Feeds

What happened to comics for kids? Hell, what happened to COMICS?

It's time to go back to basics

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

In central London, there’s a giant-sized superheroes, space ’n’ science fiction shop. Among the pricey objects on offer – £479.99 for a replica Alien egg, for example, or £152.99 for a Star Wars dart board – there are action figures, t-shirts, books, DVDs and - even now - comics. On packed shelves of glossy colour mags, we have zombies, saucy vampires, tough guy violence, titillation and bad language alongside the incredible, world-shattering powers of costume’d hyperbeings.

Cool, a 12-year-old would think. But look around, of course, and the customers are exclusively adult.

A sense of standardisation seems to prevail, here. The comics have serious, over-dramatic and elaborate plotlines involving characters acting realistically, however fanciful the scenario. Artwork tends to cuteness or realism - incredibly wide manic grins signify psychotics, and for being really on-edge, try cig-smoking.

But how come everyone thinks that being self-consciously 'adult' makes this stuff better, when in fact it's better when it's aimed at kids, and the fully-grown enjoy it more that way too?

© Rebellion

There’s one part of this shop that always satisfies: the British comic section, with its racks full of 2000 AD comics and beautifully bound books of reprints of the late 1970s and early 1980s classic British war comic Battle. Here are brisk, no-fat action stories with abundant imagination, wit and individuality. There's 2000 AD's Judge Dredd and Nemesis The Warlock; and Charley’s War from Battle. There are also the quality second-billers - the time-travelling cowboys of Flesh, the blue-skinned elite infantryman Rogue Trooper and the JG Ballard-for-beginners Tharg's Future Shocks stories… Truly, this is sustenance for the weary soul. The 2000 AD comics, created for ten-year-olds and, later, teenagers, now has many, many more adult fans.

But could such comics be made now? Unlikely.

The entertainment is too raw, the action too violent, the humour too warped. Judge Dredd – whose film version back in September nailed the essence of the character superbly – had all these basic virtues in abundance in the early years of the 2000 AD strip. It had top-notch writers Pat Mills and John Wagner and artists including the mighty Mick McMahon, Brian Bolland and Ron Smith. These were stories were riven with satire as well as action – as well as JD’s full-on instant-justice shtick unleashed upon Mega City One’s hyper-obese insurrectionist fatties and ill-fated confectioner Uncle Ump’s sweets-as-crack. Consider the legendary, un-reprintable 1978 issues, when Dredd finds himself in the midst of a war between Ronald McDonald and Burger King in the post-nuclear Cursed Earth.

What about the other famous 2000 AD strip, Nemesis The Warlock, the horned alien freedom fighter waging war on the crusading, future-medieval xenophobes of Termight, led by their superfascist Grand Master Torquemada - later proved to be an actual reincarnation of the original leader of the Spanish Inquisition? Drawn to flesh- and brain-crawlingly wondrous effect by the great Kevin O’Neill, and scripted by Mills, here was rich mulch for developing brains. Ideas like these seep into the mind’s water table when you’re young.

Something else that probably wouldn’t last five minutes today is Battle’s historically accurate and brutally frank First World War strip Charley’s War. Also scripted by Mills, and awe-inspiringly illustrated by the late Joe Colquhoun, it’s another classic that anyone who watches X-Factor should be forced to read.

Tracing the experiences of the teenage British soldier Charley Bourne as he survives through the Great War, it combines adventure with seriousness in ways are genuinely affecting, as when Charley’s pal Ginger is blown up by a shell and he has to bury him. Has ever a villain been more genuinely hated than the sadistic toff Captain D’Arcy Snell for what he does to the heroic commoner Charley? These are how honourably subversive these black-and-white, five-pages-a-week series were - a wider discussion of the deadening consequence of the internet’s endless choice is going to have to wait. Go to the Imperial War Museum’s database of First World War servicemen, and there was actually a real Charley Bourne; comparing it to comics about sexy vampires or zombie attacks seems wrong, somehow.

The essential guide to IT transformation

Next page: Too cool for colour

More from The Register

next story
Assange™: Hey world, I'M STILL HERE, ignore that Snowden guy
Press conference: ME ME ME ME ME ME ME (cont'd pg 94)
Premier League wants to PURGE ALL FOOTIE GIFs from social media
Not paying Murdoch? You're gonna get a right LEGALLING - thanks to automated software
Caught red-handed: UK cops, PCSOs, specials behaving badly… on social media
No Mr Fuzz, don't ask a crime victim to be your pal on Facebook
Ballmer quits Microsoft board to spend more time with his b-balls
From Clippy to Clippers: Hi, I see you're running an NBA team now ...
Online tat bazaar eBay coughs to YET ANOTHER outage
Web-based flea market struck dumb by size and scale of fail
Kate Bush: Don't make me HAVE CONTACT with your iPHONE
Can't face sea of wobbling fondle implements. What happened to lighters, eh?
Amazon takes swipe at PayPal, Square with card reader for mobes
Etailer plans to undercut rivals with low transaction fee offer
Call of Duty daddy considers launching own movie studio
Activision Blizzard might like quality control of a CoD film
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.