn’t have a
reason to be one ethnicity rather than another, then why make them white
British? I don’t suppose it’s a perfect system, and it’s certainly not my place
to offer any sort of ‘yes, all good here’, but it’s better than it was, right?
A note before we dive into the details: my working knowledge
of Progs 1000-2000 is way less intense than what has come before (ah, the lost
days of youth, endlessly re-reading the same progs). That, coupled with the
fact that there are just way more characters of colours to talk about, means
I’m going to miss a lot of examples. Hopefully I will at least name check the
main players, and some minor ones besides.
We’ll kick off with Dredd epic* Darkside (Progs 1017-1029), we get small-time crook Rydell
|Words by John Smith; Art by Paul Marshall|
and not-long-for-this-world Psi Judge Hassid
- an Indian character actually from India
for a change.
|Smith n' Marshall|
Another Wally Squadder gets two-episodes, in the Big Hit
(Progs 1029-1030) Judge Wishbone
|Words by Mark Millar; Art by G. Stoddard|
On to Mercy Heights
we get Dr Leo Kintry
, who is the
point-of-view character for Series 1 (Progs 1033-1047), although he rather
fades to the background in favour of a certain blue-skinned colleague by the
end of series 2.
|Art by Kevin Walker|
And over in Dredd, a new mini-epic gets underway, the
(Progs 1033-1049), featuring cadet Washington
|Words by Wagner; Art by Sean Phillips|
Then there’s the Space Girls (Progs 1062-1066), which like
its real-world counterpart had a token black member in Deep Space.
|Art by Jason Brashill|
Let’s revisit Sinister
. Downlode, a sort of pan-European city, is home to examples, usually
comedic, of an ever-widening range of European types, from the freakishly white
Irish Finnigan Sinister, to the freakishly white Ukranian (well, he lives in Odessa, anyway) Philly
Not to mention their various excursions to Mangapore,
populated by Japanese / Singeaporean types (actually not on the same planet as
Downlode, for reasons I don’t understand). And more recently Generica – which
should just be future America,
but is also in fact on another planet entirely.
Let’s pick out a handful of actual characters, then:
Rhodes, and his wife Wendy Deng
|Words by Dan Abnett; Art by Simon Davis|
Indian hitman mentee and later rival / Kal Cutter (real name Veejay)
|Words by Dan Abnett; Art by Andy Clarke|
his partner Cane
Broadus (I'm still trying to figure out where the Kal Cutter / Cane Broadus pun is. Thre must be one somewhere!)
|Words by Dabnett; Art by Anthony Willimas|
Sinister’s Generican buddy, Missy Solemnis
|Words by Dabnett (in disguise); Art by Simon Coleby|
Just in time for the
Millennium, Mazeworld delivers an
evil Doctor (mostly in Book 3, Progs 1151-1160).
|Words by Alan Grant; Art by Arthur Ranson|
And Devlin Waugh’s international Herod caper (Progs 1149-1175) brings
in Eddie Whyteman
, seen here talking
to cover star Miss Kapoor
|Words by John Smith; Art by Steve Yeowell|
|Art by Steve Cook|
The torch of hyper-intelligent Chinese gangster passes to Red Fang
, and most of his supporting
cast, both good, evil and Samurai robot (Progs 1200-1211)
|Art by Jason Brashill|
Dredd and Rico get up to tricks in Sector
(Progs 1215-1222) October 2000, which includes another incendiary
piece of art (for Americans),
|Policemen truncheoning black men = bad visual.|
But in the context of Judge Dredd, it is somehow progressive to show black characters getting exactly the same treatment as white characters.
