Sex, Drugs & Comics – A Survivor’s Tale Part Four

PrintTim Pilcher, ex-Vertigo Comics editor, is serialising the first chapter of his new book Comic Book Babylon: A Cautionary Tale of Sex, Drugs & Comics on Bleeding Cool. The Kickstarter to fund publication starts next week.

Pat Mills learnt a lot from creating Action and put all this knowledge into his next opus. When 2000 AD launched on 26th February 1977, punk rock was flourishing and the magazine borrowed liberally from the culture with characters like Spikes Harvey Rotten. The comic was a revelation to an eight-year-old me. Mature, radical and unusual, it became my favourite comic after Action had its balls cut off by the media. Although, admittedly, it was initially all about the free gifts. Prog 1 (they didn’t call them issues) came with a cheap red plastic mini-Frisbee or “Space Spinner” as they called it. My friend Andrew and I bought multiple copies of Prog 2 to get the M.A.C.H. 1 stickers. M.A.C.H. 1 was a Six Million Dollar Man rip-off—sorry, “dead crib”. The TV series was the hottest show around and one of our favourites. The stickers depicted bits of wiring and electronics you were supposed to put on your body “revealing” your bionics underneath. I recall being in a restaurant with Andrew’s parents and us, bored, covering our arms in fake digital circuitry. Incidentally, Andrew had on his bedroom wall a similar cut-out of Captain America I’d first seen in Dark They Were. Only this image was taken from the cover of Captain America #193 (January, 1976) by Jack Kirby and John Romita Snr. I coveted that almost life-size wooden figure for years.

2000 AD was “edited” by Tharg, a green alien with a telephone dial (“The Rosette of Sirius”) stuck on his forehead, who apparently had nothing better to do than mess around with Earth’s periodical publishing industry. “Borag Thungg, Earthlets” he greeted us, introducing a generation of boys to a new “Zarjaz” language. The rest of the editorial and creative staff were all robots with names like Burt (Richard Burton—not the actor), AALN-1 (Alan Grant), Mac-2 (Alan Mackenzie), Bish-OP (David Bishop) and Dig-L (Andy Diggle). It was a bit of a crap in-joke, but we went along for the ride anyway, our tongues firmly planted in our cheeks. It’s a daft joke that 2000 AD insists on pursuing to this day.