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Author Topic: 2000AD Action Special 1992  (Read 7920 times)

SmallBlueThing

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2000AD Action Special 1992
« on: 28 June, 2011, 11:17:21 AM »
I dug this out yesterday, as it had been playing on my mind for a while. Bits of it had stuck in my head far more than contemporary prog strips, and I was wondering why my overall memory of this bizarre, borderline-legal, celebration of British comics pre-Tharg was that it wasn't much cop.

For those who may have joined the Green One's ranks in the intervening years, The Action Special was a one-off, 68 page, colour and black & white attempt to tell new stories about those old British comic characters who had all been cancelled before 2000AD came along. In fact, before Action, 2000AD's notorious predecessor, came along- which makes it all the more bizarre they chose that title for the comic.

All the strips are original, and created by some of the leading talents of the then-current Fleetway stable. So we have Sean Phillips, Jim Baikie, Brett Ewins, Shaky Kane, John Higgins & David Hine and John Burns on art duty, while the stories are written by Peter Hogan, John Tomlinson, Alan McKenzie, Si Spencer, Mark Millar and John Smith. And there I think lies the biggest problem this one has: with the exception of Millar and Smith, its not the strongest stable of writers going. All those gentlemen have turned in some very fine work over the years- and even some of it for Tharg's Magnificent Organ- but, again with the exception of Smith and Millar, none of them have what I would call strong voices. Cetainly, back in the early 1990s when British comics were undergoing something of a brief rennaissance, it was strips by these writers that often fell flat.

I hasten to stress that all these writers have gone on to better things- but at that time, in whatever climate they were working, they produced a lot of mediocre strippage. And that is what sinks the Action Special.

Steel Claw opens for us, in a very moody piece about Louis Crandell being assigned to assassinate an enemy of the government, in Paris. The storytelling by Phillips is okay- if murky as hell (which is probably the printing process more than anything), but it's a straightforward set-up for a series that never came along. For a strip celebrating an invisible man with a metal talon, it doesn't make a great deal of use of this quirk, and is instead a bog-standard spy thing. There's no particular excitement, and even the central assassination itself is to my mind botched, as Hogan and Phillip tells the story the wrong way round and use the big picture on page nine to show us what's already happened on page eight, only in a less-exciting and mysterious way. In short, the further adventures of the Steel Claw would have to have a bloody good episode two for me to continue reading it.

Cursitor Doom, on the other hand, by Tomlinson and Baikie, almost makes up for it. It's not a bad little story at all- appearing at first to take Doom (Fester/ Crowley-lookalike Dr Strange clone) out of the strip's traditional comfort zone of ruined castles and plopping him into a tv studio for a bit of Derren Brownery that pre-empts satellite-hocus-pocus-and-bollocks-channels by a good fifteen years. It all seems very odd and not the Cursitor Doom that I've since come to know- but Tomlinson gives it a lovely twist two-thirds of the way through, turns it on its head, and wraps it up in a suitably macabre manner. Funnily enough, this is probably the best-constructed strip in the whole thing- and it does suggest mileage in the character. But we never got to find out.

Kelly's Eye is up next. And this was continued in 2000AD, sadly. Why they chose this one, I don't know. Most of it seems to be people giving strangle holds to other people and trying to escape. It's nobody's finest work, and while Tim Kelly's gem is now grafted to his chest to avoid unfortunate loose chain shenanigans and plot devices, that's about the single most interesting thing about it.

Mytek The Mighty is the old strip in name only. Si Spencer uses the idea of a giant gorilla to tell a brief story about environmentalism in Africa, which I suppose would be quite lyrical if not for the comedy stylings of Mr Shaky Kane. There's precious little humour in the script, it being all poignant sighs and stretched sentences about Man's inhumanity to the animal kingdom... but in day-glo colours and with a giant robot ape that looks more like Machine Man wearing a homemade General Urko mask. When the "real" Mytek (here not a giant hairy robot gorilla but a transformed murdered ape, "reborn through the blood of (his/her) children" into a towering Kong) shows up to whoop the robot's ass, the strip abruptly stops with a quote from the Book of Genesis. Oh, and there's a Shaky Kane advert for some "X-Tink Animals" toys, that is y'know, so right on. Grud knows where this would have gone if it had continued.

