This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.
2000 AD is a unique cultural institution: a weekly SF/fantasy comic which has hosted a wide variety of strips and stories for over 30 years which hasn’t turned into a continuity-infested sack of shit, and refuses to run franchise-wide event comics of the likes of DC Comics’ Final Crisis or Marvel’s Civil War. It helps, of course, that the various series that 2000 AD hosts aren’t shoehorned into a single multiverse (although crossovers can and do happen if the writers feel like it), but I feel that the real secret of the magazine’s success is an editorial policy of not letting butter-drenched arguments about what colour Judge Death’s underwear is get in the way of a good story. “Canon” is not fetishised, and an in-depth knowledge of canon is not required of the reader; whilst there are certain rules and conventions to writing Judge Dredd (for example) which you don’t break, individual Dredd stories simply need to be internally consistent within themselves, rather than meshing seamlessly with every other Dredd tale that has ever been published anywhere. This lends the magazine a certain approachabiity which the major DC and Marvel titles lack; you can just pick it up and start following it any time you like (as I did when I was 11, and as I’ve done again recently now that I’ve rediscovered its charms).
At the same time, of course, some of the archival tales of the Galaxy’s Greatest Magazine are really quite good, and don’t deserve to linger in the vaults – and when said magazine’s been running for decades, some of those stories get quite long. With trade paperback compilations becoming an increasingly important part of every comic publisher’s portfolio, it was inevitable that 2000 AD would turn its hand to producing phone book-sized reprints of the magazine’s more famous, older, and longer stories. And thanks to a special offer at my local Border’s outlet and the very reasonable price of the reprints in question (£13.99 each for most of them, £18.99 where there’s a significant amount of colour material being reprinted, and 2-3 times the number of pages you’d get from other, comparably priced trade paperbacks) I snapped some up recently. Here’s my thoughts on the first volumes of the Judge Dredd, Strontium Dog, and Nemesis the Warlock reprints.