Saturday, December 31, 2016

Fuck 2016: 'God damn it, you've got to be kind.'

I keep giving all my spare change to homeless folk on the street. I always have, (especially when people in positions of authority tell me that I shouldn't because it’s counter-productive and just encourages them), but have really stepped up my game recently. I even get cash that I don’t really need out of the ATM, specifically because the people on the street probably find it a lot tougher when everyone is paying everything by card these days, and this way I'll always have some kind of change to the guy who hangs around outside the newsagent where I buy my 2000ad every week.

I'm doing it for purely selfish reasons. I know I'm not really helping, or making a great difference, but it makes me feel a little better to show some goddamn compassion when I get the chance.

After all, it's just been a shit of a year, and I just think the best way to overcome it is by trying to be a little bit kinder.

It wasn't just the shitness of all the mega-celebrities and great character actors and terrific artists dying. That's something we're all going to have to get used to as the vast baby boomer generation faces up to the cold inevitability of their own demise, but the world really is a slightly worse place without Carrie Fisher’s acerbic wit, or David Bowie’s beautiful genius, or Darwyn Cooke’s pleasantly retro chunkiness.

And it wasn't just the shitness of vast proportions of the world's population voting for fear and loathing and lies and sheer fucking bullshit, and giving the nuclear codes to a pencil-dicked buffoon with ultra-thin skin who seems to have no fucking idea what his job actually entails, and encouraging all the fucking racist and sexist bullshit that rears its head around it. That’s all pretty shitty.

But if anything, to was the day-to-day shitness of a dozen little things - friends and colleagues turfed out of jobs, everyday discouragements, a scary illness in a close family member. Smart-arses will tell us all that the end of the year is just an arbitrary date-stamp in the infinite of the universe, but culture is fucking complicated like that, and these dates do bloody matter. In short, fuck you, 2016.

It's not all bad, thank fuck, or it would all be a bit much. I recently celebrated my 10th anniversary with my lovely wife, who is astonishing and smart and beautiful, and cooks the best eggs on the planet, and tolerates my embarrassingly huge geekiness, and just makes life worth living, really.

We also spent another month tripping around the world, which was typically magnificent. I got to stand next to a six-foot long penis in a Reykjavik museum, and wandered the cracked streets of New Orleans, and had lunch with some polar bears in Canada, and blew a week’s pay-cheque on a fancy meal at the chef’s table at Brooklyn Fare.

In this respect, I have it so much better than a lot of other people, and I’m just a little bit embarrassed by the privilege I undoubtedly enjoy as a first-world creature of the early 21st century.

But I’m just trying to make the best of this life, because as far as I can figure, this is the only one we get. And if we focus on the shit all the time, we’ll just end up stinking of it all the time.

And the entertainments help, because it’s been another cracker year for dork culture. There are moans about Peak TV, but it’s Peak Everything, and there are so many great TV shows, music, movies, comics and books, far too many to catch up on. Something has to give.

TV goes first, and the list of things that I really must get around it gets longer and longer every year, until entire series that people have recommended drop off the end. But still, 2016 shows like Game of Thrones, The People Versus OJ and Ash vs Evil Dead were intense, impressive and showed me things I had not ever seen before, on any kind of screen. I’ve still got so much to get through – we just cracked into Atlanta last night – but the best TV is still some of the best entertainments available.

The year’s movies weren’t quite as impressive – the most moving, thrilling and awe-inspiring things I’ve seen in the past few years weren’t on a cinema screen – and there has been the usual smorgasbord of grindingly worthy bio-pics, simply passable blockbusters, other franchise nonsense, and far too movies about old French people fucking.

But there are still films that throb with intensity and beauty. My favourite film of the year was probably Green Room, for its commitment to its punk cred, even if that ultimately led to an unsatisfying taste in the mouth with some notes, and it had the best last line a movie in ages.