Actually, maybe that's the point of all this. Rather than being an attempt to breathe fresh life into these comic-strip icons of yesteryear using new talent,  this is far too much an attempt to beat them into a shape that fits the Crisis/ Revolver template. It's all too knowing, and the weight of these new approaches, these new themes (real violence! environmentalism! murky spies!) causes these things to buckle. With Mytek it's most obvious: it's a strip about a giant robot gorilla smashing things, not a poem to endangered species. These's nothing wrong with that, but it's a stretch too far to force the one upon the other, and the whole thing breaks.

Of all the strips in this, it's The Spider that seems to get the most attention. It's written by Mark Millar- not a popular chappy around these parts- with gorgeous, shadowy artwork by Higgins & Hine. In fact, it's the only one that stuck in my head all these years, largely for that brilliant second page- a full page panel of The Spider, unkempt and imprisoned, on the ceiling of his cell. It's not actually immediately apparent that's what's going on- he could just be in the corner of the room. But you know he's not, and despite wall-crawling being a comfortable cliche thanks to the other guy, it's still creepy as hell. Of all the strips in the Action Special, it's the Spider that really works. I had no experience of the character before this came out- and my reaction in 1992 was that I wanted to see much, much more of this skin-crawling but charismatic sociopath. I liked the set-up then, and I like it now. I like that it's truly distanced from the original strips now that I've read them, and I like that it doesn't matter one jot. Millar's Spider is an obvious, almost lazy, interpretation- I'd imagine anyone even partially familiar with the original stories would be hard pressed not to write a modern interpretation where he's exactly what Millar makes him. Certainly the Spider of the recent Albion miniseries is much the same- and that's fine. It fits. It's what this character should be.

The Spider, the strip, here tries to do too much. Millar is attempting to do in fifteen pages what Moore and Reppion did in a whole series- old British characters are reintroduced, down on their luck, and the faux-friendliness of those old British weeklies is revealed as being what we all were secretly worried it was all the time; a child-eating horror that slipped into our houses under our parents' noses. This strip is what I wanted 2000AD to continue, not bloody Kelly's poxy Eye. This was doing things to me, making me feel weird, and I wanted/didn't want it to stop. However, it did right there. But The Spider will return one day, oh yes.

Finally, we have Doctor Sin- not a character I've since come across- in a painted strip by John Smith and John Burns. To say it's a bit mental would be an understatement. Smith, of course, writes like a dream- even when, as is the case here, you feel his tongue is firmly in his cheek. Or one of his tongues, anyway. One of the forked ones. Dr Sin is again, Dr Strange- only this time a parochial British looney version. Clearly deranged, he also seems to know his stuff and dispatches the woman-and-dog-and-child-eating dough demon fairly easily, first stopping off to berate a pensioners' coffee morning. That he does this seemingly because he thinks they might be behind the killings is testament to his mentalism and Smith's tongue being where it is. Burns's art is beautiful, as ever, and again this serves as the start of something that never went anywhere. Like I say, I've not read any of the original Dr Sins, so I have no idea if this is a straightforward continuation of a blatant piss-take. I suspect the latter.

And that's it, barring a four page history of british adventure strips, by Lew Stringer. All in all, it's a package I thoroughly enjoyed. yes, it tries to be too adult at times, and overall it conjours images of early-1990s comic creators being all strokey-beardy or sticky-fingers-uppy and chortling indulgently over their dynamic takes on these stupid old favourites, and then largely, in my opinion missing the point. Except Millar, who gets it spot on. And Smith, who's plainly having too much fun to criticise him for it. And Tomlinson, who makes his strip work like none of the others do, and should be pretty proud all these years later.

Of course, they should never have done it. Literally. After publication, so we are told, Fleetway discovered they didn't own these characters after all, and the whole thing was illegal. That's the bit about all this I like the best- the bit that sums up how I view the history and attitude of British comics. And I suspect it's the bit that The Spider, wherever he is, enjoyed the most as well. Which is good enough for me.

SBT
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O Lucky Stevie!

