With IDW announcing a third series spinning out of the much-beloved British weekly science fiction anthology this past weekend — <em>Sinister Dexter</em>, co-created by Dan Abnett with artist David Millgate, will follow the current <em>Judge Dredd</em> series and last year's <em>The Zaucer of Zilk</em> by Brendan McCarthy and Al Ewing — and this week's announcement of <em>The Complete Zenith</em> — bringing Grant Morrison's first big comic back into print for the first time in almost two decades — it feels like everything is coming up <em>2000 AD</em> lately. <p>Even with all this attention, however, the self-styled "Galaxy's Greatest Comic" remains a mystery to many readers on this side of the Atlantic who have never heard of Tyranny Rex, Durham Red or Cassandra Anderson. With a history that stretches back more than 30 years, and a lineup of talent that includes the aforementioned Abnett and Morrison, Alan Moore, Peter Milligan, Simon Bisley, Kev Walker, Dave Gibbons, Steve Dillon, Sean Philips and many, many more, <em>2000 AD</em> has offered up some of the best comics and characters you've never heard of. Here are 10 of the best.
A literally supernatural agency made up of dead people whose job is to keep the multiverse running, whether that means ending one reality when things get out of hand, changing history to ensure that everything goes to plan and everything or anything in between (including, at one point, dealing with Jack the Ripper outside of time as we know it), John Smith's <em>Indigo Prime</em> is endlessly inventive and occasionally confusing in the best way possible. <p>With artists including Chris Weston and the wonderful Edmund Bagwell, the series is available in two collections to date, <em>Killing Time</em> and <em>Anthropocalypse</em>, each one collecting multiple mind-bending storylines.
Genuinely ahead of its time — and maybe just a little out of synch with <em>2000 AD</em>'s core audience of the time — <em>Big Dave</em> was a collaboration between Grant Morrison, Mark Millar and <em>The Bojeffries' Saga</em>'s Steve Parkhouse that saw the three indulging in social satire that was at once savage and yet subtle enough that many failed to get the joke. <p>The eponymous main character was a homophobic, racist product of 1990s <a href=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lad_culture>lad culture</a> who kept Britain safe from Saddam Hussein, the Royal Family and the German national soccer team who were, of course, led by a not-quite-as-dead-as-you'd-think Adolf Hitler. Breathtakingly offensive at times, the strip was also amazingly funny — but not, sadly, enough to keep it around for more than a couple of years amid constant complaints from concerned readers. Alas, poor Dave.
Looking at the various elements that play into Ian Edginton and Steve Yeowell's historical sea-faring series — zombies, pirates, werewolves, subterranean lizard men and George Washington — it feels as if <em>The Red Seas</em> should've been a mess of Internet memes and pandering to the audience, instead of a smart, funny and fast-moving strip that mashes genres together with glee and leaves you believing in it nonetheless. <p>Running on-and-off for just over a decade, Edginton and Yeowell created a world in which anything could happen, and constantly did (imagine <em>The Sixth Gun</em>, but just that little bit more crazy, and you'll be along the right lines), making for a reading experience that was constantly entertaining and unpredictable.
A historical drama set in the 27th Century — this is, after all, science-fiction — <em>Nikolai Dante</em> was a series with genuinely epic scope, spanning multiple runs in <em>2000 AD</em> across a 15 year period, building the story of a pirate who was born into one of the most powerful families in the galaxy, even if he didn't know it. <p>Robbie Morrison, Simon Fraser and later artist John Burns (others assisted throughout the run, but those three consisted of the core creative team) kept raising the stakes and the scale of the series, giving us a hero that may not have been quite the heartless rogue that he proclaimed himself, but was all the better for that failure.
