2000AD is set to celebrate its 2000th prog (or issue, if you’re unfamiliar with it) soon, and there’s much to celebrate for the galaxy’s greatest comic book. However, it’s also a time for reflection. In The Mighty One, Steve MacManus – 2000AD’s greatest editor – takes readers on a journey to explore the editorial history behind it, along with Judge Dredd: The Megazine, Crisis, Revolver and other titles he’s been involved with.
Starting in 1973, his early career working on titles such as Valiant, Battle and Action was a time of learning the ins-and-outs of writing, editing, business politics and the unglamorous behind-the-scenes work which went into producing comic books. It also brought personal danger when he took the role of Action Man, the public face of Action who would perform various stunts for the readers. These included exploring London’s sewers, getting cosy with a boa constrictor and fire-breathing. Yet when he arrived at 2000AD, an entirely different challenge awaited him.
Writing scripts and editing at 2000AD was one thing, wearing the suit and mask of Tharg The Mighty One for public appearances was another. As a young title on the market, 2000AD was still a gamble and the challenge fell to MacManus to improve readership and quality. Discovering new talent and helping to bring new characters and stories to the readers became key over the years, but the road to success was paved like a minefield. From trying to improve creators’ rights and creating new spin-off titles to surviving corporate takeovers and the insults of Hollywood, it was MacManus’s impossible job to try and please everyone.
If you’re looking for a juicy, gossip-laden tale of creator egos and conflicts and the anarchic revolution going on in British comic books, this isn’t it. Instead, it’s an intriguing and in-depth tale of how long and hard the editors work behind the scenes to bring your favourite comic books to life. With summaries of plots and characters he’s worked on over the years and how the editorial process shaped momentous publishing decisions, it’s a book for those keen on understanding 2000AD‘s history better.
Unfortunately, that’s the down-side of it too. While it’s all told in a laid-back, occasionally pun-laden style which makes it easy to read, the tales of a hard-working editor aren’t going to appeal to everyone. His anecdotes, while amusing, are short and easy to dismiss, and reading about the daily grind of the business isn’t going to excite too many people. He makes some highly valid points regarding how editors should approach the job and it’s a comprehensive look at 2000AD‘s chronology, although it’s also a little too business-like at times.
It’s clear that there are some things left unsaid which you wish he would bring up. However, he still delivers a fascinating look at the highs and lows at 2000AD which many readers are probably unaware of. While not as gleefully anarchic as the documentary Future Shock, it’s still a good look at the workings of 2000AD‘s Nerve Centre.