Thrill-Power Overload: A History of the British Comic 2000 AD

Saturday, February 18th, 2017 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

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I love comic book history. I’ve got a few books at home of the golden and silver age of American comics I reread every so often.

I recently got the chance to check out Thrill-Power Overload, the history of the British comic book series 2000AD in honor of their 40th anniversary.

I usually read only American comics, but over the last two years, I’ve been reading 2000AD and Judge Dredd comics, both the recent ones, and some of the their collected volumes, so this was a timely discovery for me, and a fascinating one.

2000AD was an experiment when it launched in 1977. British comic books were weekly publications, and not glossy, and until the launch of 2000AD, they were very much targeting younger readers with pretty tame, conservative stories with production and artistic values that didn’t even credit the creators.

2000AD‘s editorial and creative team had a vision of a far edgier anthology science fiction comic book, one whose tone I can best describe as punk rock sensibilities seen in sequential story, or an anti-authoritarianism giving the finger to the world. The creators of the time call the tone comedy and violence.

It featured genetically-engineered soldiers, robot fighters (and fighting robots), soldiers, assassins, and most importantly, Judge Dredd, a futuristic police officer of centuries in the future, stopping crime in the combined roles of police, judge and executioner.
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2000AD’s The Complete Futureshocks, Volume 1

Saturday, April 14th, 2018 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

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In my ongoing study of comic history and the craft of comic storytelling, I’ve looked at the history of 2000AD, Alan Moore’s Halo Jones, and the density of comic layouts, in part because as a novelist and short story writer, I’m trying to learn things from other story forms. And comics have a lot to teach me about pacing, conciseness and story density.

And in no place are stories more dense than in 2000AD‘s Futureshocks. These are stories that range in length from 1.5 pages to 4 pages (basically 6-20 panels). Luckily for me, 2000AD is issuing a collection of their first 5 years of Futureshocks in The Complete Futureshocks Volume 1, and they sent me a review copy.

The Complete Futureshocks Volume 1 is over 300 pages of comics, which by my rough count is about 80 individual stories ranging in length from 1.5 – 4 pages, with a few rare ones that stretched across two issues and totalled 6-8 pages.

What did I learn from all these very brief science fiction stories? A few things.

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1970s Horror Comics, Old and New: Eerie and Bloke’s Terrible Tomb of Terror

Saturday, October 28th, 2017 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

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In time for coincidence with Hallowe’en, a friend recently pointed me at Bloke’s Terrible Tomb of Terror, a magazine walking in the path of such 1970s Warren horror magazines as Creepy and Eerie. I picked up a pdf copy just before the etsy store went on a bit of a break while The Bloke (Jason Crawley) moves house and shop. (30 October, 2017: The Bloke’s site is back up and I just bought two more issues at the online shop.)

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I was really only a superhero guy and a light Marvel horror/monster guy (Son-of-Satan (blogged about here), It, Strange Tales) when I was 10-15 years old, so the Warren style wasn’t really my bag back then.

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Early Peek at 2000AD Prog #2050: A Jumping-On Issue

Saturday, September 16th, 2017 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

2000AD is a weekly anthology book, typically with 4 stories running at a time, with some at the middle while others are ending, which makes it hard to find a meaty run to review. Several times a year, 2000AD publishes issues (pronounced progs if you’re speaking with a British accent) for new people to jump on — where every story is beginning.

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Prog #2050 is such an issue and will be hitting newsstand (and the internet as a digital issue) on September 25th, so I thought I’d get into it. This was a large-sized issue (48 pages) and contained 7 new stories that you don’t have to know much at all about the world of 2000AD to start reading.

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Breaking Into Comics as a Writer: Mucho Opportunities

Sunday, April 30th, 2017 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

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I knew I wanted to be a writer basically when I learned how to write in English. That might have been as young as grade two, but certainly by grade three (I was in immersion school so we learned to read and write in French first).

My mother gave me my first four comic books in the summer between grades four and five, and I remember making plans with my best friend Eric (who liked to draw) about us making comics together.

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When People Say the British Invasion of Comics, What Do They Really Mean?

Saturday, April 1st, 2017 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

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I think it’s a truism that either you have no taste as a child (The Golden Age of Science Fiction Is Ages 8-12 Effect) or that you just haven’t read enough to be discerning.

I think I’ve certainly suffered from being 12 as well as not having read enough. There are books and comics I read when younger that don’t do anything for me in my forties.

And there are good books and comics whose tropes have been so over-used that they’ve moved into the cliché.

That all being said, I think some good work was being done in American comics in the 1980s. Chris Claremont, J.M. DeMattis, George Perez, Walt Simonson, John Byrne, Marv Wolfman, Peter David and many others were delivering solid, A-level work. And younger folk like Frank Miller were bringing decidedly different sensibilities and tones to American comics.

