Tuesday, 21 February 2012

2000 A.D. - HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY...




I wasn't going to bother
marking 2000 A.D.'s 35th
birthday. All the other comic
blogs will most likely be doing
something, I thought, so is
there any real point? Yes, is
the answer on reflection.

After all, it was 2000 A.D.
that gave me my first big
break when they employed
me to letter a THARG'S
FUTURE SHOCKS story
(EXTRA! EXTRA!) back
in January of 1985. (That
said, my first published IPC
work [not counting a back-
page drawing inked and tweaked by KEN REID in a 1973 issue of SHIVER
& SHAKE] was a CAP'N & THE KIDS strip in WHIZZER & CHIPS.
So, to celebrate the comic of the future's lengthy run, I now present some
hopefully pertinent ponderings from a purely personal perspective.

I have to be honest - I was never a great fan of 2000 A.D. when it first
came out. I remember buying the first issue on February 19th, 1977, and
probably bought the next few issues, but it never really grabbed me so I
soon gave up on it. Two years later, in 1979, a feature on the new JAMES
BOND movie, MOONRAKER, started me buying it again for several weeks.
Then the printing changed from web offset and the comic didn't look quite so
good, so I dropped it like the proverbial hot potato, fickle lickle fecker that
I was. I still continued to buy the occasional holiday special 'though.

So why bother seeking
work on the comic then, if
I wasn't a huge fan? Simply
because STEVE MacMANUS
and the 2000 A.D. crew were
attending a Glasgow comic
mart back in October 1984
and I decided to go along
and show them my samples.
I had determined to do so
several weeks before, after
a spell of unemployment, and
I thought it was time to put
the 'gift' that friends kept
telling me I had to good use.
When I look back on it now, it
was a doddle - no hard slog,
no years of constant rejection, no agonising over whether I was ever going
to make the big time - simply "Here's some lettering samples, any chance
you could you give me some work?"

However, I really wanted to pursue an art career, so lettering was
merely a way of getting my foot in the door. It had worked for WALLY
WOOD and DAVE GIBBONS, so why not for myself? Thing is, I got as
much lettering work as I could handle, plus a chance to use my drawing skills
on various IPC comic libraries, annuals and holiday specials, so I never had
the time (or the inclination, to be honest) to do much more about it. I was
soon earning good money, so why take the risk of 'switching lanes' and
doing something else? Besides, lettering was easy and I could turn out
many more pages of calligraphy a day than I ever could of artwork.
By that I mean artwork I was happy with.

I remember lettering a
CHARLIE'S WAR strip for
BATTLE one day, at a desk in
their offices, and looking at the
detail in JOE COLQUHOUN's
artwork - each panel would've
probably taken me several days
to draw, what with soldiers,
tanks, battlefields, etc. I'd have
been lucky to turn out a page a
week, not counting time required
for research, so I quietly (and
easily) abandoned any full-time
aspirations I'd had in that direction.
Comicbook artists don't just get
to draw the things they like, but
also have to meet the artistic
requirements of subjects in which they often have little or no interest. I'd
settle for making a living in the medium I loved, but without the blood,
sweat and tears involved.

However, I recognised that 2000 A.D. was the jewel in IPC's crown
at that time, and had a huge respect for it. I was proud of my association
(minor as it was) with the comic, and always strove to do the best job pos-
sible, redoing speech balloons or 'sound' effects I wasn't happy with.

And it was great to get work on
all the other titles which were
extant at that time: WHIZZER &
CHIPS, BUSTER, SCHOOL FUN,
WOW!, WHOOPEE!, etc. One or
two of these weeklies may only
have survived in the form of
specials and annuals, but it gave
me a huge buzz to work on them
nonetheless. I remember lettering
a strip by LEO BAXENDALE's
son, MARTIN, which was just as
much a thrill as if it had been his
dad. It was a link to my past.

They say that things must
come full circle, and such was
my experience. My comics career started at 2000 A.D. and finished in
2000 A.D. (the actual year I mean), an ironic profundity which isn't lost
on me. The reasons are many and varied, but far too boring to go into in
this already over-long personal reminiscence which I hope will be of
interest to someone. 

I have many fond memories of working on 2000 A.D. and take
great pride in having done so during part of the period that many people
regard as its 'golden years', when Steve MacManus was at the helm. It's
the last surviving link to a time when there was a thriving boys' weekly
adventure comics empire in this country. So happy birthday to THE
GALAXY'S GREATEST COMIC, and here's to at least another
35 years - for all of us!

"SPLUNDIG VUR THRIGG!"

No comments: