Politics are Dreddful, Art is Active; Choose Your Representative

1988 2000AD annual cover, Brendan McCarthy (Judge Anderson, Strontium Dog and Tharg)

DREDD anti-votes, 2000ad, Paul Marshall & Abigail Ryder
Bad Company, 1989, 2000 AD Annual, Milligan, Ewins, McCarthyI’m not a 2000 AD reader, exactly. I’d kill a man for Slaine: The Horned God, I liked the Dredd trades my old local library had, and I’m pretty into the Judge Anderson stories I picked up at Thought Bubble last year, but I’ve never been a weekly purchaser. I tried for a while more than a decade ago, but all I remember is a very brown strip about football of the future. Yay. That said, I spent this last Sunday with a ten year stack of yearly Annuals, 1981-1991, and I felt a mighty stirring. These comics are dirt-funny, founded in facetious nature and mockery of the rules. The man-rules. “War is brilliant! Let’s all be soldiers lads,” an’ stuff. The patriarchy, I guess; though needless to say they don’t escape it’s gnarly grasp entirely.

Ro-Busters, 2000 AD annual 1981, Chris Stevens, Dave Harwood, Peter Knight

The comics that I read were very clearly made by engaged political thinkers (or at least observational, sarcastic bastards) and I wondered if that’s still an unspoken baseline requirement for 2000 AD creators. It seems like it should be; Dredd is clearly still top guy and his whole deal is rude & deep-dick satire. Then I saw the lead image, and I had to ask somebody. I wanted to know. Enter Editor Matt Smith (no– not Matt Smith, or Matt Smith).

Is political a desirable image, then, for the comic or the brand?

Bad Company, 1989, 2000 AD Annual, Milligan, Ewins, McCarthyWhen your lead, and most recognisable, character is Judge Dredd – a strip about a totalitarian future city, governed by a military police force with powers of summary justice, which asks questions about personal freedom, democracy and the law – you can’t help but be a political comic. The trick is not to hector your audience but invite your readers to question this kind of authority within the context of an exciting SF action story. But Dredd’s not the only political strip – the likes of Strontium Dog, Nemesis the Warlock and Savage all have important subtexts about race, discrimination, bigotry and foreign policy. Even 2000 AD’s superhero series Zenith took potshots at the late 80s/early 90s Tory government. I think it’s important that 2000 AD has this kind of counter-cultural edge, that it’s a product of the decades it’s been formed in as well as providing its audience with an escape to other worlds and dystopian futures.

Is “socially informed” a label that applies to the core target audience?

Yes, I’d say that much of 2000 AD’s audience was socially informed liberals, much like the creators.

Strontium Dog, 2000 AD annual 1985, T B Grover, Ezquerra, S Potter

Does Dredd urge the populace to vote every election, or just this one? (If every time, is it always Dredd?)

Dredd’s not urging the populace to vote– he’s the antithesis of democracy. It’s 2000 AD–and by extension its alien editor Tharg the Mighty–that is flagging up the warning that Dredd represents: a dictatorial government, under which the citizens of Mega-City One have few rights and no elected representatives. 2000 AD is saying that every registered voter has the opportunity to choose their government through the power of the ballot box, and should exercise that right – apathy leads down the road toward something like Justice Department assuming absolute control.

I see it says something about Russell Brand on the bottom; what’s all that about? (For the blissfully ignorant, here’s a link to explain my perplexity.)

This advert’s been issued by the fictional Russell Brand Block Democratic Fringe. It’s a gag in the Dredd strip – all the mega-blocks in which the citizens live are named after 20th and 21st century celebrities.

Are Paul Marshall (lines) and Abigail Ryder (colourist) regular 2000AD creators–is this new art for the ad, or is it a crop from a previous story? (If the latter, what’s the story about?)

Yes, this a new piece of art. Both Paul and Abby are regular contributors – Paul drew the Dredd headshot on spec, and I decided to use it for this special election advert.

So there we are. Comics? Politics? Cosy Dreddfellows, innit.

Vote, or the first of Dredd could be your new eiderdown. And no velvet glove, either: he’s a leather man, through and through.

Gaze Into the Fist of Dredd

Claire Napier

Claire Napier

Critic, ex-Editor in Chief at WWAC, independent comics editor; the rock that drops on your head. Find me at clairenapierclairenapier@gmail.com and give me lots of money

2 thoughts on “Politics are Dreddful, Art is Active; Choose Your Representative

  1. 2000AD was my entry into political issues: the social justice issues in Strontium Dog and Robusters; totalitarianism in Judge Dredd; racism and bigotry in Nemesis. Plus the stories are funny and entertaining.

    I’m now a university lecturer in politics….

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