Monday, November 27, 2006

Fun with Sinister Dexter

So there's a pop culture reference here that it is necessary to understand to find this funny. I'm gonna take the same gamble that Abnett did, and assume that most people will get it... For the record, let's not ignore the beautiful shimmery art effect courtesy of Patrick Goddard, which heightens the parody.


Monday, November 20, 2006

Random Prog review: 1978 Sci-Fi special

Courtesy of ebay and a Mr G. Logan, I give you the 1978 Sci-Fi Special.

For collectors and purists, it's technically the first ever, but a year before had seen the 2000 AD Summer Special Super-Comic, which I have yet to see a copy of. There's no cover date on the 1978 model, but such specials were usually released in June. So, this particular edition came out around about the time I was born, meaning there's an extremely outside chance that my dad was reading it in the waiting room.

I'd like to think that more than one person with a passing interest in Sci-Fi would be intrigued by the cover, a Kev O'Neill effort that neatly sums up the ethos of 2000 AD - bad-ass alien sheriffs blowing holes out of sinister robot thieves. With a skull in the background for good measure.
Honestly, though, this is pretty much the best thing in the comic, and that's because it doesn't have any pesky script robots to spoil things. The weekly Progs at the time had a reasonably good balance of story and art, but this special is all about the art. Oh, and a bunch oif colour photos from contemporary Sci-Fi movies, which is the sort of thing that specials like to run features on. I kinda like film reviews, so no complaints from me. Shame that 'Warlords of Atlantis' turned out to be a bit silly, although I remember it quite fondly from Bank Holidays past.

We start with Dan Dare, drawn by Gary Leach, a top illustrator. Written also by Gary Leach - h'mmm.
Here we can see a great draftsman at work, but falling into the classic trap of using the words to explain what is apparent in the picture. Indeed the whole story involves Dare talking to himself rather a lot, a trait I don't recall being central to the character. Luckily, the story itself is neat enough, although it feels like a mish-mash of Solaris and other 60s novels. I must admit that outside of 2000 AD, I've never read a Dan Dare story. I'm told that the Eagle originals are much better. Whatever - I like the Star Trek inspired Kelvin Gosnell/Dave Gibbons version on display here.

Verdict - a good start

MACH Zero, drawn by the mighty Kevin O'Neill. Written by Henry Miller

And here we have the Beano story. I keep mentioning the Beano, and maybe I should pause to explain why (if I haven't before). Along with its sister title the Dandy, it's Britain's longest running comic - weekly since 1938 - take that, Superman! It's overtly for pre-teens, featuring characters in one or two page strips getting up to various japes, and is mostly funny. The Beano is slightly more sinister than the Dandy, and has a little more of the 2000 AD about it (I believe Pat Mills even wrote for it once upon a time). It's also characterised by ludicrous plots and events that just don't happen in real life, much to the chagrin of youngsters around Britain who try to copy them (or was that just me?). 2000 AD normally is tightly plotted, so anytime a truly ludicrous chain of events appears, I play the Beano card. Got that?

Anyway, MACH Zero, who is not at all like the Incredible Hulk, wanders into a train station, where he fails to befriend the station master's robot son. Unfunny madness ensues, but it's all expertly livened up by O'Neill. It leads up to this choice panel:
Then there's a train crash and a surprisingly poignant ending. Truly, truly this is an oddity, even by 2000 AD standards.

Verdict: deserves a reprint in a collection of 'surely that never got approved' stories

MACH One, drawn by Trev Goring, written by Mike Lake

This story is very bad. MACH one goes to the Moon, where he fights evil alien robots to stop them from invading Earth. I suppose it was worth the experiment to see if MACH one in space was a workable idea, but in the hands of Mike Lake, it doesn't work (no offence Mr Lake) Goring's art is OK, but not terrific - witness this panel showing great grit in the face, but rather awkward posture in the full-figure pose.