Words by Wagner; Art by Ezquerra
and tackles the day-to-day life of Tac Chief Cone.
|Wagner n' Ezquerra|
Pat Mills’s feud with Andy Diggle hits a curious note in relation to ABC Warriors: the Third Planet
1234-1236). As Mills explains in his intro to the collection, he worked with
writer Alan Mitchell to put some “authentic black military dialogue” into the
mouth of the unnamed Major
– only to
have it rewritten by Diggle.
|Words by Mills via Diggle; Art by Henry Flint|
Of course I can’t know exactly what happened, but I can imagine Diggle
baulking at what he may sensibly have feared would come across as white people
trying to sound really black, even if that wasn’t what was going on. So he
toned it down, much to Mills’s annoyance. Apparently you can find the original
dialogue, and more, in Mills & Mitchell’s novelisation ABC Warriors: the Medusa War
Far less foibles seem to affect white appropriation of Asian and
Hispanic characters, so no one at all gets upset to meet Johnny Woo (Prog 1233)
|Words by Gordon Rennie; Art by PJ Holden|
or Bato Loco
|Art by Peter Doherty|
both riffing on western-created tropes, but significantly less
racistly than e.g. RoboHunter.
Garth Ennis, in order to reclaim his uber-Northern Irish series Troubled Souls, delivered the Dredd
mini-epic Helter Skelter (Progs
1250-1261), which starred technician Darien
|Words by Garth Ennis; Art by Carlos Ezquerra|
She’s due for a reappearance one day, no?
Into the Rebellion and Matt Smith years, the trend continues.
Meet Daksehban ‘Daksha’ Patel,
from Thirteen (Progs 1289-1299)
|Words by Mike Carey; Art by Andy Clarke|
The Red Seas, a
globe-spanning adventure, sustains a vast cast across the years. Series 1
(Progs 1313-1321) includes Julius, part
of Dancer’s crew, and Dancer’s Caribbean
Series 2 (Progs 1371-1379) gets all Sinbad, bringing Alhazed and rival captain Sarita.
|All words by Ian Edginton and art by Steve Yeowell|
I’m pretty sure there’s more to come in later series but I’m blown if
I can remember specifics (those first two series were so much fun; the rest got
a bit too baggy)
Half-alien Holt, from Asylum (Progs 1313-1321; 1406-1414)
|Words by Rob Williams; Art by Boo Cook|
And, in Alan Barnes’s Megazine, there’s a multinational cast at work
in the Bendatti Vendetta (Megs
4.13-4.18; 209-211), e.g. Miss Sinaro
|The lady will have her revenge|
Words by Robbie Morrison; Art by John Burns
(Megs 201-207), the
somewhat forgotten super-powered Mafioso thriller, narrated largely by
|Words by Rob Williams; Art by Simon Fraser|
and of course Black Siddha (across
three series in Megs 202 - 252), with its extensive cast of British Hindus and
mythical superhero avatars, led by hero Rohan
and his girlfriend Mirabai (in
the Peter Parker/Mary Jane Watson roles, filtered through the lens of Mills)
Anderson, Psi Division
|Words by Pat Mills; Art by Simon Davis|
another Indian Psi, Judge Shakta
(Megs 214-217), who goes on to
be a recurring sidekick for the rest of the Arthur Ranson episodes. Bring her
back, she’s cool!
|Art by Arthur Ranson|
and non-Psi Judge Wain
part of the team who rescue Anderson
from a prison in her own mind in WMD
|Words by Alan Grant; Art by Arthur Ranson|
Dredd teams up with the Damned Ranger
|Art by John Ridgway|
and, back in the Prog, gets help from some doomed mercs in Incubus (Progs 1322-1335)
|Words by Andy Diggle; Art by Henry Flint|
Spookfest Caballistics, Inc
series Prog 2003 + 1322-1326) brings Haitian priest Lawrence Verse
|Words by Gordon Rennie; Art by Dom Reardon|
co-start another muslim, i.e. Tiger,
specifically in order to draw attention to the muddle idiot white people get
into when falsely equating all muslims with terrorist ideology. So that’s nice.
