Kevin O’Neill miscellany ‘Cosmic Comics’ from Hibernia Comics

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Hibernia Comics, who published the excellent ‘Beyond 2000AD’ a few years back, have a new release that taps into possibly the ultimate Thrill Powered nostalgia-fest yet – a miscellany of Kevin O’Neill artwork called Cosmic Comics. Collecting covers, short story illustrations, mock up adverts and full runs of his Captain Klep (first published in Tornado) and Dash Decent (from 2000AD).
A 68 page collection in full colour and black & white, we’re treated to Kev’s first forays into comic strip work, one-off cover stories and other oddities that don’t cross over into his ABC Warriors, Dredd or Nemesis work. Starting in the late 70s and progressing through to the late 80s (although mostly rooted in the earlier part of the decade) it’s dripping with detail and creativity as we witness the glory years where he made his reputation as one of the clutch of artists responsible for 2000AD’s first golden age. This is the collection I’ve been waiting for for 30 years and never thought I’d see so I’ll be buying it as soon as I can and hats off to David McDonald at Hibernia for putting this together. Buy it here for the princely sum of £8 (Earth Money).
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RIP Ron Smith

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Ron Smith – one of the original golden era 2000AD greats has passed away. I never quite appreciated how deft his line work was until later but he had a hand in many classic Judge Dredd stories based around crime in Mega City One (Otto Sump, Chopper, Fatties, etc.) as well as plenty of the Judge Child saga and The Angel Gang.

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FourFromFoodFridays #17.9

FourFromFoodFridays 17.9Four From Food Fridays – a weekly look at four things that have been doing it for me. They can be new or old, any style so long as it’s been getting some rotation in the studio. From top left:
Major Force West – 93-97 (Mo Wax) LP – RIP Toshio Nakanishi – otherworldly productions
Children of Alice – Children of Alice (Warp) LP – Mindbending audio collage
Bigmouth podcast – #42 (Audioboom) Podcast – The Magnetic Fields, SS-GB and 40 years of 2000AD
Ian Helliwell – Tape Leaders (Sound On Sound) Book + CD – Indispensable history of British electronic pioneers + compilation of electronic/concrete obscurities

Bigmouth podcast guest appearance

I was very pleased to be asked to guest on one of my favourite podcasts: Bigmouth, talking about 2000AD’s 40th anniversary, the new Magnetic Fields album and the first part of new BBC drama SS-GB alongside guest Matt Allen and regular hosts Andrew Harrison and Matt Hall. Also hear which track of the week I chose and what closing time chatter gem I dredged up.
UPDATE: Annoyingly I go the date of the Orbital Comics closing party gig wrong at the end, it’s March 10th, not 9th.

Beyond 2000AD exhibition glimpse

Beyond2000_poster Beyond2000_progs Beyond2000_records1 Beyond2000_records2 Beyond2000_TimeOutI finally got time to pop into Orbital Comics and see their small but packed exhibition of 2000AD offshoots, tie-ins, cash-ins, memorabilia, music, magazines, toys and so much more. Not having an opening party because it would clash with the comic’s own 40th celebration a couple of weekends ago they’ve decided to have a closing party on Friday March 10th where there will be a podcast recording and music by yours truly among others.
I also just guested on the Big Mouth podcast pre-record, talking about the comic’s legacy which will be available online this coming Sunday. More details as I have it.

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Future Shock 2000AD art at the Cartoon Museum photos

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I finally got a chance to see the Future Shock exhibition of 2000AD classic original art the other day at the Cartoon Museum, tucked away in the back streets near the British Museum. It costs £7 and once you’ve navigated past some of the most miserable/bored looking staff you’ll ever see you can peruse the galleries of comic and political art.

As far as pieces by key artists of essential stories and characters go, this is one of the best collections of art you’ll see aside from Rufus Dayglo‘s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it exhibition this coming weekend at Geek 2017 in Margate. The bulk of it comes from long-time collector Wakefield Carter who runs the Barney database and regularly trades or sells original art. All the major names are here, with examples from some of the classic stories too (Dredd Cursed Earth and Dark Judges to name but two) and there’s a lot of it. Shown here are just a few of my personal highlights.