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Re: 2000AD Action Special 1992
« Reply #1 on: 29 June, 2011, 04:38:10 AM »
Big ups for getting through your review without a single mention of Brendan McCarthy's majestic cover.

You're spot on re: The Spider. Yes, it's yet another strip where Mark Millar writes a character as Hannibal Lecter, but in this particular instance it makes sense.
« Last Edit: 29 June, 2011, 04:41:06 AM by O Lucky Stevie! »
"We'll send all these nasty words to Aunt Jane. Don't you think that would be fun?"

SmallBlueThing

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Re: 2000AD Action Special 1992
« Reply #2 on: 29 June, 2011, 07:18:09 AM »
I wasnt entirely sure it was by mccarthy, to be honest. I mean, it obviously is, but as its signed 'zarzoz' i didnt want to leap to conclusions. And i just forgot to mention it! Them's a lot of words to bash out...

But, now then Stevie, i felt sure you'd have something to say regarding mytek and shaky kane. I want to hear why im wrong! i dont share your appreciation of his art, as you can tell, and I never did. But i am genuinely interested in what people like about him, beyond the kirbyisms. 3000 words on this subject, mr stevie, by teatime, if you please.
SBT
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O Lucky Stevie!

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Re: 2000AD Action Special 1992
« Reply #3 on: 29 June, 2011, 07:36:41 AM »
Ahem:

"Mytek the Mighty? You're right. Inappropriate choice of artist. Inappropriate subtext. Strip ends just as it begins to get interesting (ie Giant Ape vs Giant Robot Ape).

"Mytek the Mighty? You're right. Inappropriate choice of artist. Inappropriate subtext. Strip ends just as it begins to get interesting (ie Giant Ape vs Giant Robot Ape).

"Mytek the Mighty? You're right. Inappropriate choice of artist. Inappropriate subtext. Strip ends just as it begins to get interesting (ie Giant Ape vs Giant Robot Ape).

"Mytek the Mighty? You're right. Inappropriate choice of artist. Inappropriate subtext. Strip ends just as it begins to get interesting (ie Giant Ape vs Giant Robot Ape).

"Mytek the Mighty? You're right. Inappropriate choice of artist. Inappropriate subtext. Strip ends just as it begins to get interesting (ie Giant Ape vs Giant Robot Ape).

"Mytek the Mighty? You're right. Inappropriate choice of artist. Inappropriate subtext. Strip ends just as it begins to get interesting (ie Giant Ape vs Giant Robot Ape).

"Mytek the Mighty? You're right. Inappropriate choice of artist. Inappropriate subtext. Strip ends just as it begins to get interesting (ie Giant Ape vs Giant Robot Ape).

"Mytek the Mighty? You're right. Inappropriate choice of artist. Inappropriate subtext. Strip ends just as it begins to get interesting (ie Giant Ape vs Giant Robot Ape).

"Mytek the Mighty? You're right. Inappropriate choice of artist. Inappropriate subtext. Strip ends just as it begins to get interesting (ie Giant Ape vs Giant Robot Ape).

"Mytek the Mighty? You're right. Inappropriate choice of artist. Inappropriate subtext. Strip ends just as it begins to get interesting (ie Giant Ape vs Giant Robot Ape).

"Mytek the Mighty? You're right. Inappropriate choice of artist. Inappropriate subtext. Strip ends just as it begins to get interesting (ie Giant Ape vs Giant Robot Ape).

"Mytek the Mighty? You're right. Inappropriate choice of artist. Inappropriate subtext. Strip ends just as it begins to get interesting (ie Giant Ape vs Giant Robot Ape).

"Mytek the Mighty? You're right. Inappropriate choice of artist. Inappropriate subtext. Strip ends just as it begins to get interesting (ie Giant Ape vs Giant Robot Ape).

"Mytek the Mighty? You're right. Inappropriate choice of artist. Inappropriate subtext. Strip ends just as it begins to get interesting (ie Giant Ape vs Giant Robot Ape).

"Mytek the Mighty? You're right. Inappropriate choice of artist. Inappropriate subtext. Strip ends just as it begins to get interesting (ie Giant Ape vs Giant Robot Ape).