|Words by Andy Diggle; Art by Andy Clarke|
(1337-1345) lets Doctor Darius
do her own thing as aliens invade her life
|Words by Ian Edginton; Art by Steve Pugh|
(Progs 1420-1431) explores the ethnic mix of future Birmingham, e.g. Shaila
Tiger Sun, Dragon Moon
|Words by Kek-W; Art by Warren Pleece|
(Progs 1426-1432) has yet more inscrutable Asians, but at least they’re not
surrounded by scrutable Europeans.
|Art by Andy Clarke|
1507-1517) sent readers to the Caribbean again
for some voodoo chills
|Words by Si Spurrier; Art by Cam Smith|
and we’re back round to Judge Dredd again, whose Origins
1505-1535) reveal a black US President in the mid 21st
is not Barack Obama,
|Wagner n' Ezquerra|
and whose Interlude in Prog 1520 introduced new leading
man Dan Francisco
(Prog 1520), who
is also not Barack Obama but was surely, in part at least, inspired by the man. He would go on to become Chief Judge, briefly, and then succeed in not being chief Judge anymore, still be alive, and even get his own solo series.
|Words by Wagner; Art by Rufus Dayglo|
We’re getting close to the present day here, bringing with it a state
of affairs that I think is incredibly welcome. 2000AD (and the Megazine) have
kind of reached the point where any given character’s ethnicity is hardly a
talking point at all, because it’s just typical to expect any new series to
show characters from a range of backgrounds, ethnic and otherwise. It’s also
increasingly difficult to immediately tell what ethnicity a character is,
unless they happen to bring it up in dialogue. This also reflects real life
(certainly my experience in London).
I suppose if there’s one lingering question, it’s that the comic has never yet
managed to recapture one of the unique glories of Harlem Heroes – a strip in which, potentially, every single
character in any given episode might just happen to be non-white. And for that
to be unremarkable.
Let’s get the most problematic of the new wave out of the way: Stickleback (series 1 Progs 1518-1525).
Our ‘hero’ amasses a motley crew of ne’er-do-wells to help him out in his 19th
Century London adventures. Adventures that, very particularly, are inspired by
literature of the day, e.g. Sherlock Holmes. aka unenlightneed times. So we expect to see what might at first appear to be amazingly
racist figures. But then welcome the way they're actually written, which often inverts the original trope. Or at least, gives the characters actual personalities.
|Words by Ian Edginton; Art by D'Israeli|
(yes, really) is the big man with the skull and crossbones shirt, and Stickleback's valet/batman/manservant/dogsbody. He turns out, in fact, to be the oldest human being who ever lived, or something, which is kind of awesome.
|Edginton n' D'Israeli|
I don't know if we ever found out what the deal is with the little dude with the bone through his nose, whose name I can't recall. But, in the context of the series, he's fun. See also the yellow-peril looking (but not actually being
from China Town in a later series.
Zombo (Progs 1632-1640) goes
completely the other way. It’s set in the future, a future where, as far as the
story suggests, racism has lost. Hooray! Characters of all skin colours and
blends are free to hold whatever positions they wish, and to be as heroic or
cowardly as a story demands…
|Words by Al Ewing; Art by Henry Flint|
In passing, we’ll wave hello and goodbye to zombie protagonist Darren Dead (Megs 287-289), still
waiting for a second series.
|Art by John Higgins|
The many and doomed crew of the Damnation
(1677-1692; 1850-1861). The original protagonist of the series was an over-privileged white dude. He soon got killed off / sidelined and superceded by the mutli-ethnic team of soldiers around him. I really need to re-read this series. Seriously, Tharg, put it in a Meg floppy already!
|Words by Al Ewing; Art by Mark Harrison|
The multiple incarnations of Richmond
306-315), which transcend both thnicity and gender boundaries.