Verdict: I'm afraid its time to bring out the Pain again. Here's what Finnigan Sinister had to say:

Judge Dredd, drawn expertly by Brendan McCarthy (hiding behind 'the Subliminal Kid'). Written by, well, William Nilly. Good pseudonym, there - I expect that means it was J. Wagner himself, but you never know, could have been McCarthy at the helm in what seems to be an all-artist special...

This is pretty clumsy Dredd, such as you would find in the Case Files 1 collection. i.e. cool ideas, but a pretty feeble chain of events that involve Dredd being nearly killed far too easily by today's standards. Also featuring Walter the Wobot, a character I never quite warmed to, but I have to respect that he gave Dredd reason to be compassionate at times. Saving grace is of course McCarthy's art:
X-13, the robot villain of the piece, is cut from the same cloth as Bender. i.e. he's basically human and rather mean. Excellent organic metallurgy from McCarthy, and I love the fact that the villain is found in his lair playing with his decks - surely a forewarning of times to come for 2000 AD: about 15 years later Tharg would be desperately trying to pass himself of as a D.J. Whoops. Stick to the jumpsuit, we all say.

Verdict: put this tale in a collection of McCarthy Dredds, yes please.

The bulk of this rather fat special is taken up with a reprint from an old 50s magazine called 'Super Detective Library'. Written by one of my favourite SF writers of all time, Harry Harrison (he of Stainless Steel Rat fame), and drawn in a very 50s-looking style by Ron Turner. Yes, it's:
It's outrageously goofy, and in some respects makes you glad that we live in the era of 2000 AD now, where heroes are flawed - unlike the all-too heroic, brainy, resourceful and good-looking Mr Random. On the other hand, there are some delightful touches to the tale that seem utterly ignored by current SF writers - namely, explaining the science behind the conepts introduced, such as Hyperspace. Also, if you read the whole story using voices from a black and white 40s/50s B-movie, the story is twice as fun. Go on, try it out using these two segments:

Of course there's a bit of pseudo science at work here, but it's handled respectfully, not just used in a self-mocking way by the likes of a Grant Morrison on retro-comics duty.

Rick Random did of course get his own short series in 2000 AD shortly after this special came out - a murder mystery which I've enjoyed both times I've read it, well after the original publication. Although on reflection the solution to the mystery is a bit cliched. Who cares if the reader doesn;t know that, though? Anyway, the SOS from Space adventure has none of that. Instead it features a plethora of future science, alien races, telepathy, plastic surgery, shooting, sexual chemistry and everything else you could want. I salute you, Harry Harrison.

Verdict: solid retro stuff. By today's comic art and script standards, of course, it's a bit rubbish.

Overal verdict: Don't bother. I mean, really don't bother. I guess if you want a complete collection you'll seek this out, but it's not one to read and re-read like some old Progs and serials. Fun to flip through for the art, though.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Sa-gasu Ne-rbu Senta-

The letters page. It's a staple of comics and magazines the world over. A chance for editors to fill a page without having to come up with original material, and a chance for readers to believe that they have an impact on what happens in future issues. -sorry for the double helping of cynicism there. In fact, I get the impression that editors probably struggle with these pages quite hard (even if they're cheaper to produce than commissioned material). Also, it's pretty clear that readers do affect a comic book with their letters, as the bulk of praised material gets reprinted or continued, and the hated stuff gets locked away.

To be honest, I used to skip past the old Nerve Centre/letters pages in 2000AD for many years. I'd look at the fun pictures sent in (alas, this hasn't happened for ages), and occasionally read one of Tharg's trademark terse replies - often funny and clever as well as deeply withering of the hapless writer. But I couldn't be bothered to read an editorial when there were stories waiting for me - and as for my fellow readers, well, what could they have to say that I would care about?

