It must have been the summer of 1977 to 1978. This is New Zealand, of course, where summer straddles the New Year, and it was probably after Christmas, so that means 1978. I remember particularly because we were on holiday around the North Island, one of those touring holidays we used to go on, all packed into Dad's old Fiat 128, Mum riding shot gun, three in the back and one lucky child in the coveted space in the boot lounging on duvets (don't worry, it was a hatch back). No seat belts, no car seats, Dad smoking like a chimney the whole time – this was the 70s, and life, among other things, was cheap.
I remember the day itself very well. We were staying in a motel, somewhere in Rotorua, somewhere far from the centre. It was a blazing hot, sunny day, that intense piercing sun you get in New Zealand that you can feel cooking your skin through your t-shirt. I don't remember the circumstances exactly, but all of us got a few coins to spend at the local shop. I don't remember what my brothers and sisters bought, but I bought a comic.
I recognised the name – I'd noticed it's appearance on the comics shelves several months before, but at that point I saw the fat black white reprints of DC comics as a better buy: seventy eight pages for 25 cents, all content, the only ads being a great big one for stamp collecting by mail. I used to think it was funny that you had to send away a stamped addressed envelope for a sample set of stamps, but I sent away for it. I suppose some philately magnate made his fortune in twenty and fifty cent portions from kids all over Australasia. Every kid I knew collected stamps at some stage, most like me, sporadically, over a couple of years, the sort of weird make work that passed for kid's hobbies in those days, keeping their idle hands busy until puberty brought new interests.
|Super-powered secret agent M.A.C.H 1 - remind you of anyone?|
|Nationalistic ultra violence|
and why not?
Over the rest of the holiday, I was able to pick up progs 29 and 31, due to the patchy distribution around rural Rotorua district, and when we got back to Wellington, I immediately “put in an order” at the Titahi Bay Book & Stationary Shop, from whom my first issue was 33, but Dad was sent into to town to scour the Big Shops for prog 32 to ensure a complete collection hereafter (which he found!)
It's hard to overstate the importance of 2000AD to the development of my interests, attitudes and aesthetic sensibility. I lived in a fairly remote corner of New Zealand, we had two TV channels (and the reception on the second was somewhat wobbly) and the cinema was a long way away. My weekly thrill power fix was one of the few things I had to feed my hungry imagination. I had a few friends who got it, too, a little circle of us, classic nerds, I guess, of the type they stopped making sometime in the 1990s.
|Alan Moore seems so serious these days, but DR & Quinch was one of the most |
hilarious stories in the history of 2000AD.
|A genuine masterpiece from Brian Bolland.|
It couldn't last, of course. Something changed and by prog By 900 or so I'd had my fill. I lingered on just to see in the millennium, as it were, albeit three years earlier than my fellow Earthlets who weren't in the know, and at that point, I put it down and officially moved on. 2000AD and I had aged together for a while, but something had happened around about my late teens: it had stuck with me through puberty but then stopped developing with me into adulthood. By the time I was finished my bachelor's degree, it seemed, banal and foolish. Compared to Swamp Thing and Watchmen by its greatest alumnus, it just didn't seem relevant any more.
Instead of following through with the growing maturity, it hesitated, never really reaching adulthood and it didn't seem prepared, either, to go back to where it began as a comic for ten to sixteen year old boys. The publishers had a go at a more grown up product in Revolver, a worthy effort in my eyes but one that didn't set the market on fire (although it was given only a handful of issues, with more faith behind it maybe it would have endured).
I think it was Toxic that really changed things for 2000AD. Toxic was launched by Pat Mills, apparently after he became disaffected by editorial constraints and licensing problems with 2000AD (all this according to scuttlebut I read on the internet!) It sold pretty well, but apparently the publishers had cashflow problems and the project ultimately foundered. I kind of liked Toxic, myself, although I've always been a Marshall Law sceptic (it was the title's biggest draw) but I was happy for that stuff to remain in Toxic. Instead it showed the editors of 2000AD, though, was where their steady market was: readers too old for kiddy fare, but not ready or willing to take on more mature stuff. Greasy, glossy kid stuff, with a bit of titillation, an anti-authoritarian edge and plenty of whacky gore.
|Kevin O'Neil is perhaps entirely responsible for the |
influential 2000AD look through his early work as art editor.
At about that time, there were a few changes in my life and I stopped reading comics entirely (well, apart from some Alan Moore titles, but, you know, he's Alan Moore!). In my late thirties, though, I started picking them up again, first the Essential Marvel series and then some of the regular titles, and before long I was reading comics again.
|Ewins & Mcarthy were among the first artists to evolve the 2000AD style.|
In my whole life, it's probably the only cultural phenomenon that I've ever been a real part of. I flirted off and on with musical style truibes in my teen, like we all do, but I bought into anything like I bought into 2000AD, and like a bitter old Teddy boy or mod or punk or raver, I'm always bleating on that it's what it was.
But maybe, I thought, I could recapture that youthful exhilarating joy. Maybe I just I needed a little distance, maybe it's been long enough now so that what put me off back then might have changed, or that I might have changed enough to be able to appreciate it for what it is, rather than deride it for what it was.
So, next time I was in GOSH, I picjed up the latest prog 1689 and put in my order once again, and rejoined the ranks of the squaxx dek thargo.
(Coming soon: 2000AD as she is today.)