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Prog 2246 Regened - It's a Monster

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Well, another Regened arrives.  As with previous RP's (Regened Progs), this does feel like a bit of a mixed bag.  There are clear strengths and potential returners.  We've had stronger ones but there are enough positives for it to have a shot at strong runner up.

Cadet Dredd - The Block With No Name.  A bit of an Oliver Twist type tale from Johnson and Redhead.  A nice variation on the normal theme exploring Rico's slow descent.  In some respects it also harks back to the early days of Dredd as a 'one and done'.  Possibly the weaker strip of this prog but mainly because of some of what follows.

Mayflies - The Way Forward.  Carroll and Coleby rather unsurprisingly is the stand-out for this issue.  Coleby is clearly making the world of Rogue Trooper his own between this and Jaegir.  Teague's colour palette is an interesting choice in comparison with that of the Jaegir strip, muted and simple.  Carroll's plot is also politically timely.

'Splorers - Rennie, Beeby and Googe's Survival Geeks spin-off is another that shows potential.  The relative predictability of the plot is offset by the usual selection of in-jokes from nerd culture.  As usual, Googe's artistic sensibilities serve the tale well.

Future Shocks - an interesting tale from Stock and Roberts.  FS's are, as we all know, notoriously difficult despite the simple format.  You know, set up a scenario, throw in a bit of action and then deliver a punchline that has potentially been telegraphed from the word go and seems obvious at the end but ties everything off neatly.  To be fair it does this well.

Chopper - Barnett and Roche take this back to the earliest days of the character and the strip is replete with nods to his first appearance.  In honesty on a first reading it left me cold.  Going back to it again though, it's clearly a stronger strip than it appears.  Once the fourth wall is left alone and it concentrates on telling its tale properly it works far better.  Roche's artwork is well suited to it.

As we've previously said, Regened is starting to find a more consistent voice.  We now have a growing body of material that has potential for future development.  It also feels like artistically the RP is finding a more consistent feel, balancing the sensibilities of a chronologically diverse audience with that of the strips themselves. 

Given the steady development trajectory it may well be that it won't be long before this becomes strong enough to try to spin off and run on its own.  Mind you, as has been frequently observed around these parts, that would be quite a challenge in the current media landscape. 

Cover by Steve Roberts:

Cover and Logo:

From a newsletter by John Freeman related to the regen prog:

The Perils of Doing Nothing
Why British comics publishers reinvent their characters

This week, British comics publisher Rebellion releases their latest 2000AD Regened “All Ages Takeover” edition of the weekly SF comic, the third of four this year. The title’s editorial team are clearly, and, quite rightly, in my view, determined to ensure the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic’s continued success, by trying to attract new readers.

The new issue, on sale in newsagents and comic shops this Wednesday has, sadly, prompted some criticism from older 2000AD fans, a vocal few complaining that the Regened project is a waste of their galactic groats.

I beg to differ. Quite apart from the fact that we’re talking just four issues a year devoted to this reinvention of classic 2000AD characters, and some new ones introduced, too, how is any long-running comic going to survive if it doesn’t shake things up now and again, and do its best to attract new readers to join the many and varied ranks of the Squaxx dek Thargo who have been reading the title since it began, way back in 1977, myself included?

Lon-running, long established British comic characters face an ongoing challenge to continue to be a commercial success. Especially as the property ages, and the vehicles for their continued success - principally, weekly cover to cover comic-strip dominated publications - are few and far between, largely supplanted by license-driven, more magazine format titles. A change that began to really gather pace in the 1980s after the earlier success of Star Wars Weekly, and is now hard to challenge on the news stand. (There are other factors, but I won’t get into things like distribution and marketing costs here).

To be absolutely blunt, the core audience for 2000AD, the much appreciated longtime fan who was there when Judge Dredd and Strontium Dog were young, aren’t getting any younger, and that’s inevitably a worry for the owners of the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic, who have invested heavily in the title’s long term commercial success. They need to keep picking up new readers to do that, which is what the 2000AD Regened project, offering new takes in much-liked, long running characters, hopes to achieve.

