Something for the Weakened

A History of Collecting – Part Twelve – Unadulterated

Sunday, October 31st, 2004 by

At least I think we’re up to twelve. Can’t quite remember, as I haven’t got any of this stored at home. If only the sight had an archive . . . sigh. Anyhoo, just to let anyone who might misguidedly care know, the following is a serialised ongoing memoir/life inventory. Patched together with almost minutes thought before hand, using an unreliable memory and, er, nothing else really. Many things have happened in previous episodes, though I can’t specifically remember what. If only the site had an archive . . . sigh. Anyway, new readers need not worry, all you need to know is that I’ve been collecting comics. A LOT of comics.

Like many lovers of graphic narratives in these here isles, I spent quite a lengthy period collecting 2000AD. Sadly in recent years I tired of it rather and probably haven’t really picked up a copy in the past two or three. But the beginning of my decade with the title fits in to the timeline later and is a story for another day. My first contact took place much earlier in the grand scheme of things. It was at a time when I was attempting to acquire at least one issue of every comic on the shelves. Of course I maintained my usual weekly obsessions, but these were extra fripperies if and when I could afford them. This scattershot reading tendency worked quite well with all of the self-contained humour anthologies available at the time. It was less successful when trying out a more dramatic anthology with ongoing story lines – even those with a brief recap kicking off each new chapter. And so it was that one day I presented a copy of 2000AD to my Mother for purchase (I was terrified of many things back then. Giving people money at tills was one of them. Not keen on it to this day).

Ordinarily this would have been vetoed and I would have been sent back to choose something else. She was quite careful in monitoring my reading habits, so anything that could have upset my delicate sensibilities was generally unacceptable. It’s also probably the same reason that she wouldn’t buy me the Iron Maiden t-shirts with Eddie’s head exploding on them. I’d never heard the music, but wearing something with an exploding head on it was enormously appealing to my filthy little mind. But I digress. For some reason this week, the veto did not come into effect. Perhaps it was the cover (an Ian Gibson drawing of Halo Jones – one of the strips inside), maybe she didn’t notice the title, possibly there were other things on her mind. Whatever, it was purchased from Centre News and away we went home.

This was classic period 2000AD. Though it hadn’t reached point where it was entirely aimed at adults, and thus allowed swearing and nakedness, it had reached a level of maturity that no other mainstream title in the UK had (well, except Warrior, but I didn’t get hold of an issue of that until I was well into my twenties). Writers who had been with the title since it’s inception ten years previously were really hitting creative peaks. John Wagner, Pat Mills and Alan Grant were producing some of the best works of their careers. Meanwhile new blood was seeping in, with new writers such as Pete Milligan, Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore starting to get published within these hallowed pages. Stories that were innovative and inspiring were turning up on a weekly basis, often with some incredible art delineating the whole thing. The comic was still almost entirely black and white at this point, before the glut of stodgy painted art that was almost it’s downfall in the mid nineties. But these were halcyon days for the line artist. Kevin O’Neill, Bryan Talbot, Ian Gibson and many others were firing on all cylinders as they churned out half a dozen or more beautiful pages per week.

Prior to this point, the closest I had come to anything resembling a mature comic had been through the medium of smut. Though there was undoubtedly some of this going on in Battle and other places, these were still marketed towards a solely juvenile audience. When I was this age, I had only seen a couple of things using the medium of comics marketed to an adult audience. The first was what I now recognise to have been old underground comics I happened upon in the back of a second-hand bookshop up north. I realised they were for adults because they had boobs in them. The other was in Neill with two L’s garage, where his father failed utterly to hide his collection of pornography. In the back of some of these rhythm publications (Mayfair I seem to recall), ran some two page, dialogue free comic strips. These would involve a hapless heroine whose name escapes me, getting into a peculiar situation that would inevitably leave her naked by the end of it. They were fairly uninspiring; (in any way) though I have subsequently discovered they were drawn by one of the nations foremost artists of the medium. Unfortunately I can’t quite remember whom. Either Don Lawrence or Ron Emberton I think, though I can’t be sure.

Anyway, back to the plot. Arriving home I launched into that weeks reading extravaganza, devouring the six or so strips inside. And do you know what? It completely went over my head. The majority of the tales were half way through a run and had little to no information on what had gone on before. I seem to recall that the Halo Jones story (by Alan Moore, a man I would later discover to be the greatest living writer on the planet) was set entirely in a bar. And nothing happened except for some talking and drinking. Not even a fight!? It never occurred to me that I was too young to appreciate any of this. Instead I arrived at a far more logical conclusion – that 2000AD was rubbish and I wasn’t going to buy it again. If only I could have seen five years down the line . . .

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