In my re-reading days, I've actually begun to enjoy these pages almost as much as the strips themselves. Admittedly, current Progs are at an all-time low for fun editorials and interesting letters (my own included), but the older ones are surprisingly fun. Too formulaic, I think, although I can't say how it's possible to recpature the old magic unless more and younger people magically start writing in... As it is, one can learn a lot about what the readership of the time was like in a random Prog from yesteryear, as well as getting the occasional laugh from some, or gasp of astonishment from others as you notice someone who would later go on to be a professional in the industry (not to mention finding fame in Hollywood).

Good on you, Simon Pegg. It warms me to know that you loved the comic as much as any squaxx ever has. Hell, even Tharg couldn't bring himself to mock.

Nowadays there are internet chat forums, so I suppose people who want a response to a question have less incentive to write to the comic and wait four or five weeks to see if they get a reply. Certainly 2000 AD seems to receive fewer letters now than it used to, judging by the number of names one sees repeatedly. Ever since the heyday of Floyd Kermode and Linton Porteus (two of the best nomencltures of all time), it seems that the same names come up time and again (yes, Stephen Watson of Paisley, I'm looking at you. Even with your standard issue name your profilicness has not gone unnoticed). Hell, I've had about 5 or 6 of my own letters printed. Before the Year 2000 such high hit rates were nigh unheard of. Sadly, this could have more to do with an ageing and dwindling readership, and not so much to do with the internet...

Back to the letters. Being honest, most are not very exciting or funny or informative, even the ones from before I was born. And I'm sure reader fun was largely had by waiting to see if their own missive was chosen that week, which is pretty exciting, I can tell you. Even if the free gift is something you've already got! More often than not people write in to say how much they like or dislike one story/artist or another; occasionally they demand the return of a favourite character. And there are plenty of people trying to be funny, presumably in hope of getting whatever free gift is available at the time. Often the least funny of these are the best, as Tharg gets free reign to unleash his arrogance. But the ones that stand out for me are the strange, moving, and strangely moving letters that have no precedent...

This kind of letter can appear at any time, without warning. However, as time goes by, it seems that those who write in to 2000 AD are getting older or at least less childish (not meant to be a put-down, honest). Alongside this, when art was still being printed, the artistic ability improved, which was fun to see. However, art over the years has remained permanently divided between cheap or odd puns, like this:

NB 'Snork' is a reference to Citizen Snork, an occasional foil to Judge Dredd who has a large nose; 'Conkerer' is an added joke which seems to exist for no reason, except perhaps to disguise the fact that this picture is copied (rather well) from a John Hicklenton-stlye Torquemada.

Top marks for the lettering, though!

And the occasional picture clearly inspired by deep love of the source material.

Nothing to say about this, except nice job. Although I'm curious to know if the eye represents a character from Slaine's world.

So, from time to time I'll post some of the better efforts
along with the credits as originally published. Hell, they're part of 2000 AD's history as much as anything, and they're unlikely to get reprinted any other way... No free gifts, though. And I still can't believe that people used to get £10 for the letter or picture of the week! £10! In 1977!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Pat Mills is a funking genius

There really ought to be many many websites proclaiming the legend of Mills, but I don't think there are. But anyone who loves 2000 AD by definition must also love Pat Mills. The real question in me posting about him is not "is there enough to say?", but "do I have enough fun and varied scans to make my point?"* Let's be clear, I've never met him, I've read maybe one interview with him, so all I really know about him is his comics work and a few asides from 'Thrill Power Overload' which suggest that he can be a little precious about his creations.

But what creations! First and foremost, of course, is 2000 AD as a whole. He had a major hand in the entire starting line-up: Harlem Heroes, Invasion feat. Bill Savage, MACH one, Judge Dread (OK, so everything apart from the name went through a pretty radical overhaul), Flesh, the goddamn Visible Man. All had brilliant starting positions, and included a handful of well-defined characters. Never mind that Mills and many of the scripters who took over didn't always write great individual episodes. And his fertile imagination didn't stop there: Shako, Ro-Busters, the ABC Warriors, Nemesis the Warlock, Slaine, Finn, rival comics Crisis and Toxic, the revamped politically aware Savage. With all of these, Mills has been a mainstay of 2000 AD forever, a writing feat only shared by John Wagner and Alan Grant (and, I hate to say it, if these three ever stopped contributing, the comic would all too likely come to a sticky end...)

