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Weekly comic 2000 AD is publishing its mile­stone 2,000th edi­tion.

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Tharg the Mighty has sent a call across the galaxy to all his finest script and art ro­bots and – by Gronk! – it has been an­swered. Yes, Prog 2000, of the out­stand­ing Bri­tish comic mag­a­zine 2000 AD, will land in late Septem­ber, fea­tur­ing art­work by some of its great­est ever con­trib­u­tors – Mick McMahon, Kevin O’Neill, Dave Gib­bons, Car­los Ez­querra and many more.

You’ll be able to choose from three al­ter­nate cov­ers. Tharg – the mag’s alien ed­i­tor – fea­tures on the cover by Cliff Robin­son, and Glenn Fabry has drawn an as­tound­ing wrap­around il­lus­tra­tion tak­ing in all the ma­jor 2000 AD char­ac­ters, which will be avail­able only in comic shops.

Chris Burn­ham has drawn an iconic im­age of Judge Dredd for the third cover.

It’s a bril­liant re­ver­sal hav­ing Amer­i­can artist Chris draw a cover. Founded in 1977 with a sci-fi re­mit, 2000 AD has de­vel­oped many young Bri­tish artists who have later been head­hunted by US pub­lish­ers. “The Burn­hams left Eng­land al­most 400 years ago,” laughs Chris. “Re­turn­ing in the pages of the galaxy’s great­est comic is an ab­so­lute dream come true!”

Chris’s im­age of 2000 AD main­stay Judge Dredd is in ho­mage to Mick McMahon’s cover for Prog 168, pub­lished way back in 1980, when the comic cost just 12p. “Mick’s ex­ag­ger­ated style gives him all sorts of anatom­i­cal lee­way – if you look at his orig­i­nal cover, Dredd’s hips are like four feet wide and his pro­por­tions are down­right skele­tal, but the im­pact is just fan­tas­tic,” says Chris.

Dave Gib­bons, who rock­eted to world­wide glory with The Watch­men, was part of the team that cre­ated the first edi­tion of 2000 AD. He’s re­turned for Prog 2000 with a page fea­tur­ing Tharg sur­rounded by some of the ti­tle’s Fu­ture War char­ac­ters – Rogue Trooper, The VCs, Fiends of the East­ern Front and Bad Com­pany.

For Dave, one of 2000 AD’s key strengths has been the team spirit it's main­tained across gen­er­a­tions of comic artists. “With 2000 AD there was a real kind of club­house feel,” he says. “We were friends with other peo­ple who worked on the comics, and I think nowa­days the com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween comic artists is so great that you feel you're part of a move­ment rather than just an in­di­vid­ual.”

com­edy in­flu­ence

Orig­i­nally in­flu­enced by Amer­i­can comics, 2000 AD shook up the Bri­tish news­stand when it was launched. It pushed the bound­aries with its wild sci-fi sto­ries and a sense of hu­mour that’s been likened to Monty Python and The Young Ones. Each week it still con­tains five or six sto­ries, con­tin­u­ing the tales of char­ac­ters like Judge Dredd and Sláine, but in­clud­ing one-off Fu­ture Shock sto­ries for added spice.

Though he drew the orig­i­nal Rogue Trooper char­ac­ter, Dave’s favourite 2000 AD work is a one-off story he did with Alan

Dredd’s hips are 4ft wide, his pro­por­tions skele­tal, but the im­pact is just fan­tas­tic

Moore be­fore their Watch­men days. “It was called Chrono­cops, and was a time travel cops story. That re­mains one of my favourites and, out of all the stuff that I did for 2000 AD, that’s ac­tu­ally the only one I still have the orig­i­nal art­work for – that’s how much I en­joyed and prized it.”

