Friday, December 3, 2010

Outta the way, Gorps... Pole-Axe is coming through!

In 1981 I was nine years old. Meself and the Da were in Kilbarrack newsagents:

"Do you want anthin'?"

"Can I get a comic?"

"All right...pick one, and don't be all day"

Pick one? Pick ONE? Back in the mists of time, every newsagent had a dizzying array of comics: there was Iron man and the Fantastic Four and Spiderman and Thor and Batman and Superman (probably) and Beano and Whizzer and Chips and the Dandy and Roy of the Bleedin' Rovers and Battle and Warlord and Beezer and Hotspur and Action.

Pick one?

Not an easy task: Comic-purchase, for me, was not a weekly thing. And I think, at this stage, I'd been burnt by a few sporadic marvel purchases; (the art was good, and I knew who the Heroes were but the soap opera plots were often ridiculously drawn out complex affairs. They were peppered with references to characters and events I had no idea about, and often accompanied by irritating useless asterisks requiring me to refer to Comics I didn't have*).

(see issue 497*).

Also, I'd grown out of the 'Joke Funnies' Beano-type stuff, and wasn't really ready for the ''young teen one's, like 'Look-in'.

I'm sure that nothing had a free gift, because if they had've had, then that's what I would've picked off the shelf... and instead the one I picked off the shelf was 2000ad Prog 205 ('Prog' was the futuristic version of what Marvel comics called 'Ish').

I suppose it wouldn't look like much if I had it now...
In common with almost all the English comics of the time, 2000ad was printed on Newspaper and only had a colour cover and colour centre pages. It wasn't glossy and none of the heroes' were anyone you'd ever heard of,

2000ad rocked my existence.

The art was fantastic, visions of hell by Jesus Redondo (definitely brought up catholic), Carlos Ezquerra's ability to draw an entire universe to look as if it hadn't shaven, Belardenelli's striking cover and animal-people inside and best of all, There was not one but TWO self-contained stories! One was a kind of twilight-zone number with a curse from beyond the grave: "EASY'S GONNA KILL YA!" and the other was the JUDGE DREDD story

'Alone in a crowd'

I've a friend who works in a library. They don't believe that comics really belong there.
They do. They definately do, for never mind your long and complex graphic novels, if a six pager like 'alone in a crowd' could resonate with me then and still do so to this day, then they belong.

Some context:

Some black people had moved to Donaghmede. I remember they went to mass and didn't seem to know the words. I remember there was a girl in the family a little older than me and I remember she went to our school. I remember seeing her attacked repeatedly by kids on our way out of the gates and I remember doing nothing about it. I remember wanting to explain to her that the scumbags who jumped on her only did so because they felt they could: because that's what little scumbags did to anybody that they saw as 'different'. I didn't. I didn't because I didn't want to be next.

I remember they moved away pretty quickly.

The one-off Judge Dredd story 'alone in a crowd' begins in an overpopulated city where muggers are just pulling victims randomly from a sea of commuters, to steal from and brutally assault, and they are able to do so with impunity because every commuter walking by has the same thought: 'Not me next... please don't pick on me' and are simply relieved to get by the gang without being chosen.
Judge Dredd comes to the rescue and catches the gang and 'opens a can of Whuppas' and so they get their just desserts but,- the end of the story brings us back to the cowardly citizen walking by. He doesn't know if what he's witnessing is 'justice' or simple police brutality and he doesn't want to know:

he just doesn't want to be next.

Suffice to say PROG 205 made me think.

And that's why I've known since I was nine years old that comics can be as resonant as any branch of Art or Literature. Don't get me wrong, they usually aren't, but they can be.

My name is Darren Maher and you have been reading: 'Things and also Stuff',

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