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.

Progs 531 to 533 – Revolution

Story: Revolution
Appears: 2000AD Progs 531-533
Issues: 3
Writers: John Wagner and Alan Grant
Art: John Higgins
Dated: 18 July 1987 to 1 August 1987

This is possibly the most grown-up Dredd story ever. Maybe too grown up for a children’s comic.

Here is the Justice Department at its most underhand and controversial. It really makes you wonder if they have crossed the line completely and they are only selfishly serving their own agenda. Which is one of the duties of art, to make you think and question. There is no doubt that the techniques that the Judges employ will have been used by real world powers. Its scary stuff indeed and superbly demonstrates just how much narrative range the writers have within the setting.

Progs 494 to 495 – Phantom of the Shoppera

Story: Phantom of the Shoppera
Appears: 2000AD Progs 494-495
Issues: 2
Writers: John Wagner and Alan Grant
Art: John Higgins
Dated: 1 November 1986 to 8 November 1986

A real classic, this two issue story has some mystery, some action, and some absurdity – all perfect for Mega-city one. We have seen crazy robot stories many times but this is far more engaging and emotional. The fact we see a male victim being kidnapped instead of the usual female one is a spark of brilliance and creativity rarely seen 1980’s comics.

Prog 480 – Russell’s Inflatable Muscles

Story: Russell’s Inflatable Muscles
Appears: 2000AD Prog 480
Issues: 1
Writers: John Wagner and Alan Grant
Art: John Higgins
Dated: 26 July 1986

We first heard of Russell’s Inflatable Muscles back in Prog 430 in the Nosferatu storyline. Now we meet the man himself.

This Pokes fun at the “Build Muscles Fast” advertisements that appeared in comics of the period and the success and commercialisation of bodybuilder Charles Atlas amongst others. As well as playing up the stereotype that comics readers may have been a little weak and nerdy.

Prog 460 – Letter From a Democrat

Story: Letter From a Democrat
Appears: 2000AD Prog 460
Issues: 1
Writers: John Wagner and Alan Grant
Art: John Higgins
Dated: 8 March 1986

Contrast this story with the previous one. Plot wise they are virtually identical. But narratively this is so much more sophisticated and emotional. Previously you would have been on the side of the Judges and now you have real empathy for the protestors. Maybe the two stories were deliberately juxtaposed to illustrate the “one man’s freedom fighter…” adage.

This tiny tale is the birth of a significant storyline that will appear in the future.

Prog 456 – Beggars’ Banquet

Story: Beggars’ Banquet
Appears: 2000AD Prog 456
Issues: 1
Writers: John Wagner and Alan Grant
Art: John Higgins
Dated: 8 February 1986

You can do a lot with a single issue story but more often the writers do a little instead. We take another trip into the undercity which is still fascinating but not overused. As always we end with the victims of crime almost as persecuted by the law as the criminals.