Wednesday, October 21, 2015

25 Mega Years

For some reason known best to them, British publishers seem to have a predilection for celebrating the anniversaries of their comic based on cover date, rather than date of publication. The first issue of Judge Dredd the Megazine was published in September 1990 but it's celebrating this week instead. (Issue 2 was published on October 20th 1990.)

Anyway, I'm tired of pointing things like that out. Publishers will carry on doing it long after I'm gone so let's roll with it...

The main thing is that a British comic is celebrating 25 years of continuous publication. That's not something that happens often these days. There have been hundreds, maybe thousands, of comic titles published in the UK over the last 130 years or so but very few make it this far. Judge Dredd the Megazine No.1 was cover dated October 1990, was priced £1.50, and had 52 pages in full colour, with cover art by Glenn Fabry. 

Judge Dredd had been a popular character in 2000AD since his first story in issue 2 in 1977. He was awarded his own annual in 1980 but I remember some editors at IPC / Fleetway were apprehensive about putting him in his own comic. Anyway, they finally did it in 1990 and it's still around today, albeit with a slight name change to Judge Dredd Megazine. He also still appears every week in 2000AD of course, and it'd be unthinkable for him not to. 

Let's take a quick look at the contents of that first issue from 25 years ago...

The lead strip was naturally a Judge Dredd thriller. Midnite's Children was written by Alan Grant and illustrated by Jim Baikie (9 pages)...
Chopper had proved to be a reader's favourite when he appeared in a Dredd serial in 2000AD so here he was awarded his own series. Story by Garth Ennis, art by John McCrea (10 pages)...
Next up was a four page newspaper spoof, Mega City News. Ah the early days of computer design...
The third strip in issue 1 was Young Death; the boyhood of Judge Death! Script by Brian Skuter, art by Peter Doherty (6 pages)...
Next, another Dredd story (well, it's his comic). A saga destined to become a popular classic: America, by John Wagner and Colin MacNeill (10 pages)...
Finally, another Dredd supporting character with his own series. Kenny Who? in Beyond Our Kenny, by John Wagner and Cam Kennedy (9 pages)...
All in all, a strong line up of talent and a good first issue. Marred only slightly by the matt paper stock used then which reproduced some pages too darkly. (I've tried to adjust it a bit in these scans.) 

Twenty five years later, here's the cover to today's issue of Judge Dredd Megazine (No.365) by Barry Kitson. Apart from a mention of the anniversary on the cover, and in the editorial, the celebrations are low key. 
These days the comic has 64 pages, is printed on better paper, plus it's bagged with a 64 page reprint collection, all for £5.80. The main comic features four strips including the start of a new 10 page Judge Dredd serial, Terror Rising, by John Wagner and Colin MacNeill. (Both still doing great work after all these years.)

The other strips are: 
Demon Nic by Paul Grist (15 pages)
Storm Warning by Leah Moore, John Reppion, and Tom Foster (9 pages)
Lawless by Dan Abnett and Phil Winslade (9 pages)

There's also a three page text story, Hunting With Missiles, by Karl Stock, plus features on comics. The bonus comic is a reprint of Faces by Mindy Newell and John Higgins.

The Judge Dredd Megazine has had various format changes and ups and downs over the years but personally I think it's as strong at the moment as it's ever been. I like the mixture of all new strips and comics features, and the bagged reprint comic often has some forgotten treasures. Congratulations to all concerned for 25 years of Mega magnificence. May there be many more to come!

8 comments:

Andy Boal said...

I believe that Brian Skuter was the latest in a long line of John Wagner’s pseudonyms.

Lew Stringer said...

I'm sure you're right Andy. I've never heard of Brian Skuter since. :)

Anonymous said...

A superb achievement. I personally consider John Wagner's 35-year (?) run on Dredd to be on a par with Will Eisner's stint on The Spirit - so many good stories over such a prolonged period.

benpeter johnson said...

I like the Kitson artwork, very '80's. Like Brian Bolland. It's stunning to see the quality of the artwork inside, both back then and now. Whatever you think of Dredd, you can never deny the standard. Of course, old man Dredd is very old now. I think surviving all that radiation has offered him some kind of longevity, that and being a clone of course. Mind you, Anderson is still pretty fit too. And she's retired twice! I read an article discussing the idea that Dredd is a fascist. This is nonsence, Dredd is a kind of aspergers guy who expresses his love for his freinds through meting out extreme violence to wrong doers. He might be a bit on the autistic spectrum, anyway, he doesn't give much away emotionly. That's not his thing. But he is good at serving up whuppass. I like the chap.

Lew Stringer said...

I'm not sure about that, Ben. Writer Alan Grant, who has penned many Dredd stories has called him an "authoritarian fascist bastsrd" so if he says so that's it.

benpeter johnson said...

Well i cant argue with that. Fair enough

ChanneZeroX said...

Apologies for the length of this comment, but I just got to thinking.

It's an interesting point re: fascism. In layman's terms yes, Dredd's very much a symbol of the fascia, the binding of frail sticks into one to make them stronger, each individual ostensibly baring only a sliver of the brunt of the full hammer of life, of crime, of whatever. What I think Dredd shows up however is the illusion of this allegory, the idea that it's for the good and protection of everybody that the Judge system prevails. It's a painful read, in many ways, despite the gallows humour, and so it should be.

Alan Moore is known lately for taking a far harder stance on superheroes than ever before, a real series of triphammer sorties on the ulterior motives and fallout behind such creations as Superman, Batman (a superhero in every aspect bar physical powers), and 'facism' seems to be the term he applies most liberally too them.

I'm inclined to agree, and it will never be a popular take on the phenomenon, because in so many ways they represent what we most want to be, whereas the villains- or worse yet the mentors relegated to the sidelines- are what we are meant to be afraid of being: physically 'compromised'.

In some ways Dredd is an antidote to the Superman, albeit only superficially- he could essentially still physically be Clark Kent or Bruce Wayne beneath the helmet, if you wanted him to be- and as for the despotism, well, we're meant to secretly suspect he could always be rehabilitated, be turned to the light by the love of a good woman. That's why we really root for him- he's not really bad, he's just drawn that way.

I also happen to agree with Moore's contention that the movie 300- adapted from the comic book of a man I suspect has had a desperate psychological collapse some twenty years ago he's never recovered from, nor been offered support with- is perhaps the most depraved and cowardly cinematic work in recent memory, a cruel a indolent vision those whose skin is any shade darker than bronze, who are physically misshapen, or have taken to cavorting in feminine accoutrements, are morally depraved and unfit for survival. I feel these are dangerous times, closer to Mega City One than we would dare to think.

I raise a glass to the Megazine, but not entirely with the cocksure smirk old Tharg would wish from us.


Duncan Steele said...

I wonder how many people in 2015 actually remember John Selwyn Gummer and the reasons why he is mad about lentils in the Megazine? A little bit of politics there, yes indeedy.

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