|Words by Si Spurrier; Art by PJ Holden|
Absolom’s DI Terry Sangster (1st
series Progs 1732-1739), and later new recruit Daniel (3rd series Progs 1934-1942)
Grey Area’s Officer Feo
|Words by Gordon Rennie; Art by Tiernan Trevellion|
1764-1766), who I assume is Hispanic (Feo being Spanish for ‘ugly’, ho ho)
|Words by Dabnett; Art by Patrick Goddard|
Simping Detective: Jokers to the
Right (Progs 1804-1811) has another villain of colour, the blandly (but
necessarily) named Mr Turner.
|Words by Si Spurrier; Art by Simon Coleby|
1862-1869) is surrounded by multiple ethnicities
|Words by Guy Adams; Art by Paul Marshall|
No, I don't remember her name either
|Adams n' Marshall|
And then of course there’s the mighty Aquila (1st
series Progs 2012; 1792-1799), a re-imagining of good old Blackhawk. Aquila is hardcore, and gets to look it on the cover
quite a bit, too.
|Words by Grennie; Art by Patrick Goddard|
|Art by Karl Richardson|
The last two years alone have seen a surge in ethnicities:
Dredd: Enceladus (Progs
1940-1947) sees Judge Sam saving the
|Words by Rob Williams; Art by Henry Flint|
(Megs 359-360) introduced Psi Judge Flowers
, who looks like he’s going to stick around for a
while (at least, while Emma Beeby is scripting)
Tainted: Fall of Deadworld
|Words by Emma Beeby; Art by Nick Dyer|
(Progs 1973-1981) has a black zombie in passing
|Words by Kek-W; Art by Dave Kendall|
I haven’t picked out any Future Shocks/one off type stories so far,
mostly because I don’t have a working knowledge of them, but I would say that, until recently, very few had anotyhing other than white leads. I’ll pick out
recent 3riller Repossession Orders
1973-1975)as a bucking of that trend.
Dredd: Dust to Dust
|Words by Eddie Robson; Art by Jake Lynch|
371-373) is notable for being the first Dredd story to talk about native
Americans, and indeed feature them as characters:
|Words by Michael Carroll; Art by Henry Flint|
Lawless Of Munce & Men
(Megs 371-376) gets its first black character
|Words by Dabnett; Art by Phil Winslade|
(Progs 1978-1993) is
about as good an example as any of showing the melting pot of Earth. Set on a
cramped space station after Earth has been abandoned, Officer Bridge
, of unknowable ethnic origin, uncovers a conspiracy
led by three characters of equally indistinct mixed ethnic backgrounds. I don’t
want to live to see Earth die, but I do hope to live to see this kind of mix.
|Words by Dabnett; Art by INJ Culbard|
(Meg 372-377), running
at the same time, manages to stand out from the white crowd by featuring two
black leads: young girl and narrator(ish) Ilya
and her mother
, who are attempting
to find each other on a hell planet.
|Words by TC Eglington; Art by Boo Cook|
The story doesn’t and won’t end there, but we’re practically at Prog
2000. As if by magic, the perfect place to end is Scarlet Traces: Cold War
(Progs 1988-1999). While not particularly
displaying a mix of earth ethnicities, the strip was very explicitly about the
lot of refugees and the woes of living in a racist society, as we see two
different kinds of Martians and various Venusians mixing it up with Earthers.
Any given character from the strip can stand in for whichever persecuted
minority suits the political climate of the time you’re reading it. Which is a
simple illustration of proper science fiction doing its job. 2000AD, as ever,
is not afraid to poke readers where it hurts.
|Words by Ian Edginton; Art by D'Israeli|
That about wraps it up. Thanks for reading, and do keep
writing in to point out characters I’ve missed.
*Everyone knows what a Dredd mega-epic is, right? The massive 26+ part serials we get every
couple of years, from the Cursed Earth
to Day of Chaos. Is there a consensus
on what to call the shorter Dredd serials? Mini-epic? Micro-epic? Not-an-epic?
e.g. the much-loved G
|Art by Leigh Gallagher|