Let’s be realistic here. When it comes to the original fandom of other long standing British comic characters and titles, we’re literally, sadly, seeing them vanish as time marches on. The first fans of Dan Dare’s who followed the popular character in the original Eagle are in their eighties, or older. Consequently, attracting a commercially viable new following is hard if you’re seeking to rely on that valued but now smaller core support. I should know; I was heavily involved in developing the Dan Dare Audio Adventures project and trust me, we darn well tried to make it work, and gained welcome critical acclaim for it. But not, unfortunately, enough commercial traction to keep it going.

The same is happening with the fandom for 1960s comics like TV Century 21, although the properties that inspired it, like Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet, remain “evergreen”.

Right now, the “nostalgia factor”, commercially, is currently more attuned to the 1980s, as evidenced by the success of TV series such as Stranger Things. Just last week, I listened in on an auction as bids on a small set of Terrahawks slides went way beyond estimated bids - and far and away much higher than other lots for earlier Gerry Anderson series you’d have thought would have attracted the greater hammer price.

Reinvention, while respecting the core values of a character that made them a success in the first place, is key to continuing commercial success for longtime comics properties, in my opinion. And while I’m being blunt, without that commercial success, you won’t have the source material for future fandom, in all its disparate forms, to reminisce and argue about ten, twenty years and beyond. Because it simply won’t be getting published.

Disney understands this. Hasbro, owners of Transformers, understand this. DC Thomson Media and Beano Studios get this, and their reinvention of their weekly humour comic, BEANO, while holding true to the core of characters like Dennis and Minnie the Minx, first published in the 1950s, has paid off with weekly average sales of 58,000, the highest they’ve been in ten years or so.

So yes, I get why 2000AD are experimenting with Regened, although it’s my feeling that the project would be better served by a new comic from Rebellion, but any hopes for that - and surely, the company must have been considering it - were bushwacked by a little thing called the Pandemic. (Personally, I’d actually love to see a new Buster or Whizzer and Chips before a new adventure comic, but that’s my nostalgia head talking, not playing to Rebellion’s strengths).

Rebellion have successfully reinvented Roy of the Rovers, so it makes absolute commercial good sense to try to do the same for 2000AD, its tent pole title. I wish them every success.

I wasn’t sure about this one. It wasn’t bad, but it lacked spark. ’Splorers was the best strip for me. It was breezy and fun, and had a nice slice of anarchy about it. The strip also struck me as one that could work well in a series, given that it could go anywhere. The Future Shock clicked for me as well.

In the middle was Mayflies, which feels a bit out of place somehow. I’m not sure why. I suspect frequency is the problem—this feels very much like part two of a six-issue run, but when those parts might be months or even a year apart, momentum becomes an enemy. Then again, there’s no reason this couldn’t fit into the regular Prog, and then be compiled in a subsequent Regened trade, assuming those are selling well.

Unfortunately, both Dreddworld tales left me cold. Chopper certainly has potential, but this version seemed sanitised. It lacked spirit and the hero didn’t seem to have much rebellious nature in him. He seemed too safe, with his actions only propelled by feeling forced to help others. I know that angle does exist in Chopper, but this felt like all the edges had been removed.

Dredd, though, came off very odd for me. It’s not that the story was bad—it really wasn’t. The storytelling was coherent. It made sense. The minor twist at the end worked and recalls Dredd’s social conscience from later strips. So it all held together very well in that sense. The problem for me is as the lead strip, it just doesn’t make sense for me. Dredd in the original 2000 AD was always an extreme satire—a product of the 1970s, which then evolved into something smarter.

What is this Dredd, and how does he align with young readers? In a Beano analogy, it’s more like a comic’s lead strip being Walter (Obey the law! Don’t step out of line!) than Dennis. Perhaps it’s working and kids are into it. But in lacking the energy and anarchy of classic-era Dredd and being so straight-laced, I find it a strange one. Then again, who else would be the figurehead, other than Dredd, in this comic—although does it even need one? Nice cover, though, with a hint of Paul Peart.

’Splorers > Future Shock > Mayflies > Cadet Dredd > Chopper


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