2000AD: Five memories of the future

2000AD memories!* This post celebrates the first forty(-ish) years of 2000AD – and all its inspirational joy and anarchy – through five memories of the future.

Gentle reader: What has had the biggest influence on how you view the world? Is there a single thing that has fired your imagination and given you endless delight and inspiration?

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For me, one of the biggest formative influences on how I see the world was a comic named 2000AD**. A weekly British comic which is – against all odds – still in publication today***, having first hit the streets on 26 February 1977.****

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Two quotations from the 2014 2000AD documentary Future Shock describe the impact of 2000AD:

“For a nine-year old boy, it was life-changing.”

2000AD created “a generation of anarchists.”

I want to share here five memories of the future, each inspired by 2000AD.

One. Life-changing

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In my very young years I was lucky enough to get the odd Prog, and to receive the 1979 2000AD annual (see below) as a Christmas present. But 2000AD fully captured my imagination when I randomly picked up Prog 263 one Saturday in 1982. Like the quotation above says: “For a nine-year-old boy, it was life-changing.” I got this edition of 2000AD on a family shopping trip to Tesco at Weston Favell in Northamptonshire. Judge Dredd had hit the closing chapters of his epic nuclear conflict story The Apocalypse War (this particular chapter resolving the preceding cliffhanger in which Dredd appeared to have killed himself. He hadn’t, after all!). Most of the other stories were midway through their current arcs. It was all slightly confusing, yet impossibly exciting and inspiring. But there was so much more going on than I could first appreciate. Another voice in the Future Shock film notes that “the multiple levels of reading are what make 2000AD work”. I’m sure nine-year-old me didn’t realise it at the time, but these words are spot on. At their best, 2000AD stories were characterised by a satirical, sceptical and deeply humanitarian viewpoint – albeit one couched in mayhem, destruction, anarchy and the blackest of black humour.

Two. As important to me as Public Enemy

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2000AD was a pivotal influence on my mind, and on the minds of so many now middle-aged personages (predominantly gents, but by no means all). This single comic created “a generation of anarchists,” as Grant Morrison puts it. 2000AD’s cultural influence has been pervasive. Yer Robocops and yer Terminators are blatantly 2000AD-inspired. On a less surface level, 2000AD has profoundly influenced the perspectives of so many people. In the world of music alone, artists as diverse as Madness, Lemmy and DJ Food (who has posted a beautiful gallery of snaps from the London Cartoon Museum’s 2000AD exhbition) are or were 2000AD fans. I like the following words from Portishead’s Geoff Barrow: (who also once released a superb Dredd-inspired album entitled Drokk).

2000AD is as important to me as Public Enemy and Eric B & Rakim.”

Three. An embarrassment for all concerned

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Quality is subjective. You might perceive your latest piece of work to be weak. But that it is no guarantee that your audience will have the same view.***** I absolutely loved the aforementioned 1979 2000AD annual. But I recently discovered that its creators hold it in significantly lower esteem. In his memoir The Mighty One, former 2000AD editor Steve MacManus confesses that budgets were tight for that particular project:

“The producers did the best they could, but even so that second annual must have been a bitter disappointment to the 2000AD reader on Christmas morning. Of its 128 pages many were generic science-fiction strips dredged up from the art library and passed off as 2000AD content. It was an embarrassment for all concerned.”

I love the idea that what one person views as utter rubbish might be a route into a magical new world for another. The germ of any idea can go off in the most unexpected directions.

Four. Get a typewriter

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In late 1988, a quintet of 2000AD artists and writers – including firebrand original 2000AD creator Pat Mills – did a signing at the short-lived Forbidden Planet comic shop in Central Milton Keynes.****** I was in attendance, taking with me a scrappy notepad containing a comic strip I’d been writing and drawing for my schoolfriends. At the signing I was too shy to show my efforts to the 2000AD types. But my friend Aaron was pluckier than me, and passed it to Pat Mills on my behalf. Bless him, the leather-jacketed Mr Mills took a look through whilst puffing on a cigar. His considered advice to me?

