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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

30 Year Flashback: 2000 AD arrives!

This week, 2000 AD celebrates its 30th anniversary. The official birthday being yesterday, 26th February. Even the comic's fictitious alien editor "Tharg" stated in the current issue "...on 26th February 1977, I first launched this blistering publication onto Thrill-merchants' shelves".

Unfortunately Mighty Tharg and the celebratory UK media are a tad off. February 26th was only the cover date of issue one, and it actually went on sale a week before that, on February 19th. (Or, officially, as seen in the ad above, Feb 21st).

No matter. It's the longevity of the comic that's important, and 2000 AD has beaten the predictions of its original management (who expected it to fail) and seen off every other adventure weekly published since. By my reckoning it's one of the longest-running UK adventure weeklies. (Tiger managed 31 years, but even the respected Eagle only ran to 19 years first time around.) That's an achievement that every one of its many contributors and editors should be proud of.

Actually, Feb 26th is a birthday for the comic because it marks the 30th anniversary of Judge Dredd, who didn't arrive until issue two. Dredd has remained in the comic throughout, featuring in constantly strong and entertaining stories. Strange that many readers still consider the character to be a hero when the writer himself (John Wagner) has called him a "bastard". Whilst it's true that Dredd does do heroic things sometimes, and believes he's doing everything for the greater good, the true appeal of the strip is the social and political satire of its harsh police state presented in a darkly comic way.

I won't harp on here about 2000 AD's highs and lows as countless articles have already been written on the comic. What I have managed to find though is the original four page advert for the launch, which appeared in Battle comic in early February 1977. Notice how frantic the hype on that ad is, really making the comic sound exciting (as indeed it was). Note also how although the ad pages are busy they're not cluttered like the design of today's children's comics. Whatever happened to design that's lively but has clarity? Also shown here are a selection of early issues, the Dan Dare centrespread by Belladinelli from issue one, and Dredd's first dynamic appearance from issue two.

2000 AD was a very different comic thirty years ago, and aimed at a younger readership back then, but it's the evolution the comic has undergone that's kept it going. That said, it's still retained the same mixture of black comedy, satire, and imaginative plotting it's always had. Or to call the ingredients by what they've always been known: Thrill Power!

The official 2000 AD website can be found here. The 30th anniversary issue is published tomorrow (Wednesday 28th Feb) priced £2.

UPDATE: The original tv ad for 2000 AD can be viewed on YouTube here:


Anonymous said...

JD might not have "arrived" until no.2, but wasn't he shown in no.1 'throttling up' in a small advert for the next issue? If there's ever a 2000AD edition of Trivial Pursuit I bet that'd be one of the first questions asked!

- Phil Rushton

Lew Stringer said...

Very true Phil, Dredd was indeed shown in a "next issue" box in No.1. Although his first comic appearance must be in the advert reproduced here, which appeared in Battle several days before 2000 AD No.1 came out.

Now THAT'S trivial. ;-)


Joe said...

Lew, this is a great spread of classic images, thanks for posting them up - hope you don't mind, I pinched the Dan Dare to stick on a quick post on the FPI blog to tell folks to come on over and have a look at your pic spread. Those Belardinelli strips were the first comics that really messed with my mind, they were just so different from anything else my ten year old mind had seen. Who'd have thought 30 years later it would still be going and I'd be writing about it for a living??

Lew Stringer said...

I don't mind at all Joe. Thanks! The more visits the merrier.

I must admit I never expected 2000 AD to last this long either. It's a fantastic achievement when you consider that most 1970s IPC adventure launches lasted around 22 issues! (Thunder, Jet, Starlord, Tornado...).


Anonymous said...

Wow... I remember walking around wearing those "bionic man" stickers all over my arms when I was a kid!!!

Rammat said...

I loved the way 2000 AD was then. It's hideous today.

Pete Wells said...

Gotta disagree there Rammat, lots of people believe 2000AD is going through its second golden age. I've been a reader since Prog 1 and I don't think I've ever looked forward to a prog as much as I do now!

As for Prog 2's bionic stickers, I SWEAR they made me run faster!

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