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Upstairs, the regular exhibition is full of classic images, characters and artists too inc. Dave GibbonsLichtenstein-baiting ‘Whaat?’, Watchmen, Batman, Dan Dare and V For Vendetta art and original Leo Baxendale pages.

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2000AD 40th exhibitions

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The ‘mighty organ’ that is 2000AD is 40 years old this month and today is the big celebration at the Novotel in Hammersmith. I won’t be attending but photos already posted on social media are making me wish I was.

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Also opening today is the Beyond 2000AD exhibition at Orbital Comics (see flyer above) that I’ve contributed some pieces to. This looks at the wider impact of the comic outside of the printed page including merchandise, toys, t-shirts, bags, record sleeves and more.

Cartoon Museum
Just up the road the Cartoon Museum is showing a huge selection of original art from the comic under the banner Future Shock: 40 years of 2000AD, so if you haven’t got a ticket to the 40th bash you can still soak up 40 years worth of thrills.

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2000AD – Prog 2000

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2000AD Prog (issue) 2000 lands today, that’s a lot of comics in nearly 40 years and only serves to strengthen what has become a British institution up there with The Eagle, The Beano, The Dandy and Viz in UK comic publishing.
Wrapped in one of three different covers, including a free poster and featuring many of the greats who made its name over 30 years ago returning for the party, it’s a perfect celebration of what makes it the galaxy’s greatest.

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They’re not afraid to poke fun at their misjudgements either and it’s not just a nostalgia-fest, new strip, Counterfeit Girl, by Peter Milligan and Rufus Dayglo holds its own with the rest.

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Raygun Comics in Richmond, London have a special 2000ad day this Saturday Oct 1st to celebrate Prog 2000, they’ll be giving away back issues and the winner of their Judge Dredd colouring competition will get a copy of Prog 1. Also they have a copy of Prog 2 still with unused stickers! Never seen those before, an eye-watering £350 though…
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Steve MacManus’ 2000AD memoir

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It’s a big year for 2000AD – in 4 weeks time they hit Prog 2000 – that’s issue 2000 to the uninitiated. Now in their 38th year, that’s a feat only rivaled by The Beano and The Dandy (to my knowledge). It’s already an institution but, given the comic’s title, it’s 2000th issue has always been a landmark in waiting. They’ve got multiple signings on October 1st all over the UK, a choice of three different covers and several high profile artists have returned for one-off stories. But that’s not all…

MacManusCoverLast week I dutifully lined up with the other Squaxx inside Orbital Comics to meet Steve MacManus, the editor who helmed the comic through it’s first golden age in the 80s and who has just published his memoir of his time as Tharg, The Mighty One, the alien editor of the comic since its inception in 1977. He genially signed my copy as well as one for Steve Cook, aka Robo-Cook, the designer in his charge at the time, who designed the logo they still use to this day and now resides in LA as head of book design for DC Comics. The book is out today, published by 2000AD/Rebellion and you can order it here – it promises to be a real warts and all collection too.

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There was a special significance for me too as, when I walked in, I recognised a selection of part of my collection of 2000ADs that I’d sold to the store this Spring, adorning the back wall of the shop in honour of the signing.

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2000AD Free Comic Book Day issue

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As is usual each May, in the same way as Record Store Day, we have Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) upon us soon – May 7th to be precise. 2000AD has its own issue again with a mixture of new and reprint material. Henry Flint, who has provided covers for the last 3 years, has a strip inside and it’s Mike Allred who graces this year’s issue. As far as I’m aware this is his first work for the comic and he pays more than a tip of the hat to Brian Bolland with his Dredd pose here. Trying to break into the American market the comic has commissioned another American artist, Eric Powell of ‘The Goon’ fame, to provide interior art too.