"Mytek the Mighty? You're right. Inappropriate choice of artist. Inappropriate subtext. Strip ends just as it begins to get interesting (ie Giant Ape vs Giant Robot Ape).

"Mytek the Mighty? You're right. Inappropriate choice of artist. Inappropriate subtext. Strip ends just as it begins to get interesting (ie Giant Ape vs Giant Robot Ape).

"Mytek the Mighty? You're right. Inappropriate choice of artist. Inappropriate subtext. Strip ends just as it begins to get interesting (ie Giant Ape vs Giant Robot Ape).

"Mytek the Mighty? You're right. Inappropriate choice of artist. Inappropriate subtext. Strip ends just as it begins to get interesting (ie Giant Ape vs Giant Robot Ape).

"Mytek the Mighty? You're right. Inappropriate choice of artist. Inappropriate subtext. Strip ends just as it begins to get interesting (ie Giant Ape vs Giant Robot Ape).

"Mytek the Mighty? You're right. Inappropriate choice of artist. Inappropriate subtext. Strip ends just as it begins to get interesting (ie Giant Ape vs Giant Robot Ape).

"Mytek the Mighty? You're right. Inappropriate choice of artist. Inappropriate subtext. Strip ends just as it begins to get interesting (ie Giant Ape vs Giant Robot Ape).

"Mytek the Mighty? You're right. Inappropriate choice of artist. Inappropriate subtext. Strip ends just as it begins to get interesting (ie Giant Ape vs Giant Robot Ape).

"Mytek the Mighty? You're right. Inappropriate choice of artist. Inappropriate subtext. Strip ends just as it begins to get interesting (ie Giant Ape vs Giant Robot Ape).

"Mytek the Mighty? You're right. Inappropriate choice of artist. Inappropriate subtext. Strip ends just as it begins to get interesting (ie Giant Ape vs Giant Robot Ape).

"Mytek the Mighty? You're right. Inappropriate choice of artist. Inappropriate subtext. Strip ends just as it begins to get interesting (ie Giant Ape vs Giant Robot Ape).

"Mytek the Mighty? You're right. Inappropriate choice of artist. Inappropriate subtext. Strip ends just as it begins to get interesting (ie Giant Ape vs Giant Robot Ape).

"Mytek the Mighty? You're right. Inappropriate choice of artist. Inappropriate subtext. Strip ends just as it begins to get interesting (ie Giant Ape vs Giant Robot Ape).

"Mytek the Mighty? You're right. Inappropriate choice of artist. Inappropriate subtext. Strip ends just as it begins to get interesting (ie Giant Ape vs Giant Robot Ape).

"Mytek the Mighty? You're right. Inappropriate choice of artist. Inappropriate subtext. Strip ends just as it begins to get interesting (ie Giant Ape vs Giant Robot Ape).

"Mytek the Mighty? You're right. Inappropriate choice of artist. Inappropriate subtext. Strip ends just as it begins to get interesting (ie Giant Ape vs Giant Robot Ape).

"Mytek the Mighty? You're right. Inappropriate choice of artist. Inappropriate subtext. Strip ends just as it begins to get interesting (ie Giant Ape vs Giant Robot Ape). "
« Last Edit: 29 June, 2011, 07:40:32 AM by O Lucky Stevie! »
"We'll send all these nasty words to Aunt Jane. Don't you think that would be fun?"

SmallBlueThing

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Re: 2000AD Action Special 1992
« Reply #4 on: 29 June, 2011, 07:57:40 AM »
Haha! well, i guess i asked for that! :D
SBT
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O Lucky Stevie!

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Re: 2000AD Action Special 1992
« Reply #5 on: 29 June, 2011, 08:22:29 AM »
Pat Mills & Dave Gibbons could have, possibly, maybe made that idea work in B&W.

Henry Flint even. In B&W.

Unfortunately, in all due respect to the man, Si isn't Tom Tully, let alone the mighty Mills.
"We'll send all these nasty words to Aunt Jane. Don't you think that would be fun?"

O Lucky Stevie!

