Tuesday, 21 February 2012



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 un-employment, 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 agonizing 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 recognized 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 possible, 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 FUNWOW!, 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!"

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