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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Mighty One: A mighty fine read

Books on the history of British comics are rare these days, especially any written by people who were on the inside who actually experienced that history first hand. When I heard that Steve MacManus was writing his autobiography about his time editing 2000AD I was eagerly looking forward to it, and now it's out it doesn't disappoint. 

The Mighty One: My Life Inside the Nerve Centre is published by Rebellion (current owners of 2000AD, and who recently acquired the rights to a huge portion of classic UK titles). With each chapter covering a year of his comics career, Steve takes us on a journey through an important era in British comics. It begins in 1973, with the traditional comics starting to wane, and tells how dynamic new titles such as Battle Picture Weekly, Action, and 2000AD shook up the industry. On its basic level, it's a history many of us are already familiar with, but told from Steve's position on staff it adds depth and reveals new insights into that exciting time. 

It's an absorbing read, and Steve's easy going writing style carries the reader through the years with entertaining anecdotes and informative recollections. There's a couple of instances where he's misremembered little bits, but that's to be expected when covering memories of 40 years ago. (The mistakes are hardly worth mentioning, but to be pedantic, Steve's anecdote about meeting Jim Steranko and later falling asleep in the cinema during the screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey at the 1981 London Comic Con actually happened at the 1979 Comic Con in Birmingham. I know because I was having a kip in the row in front of Steve and the 2000AD crew. Back in those days, conventions would have all-night film shows just for the benefit of attendees who hadn't booked a hotel room.) He also mis-credits the creation of Dennis the Menace to Leo Baxendale, instead of Ian Chisholm and Davy Law, but as Steve never worked on humour comics we'll forgive him for that.

Steve was the editor of 2000AD during the period that many of us regard as its golden age; the early years when it began to find its mojo and develop beyond being just another boys adventure comic. (Not that it was ever just another comic of course. The potential was there from Prog 1.) He oversaw the arrival of strips such as Nemesis the Warlock, SkizzThe A.B.C. Warriors, and creators such as Alan Moore. The book also covers the development of the new wave of comics for older readers; Crisis, Revolver, and the enduring Judge Dredd Megazine, all created under Steve's watch. 

There's often speculation and naivety from some fans about the whys and wherefores of the comics industry so books such as this are essential to put the facts straight. That it's told in an relaxed, engaging way is a bonus, making it a pleasure to read. A treat for anyone genuinely interested in comics history, The Mighty One is a must-buy. 

The Mighty One: My Life Inside the Nerve Centre by Steve MacManus. 
300 pages including 16 pages of photos and illustrations. 
Published by Rebellion. R.R.P. £9.99 (paperback version).


Twitter @mlpasterisk said...

Picked up a signed copy in Forbidden Planet and read the whole thing in one go. Terrific read, highly recommended.

Crispynev said...

Mine's on order and I'm looking forward to it all the more after your fine review.

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