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1200 x 2000AD

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Here we have a large portion of my 2000AD collection, a comic I’ve read since I was 8 years old, fast approaching issue 2000 itself. It’s time for these issues to go to another place, to people who will read them rather than being tucked away in my studio as some of them have for decades now. I’ve kept the first 600 issues (another 3 boxes) for purely nostalgic reasons plus the last 18 months worth but these approx 1200 issues will be going to Orbital Comics next week to do with what they will. Just in time for Free Comic Book Day and only a few months short of the comic’s 2000th issue in September.

2000ADs to go

The excellent documentary about the comic’s history – ‘Future Shock’ – was just shown on TV and is currently available to view online for the next month in the UK via Channel 4. I also found about 25 doubles of very early issues including no.20, issue 100 and more, they’ll be going with these too.

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Here’s a few scans of images that caught my eye as I went through them: Brendan McCarthy masquerading at ‘Loaf’, a couple of Dredds by the incomparible John Hicklenton (RIP) and some pages from a beautiful Ace Trucking Co. story. No one draws the cosmos quite like Massimo Belardinelli.

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Tharg’s Future Shocks

2000ADFS pg1Whilst recently going through many boxes of old 2000AD comics, before I send them off to a better home, I ran across this little Future Shock story in Prog 672 – Mar 31, 1990 – which did something a little different with the comic medium. Written by Paul Carstairs (not a name I’m familiar with) and drawn by old hand Massimo Belardinelli, it starts out as you would expect but quickly takes a new turn. All copyright is 2000AD/Rebellion
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Highlights of 2015

2015 Albums
They say that creativity flourishes under oppression and bleak times and it’s been a great year for music so there must be a grain of truth there. In an effort to glean something positive to remember 2015 by in light of all the injustice and hate out there in the world, here are some of my favourite things, in no order whatsoever.

There were several amazing music releases that went far beyond the normal album format – the main one being Aphex Twin‘s incredible Soundcloud dump of archive tracks which continue to drip out and now number over 200 tracks even if he has taken a lot of them down now. If there’s a ‘release’ of the year then that wins hands down although I’m still trying to process it all and tried to compile a selection of the cream in this mix for Solid Steel but bear in mind that that was when he’d only released half of it so by it’s no means definitive.
The other mega-release that deserves special mention is Rammellzee‘s ‘Cosmic Flush’ magnum opus that’s still in the process of materializing in a physical format. Released across seven 12″s with one track + remix + instrumentals + art print each, to be collected in a limited box with booklet around Spring 2016, it’s taken a huge effort by the Gamma Proforma label to bring to fruition seven years after the record’s completion and five years after Rammellzee’s death. It’s been a vintage year for independent Hip Hop too with great albums by Divine Styler, Ollie Teeba, Memory Man and The Fabreeze Brothers.
It’s nice to see the Leaf label celebrating 20 years of existence and still as vital as ever with Melt Yourself Down, Polar Bear, Radioland and new signing The Comet Is Coming all releasing excellent records this year. One last mention must go to the album at the top of the list below that crept out under everyone’s noses on Record Store Day and has slowly been gathering attention through word of mouth in the last eight months. So much so that it won the Dead Albatross Music Prize – an alternative to the Mercury award set up by independent Norman Records to nominate records that would otherwise be passed over at such things. If you only listen to one album from the list below, make it the Annabel (lee) one.

