This week, I travelled back in time.
Fortunately, rather than find out I’m my own great-grandfather or accidently erase a relative from history (meaning I wouldn’t be here to type this), it was a simple trip: for half an hour, sat in the garden on a sunny summer’s day, I was ten-years-old again.
Back in the summer of 1981 – when I was about to turn eleven and start the ‘big school’ – the 2000AD Sci-fi Special made an appearance in my home. I can’t remember if it was bought for me or if I picked it up while shopping with my mum. Perhaps I asked for it; I was no stranger to the comic, having read it a couple of years beforehand when Judge Dredd was on the cover, about to be sacrificed to a dinosaur in the Cursed Earth – “This is so good, I’m going to get it forever”, I remember saying.
Suffice to say, for reasons I can’t recall, I didn’t. But, in 1981, the Sci-fi Special changed everything. It had a cover by Brian Bolland – one of his immaculate Dredd images – but the story inside outshone even that. Drawn by Colin Wilson, this art was even cleaner than Bolland’s, those crisp images almost shining out of the page. It was a great story, too; if I haven’t confused myself, it was Dredd on the trail of supplier of ‘white powder’, an illegal substance that turned out to be sugar. What other stories I read in those pages escape me (I could have a look on the internet later, I suppose), other than a Nemesis the Warlock story that would, as the cover promised, see NEMESIS REVEALED! Now, I didn’t even know who Nemesis was, but I can recall the story of a young man sent on a quest – “you may kiss the hem of my garment,” says Torquemada – only to be scuppered at the end by Nemesis himself. This story is more vivid in my mind than the Dredd one, because it’s in the collected Nemesis stories from a few years ago. Having had a look at it again, it was every bit as good as I remembered. Possibly, now I’m a bit older and wiser, it’s even better. Back then, it got me hooked on the weekly comic (that was its job, I suppose) and memories from that time include moving house, and having to wait three weeks to have the complete Rogue Trooper Total War poster on my new bedroom wall, cut out to perfection from four back covers and mounted on cardboard, no less.
Back to the present, and this year sees the first Sci-fi Special released for eighteen years. It’s good – it’s very good – filled with familiar characters and not-so-familiar writers and artists. The Special feels like an ideal outlet for new voices, and I have to applaud 2000AD for making this happen. I was wary initially, but that quickly passed, and I found myself immersed in the stories, just as I had all those years ago. The stories are all brand new and self-contained, all to a high standard, but for me it’s Robo-Hunter that stands out; Sam Slade was always one of my favourites, and The Bodj Job – although told by a new writer – contains the same dry wit and cynicism of the character, while placing him in a situation that is both highly amusing, as well as being a commentary on a certain aspect of society.
If hadn’t already jumped back on the 2000AD spaceship, this year’s Sci-Fi Special would have me rushing out for it. As a showcase for new talent – the faces of the future – it works perfectly, and as a teaser for the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic, I hope it gets 2000AD the extra readers it deserves. Me, I’d like to thank them for making me young again, even if it was just for half an hour.