Thursday, April 28, 2011

In the year 2000!

In the realm of "need-to-read,"  I'm sadly more caught up with comic books than I am prose compositions.  There is however, one area in which I am sorely lacking.  That is the British science fiction series, 2000 A.D.

To the American public at-large, 2000 A.D. remains something of an unknown, yet comic book fans know that this series is a veritable incubator for talent that is now considered legendary in the industry.  Creators like Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, Mark Millar, Alan Grant, and Dave Gibbons all cut their storytelling teeth here, honing their craft to where they could not be ignored by the likes of Marvel and DC.
One attractive aspect of 2000 A.D. is that it was an anthology book, carrying several separate, ongoing stories at once.  You really got a variety within the covers of the book.  Sure, the "big two" in America would do the same thing, but it was rare.  One of these storylines eventually became known on these shores.  Yes, even if the average American is unaware of comics talent involved, they are perhaps more likely to be familiar with one of 2000 A.D.'s nefarious characters, nefarious only for the awful Hollywood movie based upon him.  I am of course talking about Judge Dredd.  I implore you, please do not base your evaluation of Judge Dredd or anything else 2000 A.D.-related upon the horror, the monstrosity, the kidney stone of a film that is 1995's Judge Dredd.  Please!

Ahem.  Judge Dredd took place in a future world that was pretty much leveled by nuclear war.  The world's population was gathered into "mega cities," futuristic, cyberpunk metropolises that served as walled city-states awash in the post-apocalyptic wasteland.  Patrolling this cyberpunk city were Judges, law enforcement officials who were judge, jury, and executioner all in one.  Toughest among them was Dredd.
Like most comic books or fiction really for that matter, the Judge Dredd continuity was a bit of a pastiche of what came before it.  The character's attitude was Dirty Harry, the look and feel for the book was said to be modeled on Death Race 2000.  A cross-country epic called "Cursed Earth" was a take on Zelazny's Damnation Alley (again, please ignore the film with George Peppard).  "The Robot Wars," one of the few Dredd stories I've read, is a riff on most every "robot uprising" story you've ever seen, slightly reminiscent of Magnus: Robot Fighter.
The only other 2000 A.D. character I've had exposure to is Nemesis the Warlock.  The titular character is a fire-breathing alien possessed of many magical abilities.  He fights to free the world from the tyranny of an oppressive ruler named Tomas de Torquemada (yes, named after the grand inquisitor.)  In this day of Hellboy, you need to understand how rather revolutionary a character like Nemesis was.  Even I didn't fully grasp it when I saw it those many years ago.  Here was the story's protagonist and he appeared demonic, while the villain looked perfectly human.  Likewise lost on me at the time was the political subtext.  As the Wikipedia entry on Nemesis reads: 

"Written at the height of Margaret Thatcher's grip on the British public, the fiercely left wing Mills [Pat Mills, writer] depicts anarchic anti-heroes violently railing against a bullish, intolerant authority. That the authority in question is the human race thousands of years in the future adds a further dimension: a heavy-handed condemnation of human nature. Particular targets for Mills' ire were imperialism and religious fanaticism. Book 6 had a comment about South Africa and Apartheid removed, which was reinstated in the Titan Book reprint."

So now there are anarchists involved.  It keeps getting better.
These are but two of the many characters in 2000 A.D. and as you can see, I have much catching up to do.  I'm off to Amazon.

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