Albums:
Annabel (lee) – By The Sea & Other Solitary Places (If Music/Ninja Tune)
Rammellzee – Cosmic Flush (Gamma Proforma)
Divine Styler – Def Mask (Gamma Proforma) (technically 2014)
Memory Man – Broadcast One (Chopped Herring)
Eagles of Death Metal – Zipper Down
Jane Weaver – The Amber Light (Bird)
Cavern Of Anti-Matter – Blood Music (Grautag Records) (technically 2013)
The The – Hyena (Death Waltz)
The Fabreeze Brothers – S/T (AE Productions)
Markey Funk – Instinct (Audio Montage) (released fully in Jan 2016)
Aphex Twin – Soundcloud Archive dump
Amon Tobin – Dark Jovian EP (Ninja Tune)
Radioland – Radio-Activity Revisited (Leaf)
Ollie Teeba – Short Order (World Expo)
Kurt Stenzel – Jodorowsky’s Dune (Light In The Attic)
Various Artists – The Delaware Road (Buried Treasure)
Floating Points – Elaenia (Pluto)
Morgan Delt – S/T (Trouble In Mind) (technically 2014)
Gaz Coombes – Matador (Universal)
Black Devil – Disco Club (Lo Recordings)
Bruce Ditmas – Yellow Dust (Finders Keepers)
Rodinia – Drumside / Dreamside (Now Again)
Various Artists – In A Moment (Ghost Box)
Jaga Jazzist – Starfire (Ninja Tune)

Tracks:
a few of these are from a few years ago but new to me…
Noel Gallagher – The Right Stuff (Sour Mash)
Graeme Miller & Steve Shill – Moomins Theme (Finders Keepers)
The The – Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven But Nobody Wants To Die) (Cineola)
The Comet Is Coming – Neon Baby (Leaf)
Reso – Richochet (Hospital)
Black Channels – Oracles (Death Waltz Originals)
Paul Rutherford – Get Real (Hardcore) (1989)
Beck – Dreams (Capitol)
Band of Skulls – Hootchie Cootchie (Ignition Records) (2014)
Pond – Zond (EMI)
Ash Grunwald – Walking (2011 but via the Amorphous Androgynous ‘Wizards of Oz’ 2015 RSD comp)
Olivier Libaux – No One Knows (feat. Inara George) (2013)
Alan Copeland – Mission Impossible/Norwegian Wood (ABC) (1968!)

Packaging 2015

Design / packaging / covers:
so many incredibly high quality creations, a oglden age for record sleeve packaging and design…
Science Fiction Dancehall Classics compilation (Trevor Jackson) (On-U Sound)
The The – Hyena (Cineola / Death Waltz/Mondo)
Kurt Stenzel – Jodorowsky’s Dune (Signal Starr) (Light In The Attic)
Jaga Jazzist – Starfire (Ninja Tune)
Tame Impala – Currents (Robert Beatty)
The ‘Beat Bop’ record case (Jean-Michel Basquiat)
Grasscut – Everyone Was A Bird (Lo Recordings)

Artists2015

Artists:
Dan Lish
Kim Jung Gi
Signal Starr
Oddly Head
Ameet Hindocha
Reuben Sutherland
Stan & Vince
Jonathan Edwards
Laurie Lipton
Larry Carlson

Books2015

Books / Comics:
Augustine Kofie – Keep Drafting (ZERO+ Publishing)
Stephen Coates – X-Ray Audio (Strange Attractor Press)
Roger Perry – The Writing On The Wall (Plain Crisp Books Ltd)
Hanson, Godtland & Krassner – Psychedelic Sex (Taschen)
Island – Various (Image)
Sandman: Overture – Gaiman/Williams (Vertigo)
Ody-C – Fraction/Ward (Image)
8-House – Various (Image)
B.P.R.D: Hell On Earth – Various (Dark Horse)
Punks: The Comic – Fialkov/Chamberlain (Image)
Judge Dredd: Enceladus – New Life – Williams / Flint (2000AD)

Format expo

Exhibitions:
Peter Kennard at the Imperial War Museum
Charles & Ray Eames at the Barbican
Cosmonauts at the Science Museum
X-Ray Audio at the Horse Hospital
Trevor Jackson / Format at the Vinyl Factory space
Zulu Nation 42nd Anniversary at House of Vans

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Film / TV: (I really didn’t watch much this year)
Mad Max: Fury Road
Star Wars : The Force Awakens
Love & Mercy
Dune The Complete Saga (Fan edit)
‘Colossus: The Forbin Project’
Rick & Morty