What's his secret? Of course it's not something one can easily dissect and lay bare. For my money it's mostly about a strong imagination. Now, I grew up with Pat Mills (reading my brother's 'best of 2000 AD Monthlies' as a 6 year-old), but even so I think there's something universal about his work that reminds of the free reign of imagination that children have. Take something fascinating, such as dinosaurs, and just think what would be fun to do with them. Don't worry about a target audience, or about adult concerns like what is or isn't appropriate, or what makes sense, just let your scenarios play out, and let your characters come to life, grab you by the throat, and shake you until your nightmares spill onto the page.

Nemesis the Warlock, especially the early stories set in Termight, are for me the epitome of this free imagination approach to comics. I mean, where does he come from? An 'good' alien fighting 'evil' humans is old hat, sure, but Nemesis just looks and acts so weird, so bizarre, so actually alien. To be sure, Kevin O'Neill played a huge part in making the strip endlessly fascinating and re-readable, but I can't help but think that a lot of the ideas were Mills'. The basic descriptions of the main characters, the idea of tunnels where people walk on all sides, the magma gloves, the barren surface wasteland, the monks with their grimoires, the torture pits. At the very least a joint effort - but all Mills' stories have bizarre trappings, so I'm giving him a lot of the credit.

Characters are a major part of Mills' success. So much so, that often the stories themselves are a bit pointless. There isn't room for development, and as a result the best stories are those that get into the roots of what defines each character - witness the best ABC Warriors tales are the first: that introduce each Warrior; the Black Hole: in which we get into their heads; and the recent three-part 'Shadow Warriors' epic - which introduces some great villains and we enjoy watching our heroes play off against various counterparts. Likewise Slaine is at its most fun when he's just bashing skulls in, not trying to take on aspects of British heores of legend.

Here's one of my favourite Mills panels. A hero and a villain fighting, spouting their repective catchphrases. Mills has no need for dialogue, he is king of letting his artist have a ball, and, ultimately, giving the readers what they want. Weird alien beasties hitting each other.

And from the same episode, another thing Mills does that few others dare to do - soap opera romance:
2000 AD is all about killing, maiming, comedy and above all, future shock. But just sometimes, a writer brings out a moment of poignancy. Sure, there's a a swift kick in the head waiting around the corner in the next strip along, but we need these moments. Mills gave us some of the best: Dredd's final crawl through the Cursed Earth; Charlie's triumphant march through Northpool; Mongrol's rages (hey, I end up teary-eyed every time he thinks of Lara). Nowadays we have Robbie Morrison's Nikolai Dante to make us cry from time to time, in between rougish grins and political machinations.

And, of course, there is Pat 'oh, not again' Mills. This is the Mills that seems to be more talked about of late; the Mills that is only worth 7.9 on the thrill-o-meter over on the official 2000 AD site. Frankly, it's the Mills who likes to use his stories to make some exceptionally heavy-handed point. I give you: Finn - christianity is evil, paganism is good; Ro-Busters - corporate greed is evil and exploits the workers; Nemesis/Deadlock - good and evil are both pointless, let's just agree to embrace khaos magick and cross-dress, shall we? Slaine - woman are good, men are bad. Savage - one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. Worst of all, Third World War - the world is going to hell because of corrupt governments, multinational corporations, and lazy liberals.

As Abnett has it in his Flesh series (a rather mean place to lay criticism at Mills...)