Bringing fantasy logic to sci-fi tropes (and, later, commentary on then-contemporary politics and society, too), <em>Marshall Law</em> creators Pat Mills and Kevin O'Neill's <em>Nemesis</em> made both men's reputations and then did the same for later artists including Bryan Talbot, Henry Flint and the late John Hicklenton. <p>That Nemesis was a fire-breathing demon who fought on behalf of the forces of chaos - while also being the lead character and hero of the strip — might suggest some of the fun Mills et al had when playing with familiar tropes in this series… as might the name of the main bad guy of the series, "Tomas de Torquemada." Mills managed to build other <em>2000 AD</em> series into the continuity of this run, including <em>Invasion</em> and the still-running <em>ABC Warriors</em>, offering up a Millsverse of sorts right in the middle of <em>2000 AD</em> for those who knew where to look.
If war is hell — and we've been told that it is by countless comics through the years — then it only stands to reason that Future War in Space would be even worse… and that's something that Peter Milligan, Brett Ewins and Jim McCarthy set out to demonstrate in their wonderful <em>Bad Company</em> series, which ran for years in <em>2000 AD</em>. <p>Almost no one made it out of the various storylines alive, and those that did would find themselves dehumanized by the experience — literally, in at least a couple of cases. Despite the over-the-top humor and violence, though, <em>Bad Company</em> had more of a heart than may have initially been apparent, and by the time it was over, it was clear to see that the series could stand alongside all of the great anti-war war comics throughout the medium's history thanks to its surprisingly subtle handling of trauma and its after effects.
Another <em>2000 AD</em> war comic, <em>Rogue Trooper</em> shamelessly updated the American Civil War to create its future conflict. No, really, it's shameless; it's the Norts versus the Southers. To make matters even more awkward, the Norts are given Nazi-esque uniforms and trappings. <p>Despite that, Rogue — so named because he essentially deserts his post to try and end the war his own way — ended up a compelling hero forced to fight despite his best wishes, thereby fulfilling his destiny as a cloned super-soldier. A wonderfully old-school action strip that first appeared in 1981, the series was revived in 2002 and continues to fight the good fight to this day. His creators, Gerry Finlay-Day and Dave Gibbons, should be proud.
Current front-runner for the title of "Most Fun Comic Running," Al Ewing and Henry Flint's <em>Zombo</em> is the simple story of an exceptionally polite killing machine who just so happens to have a "back-up personality" that used to be a male stripper, the digitized President of the United States who talks as if he's a character in a 1970s Jack Kirby comic, a sentient planet of evil, and wickedly on-the-nose parodies of the Beatles, the Fantastic Four and anything and everything else that accidentally ends up in their sights. <p>Wickedly funny and deceptively smart, <em>Zombo</em> manages the trick of seeming quintessentially <em>2000 AD</em>, like a strip from the anthology's early days, while also feeling effortlessly contemporary.
Possibly the great "lost" Alan Moore comic, <em>Halo Jones</em> ran three series in the 1980s in <em>2000AD</em>, as Moore and artist Ian Gibson told the story of an ordinary woman in the distant future who ended up in extraordinary circumstances without even knowing it. <p>Arguably more openly humanist than Moore's better-known work like <em>Watchmen</em> or <em>From Hell</em>, <em>Halo</em> also offers more scope for humor, and shows the writer in a less formalist mode, while also offering Gibson a chance to shine that he's arguably never had the chance to enjoy since. The series was originally an ongoing one, but stalled after three outings. One day, it'd be great to see it continue, but until then, a new collection of all three editions has just been released.
Created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra — a.k.a., the men behind Judge Dredd — the Strontium Dog of the title is Johnny Alpha, who was mutated at birth due to his parents' exposure to a radioactive substance called Strontium 90. As a result, he works as a bounty hunter, traveling through space and time to bring in the perp no matter what it takes — which would explain the fact that he's been to Hell and back, literally, in order to bring one prisoner back. <p>He's also taken on Hitler (and won, obviously), and even died but somehow survived to tell the tale. Originally created for <em>2000 AD</em> companion title <em>Starlord</em> in 1978, <em>Strontium Dog</em> joined the main title later that year and has been a mainstay ever since, with the exception of a decade-long disappearance during the character's "death." Collections of the early material are available under the title <em>Strontium Dog Agency Files</em>, and are highly recommended.