I also saw Paterson the other day, and thought it was fucking aces. It was everything my lovely wife hates about Jarmusch films (she straight-away refused to go, and I don’t blame her), but I was surprised by how much I liked its poetic meanderings. My least favourite films of all time are movies about how hard it is for sensitive geeks in the world (especially when I have been one of them for so fucking long), but this geek didn’t feel sorry for himself at all, which made it much more palatable. And the resolution of the broken mailbox gag was sharp as hell.

I'm always at least two years behind the times when it comes to music, and all I have wanted to listen to all year is covers of Pink Floyd songs, so who knows what the fuck that means?

Comics are still my thing, and still the main focus of free time, and there has been plenty of great comics, from new, sharp talents, and from old pros like Los Bros Hernandez, who brought the sublime Love and Rockets back in magazine format.

My own taste of stylish action comics means my favourite reading experiences of the year were, once again, various Judge Dredd comics and the Mignola-verse comics.

Hellboy in Hell and BPRD: Hell On Earth both came to explosive colcusions, and while there weren’t a lot of surprises in the way both stories came down, they were beautifully produced comics that managed to find touching notes of grace among all the apocalyptic mayhem.

And the genius of Judge Dredd’s near 40-year history rared its head again with the final conclusion to the PJ Maybe saga, a story that started with the eight-year-old shithead committing his first murders back in the 1980s. It only just came to a full and proper conclusion in the pages of 2000ad, after years and years of absurd misadventures. And as, ever, there were loads of the usual six or 10 page-stories about the world of Dredd, and the strange and timely tales of its inhabitants.  (Although I really, really didn't like the latest US-published version, for the way they got rid of Mega-City One and its citizens, who are arguably the main characters of the whole Dredd strip.)

But even these distractions can’t do anything to make it any easier to deal with the sight of poor little tykes bloodied and battered in Syria, or reports of awful open racism, sexism and homophobia around the world, which we really should be over it by now. We’re 17 years into the 21st century, for fuck’s sake.

I'm like everyone else, trying to help out where I can. We have regular donations to charities and fundraising efforts going out of our bank account every month, and I work in a job that is still dedicated to exposing unfairness and injustice, and I donate blood and plasma on a regular basis, and I try to treat everyone I meet with some fairness and respect. I'm trying, Lord. I'm trying.

But I know I could do more, I could help out at soup kitchens, or stand up for something noble and right. I still might, once I've got my shit together. But for now, right now, all I can do is try to do something nice for somebody, and the homeless are out their on my streets every day and it doesn't hurt me to throw them a little change, even if they're just going to spend the money on meths or meth. Just show some goddamn compassion, and just show a little kindness. We’ve got to be more kind.

And thanks to all the people who have read this dopey blog for the past year. I really do love you all. The Tearoom of Despair is back into low-content mode for the month of January, because it's a lovely day outside. Normal service will resume on February 1.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Secret History of Twin Peaks: Seeing into the darkness

It’s well-known that Twin Peaks creators David Lynch and Mark Frost never wanted to reveal who actually killed Laura Palmer – the mystery was the thing. It was only after intense pressure from TV executives that they revealed it to be her father Leland, and they were soon vindicated when the audience drifted away after this terrible revelation (although the generally poor quality of much of the second season certainly played a part).

Twin Peaks, at its best, always walked that fine line between straight drama and sheer mystery, with distinctive and memorable characters living humble, straight and good lives, until they smashed into the vast unknown of the spaces between dimensions, and the incomprehensible creatures that live in the cracks.

The series is coming back next year, of course, but any fears that this delicate balance of mystery will be upended can be put to rest by The Secret History Of Twin Peaks, a new book that cracks open some of the strange shit behind the show, while steadfastly refusing to actually answer any of the really big questions that have now been percolating for more than two decades.

The Secret History of Twin Peaks, written by Frost and released a few weeks ago, is a fictional collection of documents, files and stories, giving background details on the world of Twin Peaks, and the strange, terrifying and wonderful people who inhabit it.

It’s fictional, of course, but also weaves its way into some of the most esoteric history of the United States. It goes right back to the days when native tribes were in the area, and painting pictures of a giant and a midget, and keeping an eye on those damn owls, before moving up through to the late 20th century, and the flood of horror that was unleashed by the murder of the local prom queen.