“Get a typewriter.”

Mr Mills saw immediately back then that whatever little ability I had to string a sentence together exceeded my ability to draw a half-decent picture. Although I didn’t follow his words to the letter, looking back I suppose I’ve made my living up until this point mainly on the written word.

Five. Its Brutalist architecture

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Another 2000AD-related moment of mind-blown wonder: Reading Mr MacManus’s Mighty One book, I was amazed to discover that the company for which I work published 2000AD at its height (the 10-year stretch from 1977 to 1987). MacManus describes South London’s King’s Reach Tower (later to be immortalised as 2000AD’s “Nerve Centre,” and now apparently known as South Bank Tower):

“Once finished, it dominated the skyline, but its Brutalist architecture promised nothing more than a decent view from the upper floors. However, the building was to be occupied by IPC Magazines, owned by Reed International.”

The complex path of corporate buyings and sellings means that 2000AD has long since ceased to be a part of my company’s portfolio.******* But I am seriously proud that my employer once published what its readers fondly refer to as “the Galaxy’s greatest comic.”

How could I never have known this before?

2000AD: You have meant more to me than I could ever hope to say (and I’m sure the same goes for a great many others). Here’s to the future.

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Footnotes

*I originally wrote this post on my old Tumblr blog in 2017, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of 2000AD‘s arrival in this world. I’ve given it a little spruce up for its appearance on MJCarty.com! I’m republishing it on Saturday 15 August 1980, as it’s the 39th anniversary of Prog 225, which sported one of the greatest covers of all time, drawn by the wonderful Brian Bolland. Just the other week, I greatly enjoyed watching Bolland in conversation with his fellow former 2000AD colleagues Mick McMahon and Dave Gibbons. With regard to the latter of these three gents, my micro claim to fame is that I was the first person ever to get an autographed copy of the collected Watchmen, as I bumped in to the lovely Mr Gibbons in the old Comic Showcase on Neal Street in Covent Garden on the day of its release. Mr Gibbons really did not need to be so nice as to sign my copy when he was just out comic shopping for the day… but I am so delighted that he did. Thank you, sir!

** The other three biggest influences on my outlook on the world – and undoubtedly also on my love of language – are (the BBC TV series of) The Hitchhikers’ Guide To The Galaxy, Monty Python and (the second series in particular of) A Bit of Fry and Laurie.

*** Its name unchanged, despite the year 2000 – which once seemed an impossibly farflung future (well, to nine-year-old me it did) – having now moved resolutely into the rearview mirror.

**** 2000AD readers will know that each individual issue is referred to as a “Prog” -short for “computer programme,” I believe)

***** For a beautifully-told tale of how vast the gap can be between the creator’s view of their work and how it appears to their audience, I strongly recommend you take a listen to legendary US talk show host Dick Cavett on Alec Baldwin’s Here’s The Thing podcast. Cavett shares a remarkable tale of recording one episode in the depths of black depression, then finally getting to watch it back on video years later. Please do lend an ear to what he has to say.

****** Astonishingly, I’ve just discovered a youtube video from the day Forbidden Planet, Milton Keynes opened. Mercifully, I was not there that day…

******* Other former parts of my company’s stable include – so the combined forces of Mr MacManus’s book and Wikipedia inform me – Country Life, NME, Melody Maker, Horse & Hound, Anglers Mail, Yachting Monthly and – particularly unexpectedly – Sanderson’s wallpapers (which apparently used to hold the copyright for William Morris’s wallpapers).

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  • MJCarty’s print of the cover of 2000AD Prog 225, which was cover-dated 15 August 1980. This print was from a limited edition signed by the great Brian Bolland himself, and sold via London’s excellent Gosh! Comics.
  • Pat Mills via Wikimedia Commons.
  • Kings Reach Tower via Wikimedia Commons.

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