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Re: 2000AD Action Special 1992
« Reply #6 on: 29 June, 2011, 08:25:15 AM »
DOUBLE POST
« Last Edit: 29 June, 2011, 08:29:42 AM by O Lucky Stevie! »
"We'll send all these nasty words to Aunt Jane. Don't you think that would be fun?"

SmallBlueThing

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Re: 2000AD Action Special 1992
« Reply #7 on: 29 June, 2011, 08:26:14 AM »
Its the absence of mills, wagner, grant, morrison et al, that sinks the comic i think. Wonder why they're not there.
SBT
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Greg M.

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Re: 2000AD Action Special 1992
« Reply #8 on: 29 June, 2011, 09:39:36 AM »
Probably 'cos it's the Alan McKenzie era and post-1991 he made very limited use of the first three (and I expect Morrison was busy with US endeavours.)

Dandontdare

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Re: 2000AD Action Special 1992
« Reply #9 on: 29 June, 2011, 02:59:26 PM »
ooh flashback - I actually reveiewed this for a short-lived magazine my mate published at the beginning of the nineties. Pre-internet (when anyone can review anything), I remember being dead chuffed to see my name in print!  Can't remember what I said about it though!

M.I.K.

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Re: 2000AD Action Special 1992
« Reply #10 on: 01 July, 2011, 04:53:14 PM »
Really liked the Cursitor Doom and Doctor Sin stories but really disliked the Spider story.  Aside from the usual MM thing of having one of the main characters an erudite psychopath, it just seemed unnecessarily nasty and disrepectful to the original characters, (which is something that I never thought when reading Albion). 

Thinking about it, there are quite a few Millar stories that I don't like for similar reasons. That Mr. Benn thing he did in another special springs to mind, and there's Robohunter of course, but we won't go into that.

Incidentally, there's a Doctor Sin story on Barney...

http://www.2000ad.org/?zone=thrill&page=thrillviewer&choice=DoctorSin

Leigh S

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Re: 2000AD Action Special 1992
« Reply #11 on: 01 July, 2011, 10:53:34 PM »
The only Dr Sin story by all accounts.

My theory is its Pat Mills "Judge Dread" strip from the prototype 2000AD.

witness the change in artist on page 4, who also art bodges a head onto the corpse on page 1...

In Pat Mills original Dread story, its the main characters brothers head that is missing, not his hand. 

Also see the dramatic page four cliffhanger effect around "Dr Sin" - yet he doesnt say anyhting particularly dramatic... in the Judge Dread script, Dread recognises the guy they visit as a man he saw executed.

Pat himself isnt convinced, as he recalled gettine setting being stone henge  -but I think its too much of a coincidence that the right artist drew another unfinished 4 page strip that featured satanists and a headless brother!

Colin YNWA

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Re: 2000AD Action Special 1992
« Reply #12 on: 13 July, 2011, 09:44:29 PM »
Have avoided this thread as this was getting very close to the top of the pile and loo and behold read today. Have to say I think it looks majestic, really bloody good from the cover to the lush John Burn art on the back, from Shaky Kane and Jim Baike in-between. Its a visual treat. I also enjoyed it quite a lot. The only trouble is Cursitor Doom aside I don't think its very good.

'Steel Claw' was trying to be too 90s all dark and subtle and lost any sense of being a story. Though have to say enjoyed the last page. As you say SBT it felt very much like a part within something bigger that I might have enjoyed.

'Kelly's Eye' was waffer thin, but then did lead on elsewhere.

'Mytek the Mighty' managed to make me find a giant ape fighting a giant robot ape a bit ponderous and worthy.

'The Spider' was very Millar of this period (and of late) and seemed to be trying way to hard to be shocking and brave and while it looked fantastic like much of Millar's writing lacked any real substance.

Something you can't accuse John Smith of, except here. Did really think this was his best by any stretch, after the first page which I thought was a delight. Could have almost been a Bix Barton, which is no bad thing just seemed a bit straight to pull it off.

'Cursitir Doom' was fantastic, hit all the right notes, felt like a complete story that stood on its own and served as a nice introduction as well. Loved it.

All that said for all its faults I'm kinda glad this exists and would liked to have seen more.