It’s not, strictly, correct to say the world had seen nothing like 2000AD before. A few months earlier, in October 1976, a title put out by the same publishers, IPC, had died an ignominious death. Action was stuffed to the gills with anti-authoritarianism, ultraviolence and gore. Hugely popular with kids, especially boys, it proved too unpalatable for the nation’s moral guardians. Questions were asked in the House, tabloids fulminated against its bloody violence.
“I felt, in a way, that science fiction could escape the heavy flak we had got with Action,” says Mills, who now lives in Spain. “With Action, the message was loud and clear because most of it was set in what was the present time. With 2000AD, we could do the same sort of thing but if anyone complained we could say, ‘Look, it’s just some robots in the future.'”
That’s Pat Mills, the writer/editor who created Action, and the first editor of 2000ad.
Although I grew up with 2000ad — and continued reading it way too far into my 20s — I can’t claim to have been there at the beginning. For me, it all started in 1978 with Starlord, a sister title which merged with 2000ad by the end of the year. This merger brought both Strontium Dog and Ro-Busters (which later morphed into the ABC Warriors) into the merged title which went from strength to strength.
What made 2000ad so durable is that the stories tend to work on several levels. There is, of course, plenty of violence and plenty of action; but there is also a depth and a moral complexity to the stories and it is this that keeps them fresh and interesting long after the initial thrills have worn thin.
In 2002, [Matt] Smith was appointed the ninth editor and is currently the longest-serving incarnation of Tharg the Mighty, as well as the one to see the comic reach its milestone birthday.
“It’s a great achievement,” says Smith, “and one that is testament to the creative teams who have worked on the comic over the years.”
And long may it continue.