Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A different approach to superheroes?

2000 AD famously doesn't do strips about superheroes. Which is, of course, nonsense. Most famously there was Zenith, and rather recently we've had the 10 Seconders, and in between there were the Balls Brothers. Of course, all of these were to a greater or lesser extent (mostly greater) mocking the traditions of superheroics, so that doesn't count...

But frankly, the likes of Slaine, Rogue Trooper, Judges Dredd and Anderson and Johnny Alpha are basically superheroes, albeit in a very different setting to your typical Marvel or DC character. I mean to say, they've all got superpowers / neat weapons, and they generally go around dispatching of villains - or at the very least, people who are even nastier than they are.

I'm not going to go on about this. It's really a vague preamble to some pictures in which we can see how 2000 AD approaches the idea of superheroes in some incredibly tangential ways. For example, this one just has the word Batman in it. But it's nothing to do with Batman - it just makes me laugh. And I like the idea that Batman will still be a sort-of recognisable figure in the 27th century.

Here's a little early Mark Millar for you. His best-received 2000 AD effort, Canon Fodder, has superhero written all over it. The Canon himself is an angry buffoon in a costume, on an epic quest to find God. Chris Weston's art (which frankly is what makes the strip so memorable and literally awe-inspiring) adds a bit of superhero as well, with its bright colours and outlandish settings. Here we have the hand of God toying with the Canon and the Devil. To my mind, it's a delightfully twisted version of the endgame of a classic Avengers comic. Which is what Millar's still earning his bread off.

Here's my favourite John Wagner pseudo-hero.

He's got this card, see, which means that he can get into and out of all sorts of trouble with ease. Even bad guys mugging him don't phase him, because he doesn't care. Now that's a super power.

Current 2000 AD writing genius Ian Edginton isn't shy of dipping into the twisted hero pool. His recent opus Stone Island divided readers (I wonder if I'm one of the only people who really liked it...), but I think nearly everyone agreed that lead character Harry is pretty awesome. During the first story, he found himself merged with an alien beastie. Best of all, this stretched out his face a bit like in that scene from Beetlejuice, which looks way cool when Simon Davis paints it. He also doesn't give two hoots about much, which is the way a 2000 AD hero should be.
This isn't him looking in a mirror - this is him being suitably horrified at what happened to his mate...

Lastly today, pat Mills. I mentioned Slaine above as a hero-type. He was never more so than in the Time Killer / Tomb of Terror arc. In fact, these were intended to cash in on the popularity of Dungeons and Dragons (in which they succeed very, very well). But in that vein it's not unlike a Thor adventure. Except that Mills likes to poke fun. He also gets artist Pugh to design a fantastic bathroom setting. Regular heroes spend a lot of time sneaking through sewers - but 2000 AD heroes actually get to crawl through the urinals and into the other side:

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Only in 2000 AD part 3

Here's something else 2000 AD does especially well - mixing the mundane with the bizarre. I think part of the reason for success in this field compared to other comics is the effort on the part of the artists to draw in proper backgrounds, and not to be shy of details. In recent years American comics have turned this way as well, leading to regular delays in publishing. Somehow, the galaxy's greatest has never had this problem. (OK so some series have been split into several sections, but the material that goes in between is always of the same high standard).

Anyway, here's a bunch of sci-fi dudes having a job interview type thing. I've no idea what background setting the writer had in mind, but artist Nigel Dobbyn sure has run with it...

And here's a slice of soap opera melodrama, which just sounds so much more exciting coming from the gaping jaw of a Henry Flint alien beastie...

And then of course there's Brian Bolland, delivering something not at all mundane, but just utterly bizarre:

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Only in 2000 AD part 2

This rather old picture from the pages of 2000 AD isn't very well drawn. But, it gets the idea across. Sure, it's a little childish, but who wouldn't want to watch two aliens playing 'asteroid death conkers'? (from a safe distance, of course)

Here's the other end of the humour scale:

A mutant cyborg sniper carefully setting himself up. I don't know if it's just the idea of this that I find funny, or if there's something artist Jim Vickers has done to make it work as a classic slice of Wagnerite observation. He's great at presenting the unhinged citizens of Mega City 1, with particular detail towards the mundane. The juxtaposition of mutation, cyborgness and assassination with the expression of casual boredom is part of what makes 2000 ADs dark comedy so successful. All that's missing is a cup of tea on the windowsill.

Of course, unsubtle can be funny, too:

Sometimes it's best not to use an exclamation point at the end of a sentence - it renders this speech balloon as something understating the obvious, rather than overselling a great gore pic that works nicely on its own.