Along the way, it includes strange subjects such as the mysterious death of Captain Meriwether  Lewis after his famous expedition – a real event that is still shrouded in mystery– and the unjust and cruel treatment of the local native population, a tradition that survives into the nuclear age, and its toxic clouds of radioactive death.

Then it gets into the deeply weird, like Jack Parsons and L Ron Hubbard’s infamous Babalon Working in 1946 – a semi-real magickal event that is still shrouded in uncertainty and total bullshit, and the mad blast of post-WW2 flying saucer sightings, culminating in an unsettling close encounter with an extra-dimensional alien, after cocktails with Jackie Gleason and Richard Nixon.

Just as the Fargo TV series and movie were all about the very best in America versus the very worst, Twin Peaks is about the same conflict, built up to existential levels, and the new book shows that this has always been the struggle, right back to the nation‘s founding days. There are good people in this town, but there are also plenty of weak people, pushed along by unfathomably dark forces.

The Secret History does answer a few questions about the series - questions that have been hovering around the edges of the story since it finished in the early nineties, but omits just as much as it includes.

These revelations include hints at the fates of several main characters after the show ended, including who survived that bloody big explosion at the bank, and what happened to dirty old Hank Jennings after he got sent to of jail.

The book also (partly )reveals exactly why the owls are not what they seem, and gives background details on the lives and loves of the people seen in the original series – including tonnes of details on the Bookhouse Boys, the elderly newspaper editor’s past as a genuine Man In Black, Doctor Jacoby's mind-melting experiments with natural psychedelics, and the vital connection between the Log Lady and the crazy old trailer park owner played by Harry Dean Stanton in Fire Walk With Me.

But even as it sparkles with fresh trivia , the Secret History also raises a lot of new mysteries, and takes some pride in never quite answering questions about extra-dimensional aliens that it raises, happily leaving definitive answers tantalizingly out of reach.

There are all-new mysteries, including the identity of the person who put all this together, (although this is one of the questions that is adequately answered before the final pages), and the exact motives of the shadowy government organisations that get mixed up in all this metaphysical malarkey is literally blacked out.

Twin Peaks always went in odd directions, but also kept things incredibly down to earth, with characters reacting to strange and disconcerting events with compassion, humility and honour. Agent Dale Cooper – one of the great existential detectives – epitomised this, by combining Buddhist dream techniques with a solid right hook of justice.

Like the larger saga it is a part of, the Secret History of Twin Peaks is all about this clash between the solid, down to earth people and the impossible denizens of the Black Lodge. They could be aliens, or could be different versions of ourselves, or they might be Gods – Frost isn’t telling, and leaves all the definitive answers hidden between the lines of the book.

This refusal to give pat and easy answers might be infuriating for some, but there is no explanation the creators of Twin Peaks can offer that could compare to your own version, in your own head. It's always good for art to be a little abstract, and open the realms of possibility, rather than settle for dull certainty.

There is no dull certainty in the town of Twin Peaks, or in the woods that surround it. There is just the odd ray of light, shining a path out of the darkness. Go into the light, Leland.

The next series is slowly coming closer, and just by its very existence, it will answer long-held questions about beloved characters, and their histories over the past two decades. Knowing Lynch and Frost’s preferences, there will be plenty of other mysteries, and plenty of new questions to ask.

The Secret History is the first real return to Twin Peaks, and offers a few crumbs to entice the wary traveller back to the town, while still letting you find your own way to the best damn cherry pie in the state.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Doctor Who: Target's top 20 covers

I'm almost 42 years old, and all I want for Christmas are some Doctor Who Target books. Even though I've actually seen all these episodes the books are adapting, and even though they're the simplest, most functional prose ever put down on paper, they're all I ever want for Christmas.

With covers like these, how could I ever resist?

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Dumb movie arguments (that think they're so smart)

It's not hard to pick holes in your average big movie. The nature of mass collaboration and desperate commercial imperatives means every kind of blockbuster has some kind of plot or logic hole, and some films can be rife with them.

