Monday, July 09, 2007
2000AD spills its guts
If there's one type of comics history book I can't stand it's the type that fills its pages with tedious resumés of comic character's lives, recounting their adventures blow by blow in text form. If I was interested in the plots, I'd seek out back issues of the comics themselves, (or reprints) not read second-hand accounts in words only. For me, such "backstory history" is as boring as listening to someone tell you the entire story of last night's episode of CSI, when you'd rather wait for the DVD to come out. Comics; they work best in words and pictures, not as written text. That's the point of them being done as comics.
Thank Grud that Thrill-Power Overload by David Bishop is nothing like that. This is exactly the sort of comics history book I like. It tells the story behind the comic and its characters, which means it has a depth that's much more rewarding than a collection of plot synopses. Here is the history of 2000AD, the weekly science fiction action comic, celebrating its 30th anniversary, and revealing its struggles and triumphs against the odds, including opposition from within IPC (its original publisher).
Most importantly, it's a story written by an insider, for David Bishop was one of several editors that 2000AD has had steering it over the past three decades. Using his contacts and his experience, Bishop set out to chart the definitive story behind the self-proclaimed "Galaxy's Greatest Comic". In researching the book, Bishop interviewed as many people connected with 2000AD as he could, including editors, artists, writers and publishers. A few turned him down, but the majority were happy to reveal their candid views on the comic and some pull no punches.
A 250 page weighty hardback on quality paper, Thrill-Power Overload is full colour throughout and is well illustrated with artwork from 30 years of the weekly, stemming right back to the unpublished dummy issue of the comic when it was titled AD2000. (See photo above.) Most of the copy here has appeared before, as a series of features for Judge Dredd Megazine a few years ago, but it's good to see it reformatted and collected, plus there's new material too, to bring it up to date.
Although the book doesn't hold back on its revelations of the highs and lows of the comic, Thrill-Power Overload remains a positive read because it's a celebration of such a positive event: 30 years of a British weekly comic. 2000AD may have its establishment critics, and may not appeal to some of the traditionalist British comic collectors but it's survived longer than Lion, Valiant, and many of the other much-respected "old school" weeklies. In fact, it's the only surviving UK comic of the many that were launched in the 1970s. Not bad for a title that met such resistance in the beginning and was only expected by some to survive six months. However, it went on to launch the careers of some of the top names in the world of comics, such as Dave Gibbons, Alan Moore, Kevin O'Neill, Alan Davis, Mike McMahon, Brian Bolland and many more.
Thrill-Power Overload is a hefty book at a hefty price (£34.99 RRP) but Amazon.co.uk are currently offering it for a reasonable £23.10.