Now, I'm being rather unfair on Mills. It's worthy and occasionally interesting to bring real-world politics into escapist comics. In Savage, it's working brilliantly. I for one can't decide whether to love or hate crazy Bill. A brave and noble man who happens to be a mass murderer with no sense of remorse. And I kinda like the exploration of good/evil/khaos in later Nemesis and mid-period ABC Warriors. The women stuff is especially intriguing in what is very much a boys comic, not least when it features so prominently in Slaine - a strip mostly about men hacking each other to bits, albeit with a plethora of strong female characters getting involved.

Still, sometimes the way Mills works his politics into his plots and dialogue is just plain weak. It can lend to some unpromising art, too. Mills has managed to get quite the best out of some legendary artists like O'Neill, Flint and Bisley;
And quite the worst out of others, like Ezquerra. It's a question of subtlety, I suppose. Artists who are used to drawing exactly what they are asked can fall foul of this. Artists who like to run wild with detail and weird background stuff can get away with deeply unsubtle pictures, because they're just so impressive. And since Mills rarely tells an actual story, artists like Ezquerra with amazing storytelling panel layout skills are rather wasted. Artists with a desire to pour as much fun into each panel as they can, like Flint, can come up with the business and get a laugh or a gasp nearly every time.

Pat Mills defines 2000 AD with practically every episode of every strip he writes. His characters are iconic to the point of transcending their strips. And just occasionally, Mills manages to plot and script something as inventive as his own imagination. My favourite ever stories, Nemesis the Warlock books I and IV and Slaine: Time Killer; my favourite characters are the ABC Warriors (Well, all except Morrigun and Steelhorn, although he was pretty cool as 'the Mess') . The 2000 AD strip I most want to see as a film is 'The Visible Man' - directed by Cronenberg, of course.

In many ways its a good and bad thing that Mills won't let anyone else write his creations. Written jointly with Wagner, Shako was a better read than Flesh, even if it had a far lesser premise. So the possibilities of Nemesis by Peter Milligan or Slaine by Garth Ennis leaves me salivating. But just maybe, they would pull out too much of an actual story, and thus the pure essence of the Millsian imagination would be forever diluted. I'd want to know what happens next, rather than being content to see the same people getting up to their old tricks in beautifully drawn poses. There's a reason Nemesis Book X took so long to appear - nothing actually happened in books I - IX, so thinking up a story for X must have been murder!

And then there's the unknowable question - did Pat Mills create Tharg - himself a surprisingly well-realized and long-lasting character?

*short answer, no. But I couldn't hold it in any longer. Mills needs his respect, and right now, I'm the one to give it to him

Saturday, November 11, 2006

So sorry

British comics have a long and arguably proud tradition of racism. Of course, I'm not going to be presenting those arguments, let alone supporting them. Given that British comics date back to well before WW2, the presence of racist stereotypes is hardly surprising. By the time 2000 AD came along in the late 70s, racism was at least recognised in this country, even if it wasn't that harshly condemned. Thus, the all black Harlem Heroes were in the startting line-up. A good example of black characters being well-drawn, well-written and appropriately unremarkable - in a white-produced strip in a white-produced comic, mostly read by white people. Gosh, that came out a bit negative when it wasn't meant to. Harlem Heroes was a good strip and socially worthy in that it featured black heroes without making any kind of a song and dance about it.

Which is all by way of pointing out that 2000 AD, in fact, has had plenty of moments of racism. To be fair, there is absolutely no evidence that Tharg and any creator droids are at all racist - at least, as far as Commonwealth ethnicities are involved. We'll also ignore the many anti English stereotypes employed by the Scottish and Irish creators. Since the English have a long and bloody hiostory of opression, it comes off as funny and deserved, not mean-spirited (is that patronising of me?) And by the same token we can ignore the many crude Scottish and Irish stereotypes in the comic, since these were all perpetrated by the same writers and artists, again trying to be funny (and mostly succeeding from my point of view).