It can be a lot of fun to rip into a dumb movie, but there is a certain kind of nit-picking that is almost painful to listen to – one where the complainant's innate superiority to everyone else in the world is revealed, as they sniffily point out some logical flaw or scientific impossibility, while managing to completely miss the whole fucking point of the thing.

These kinds of complaints are repeated to the point of cliche, and almost become common truths, except these arguments are big, fragile balloons full of bullshit. There have been plenty of examples of this in the current age of blockbuster movie nonsense, but here are a few that always grate.

Why didn't the eagles just fly them all to Mt Doom in the Lord of the Rings?

This might be the most foolish fucking argument in the history of pop culture – ever since the books were first published, there have been know-it-alls who point out the whole mess could have been cleared up if those eagles who save Frodo and Sam from the slopes of Mt Doom at the last minute had just flown them there in the first place.

And it's a reasonable argument to make, except for the fact that it spectacularly misses the biggest point in the whole damn saga. The story keeps telling you over and over that if anyone other than Hobbits – the most literally down to earth and sensible creatures in the whole of Middle-Earth – tried to take the ring, they'd be corrupted by its power, and would lose themselves to evil. It's why Gandalf can't carry it, or any elf, or any man, or any bloody eagle.

Even Samwise bloody Gamgee almost gives into it, and becomes Lord of the Gardens, so what chance would ancient and powerful creatures like the eagles have? If they tried to carry the ring to Mordor, or even carry someone who is carrying it, it wouldn't work.

There are other points being made here, about the necessity of a long, hard log to accomplish anything of true worth, or that absolute power corrupts absolutely, but there are no shortcuts here, and certainly no in-flight service.

The robots in the Matrix films must be dumb, because there isn't that much power generated by a human

Science nerds love this one, and if you're having a conversation about Keanu's cool kung fu, they'll always pipe up and point out that 'Actually, there is no way the human body produces enough power to sustain the robot civilization, so why should the humans be kept alive in that weird pink goo?', and that kills the kung-fu talk dead.

Leaving aside the whole issue of future tech that can extract power from humans in ways we neanderthals can't even comprehend, (science fiction is quite good at this sort of thing), or that there wouldn't be much of a story if one side just wiped out the other, with no hope of any return, it's another spectacular piece of dumb missing the point.

If anything, the humans in  the pods are there because the robots are actually trying to be better than humans - they're keeping them alive when they could just wipe them out easily. It's simple to think of the robotic overlords as monotonous tyrants, but they're highly-evolved AI creatures that have weirdly complex morals about this sort of thing.

Sure, they try to wipe out everybody not living in a pod, but that's the nature of a war they already won, and the fact that they show some kind of mercy proves that it isn't some kind of black/white absolutism, it's more of a green vibe of compassion.

Bonus comic bullshit: Batman says he's the goddamn Batman

All Star Batman and Robin looks like it will remain shamefully unfinished for a long while to come, which is just fine with a lot of people, who still hold up the moment early in the series where Bats says he is the goddamn Batman as the moment that Frank Miller totally lost all sense of Bat-characterisation.

It's actually nearly a decade old, and there is still smirking about it on click-farm comic book sites, but it's really getting old now, because it says it there, right in the story, that Batman is acting out a tough guy persona, and that he's really bad at it.

Even outside this context, it's a moment as funky as Bob Haney's classic 'Batman digs the day!' caption, but as part of the story, it's the ultimate example of Batman still needing to learn the ropes properly, and trying to figure out this intimidation thing. Sure, it's someone pretending to be tough, but it's supposed to be somebody pretending to be tough.

Star Trek teleportation is a mass murder device

This one has gained inexplicable popularity in the last couple of years, and some high-faultin' commentators can't help pointing out that the teleportation technology in Star Trek actually murders the people on the pad, disintegrating them, before creating a clone at the other end of the line, which thinks it is the same person who just beamed down, but is actually a copy.