Fu­ture Shock pages give new artists a crack at work­ing on 2000 AD. For Prog 2000, Ru­fus Day­glo is draw­ing a new story called Coun­ter­feit Girl, writ­ten by Peter Mil­li­gan, but his ear­li­est con­tri­bu­tion to 2000 AD was a Fu­ture Shock. “Th­ese short, one-off sto­ries are quite chal­leng­ing," Ru­fus says. "You have to tell a whole story in five or six pages. It’s a test for both writer and artist, and a great tool to learn the craft of sto­ry­telling. Mine was about a knight who meets his older self as both a warn­ing and a prophecy.”

ex­treme fu­ture

With science fic­tion its main fo­cus, 2000 AD artists have imag­ined some ex­treme ver­sions of the fu­ture and just run with it. Char­ac­ters and sto­ry­lines go off in crazy di­rec­tions, and the un­pre­dictabil­ity is part of the fun. Writ­ers and artists have en­joyed plenty of free­dom on 2000 AD. As a re­sult, satire, so­cial com­men­tary and bizarre hu­mour have flowed through its sto­ry­lines.

Yet as zany – and vi­o­lent – as some of it has been, it’s main­tained a cer­tain bedrock style. Richard El­son has worked for 2000 AD since the late ’80s and in Prog 2000 he’s draw­ing a Rogue Trooper story writ­ten by Gor­don Ren­nie. With it, he’s aim­ing to evoke the early Rogue Trooper and give it a clas­sic 2000 AD feel that dates back to the late 1970s and early ’80s.

The short, one-off sto­ries are a great test for writer and artist, and a great tool to learn the craft of sto­ry­telling

“Kevin O’Neill, Mick McMahon, Car­los Ez­querra – they’re re­ally great comic artists, and there’s a cer­tain sort of quirk­i­ness, odd­ness, non-main­stream look to their art,” says Richard. “You’ve got to take your hat off to th­ese guys be­cause even your best artists to­day – Henry Flint and guys like that – are still look­ing back to their work. There’s such a weight of great art at the be­gin­ning, the first decade or so of the ti­tle, that any­body who works on it is al­ways go­ing to look back to that era.”

As its ti­tle sug­gests, the orig­i­nal launch team didn’t think 2000 AD would last un­til the year 2000, let alone reach its 2,000th is­sue. The comic-read­ing au­di­ence has shrunk, but 2000 AD has main­tained a loyal read­er­ship and as that read­er­ship has ma­tured, so has the ti­tle and its sto­ries. The con­tin­ued in­flux of new writ­ers and artists points to a bright fu­ture.

“2000 AD is a na­tional trea­sure,” says Dave Gib­bons. “It en­cap­su­lates a cer­tain strand of what it means to be Bri­tish that I think is wor­thy of be­ing pre­served, if not by the na­tion then cer­tainly for the na­tion.”

Comic mile­stone 18

Chris Burhnam’s Judge Dredd will be one of the three special cov­ers for Prog 2000.

Mick McMahon’s prog 168 Dredd cover (above) in­spired Chris Burn­ham’s con­tem­po­rary ef­fort (right).

The Di­a­mond Ex­clu­sive wrap­around cover for Prog 2000 by Glenn Fabry.

Si­mon Bis­ley’s fully painted, full-colour im­ages of Sláine de­fined the 1990s in 2000 AD.

Dave Gib­bons art­work for Alan Moore’s Chrono­cops one-off story is one he’ll never for­get.

Ru­fus Day­glo’s cover for the Judge Dredd Mag­a­zine is­sue 246. 2000 AD stal­warts Bad Com­pany, as drawn by Ru­fus Day­glo.

Mile­stone mags: Prog 500 with a nine-story melange and the 30th an­niver­sary is­sue, Prog 1526.

Beau­ti­fully sim­ple Rogue Trooper line art from 1987 by Steve Dil­lon.

Scot­tish artist Jock cre­ated this stun­ning Judge Dredd cover for Prog 1304.

Cliff Robin­son de­voted his Prog 2000 al­ter­nate cover to Tharg The Mighty, long-serv­ing alien ed­i­tor Of 2000 AD. It’s all knees, el­bows and claws with Kevin O’Neill’s ren­di­tion of Neme­sis seen here. Fe­ro­cious ac­tion is a hall­mark of Richard El­son, as proven in this cover for Prog 1331.

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