Prog 601 – Eldster Vigilante Mud-Wrestling Ninjas

Story: Eldster Vigilante Mud-Wrestling Ninjas
Appears: 2000AD Prog 601
Issues: 1
Writers: Alan Grant
Art: Vanyo
Dated: 19 November 1988

Is it a statement about contemporary crimes against the elderly?
Or just an excuse to make simplistic jokes about the hard of hearing?
You do wonder what could have been done with a few more issues though.

Prog 600 – The Power of the Gods

Story: The Power of the Gods
Appears: 2000AD Prog 600
Issues: 1
Writers: Alan Grant
Art: Glenn Fabry
Dated: 29 October 1988

It’s not a new idea but testament to the setting that Dredd is flexible enough to handle a story that is solely humorous. It is in the vein of Genie (Prog 514) or Navel Manoeuvres (Prog 516) and is easy to brush out of the Dredd canon. You can see more than a touch of Douglas Adams in the Alan Grant written story. 

Prog 577 – The Sage

Story: The Sage
Appears: 2000AD Prog 577
Issues: 1
Writers: John Wagner and Alan Grant
Art: Glenn Fabry
Dated: 04 June 1988

Is it another disposable story tainted by orientalism? Not nearly as bad as the Stan Lee or Warlord episodes thankfully. And there is a humorous message at the end. Maybe some enlightenment is being reached.

Progs 545 to 570 – Oz

Story: Oz
Appears: 2000AD Progs 545-570
Issues: 26
Writers: John Wagner and Alan Grant
Art: Cliff Robinson, Jim Baikie, Gary Leach, Brendan McCarthy, Will Simpson, Steve Dillon, Barry Kitson, John Higgins
Dated: 24 October 1987 to 16 April 1988

There is no doubt that Wagner and Grant do their best work in the longer format and this is a real beauty. It has been a while since we have seen an epic length tale. Not since we last saw Chopper in the Midnight Surfer in fact.

Marlon Shakespeare makes a superb protagonist because he is the closest thing to normal the mega-city has. He isn’t a criminal but is criminalised by the system he lives within. He makes a superb point of view character for the reader and it is so easy to empathise with his struggle. There is no time-travel, alien, supernatural gimmick in his stories and as such we can easily transpose his struggles to our own.

Just like the Midnight Surfer we have a slow build up with plenty of room to let the story breathe and grow. The narration is superbly poetic and there are plenty of human touchstones along the way from his childhood friend to fans on the street.

It is not all rosy however. There are number of racial stereotypes ranging from the lazy to the offensive. At one point there is even a note from the editor to explain that these views do not represent 2000AD. The injection of the second storyline, the Judda, seems unplanned and uncoordinated, possibly as a filler for some delayed script or art, even though it is quite a significant addition to the Dredd canon.

The ending itself is just breath-taking. The actual race is sustained over six nail-biting issues with a spot-on commentary that reads like the greatest Derby ever seen. Best of all Chopper doesn’t have the trite hero’s victory you would expect from a kid’s comic. And the last few pages where he faces death are absolutely electric.

This is probably the most sophisticated and greatest Dredd story to date.

Prog 542 – Corporal Punishment

Story: Corporal Punishment
Appears: 2000AD Prog 542
Issues: 1
Writers: John Wagner and Alan Grant
Art: Liam Sharp
Dated: 3 October 1987

In a single issue we have a dig at a scandalised MP of the time, a debate on corporal punishment, the timeless theme of juveniles not respecting their parents, and the horror of power in the hands of a child. And the wonderful paradox of Dredd saying ‘violence breeds violence’ except in the case of the Judges. A most Orwellian ‘some are more equal’ concept.

Progs 540 to 541 – The Return of Death Fist

Story: The Return of Death Fist
Appears: 2000AD Progs 540-541
Issues: 2
Writers: John Wagner and Alan Grant
Art: Barry Kitson
Dated: 19 September 1987 to 26 September 1987

Oh no, more racism. It is quite a reasonable story, despite poor dialogue, and does have a spot on ending. But the racial slurs make it toxic. In what is becoming a trend they hint at a future follow-up story so it looks like we won’t get to put this unpleasantness behind us.