Unlike everything else here, it's actually scientifically sound, even if it starts getting a bit theological on the notion of a soul, but anybody who points this out misses the fact that it is absolutely fucking horrifying from a storytelling sense of view

Why the shit would you need a downer like that in a rollicking tale of new worlds and new civilizations? This is Wagon Train To The Stars, not Existential Journeys Into The Soul. The idea that Kirk, Spock and the rest of the merry gang are soul-less abominations, constantly dying over and over again for the cosmic equivalent of going out to the shops, really drains all the fun, and storytelling drive, out of the whole fucking thing.

It's fine for those who are looking for an excuse not to like Star Trek, but if there are any positive feelings towards this whole 'boldly going forward' thing, you don't want to be dragged down by this kind of horror.

Independence Day: You can't hack that

The first Independence Day film is one of the most gloriously dumb blockbusters ever made - and while it is easy to write off as fluff now, it did feature some genuinely groundbreaking effects, and had a profound impact on giant films today.

There is much to pick at, but the tech-nerds always like nothing more than feigning amazement that Jeff Goldblum can just hack into the aliens' computer system, when it is desperately awkward getting any earthly computer configurations from different companies to talk to each other.

Leaving aside the idea that it is a nice nod to the classic War of the Worlds solution, with  new kind of bug bringing down alien invasions, or even that sci-fi thing again about technologies beyond the limited understanding of the real world, there is the little fact that there has been an example of alien tech sitting there in a hanger for decades, which scientists would have been trying to crack. It's right there, on screen. Jeff Golblum didn't have to be some kind of super genius to instantly figure out, the scientists have had years to get their heads around a new operating system and reverse engineer the crap out of it.

Out of all the stories here, Independence Day has the deepest holes and incomprehensible plot turns, but complaints about this little computer really need to be deleted.

Look, it's not hard to rip into these kind of things, they're all flawed – the Lord of the Rings are still pretty amazing feats, but so fucking bulbous, the Matrix films pissed away glorious opportunities with those shitty sequels, the Star Trek films are constantly running out of puff, and Independence Day is Independence Day.

But if you're going to expose the flaws in our entertainments, there is no need to regurgitate the kind of bullshit argument that sounds so smart, but is just as dumb as the movies it skewers.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Jammed up on modern comics

Mongolia is one of the greatest countries it has ever been my privilege and honour to visit. The landscape is mind-blowing, the culture is amazing, and the people are rough, tough and unbearably generous.

And the worst traffic jam I ever got stuck in was on the outskirts of Ulanbataar, after returning from two weeks in the wide, open and endless country. It was chaos, and took our driver 90 minutes to get six blocks. As first-world condescending as it sounds, they really do drive like they ride their horses up on the plains – full-on and fearless. Which is a beautiful thing when you’re out in the open steppe, but when you're trying to squeeze a thousand vehicles down a cramped and ancient road, gets everybody stuck.

That feeling of mad hopelessness in the gridlock, back in that dusty Mongolian summer, is the same way I feel when I try to keep up with the modern comic industry.

As much as they have fanged about at great speed across the open market, comic companies are also deluging the market in dozens and dozens of new titles, and it's impossible to keep up with everything, and a lot that isn't worth bothering with in the first place.

It's a total logjam of product, and the only solution might be to burn it all down with fire, or at least indulge in some prodigious pruning, before it chokes everybody.

Unsurprisingly, it’s the big companies who are the worst offenders, diluting their biggest brands with blind over-saturation. Marvel can’t let any minor sales success slide by without spinning off that character or concept into half a dozen different titles, which doesn’t make things easy for the poor sucker who just wants to read the Deadpool comic.

And as successful as the movie version is, nobody needs half a dozen different Guardian of the Galaxy comics, especially when they regularly attract less than 1 percent of the audience who will go to the movie version. The desperate need to make the Inhumans relevant, which also seems to be based more on cinematic concerns that any story-driven need, has seen tonnes of Inhuman comics over the past few years, with very few garnering any real attention, and most left to clog up precious store shelf space.

