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  • Writer's pictureCraig Dawson

Inspiration Deliberation: 2000AD

One of the things I think I might enjoy writing about from time to time are my inspirations. Everyone is steered and moulded, to some degree or other, by the things they love, be it the first book that was placed in their hands that sparked a passion, or a song they return to again and again. This cocktail of influences cannot help but shape that person, and I’m certainly no different.

Those who know me, know how passionate I am about comics. Comics have always been a part of my life, especially due to having grown up in the 80s, when newsagent shelves were filled with a variety of titles, appealing to a wide variety of reader. The lazy shorthand of “comics equals superhero” hadn’t become prevalent then, as the UK market was still strong enough to cater to a more diverse marketplace, and the influence of the US, where superheroes were well established, hadn’t made its way to the provincial “newsie”.

I started with the humour titles, like the Beano, Dandy, and my favourite, Nutty (home of Bananaman, no less) – perfect fun entertainment for my young mind. I collected the Transformers comic, keen to see more stories featuring my then-favourite toys. It was obvious I enjoyed the medium, and was starting to become open-minded to the potential. But then, when I was around ten, I happened across a comic that would do more to inspire me than anything else, cementing a life-long passion for comics, and sparking my imagination like nothing before or since.

My grandparents lived closer to the centre of town than we did, so every shopping trip (this was before the rise of the out-of-town superstore) would see us park at their house, and pop in for a chat and a catch-up. To keep us kids entertained, my gran would often slip us a few coins to go to the newsagents to grab a comic to keep us entertained whilst the grown-ups talked. One day, at the newsagents, I picked up a new comic – one I hadn’t read before. Why did I pick it up, rather than one of the other comics that I was more acquainted with? No idea. I’m glad I did. It was a copy of 2000AD.

For those who don’t know, 2000AD is an anthology comic, with four or five short stories, usually serials, running in each issue. This format might well be the secret to its longevity – in the event that a story doesn’t land quite right for the reader, there is every likelihood that the other stories will, and the shorter strip length per episode (perhaps six or seven pages a story a week) demands a brevity of creativity. As a comparison, a typical US comic is twenty-odd pages of story a month. 2000AD delivers stories that simply do not hang around – no wasted space, and creators who have to innovate in order to deliver exciting stories in such short bursts.

2000AD is also almost exactly the same age as me and I feel we’ve grown up together. Whilst I’m as susceptible to nostalgia as the next person, I like to think I’m still open-minded enough to look at it objectively, and with that said, I think it’s still every bit as good as it has been. It still nurtures new talent, tells interesting and exciting stories, and isn’t slavish to the past as it could easily be tempted to be. It offers as huge a variety of story, and of creators, as you could possibly hope for. It’s filled with a healthy, satirical disrespect for authority and institutions that has encouraged me to look at the world with fresh eyes, as I was growing up. You want stories about the dangers of religious fundamentalism and intolerance? Try Nemesis the Warlock. How about a story about prejudice and discrimination camouflaged as a space western? Have Strontium Dog. Police procedural set in a space, with Lovecraftian overtones? Here’s Brink. The (typically) sci-fi settings are the perfect Trojan horse to discuss themes that you wouldn’t normally expect to find in a comic, especially not a kids comic in the 80s. It was the first time I’d seen shades of grey amongst the usual stories of black hats and white hats.

Not only that, it’s – to my mind – the most influential comic of all-time, especially when looking at the creators who have worked for it over the years, and the influence that they have then gone on to make. My favourite author, Alan Moore, did great early work for it. John Wagner has been writing Judge Dredd for over forty years now, creating a character, and a world, of depth and variety, that gets better and better. Superstars like Bolland, McMahon, O’Neill, Gibbons, Millar, Morrison, Bisley (I could go on ad infinitum) have all worked for the comic. Pat Mills, the creator of the comic, is still creating characters that are as fascinating and as challenging as ever.

It has kindled more inspiration in me than anything else I can think of. Long may it continue. Maybe give it a look?

(Picture of my attic boxes below – Ark of the Covenant just out of shot)

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