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Looking back

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Retrospective musings on a wet Friday...Pretty faces and scary thumbs...

Henry Flint can draw whatever he wants, however he wants it, and I’ll probably still admire it, but his portrayal in Prog 2303 of Anderson as a high-heeled disco chick sent me back to the prehistoric days and Bolland’s Anderson’s first appearance – a high-heeled sexy-cool alternative to Dredd’s slab-faced action man.
Something I’d forgotten in the donkey’s years since I last read this is what a decent horror story it is.
(In respect to recent efforts: Hine’s and Percival’s Dominion/Deliverance is horrible in the nightmarish way intended, but it’s still horrible, and I’ve got squeamish in my old age.)

The very first Death story was before my time. I didn’t come on board until Judge Death Lives, and what impressed hell out of me then was not the spookiness but the carnage. There is, however, that scene where Judge Fear grabs hold of some jovial drunk and gives him an eyeful.* In close-up, Fear’s thumbs look like real thumbs, only scarier.
Horse-skull zombies and flamethrower skeletons and the like were great, but it wasn’t like I’d have been afraid to run into one in the street.
But those thumbs.
It was easy to imagine a thing with thumbs grabbing you by the face.

The first Judge Death story has something similar. Look at Death’s hands. They’re long-fingered, long-nailed, sinister-but-believable hands, and they’re reaching out to you, and if one of them touches you you’re dead.
And then later on we have the thing explaining itself from beyond the grave, with the sibilant esses and the dripping speech bubbles coming from Anderson’s perfect face.
I don’t know what effect this would have had on me when I was little, but damn me if it’s not good horror.
That Mr. Wagner could tell a good story. That Mr. Bolland could draw a fine picture.

So anyway, if anyone wants to turn this into a thread, consider the first appearance of something that has since become an institution, and let ‘er rip.**

*You know the one I mean.

**My apologies if this has been done to death in years gone by. If it has, please point me to it so I can while away the weary hours.

Hey, just wanted to say I really enjoyed reading this piece, would love to repsond in kind but coming up with insightful analysis turns out to take a bit of effort - more power to you!

100% agree that that first Judge Death sotry is an amazing bit of horror (even as it also reaches for some big laughs, too)

And so, after that slightest bit of encouragement, here is my first impression of the lead story in Prog 330:

A narrator telling us that this is the beginning of something epic.
A Conan the Barbarian type with a stone axe going toe to toe with a particularly nasty dinosaur.
Shaggy things engaging in human sacrifice on top of a huge dolmen which is a gate to the stars.
Great. A lot of interesting ways this could go.
The thing was though, this was 1983, and I expected nothing less from a new 2000ad story but that it should go in interesting ways. I’d been here more than two years and I’d seen Mega-City One nuked out. I’d seen talking animals with AK-47s. I’d seen naked crusaders battling giant spiders.
And I’d already bailed once on the Galaxy’s Greatest when, for a couple of weeks earlier that year, it had just about failed to thrill me as it had before. So the burden was on this Sláine to impress me, and do it fast.

The art was something new, and I have to say I liked it from the get-go. There was a children’s storybook feel to it, but with a hard edge, and with blood on that edge.
There was also the title font – proper Celtic swirly stuff. It looked great, but I remember having reservations. This was a British comic and it was trying to be Irish. Were they really serious with that long accent over the A of Sláine, or was it the equivalent of metal bands throwing umlauts around for show? (I’d just done three weeks in an Irish-language college and I was feeling possessive.)* I just hoped they weren’t going to get all leprechauny.
Reservations aside, this was a good enough story for my tastes, but what won my heart was the last panel. Sláine and Ukko are sitting in a barge filled with dung.
I’d been here more than two years and I thought I’d seen everything, but I’d never before seen excrement so unapologetically rendered.
What really won me though, was the narration that tells us that our heroes are on their way to the Land of the Young.
Had they called it just that, and left it at just that, I’d have been turned off. You see, Irish mythology, in which I was sort of half-versed, tends to portray the Land of the Young – Tír na nÓg – as a fairyland of diaphanous blondes poncing around on white horses and playing sweet music. Bo-ring.
But Ukko tells us that this Land of the Young is so called ‘because few grew to be old’.
It’s a long way from the storybooks.
And they’re sitting in shit.
The tone was set. I was in.

The story did take us in all sorts of directions in the coming years, and I didn’t care for all of them. But as someone has already pointed out on this forum, all that time-travelling, dark-gods stuff was advertised right there on the first page.
And the last page is shit-ridden death foretold, so of course I was going to buy the next prog.

*I had no notion as to how the name really should be pronounced until we all went back to school and the other two tooth readers in the class unhesitatingly said it as it was written – ‘slawn-yeh’. That was it then. You can’t fight peer pressure. 

Sorry, Alex. I should have started the above by thanking you for your appreciation.
Hard to tell how - or if - our ramblings will be received.

Just to echo Alex, I'm really enjoying these contributions.  I'd totally forgotten why Slaine's Land of the Young was so named - in my schoolbooks Tir Na nOg was a place where you'd stay young forever.


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