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The Top 50 Black Gate Posts in February

Friday, March 24th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

2000AD Free Comic Day-smallBack in December, Derek Kunsken’s enthusiastic review of Star Wars: Rogue One, “I Am One With the Force and the Force Is With Me,” shot up to #2 on our monthly traffic chart. Last month he claimed the #1 slot, and he didn’t need a blockbuster film to make it happen — he did it the old fashioned way, with a book review. The book in question was Thrill-Power Overload: A History of the British Comic 2000 AD, a detailed history of the legendary comic that launched Judge Dredd, Alan Moore’s D.R. and Quinch, Sláine, Rogue Trooper, Strontium Dog and countless others. Check it out.

Number 2 on the list for February was Mark Finn’s report on the Kickstarter for the first Skelos Press anthology, Chicken Fried Cthulhu, followed by Violette Malan’s survey of My Top Five Sword-Fight Movies, our obituary for GDW founder Loren Wiseman, and Andrew Zimmerman Jones’ interview with Paizo mastermind and Creative Director of their new Starfinder RPG, James L. Sutter.

Howard Andrew Jones’ review of one of his favorite recent games, the solitaire-suitable WWII simulation Heroes of Normandy, came in at #6 for February. At #7 was our report on the new Literary Wonder & Adventure Podcast from Robert Zoltan and his talking raven — featuring a lengthy interview with Black Gate‘s own Ryan Harvey on one of his favorite topics, Edgar Rice Burroughs. And close on its heels was our announcement of the 2017 Nebula Award Nominations.

Rounding out the Top Ten were Steven Brust’s summary of Five Roger Zelazny Books that Changed His Life, and Fletcher Vredenburgh’s January Short Story Roundup.

The complete list of Top Articles for February follows. Below that, I’ve also broken out the most popular overall articles, online fiction, and blog categories for the month.

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The Company That Time Will Never Forget: A Visit to Edgar Rice Burroughs, Incorporated

Thursday, April 11th, 2013 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

ERB Inc Thark StatueIn the waning days of March 2013, I made a trip I should’ve taken years before. I’ve lived in Los Angeles since I was four, became a fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs in my teens, but never thought about taking the jaunt on the I-405 into the Valley to visit the office of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. I knew the office was there; that part of the Valley didn’t get the name “Tarzana” by accident. But it wasn’t until after working for three years writing numerous articles about Burroughs’s books and movies based on them that I realized the opportunity in plain sight — actually, over the hill. I looked up the company’s website, found a phone number, and gave the office a call, wondering what might come of it. A pleasant-sounding woman answered the phone, and after I provided her only a sentence of explanation (ERB fan, live in L.A., would like to write something about the company for an online magazine), she cheerfully told me to call the president of the company, James J. Sullos Jr., and gave me his cell phone number. Another call later — and a half-hour of quality fan talk with Mr. Sullos — and I had an appointment to come out to the offices and have lunch with him and Cathy Wilbanks, the company archivist and executive assistant.

What follows is a brief record of that delayed visit. I would love to present myself to you as ERB often did, a fictional version of Ryan Harvey who discovered this account in a bottle that washed ashore from Caspak, or communicated via Gridley Wave from Helium on Mars. But no, it was just me, a humble fan who took some notes and stared in awe at… well, I’ll get to that.

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AVATAR flies high; SKULLS is on the way…

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009 | Posted by John R. Fultz

SOARING ON THE WINGS OF MYTH:
James Cameron’s AVATAR revels in the grand traditions of fantasy

 The other day I slipped on a pair of 3-D glasses and was transported to a primordial world of alien beauty and high adventure. I was watching James Cameron’s new film AVATAR, which has become a full-fledged cultural phenomenon. Much has been made of the film’s absolute perfection of special effects because Cameron creates a fantasy world that is truly believable. Thanks to his breakthroughs in computer-generated imagery and sheer breadth of imagination, AVATAR is more than a mere film… it’s an EXPERIENCE.

SKULLS starts right here at blackgate.com on Jan. 6

SKULLS starts right here at blackgate.com on Jan. 6

Comparisons to other blockbuster fantasy/sci-fi films are inevitable. Everything George Lucas attempted to do in his three STAR WARS prequels, Cameron actually succeeds at, i.e. building a fully realized and eminently believable fantasy world that is breathtaking in scope and packed with sheer wonder. But that perfection of simulated reality, that ability to make the fantastical seem genuine was NOT what I enjoyed most about this movie.

All the visual flair would be meaningless if the film didn’t draw upon the classic power and inspiration of the great fantasy tales. AVATAR is a fantasy fan’s ultimate cinematic experience. The fact that this fantasy is wrapped in the guise of science fiction only makes it more appealing and marktable to the average moviegoing audience. Both sci-fi and fantasy fans will be enraptured by the AVATAR experience.

thorsflight Cameron’s inspirations for AVATAR span the gamut of everything from Edgar Rice Burroughs’ BARSOOM (John Carter of Mars) stories to Lucas’ STAR WARS (which were inspired by FLASH GORDON comic strips, among others), to the deep myths of the Old West, stone-age adventures, Jungle Tales comics, American Indian mythology, and wraps it all in a lush visual style worthy of the master Frank Frazetta himself.

One of the tropes Cameron plays with in this story–to great visual and emotional effect–is the riding of winged creatures by the Na’vi alien warriors.

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