So, who feels the brunt of the racist lash of Tharg? Why, those perennial targets, the Japanese, the Germans, and the French. Proof if ever it was needed that 2000 AD is a thoroughly British enterprise - who else shows hatred for these three nations with equal vigour?

Hatred is pushing it way too far. But the point is that casual racism against these three nations slips into the comic all too easily, even if it isn't mean-spirited. It will take a long time for us Brits to acknowledge that the Germans are anything other than humourless, efficient and evil; that the Japanese are not mysterious, hive-minded techno-geeks; that the French are not idiots. I must admit that I consider myself British in this regard, despite being half-german, and with relatives in Japan - a country I also lived in for a time. No love for the French, though.

As pointed out above, racism against countries like these is still kinda acceptable, because none of them has ever been enslaved and oppressed - at least, not in the last millennium. And it's not like 2000 AD is only ever mean in this regard. Japanese heores feature prominently in Shiumura, Tiger Sun Dragon Moon and the like. Sure, there is some stereotyping going on, but I don't think offensively. Although it interesting to note that both of these strips are in part based on Wgner and Grant's creation of Hondo City in Dredd continuity. Now, Dreddworld is a necessarily stereotypical environment. Every Mega-City so far enocutered in somehow a parody of prevailing British concepts of what they should be like. Texas City is full of bogoted rednecks. Cuidad Barranquila run by Drug Barons and corrupt Judges. the Emerald Isle is a theme park of Irishness. Oz is laid back and full of preening idiots in shorts. And in Hondo, everyone talks like this:

I thought this was hilarious as an 11 year-old in 1990. I still find it charming, but I also wince a little bit. Probably I'm being over-sensitive. And at least it doesn't make me cry inside like these two panels:

At least he's not slant-eyed, but the evil efficient japanese villain is a plot device from nowhere good. The whole 'ruthless businessman' bit is boring as well. But what really gets me is the way he has to refer to his own nationality to explain his behaviour - an all-too common device in comics. As if the reader needs to see some motivation for a villain, and the only answer is to say - look, he's foreign, that explains why he is nasty and why he can do whatever he likes. Grr.

And what can you say about this sorry piece? Is it meant to suggest that the Japanese like grovelling slaves, and thus that's what they would make their robots do? Would they also programme them to speak in bad English? There's also the mild gasp that Hammer-Stein is an inveterate xenophobe - although this is oddly in keeping with Pat Mills' initial set up for the character. I think he's meant to be in the mould of an old British army officer from WW1; a trait that was thankfully abandoned once the ABC Warriors began.

The point is, 2000 AD is suprisingly mean to the Japanese. Oh well.

Germany has to suffer occasional jokes about the War:

The problem here is not the use of the word 'krauts' - it's very clear that the characters above are meant to be alightly mad soldiers from the War, with all the prejudice that that would entail. It's the idea that the Brits and the Americans have more firepower, while the Germans have more discipline - and that's what decided the outcome of the War. At first, Germany held strong, but eventually we poured in enough firepower that even the most efficient, discplined German army couldn't cope. I think I just get annoyed when nations and all the people in them are defined by onje or two character traits. Especailly when it ends up that words like 'efficient' and 'disciplined' feel like they're being spat out as insults.

On the other hand, Germans is also represented in 2000 AD by Hans Schmidt, hero of the classic 'Fiends of the Eastern Front'. He is one of 2000 AD's great everyman heroes, who elevates that story above its war and vampire trappings, and makes it compellingly atmospheric.

And then there are the French.

Can't think of any heroic Frenchman in 2000 AD. I guess France will always be England's real nemesis, just because it's so nearby and everyone has to learn French at school.

So it's ok to show the French as buffoons...

Friday, November 03, 2006

Onward to your death

2000 AD has had a long and healthy relationship with death. Or rather, many, many characters have died over the years, along with countless thousands of grunts, be they men, women, children, robots, other-gendered aliens and even sentient planets*. I don't know if that's actually 'healthy', but that seems to be the adjective of choice when describing death, and lots of it.