Secret Cinema X-Wing

Moments:
The X-Wing Fighter flying overhead during Star Wars Secret Cinema
The Frankie Goes To Hollywood box set getting nominated for an AIM award for best box set design
Interviewing Edwin Pouncey aka Savage Pencil for a forthcoming book
Getting to wear a full Stormtrooper suit whilst DJing during Star Wars Secret Cinema
DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist – Renegades of Rhythm show at Koko
Writing a piece and creating a mix about Rammellzee for the Quietus
The moving sale finds at Lambiek in Amsterdam
Crazy scenes at the Southbank for the Big Fish Little Fish free Sunday session

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Heroes:
Ben Coghill (again) for being the best agent in the business
The NHS – for saving my mum’s life and generally being incredible
Joshu Docherty – for recommending me for Star Wars Secret Cinema
Jeremy Corbyn – for giving hope that there can be an alternative
Sarah Coleman & Leigh Adams – for releasing their first film, making unique and
interesting things and generally being great people
Pete Williams – for getting the keys to the basement
Shindig! magazine – for overcoming the odds and turning a bad situation to their advantage
Pete Isaac & Scott Boca 45 for getting the whole 45 Live crew together and building an international collective
Everyone who gave their time and dug through their collections to contribute to the weekly Flexibition posts on the site: Jonny Trunk, Pete Isaac, Jon Brooks, Markey Funk & Ofer Tal, Stephen Coates, Jon More, John Stapleton, Steve Cook, Anton Armtone, Sarah & Leigh, Spencer Hickman.

RIP:
Mike Allen (Legendary Hip Hop DJ), Lemmy, Demis Roussos, The Pizz, Don Joyce (Negativland), Shusei Nagaoka, Kája Saudek, Errol Brown (Hot Chocolate), Daevid Allen (Gong), Leonard Nimoy, Brett Ewins, Noriyoshi Ohrai, Rod McKuen, Edgar Froese (Tangerine Dream), Mark B.

Looking forward to:
Transmission shop opening in Margate
David Bowie – Black Star LP
Mute 40 book
The Black Channels LP
The Allergies – Rock Rock feat. Andy Cat (Ugly Duckling)
Prophet: Earth War

Kevin O’Neill ‘Mek Memoirs’

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Finally, FINALLY!, I’ve secured a copy of Kevin O’Neill‘s legendary ‘Mek Memoirs’ fanzine/mini comic from 1976. It’s only taken me 14 years since first signing up to eBay and creating a search for it, having been outbid on the only two other copies to have come up in that time. 12 pages of self-published, prime pre-2000AD O’Neill robot business, no one can draw bots like Kev.
His hyper-detailed style is still forming into the unique presence he would add to the comic a year later here, first as art director and occasional spot illustrator and then as fully-fledged art droid. For a thorough overview on Kev’s early career including his stint on Horror Classics, take a look at Lew Stringer’s excellent blog piece here.

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RIP Brett Ewins

Very sad to hear the news today that Brett Ewins has died after a short illness. He was a master of his art and a huge influence in British comics in the 80’s and 90’s. Starting out with Brendan McCarthy and Pete Milligan he bought the sharpness of the ska movement into comics, slowly working his way up from one-off Future Shock stories in 2000AD to full-on national treasure status in the comic’s first golden age.

Judge Dredd, Bad Company, Rogue Trooper, Judge Anderson, Johnny Nemo and more, he made a huge impression on me as a kid. As the 80’s ended he co-founded the music and comics magazine, Deadline with Steve Dillon and they launched Tank Girl into the world among many others. I’m pretty sure I draw skulls the way I do because of Brett’s depiction of them as biochips in the Rogue Trooper stories. I remember copying at least one of his characters in a graffiti piece I did in my teens and also being shit-scared of a particular character he and Brendan McCarthy drew for a story called ‘The Day of the Phoenix’.

