The Best Stories From 2000 Issues Of ‘2000 AD,’ From The Editors That Brought You Thrillpower [Sci-Fi Week]
As someone who's always been focused on --- okay, obsessed with --- American superhero comics, 2000 AD was always this strange, intriguing parallel universe from across the ocean, full of strange sci-fi thrills. Once I was lured in with John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra's Judge Dredd: Origins, though, the door was opened to a whole new world of comics. The only question is, with almost 40 years of weekly adventures to choose from, where does a new reader get in?
With the series hitting its monumental 2000th issue today, there's no better time to look back on the history of 2000 AD. We reached out to the people who have shaped the Galaxy's Greatest Comic, from founding editor Pat Mills to current editor Matt Smith, and more, to find out not just how they came to 2000 AD, but the stories they think you should start with.
Pat Mills, creator and editor, 1977:
Well, I created 2000 AD, which involved creating and writing all the stories and characters myself or --- in the case of Dredd --- rewriting the original concept several times and adding story elements from various different writers. Once I had created 2000 AD, Dredd was established, and the comic was a commercial success and relatively safe from the corrosive effect of "the suits" who were always lurking in the wings ready to return it to a corporate orthodoxy, I handed it over to my successor and returned to freelancing.
I would recommend Nemesis: Terror Tube, written by myself with artist Kevin O'Neill, to a new reader because it is true to the very French roots of the comic, which are sadly ignored for the most part these days.
In fact i was heavily influenced by the French Metal Hurlant and all those brilliant French artists who were behind so many great American films --- e.g. Blade Runner --- although that doesn't seem particularly well known today.
Like Metal Hurlant, it is possible to read Terror Tube and enjoy the original European sensibility of 2000 AD but feel an echo of its counterparts in the States at that time: e.g. the work of Mike Kaluta and Bernie Wrightson, who were also working in a great European fantasy tradition.
Richard Burton, editor 1987-1994:
I first signed on as a loyal droid of the Mighty Tharg in April 1980, though I seem to have had been involved with 2000 AD since before Prog #1. Through my fan news magazine, Comic Media News, I was aware something special was coming from IPC Magazines in late 1976, especially as many of my fellow fans and friends like Dave Gibbons and Brian Bolland were being tapped to work on it.
I started covering news of 2000 AD in CMN and visited the editorial offices several times, little realizing that one day I would ascend the throne of the Mighty One, battling to defend all Squaxx dek Thargo from the ravages of the deadly Thrill-suckers!
Trying to answer, "What one story would you recommend" is quite literally like asking which of your children you prefer. So many great stories and characters passed through the Galaxy's Greatest Comic while I was involved with it that I would probably suggest all of them to a new reader! However, if my arm was twisted, or a Rigelian Hotshot administered, I would choose "The Cursed Earth" as a good starting point.
This story not only helped propel Judge Dredd to mega-stardom, but it defined the whole style and substance of 2000 AD for a generation of Earthlets. It is a legacy that has, amazingly, endured for 2,000 progs now and outlived the perennial question of my time on 2000 AD --- "So what exactly are you going to call 2000 AD after the year 2000?"
David Bishop, editor 1996-2000:
I grew up in New Zealand where 2000 AD arrived fitfully via sure boat, so it wasn't easy to be a devoted reader. But two early series caught my eye, due to their visual imagination and storytelling originality.
The Visible Man appealed to me as a boy because he was a character with see-thru skin, so you can see his guts moving round inside him --- gross! And there was an early-ish Judge Dredd story --- part of the Judge Child Saga --- in which a villain proved his immense wealth by owning a coat made of ring-pull tabs. In Dredd's future, 20th Century bits of junk were 22nd Century antiques; the novelty of that thinking really appealed to me.
Professionally speaking, I was a photojournalist before emigrating to the UK, but had also trained as a sub-editor. I saw a job advertised at Fleetway Comics and became the assistant editor of the Judge Dredd Megazine spin-off title just before it launched. Within a year I was editor, at the tender age of 24 (one of the youngest ever editors at the company).
By 1995 I was ready to move on, but the managing director asked me to stay because there was a new opportunity coming --- the chance to run 2000 AD. It was a job I had craved, the chance to save the Galaxy's Greatest Comic from cancellation. At that point 2000 AD was projected to drop below break-even within a year or two. Thanks to amazing work by the creators and some innovations I introduced, the comic survived to the year 2000, when Rebellion bought the title --- and it has thrived ever since!
One story for a new reader? Ooooh, that's tough. Here's a story that has a timeless quality, even though it's nearly 40 years old; The Judge Cal Saga.
A madman called Cal takes control of Mega-City One, home to future cop Judge Dredd. Cal institutes a series of increasingly bizarre laws and decisions, based purely on his narcissistic whims. He also has a ludicrous hairstyle, and --- rather eerily --- resembles a certain presidential candidate in America at the moment. The Judge Cal Saga is funny, frightening, and full of absurd moments. The fact it could prove prophetic just makes it all the more relevant for 2016 readers. And it certainly captures the essence of 2000 AD!
Andy Diggle, editor 2000-2001:
I first discovered 2000 AD in 1981, when I was 10 years old. Prog #210 had an amazing Brian Bolland cover, and a pin-up by Steve Dillon on the back. I didn't know at the time that 2000 AD was in its "Golden Age" --- I didn't know who the writers and artists were, I just knew it was amazing, unlike anything else I'd experienced. It literally changed the course of my life. I probably wouldn't be a comics writer today if not for 2000 AD.
It's almost impossible to distill 2000 issues down into one story to recommend for new readers, but it would probably have to be one of the classic John Wagner/Alan Grant Dredds. Something that captures the inherent absurdity of Mega-City One. Let's say "Block Mania," a story that anticipates the ridiculous tribalism of our times… and acts as prologue to "The Apocalypse War." First you see Dredd as a hero, then gradually you realize he was always a monster.
Keith Richardson, graphic novels editor:
I started reading 2000 AD after seeing Prog #305 in my local newsagents when I was about eight. Up until then I had never bothered with it, being much more interested in the imported US comics, particularly Marvel stuff. It was the cover that captured me; I was (like all boys in the country at the time) a massive Star Wars fan. The cover, a brilliant illustration by Steve Dillon, pictured Dredd challenging an alien bounty hunter who reminded me of Chewbacca. I had to have it!
That Dredd story and the Harry Twenty strip that also ran in Prog #305 blew my tiny little brain box! I was hooked. That alien was Trapper Hag by the way... a great character who the Mighty One should give his own strip to!
Choosing a single story from the past 2000 progs is a difficult one, because there have been so many gems! With a gun to my head, I would have to say the first series of Nemesis the Warlock, starting back in Prog 222. A mind-boggling story, beautifully written, perfectly illustrated, and completely unique.
Matt Smith, editor 2001-present:
I’d been a reader of 2000 AD since 1985, aged twelve, and picked it up every week without fail. In 2000, when Andy Diggle stepped up to be editor as Rebellion acquired the comic, they advertised for an editorial assistant, and I applied, got the job, and then became editor in December 2001 when the offices moved from London up to Oxford.
One of my favourite ever stories of the past two thousand issues is Judge Dredd: Cry of the Werewolf, which was originally published in Progs #322-328 in 1983, and you can read it in either Judge Dredd Complete Case Files #07, or the 2012 US Dredd trade collection Cry of the Werewolf. It’s got everything I love about Dredd --- a cracking script from John Wagner and Alan Grant, full of humour, action and high stakes, and some stellar art by Steve Dillon.