It has been 45 years since the “Galaxy’s Greatest Comic” 2000AD debuted on British newsstands. At five concurrent weekly strips, the format of the anthology has seldom changed. Today’s lineup is typically a six-page Judge Dredd story followed by a changing roster of various series. Spread that across forty-five years and there is A LOT of content to cover.
With a cover date of February 26, 1977 – the opening lineup of 2000AD in the once super-crowded British kids comic marketplace featured a new incarnation of classic British scifi hero Dan Dare; time travelling dino harvesting romp Flesh; Soviet takeover tale Invasion; future sports with the Harlem Heroes; and a riff on the then-popular American show Six-Million Dollar Man in M.A.C.H. 1.
Subsequent issues and years would usher in other classic series and characters – most notably the indomitable Judge Dredd (from prog 2), Rogue Trooper (in 1981’s prog 228), Sláine (1983’s prog 330), ABC Warriors (1979’s Prog 119), and Strontium Dog (first appeared in rival 1978 scifi comic Starlord #1 before moving to 2000AD later that year, in prog 86).
While Rebellion is hosting special virtual con to celebrate this latest milestone, and the 2000AD webshop is holding a 45% discount on individual (DRM-free!) progs, The Beat will hold our own mini-celebration with a list of four classics you may not be familiar with and five recent recommendations.
- Fiends of the Eastern Front [Debuted Progs 152-161] Gerry Finley-Day penned a number of classic strips for 2000AD (most notably Rogue Trooper with artist Dave Gibbons). With the late Carlos Ezquerra, the pair crafted this delicious horror mash-up of Nazis, vampires and the chaos of war on the Russian front.
- Nemesis the Warlock [Debuted Prog 167] Created by artist Kevin O’Neill and 2000AD creator and founding editor Pat Mills in a handful of imaginative shorts, Nemesis’ quickly expanded into a sweeping epic that ran for ten full series from 1980 to 1999. It featured the artistic talents of O’Neill, Jesus Redondo, Bryan Talbot, John Hicklenton, and David Roach. In a neat reworking of the ‘humans versus evil aliens’ trope (and influenced by the resurgent bigotry and racism of Britain in the 1970s and 80s), the series stars Nemesis, fearsome alien freedom fighter leading the rebellion against a xenophobic Terran Empire led by the merciless Torquemada. Be Pure! Be Vigilant! Behave!
- Bad Company [Debuted Progs 500-519] In December 1986’s 2000AD Prog 500, Peter Milligan, Brett Ewins and Jim McCarthy brought this future war tale of a naïve young soldier joining a group of strange and ruthless renegades after his own platoon was wiped out by the alien Krool. As the horrors of war intensify, can Danny Franks and his warped new crew retain what is left of their humanity and sanity?
- Button Man [Debuted Progs 780-791] With the sumptuous artwork of Arthur Ranson and the tight plotting of Judge Dredd/Strontium Dog co-creator John Wagner, this thriller is a proper page turner. A hitman on discovering work is starting to become scarce signs up for ‘the killing game’ – a contest of survival against other professional killers. Brilliant stuff.
…And Five Recent Recommendations
- Brink [Debuted Prog 1978-1992] Dan Abnett has a knack for bringing some great scifi to the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic. In recent years he has introduced the Grey Area, Kingdom and The Out – and that is leaving out his incredible Dreddworld stuff in the monthly Judge Dredd Megazine sister title. Brink is arguably his best yet thanks in no small part to the incredible art of INJ Culbard (the colours alone are delicious). Set in a future where humans now live in hastily constructed, overpopulated space habitats after the Earth was rendered uninhabitable. Crime is rampant, and strange cults known as sects are appearing which the Habitat Security Division has to keep tabs on. The series has many twists and turns and gone from strength to strength since its 2017 debut. This week’s bumper anniversary Prog 2270 will debut Brink’s fifth series, Mercury Retrograde.
- The Fall of Deadworld [Debuted Prog 1973-1981] The only Judge Dredd-related title to make the list, this series takes place in the world that famous foes the Dark Judges (“THE CRIME IS LIFE, THE SENTENCE IS DEATH”) emerged in and destroyed. Taking you all the way to the early days of the apocalypse and centering on new characters trying to survive in the spreading hellscape. Dave Kendall’s atmospheric art really sells this rather great Kek-W scripted post-apocalyptic tale. Having begun in 2017, each subsequent series has been eagerly awaited.
- Proteus Vex [Debuted Prog 2162-2169; 2179] Writer Michael Carroll and artist Henry Flint’s first series gave this space opera secret-agent a hot start – Flint, in particular, infused the debut with a heady mix of Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby to really make this series feel as far out as possible. While a somewhat jarring shift in style, Jake Lynch picked up the baton from Flint for subsequent series (there have been three so far) and proved up to the task.
- Hope [Debuted Progs 2011-2016; 2044-2049] Two words: Jimmy Broxton. 2000AD is no slouch for featuring amazing artistic talents and Broxton not only blows the barn doors off but all four walls as well in this Guy Adams-written urban fantasy/hard-boiled detective series. Hope’s first series, …For The Future, was split in half for its original run but the art was more than worth the wait. A second series, …Under Fire, came in 2019 and hopefully more are soon to come. Well worth a look.
- Stickleback [Debut Prog 2007; 1518-1525] The elder statesman of this selection, Stickleback’s first series began in 2006’s 100-page Christmas special and is part of the masterful pairing of writer Ian Edginton and artist D’Israeli (aka Matt Brooker). D’Israeli’s black and white art and somewhat surrealist bent really sells this series about the mysterious Stickleback, the ‘Pope of Crime’, as he deals with the supernatural, underground rivals, and the authorities to maintain his dominance over the shadows of 19th century London. The series came back from a six-year hiatus – following a jaw-droppingly controversial cliffhanger – in 2020, hopefully we won’t have to wait as long for a seventh series.
This is not an exhaustive list so feel free to recommend your fave classics and recent series in the comments.