2000AD 30-year anniversary
As 2000AD reaches 30 years of age, David Pollock talks to David Bishop, former editor and author of the seminal sci-fi comic’s imminent definitive history.
Those of us at a certain age might remember the tooth-gnashing wait every Wednesday morning for 2000AD to drop through the letter box. The boys’ adventure comic was first published in February 1977, and the particular pool of creative genius and anti-authoritarian sentiment employed by the team behind 2000AD were enough to establish it as - in the words of former contributor Grant Morrison - the first ‘punk comic’. It was without a doubt the most influential and successful British comic ever, and celebrity fans like Jonathan Ross and Simon Pegg have been quick to point out its virtues.
Former editor Pat Mills wrote lurid tales of time-travelling dinosaurs (‘Flesh’) and tyranny and racism disguised as aliens (‘Nemesis the Warlock’). Alan Grant penned brilliant, high-concept sci-fi tales in ‘Strontium Dog’ and ‘Robo-Hunter’, and, of course, Grant’s longtime co-writer John Wagner created ‘Judge Dredd’, a sprawling sci-fi action comedy which later squeezed in a rich political debate on fascism versus democracy. Like Morrison and the similarly successful Mark Millar, all of the above writers were Scots born or raised, or at the very least trained via DC Thompson. Other big names like Neil Gaiman, Garth Ennis, Andy Diggle and Alan Moore also made their name in 2000AD’s pages while music video director Chris Cunningham, using the name Chris Halls, is a notable artistic alumnus.
Thirty years old this month and now owned by Oxford computer games developers Rebellion, 2000AD is still afloat and thoroughly engaging. Sales might be down on the mid-80s golden age of 100,000 a week, but much of the comic’s content is up there with the best American series. Wagner, Grant and Mills all still write for it, joined by new creators such as Si Spurrier, Frazer Irving and Henry Flint.
‘I think the challenge 2000AD has faced over the last 20 years is that it’s stopped being an adventure comic aimed at boys,’ says David Bishop, editor of the comic between 1995 and 2000, and its first biographer with Thrill Power Overload. ‘Where kids would traditionally read the Beano or the Dandy for a few years and grow out of them, the fact that people like Alan Moore made British comics storytelling vastly more sophisticated in the 80s meant they didn’t grow out of 2000AD. It inspired a reader loyalty which meant it had to mature and grow with its fans. A lot of adults eventually stop reading, once they’re shamed into it by their spouses.’
So, by rights the comic should have ceased to exist some time ago but it was able to adapt and evolve with the times. ‘Rebellion quite rightly recognised it was being neglected and bought it up as their own publication in 2001. After all, pretty much everyone working in the UK games industry grew up reading it. Where it goes from here depends on how they use the intellectual property rights but we’re talking about something like 200 separate character worlds. It’s a matter of time before one of these makes it onto the big screen, or becomes a successful video game.’
The 30th anniversary edition of 2000AD is out on Wed 28 Feb. Thrill Power Overload is published in March by Rebellion Books.