Legend has it** that even in Prog 1, Tharg was forced to make last minute changes because the deaths in it were too nasty (Harlem Heroes), too unjustifiable (Judge Dredd), and too realistic (Invasion - where Russians were changed to Volgans, so as to cause less offence. They still killed and got killed, naturally). Anyway, in my lifelong quest to re-read and scan every great panel from 2000 AD, I haven't got as far as these notorious efforts, so you'll have to make do with some other choice examples of people getting killed. It's a safe bet that none of these would have been published if the groundwork hadn't been laid in those early Progs, where death was established as something that readers want to see more of, yes please sir.
Looking at a little context, other British comics of the 70s had begun this trend in comics like Action and Battle. Comics I never read, 'cos I didn't exist yet, but I'm reliably reformed by the articles in the Megazine. The same articles also make it clear that Pat Mills and John Wagner, joint high priests of 2000 AD, were responsible for the gruesome bits of those comics. A concept they would develop even further with the help of artists like Kev 'more blood! more gore!' O'Neill and Colin 'exit wounds, man!' McNeil.

By the time 2000 AD went glossy and full colour in the late 80s (when I joined the fold), these deaths were astonsihing in their detail. Technically, no nastier than they had been back in '77, but higher printing quality meant you could really pore over those panels...

Again, Megazine sources suggest to me that this love of death caused some tabloid controversy in the late 70s/early 80s, to the extent that the comic 'Action' was cancelled, re-formatted, and ultimately made tame. Not that it had much effect that I can see, given that 2000 Ad was just around the corner. Funnily enough, 2000 AD suffered its own minor setback in 1978 when a panel from Belardinelli's Inferno showing a biker burning to death caused some kind of a fuss. Any amendments made to the art policy at that point seems rather redundant in the long run - and even in the shoirt run, frankly. Death by burning and all manner of other horribleness soon came back to the comic as part of the norm.
This panel from 'The Angry Planet' for example - also by M. Belardinelli!
Perhaps 2000 AD escaped because video had just arrived on the scene, allowing a new scapegoat to be found for exposing children to excessive violence. Video nasties certainly had a rough time in the early 80s, and it's really only in the last few years that we in the UK can finally get hold of films showing the same level of death and violence as 2000 AD has been showing the whole time. Not that this is teribly exciting, as most of the nasties seem to be of low quality. 2000 AD has wit, plot, characterisation (well, sometimes), as well as inventive gore. Hmm - seem to have wondered from the point a bit. I confess I'm a fan of gore in films and in comics, but that's incidental. 2000 AD deaths aren't always that gory (outside of Chris Weston); they're more in the vein of 80s action films, were villains get dispatched with a sneer and maybe a throwaway line. But usually just a sneer.

Just to rub in the reality that British comics never had to suffer the way American comics did in the 50s, here's a panel from 'Holocaust' (Hell, that title alone probably isn't code aproved):

Remind anyone of this infamous panel - one of the key exhibits in the trial when US comics were basically castrated?

I'm not making a point, I just think it's funny that a 'needle to the eye' panel can cause so much fuss in one place at one time, and be utterly ignored in another. (To be fair, Jack Cole's panel is more horrifically realised and better drawn, but the concept is the same)

Perhaps it's as well that 2000 AD doesn't have a massive readership, as it would surely be tamed if it did. And let's not get into the nudity - in recent years it's become common to see an exposed breast or even a flayed penis; there's surprising amounts of fun to be had seeing how far back this goes. You can spot exposed parts in Progs going back further than you might think...

*Actually I haven't checked on that last one, but it's bound to have happened in a future shock somewhere. Was it an episode of the Judge Child, as well?
**Or rather, history has it; you can check it out in the forthcoming 'Thrill Power Overload" by David Bishop, which I am well excited about.