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The one page ‘Encounter’ from a very early issue of 2000AD freaked me out as an 8 year old, mostly because of the leering face of the creature about to do something unspeakable to the human who had just teleported into its world. Back in 2011 Air Pirate Press published ‘The Art of Brett Ewins’, a collection of a lot of his best work from the start of his career up until that time. It’s an excellent book and came as a timely reminder of Brett’s achievements as he’d disappeared from the scene amid rumours of health issues. The book is even more important now that he is now longer with us and nestled inside was the ‘Phoenix’ page which triggered a deep nostalgia in me. I made some inquiries and got a message to Brett asking if he still had the page and was it for sale? Luckily he did and it was, so one summer afternoon I found myself visiting him in his West London home, looking through various classic Dredd stories and chatting about his career. He still had the table that he and Brendan used to sit at and draw on when they were first starting out and he told me he loved listening to Brian Eno when he drew.

He was very humble about his own work and forthcoming with answers to the many questions I had about it. I bought the page although, unfortunately, most of the lettering had fallen off over time (it was drawn in 1978). Brett said that it was around somewhere and that he’d find it and send it to me although that wasn’t to be. Just a few months later there was a news story that he had been arrested and sectioned after an incident outside that very house late one night and soon after he was imprisoned for stabbing a policeman. He had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and served several months in jail before being released in late 2012. Since then he had been under psychiatric care and even made a few appearances at comic events as many rallied round him to offer support. I feel very lucky to have met him for the hour I was at his house, he certainly won’t be forgotten.

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I urge you to buy a copy ofThe Art of Brett Ewins’ to see how much great work this man gave to the comic world, Titan have also recently released a Johnny Nemo compendium collecting all the old strips and adding new work by artists like Rufus Dayglo, Ashley Wood and more. Air Pirate Press have collections of his Bad Company work and the US series, Skeemer. 2000AD have various Dredd collections available with Brett’s work in them but I don’t know the exact volumes that feature him. Lastly here’s some rarely seen early work that he did for a British poster company in the late 70’s, these are hard to find now but sometimes crop up on eBay.

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Judge Dredd – The Mega Collection

So, say for instance, you’ve heard of Judge Dredd, maybe you saw the Dredd film on DVD a year or so ago, you’ve read the odd graphic novel or seen high praise for certain stories kicking around the internet? Maybe you’ve read a few from the Top Ten Essential Dredd epics lists that periodically do the rounds on the web but want more? Where do you start with 38 years worth of stories, characters and continuity? Here is where, The Mega Collection: a fortnightly series of hardback story collections of the essential must-read tales spanning 80+ volumes (I read somewhere but can’t find now).

Starting with the classic tale of ‘America’ written by Dredd co-creator John Wagner and painted by Colin MacNeil at the incentive-inducing price of £1.99 it’s a no-brainer of a purchase if you’ve never read it. I can confirm that it’s a bonafide classic all right, centering around the subject of ‘democracy’ in Dredd’s world although it’s an odd choice to start the collection with. Maybe it sets the tone more than anything else and is a hard-hitting jump into how the Judges meter out ‘justice’ in the future?.
After the first issue the price jumps up to £9.99 per issue but there are subscriptions available with all sorts of free gifts and a free issue as well. Another incentive is that the complete collection will display this scene across the spines once finished. If you’re still not convinced then here’s a review of the first issue from the Everything Comes Back To 2000AD blog. This post reads back a bit like an advert unfortunately but it’s a perfect jumping in point and, for the same price of a vinyl 12″, a hardback collection every two weeks is a very good deal indeed.

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2000ad Free Comic Book Day cover

2000ad free 2015Pretty great line up for this year’s free comic, it’s been years since Kevin O’Neill graced the pages of the Prog (not getting my hopes up, it could be a reprint). The great Henry Flint on the art again, that’s the third year running, not sure Dredd should be firing inside the shop like that? Speaking of which – Henry returns to Dredd later this year with a follow up to the excellent Titan story that was running this time last year.

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