Marvel’s philosophy of ‘that worked, so let’s do it over and over and over again’ is on show throughout its monthly offerings. Even its Star Wars licensed titles already has a dozen collected editions, which has attracted some of the company's very best talent, but it's hard to tell which comics are genuinely interesting, and which ones are just filling in unasked-for backstory. In the end, why bother with any of them?

Even more unsurprisingly, DC make it even harder to keep track of their ongoing universal mega-story. There are desperate attempts to give any character with any kind of history or profile their own title, in the vague hope that something will stick.

Which is another vaguely noble attitude, but ensures that the few artistically interesting comics that sneak out with the crowd are lost behind more generic Justice League and Suicide Squad spin-offs, and truly individualistic comics that don’t look like everything else on the stands vanish after six issues.

And while the bi-weekly schedule for its biggest titles certainly makes sense on the balance sheet – if all Batman comics sell well, why wouldn't you make more Batman comics? – it only adds to the crushing fatigue. There are already a plethora of Rebirth-related trade paperbacks out there, and more and more and more every month.

In comparison, the smaller companies deserve some credit for scraping past the big boys, and getting any kind of shelf space for more alternative stories is some kind of victory. The smaller the publisher, the greater the win, which means any self-publisher who gets on the shelf is a goddamned hero.

But there is also still an abundance of licensed titles, with a huge variety of movie and TV spin-offs for anything that once had a large audience, even if the comics are usually easily ignored by the vast majority of those who enjoyed the original property, and don’t really count as part of the official story.

Even without this huge and hoped-for demand, there can still be far too much actual product. The Doctor Who titles that Titan have been putting out recently have some strong creators, but there are so many of them, across multiple monthly titles, starring all the incarnations of the Time Lord, and it’s so hard to keep up with them all.

Especially when the first round of collected editions all had the same cover design, right down to a similar color scheme, with just a posed figure to tell the difference. I tried to get started on them by getting them from the local library, but stumbled at this first post, because I kept getting the same bloody ones over and over again, and honestly couldn’t tell at a glance if they were something new, or something I’d seen before.

God bless the talented creators who get their big break on all these series. Everybody has got to start somewhere, and with such a rapacious appetite for new titles, somebody has got to fill them with words and pictures.

But again, the chances of actually gathering an audience get so much worse, when the work is hidden on the shelves among all the other new releases. And you can’t blame retailers of taking less of a chance on untried and untested new names, when they only have so much space to spare.

I’m self-aware enough to know I've become one of those sad pieces of shit that complains that it's hard to follow comics anymore, and that’s just part of getting old. But they're not making it easy.

Consider Chris Claremont's X-Men, which used to be the gold standard of labyrinthine plotting, but now seems easy to follow, because it was, at least, confined to one title. Marvel, scared of diluting their most successful property, would stick with the one comic, and the odd spin-off, before it all got out of control in the 1990s.

Now, that X-Men run is relatively easy to keep track of, compared to the X-avalanche of product in the past 10 years. There are just too many individual titles, just too much comic, and it all adds to the sinking feeling that nobody is getting anywhere.

The more comics there are, the more I feel left behind, and the less I want to make that effort. There is gold there, but there is no time to dig it out.

That Mongolian traffic jam was so bad, especially when we'd spent the last fortnight out in the Mongolian nothingness, on the vast and endless steppes, and empty grassy hills rolling on into infinity. And especially when we were trying to get back to a hotel, and a shower, and some carpet, for the first time in those two weeks.

And nobody was going anywhere, until our driver started mounting the pavement to get around the mess. That worked, I guess. So we still got to our destination, and it was so fucking worth it in the end. As well as that traffic jam, I got terrible food poisoning on the edge of the Gobi desert, which was awful to a hallucinogenic degree, and had to drink $2 vodka, which was existentially distressing. But it was all worth it. In the three dozen countries I've visited, I highly recommend Mongolia as one of the best destinations.

As it is with international travel, so it is with comic books. For all the shit they put out, the best comics are worth searching out, because the rewards are endless, and like nothing else in popular fiction. We just gotta get out of this fucking jam.

Monday, December 12, 2016

20 things I learned from the Mighty One


While current 2000ad editor Matt Smith is definitely one of the great Thargs, maintaining a high level of quality thrills for more than a decade now, there is little doubt that if you ask anybody who the greatest editor of the comic ever was, the answer would almost always be Steve MacManus.

MacManus was editor during the comic's absolute golden age in the early to mid-1980s, with outstanding work from writers and artists at their total prime, producing week after week of essential and instantly classic stories, and printing them out on paper that wasn't much better than bog roll.

He's recently written Mighty One: My Life Inside The Nerve Centre, all about his career. And it's a cracking read, from his early days when all the editors were alcoholic war veterans hidden in clouds of spite and cigarette smoke, to the days of corporate takeovers and celebrity creators. He isn't afraid to admit there were times when he was a total shithead to people, but at least he can stand up and be accounted for it.

It is, obviously, full of entertaining anecdotes and fascinating trivia, and this is a tiny fraction of the things to be learned while reading Mighty One:

1. MacManus never thought of 200ad as a science-fiction comic, at least not in his early days as editor – it was an adventure comic, that just happened to have a lot of stories set in space, or the future. They were still cop stories, or war stories, or sports stories, even with all that fashionable sci-fi.

2. He originally decided to write a book about the experiences as editor back in the very early nineties, so he had time to get his stories right. (Neil Gaiman was also planning a book on Alan Moore around the same time, which sounds like another great missed opportunity.)

3. If you get called into the boss's office, after running a story that satirised an industrial strike that cost the company a shedload of money, show up dressed as a Betelgeusean, and let them now that heavy is the head that wears the Rosette of Sirius. It can only help.

4. Rogue Trooper's title was inspired by Geoffrey Household's Rogue Male novel, which I just read a few months ago. It's pretty messed-up.

5. John Wagner's long-running T B Grover pseudonym, on the other hand, was based on a bully in a radio play named 'Tubby Grover'.

6. I had to have it pointed out to me that Middenface McNulty's first name actually means 'Rubbish- face', with a hint of shit. Get me drunk enough and I'll insist Middenface is the greatest comic character of all time, but when I pointed out this new information to the lovely wife, she said I was an idiot for not knowing what a midden was.

7. Get me even drunker, and I'll swear that it's actually Wulf Sternhammer and his happy stick that is the greatest comic character ever, but he almost started out as a “wisecracking Manhattan taxi driver”.

8.Every war comic strip involving a German anti-hero in WW2 had to end with the tough son of a bitch standing in the ruins of Berlin as it fell.

 9.  The first victim of a man who has turned into a dinosaur in the classic Judge Dredd story the Blood of Satanus was originally supposed to be Dredd's ex-girlfriend.

10. For a few weeks in the late 1970s, almost half of the pages 2000ad's entire issue were drawn by Dave Gibbons.

11. They used to be allowed to give away spud guns as free gifts.

12. Artist Ian Gibson is actually in Halo Jones, as a pest badgering a female at a party.

 13.  Skizz was not based on ET. Apparently.

14. If you're trying to impress the suits with the fact that your new comic is down with the kids over the green issues, talk about some whales and play some Enya.

15. Buster was the spawn of Andy Capp? It's a bit obvious now, but I still needed it to be pointed out.

16. Crisis was almost called 50/50.
17. When Bolland's first pages for the first Judge Death story started rolling in to the office, everyone was blown away and awestruck, and MacManus couldn't get past the fact that one of Judge Anderson's nostrils was bigger than the other.

18. John Wagner just thought her high heels were silly.

19. The Fleetway archive had 10 million pages available for syndication in the 1970s. Ten million!

20. The last thing MacManus ever did as editor of 2000ad was give Morrison/Yeowell's Zenith the green light. We could argue from now until the end of time over when the bronze age in American comic books finished, but if you want a clear line between classic 2000ad and the shiny new generation, it's right there.