Prog 574 – Simp About the House

Story: Simp About the House
Appears: 2000AD Prog 574
Issues: 1
Writers: John Wagner and Alan Grant
Art: Cliff Robinson
Dated: 14 May 1988

Simping returns (from Prog 527) as we were told it would. It’s nice to see characters and storylines return as it makes the world seem more coherent and less as disposable entertainment.

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 527 – Simp

Story: Simp
Appears: 2000AD Prog 527
Issues: 1
Writers: John Wagner and Alan Grant
Art: Cliff Robinson
Dated: 20 June 1987

Another outlandish craze for the Mega-city. Maybe there is moral message here too but we are probably too distracted by the canoe.

Interestingly it advertises a follow-up story that would not appear for more than six months.

Prog 489 – Block Rite

Story: Block Rite
Appears: 2000AD Prog 489
Issues: 1
Writers: John Wagner and Alan Grant
Art: Cliff Robinson
Dated: 27 September 1986

This is a great little story that shows Dredd isn’t just a fascist robot but does look at the bigger picture. There is a great gag about the block names although overly explaining it lessens the value. Some great art by Robinson.

Prog 457 – Chief Judge Resigns

Story: Chief Judge Resigns
Appears: 2000AD Prog 457
Issues: 1
Writers: John Wagner and Alan Grant
Art: Cliff Robinson
Dated: 15 February 1986

Here we see the fallout from The Warlord (Progs 451-455) and get a tiny glimpse into the leadership of the Justice Department. With some familiar faces being appointed to the Council of Five we might get some interesting stories in future.

Prog 434 – West Side Rumble

Story: West Side Rumble
Appears: 2000AD Prog 434
Issues: 1
Writers: John Wagner and Alan Grant
Art: Cliff Robinson
Dated: 7 September 1985

A Westside Story parody sung in rhyme complete with Judge Krupke. It is definitely a new direction and predating Joss Whedon’s musical TV episodes. There are lot of in-jokes and references to composers as well as the source material. A great idea.