Monday, March 05, 2007

Hard man. Mmm.

It has come to my attention that I have neglected another great staple of 2000 AD. Hardness. Some of the key players in the comic are exceptionally impervious to pain, complaining and, of course, mercy. Such characters are hardly unique to 2000 AD, but they are surely an essential part of what made the comic quite so appealing to me as a young reader. The writers and artists do seem to have a knack for showing quite how hard people can be, beyond having them win (nearly) all the fights they get into. I'm pretty sure that this grounding is one of the qualities that has made British comics writers so popular in the American super-hero genre. Or maybe that's just Mark Millar, king of hardness. (Unfortunately for his 2000 AD career, he didn't have anything else to offer. Still, a little hardness goes a long way).

As it happens, I don't have anything to offer from the likes of Millar or Ennis, although I'm sure I will in the future. Instead, it's mostly Mr Wagner again.
He knows how to put hardness into words as well as deeds, oh yes. Backed up by Ezquerra, and its and irresistible package. You can see why Garth Ennis is still pretty happy with Judgement Day (which isn't that bad, come on), because he got to get in a few episodes of Alpha and Dredd (and Sadu) as drawn by Carlos. Sometimes it's right to let a fan have a go.

Clint Langley pulls off a minor miracle with his Slaine efforts. Use of photo models can seriously damage a character's integrity, but somehow he's managed to find an use a Slaine who can muster the requisite hardness. And this is where Mills's sloganeering dialogue is right at home. There's little in his work that's as much fun as his barbarians trading insults alongside blows.

Gordon Rennie gets some girls in on the act, too. Sure, Judge Anderson has always been pretty hard, even to the point of self-sacrifice. But you get the impression that i the basically feeble Rain Dogs Rennie was trying to craft a tale of 2000 AD women who are every bit on the level with 2000 AD men.

As always, the effect works best when there is the right marriage of writer and artist together. And the king is surely Colin MacNeil, working to the pen of John Wagner. I don't know if Wagner puts it in his scripts, but MacNeil seems to delight in removing lips from his key players, thus rendering them harder than anyone else.

Or, he can just fill them full of bullet holes to charming effect...

One writer who had clearly studied the MacNeil effect was Robbie Morrison. Possibly following a Thargian mandate, he decided to craft a series that is based entirely around the concept of everyone in it being harder than 15 nails.I'm talking Vanguard. Vanguard, which is still technically awaiting a second (and maybe third?) series, never had a huge amount of plot. Instead, it had lots of characters with no lips (including the aliens) who liked to shout at each other and occasionally fight with whips. Also, lots of panels of incredibly well rendered spaceships. Oh, and a handful of main characters each depserate that they would not yield or show mercy or any of that nonsense...

Read as a serious space drama, it's kind of frustrating. Read as a hardman comedy, it is utterly hilarious.


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