These stories had a profound effect on me growing up in semi-rural East Yorkshire and continue to have an effect on my writing today. Here are my top five. You might not agree.
This was the first serious and profound comic story I ever read. It’s about young Luke Kirby and his grandfather who investigate a mysterious werewolf that is terrorising a rural village. I liked the relationship between the lad and his grandfather and how the mundane mixed with the occult as the boy learns magic. A brilliant ending with a twist.
I came back from a two week holiday and found out there was a new story in 2000ad, ‘Bad Company’. Strangely, I don’t remember all the violence in it, I just remember the characters describing the horror and madness of war. At this point I had never read Wilfred Owen.
Long before the film with Van Damme but after the song by Donovan , this was a fantastic story about a multiple personality soldier fitted with a chip inside his brain. The chip gives him an unlimited number of specialist skills instantly and he becomes any number of legendary warriors from the past, present or future. In the picture above I think he had become Little John of Robin Hood fame but I particularly liked it when he became the legendary Japanese swordsman Miyamoto Musashi.
4. The Dead man.
I like Judge Dredd but I’m not a huge fan so it came as a shock to me to find out that the lead protagonist in this Cursed Earth story was Joe Dredd himself.
Young Yassa, a wasteland lad, finds a body, horribly disfigured by acid and is shocked when the man comes back to life. The Dead Man has no idea who he is or where he came from, so, he and Yassa (and his dog) travel across the Cursed Earth to find out. What I liked about this story was the western feel to it, all drawn in black and white, and the simple, character driven story with the relationship between Dredd and Yassa.
Dredd leads the boy almost to his death in this quest and Yassa is blinded by evil ghosts, but here’s the thing, Dredd regrets his actions. It’s the first time, for me, that Dredd becomes a real character, he feels that he has done something wrong and even returns the blind Yassa to his home suffering the curses and indignation of the wasteland family.
The year was 1990, I was 16 and growing up, 2000ad had already grown up, it was just the first time that I had noticed.
5. Tales from the Doghouse (Strontium Dog spin-off)
Of course, we all love Jonny Alpha with his glowing eyes that can read minds and see through walls but it was the ‘Tales from the Doghouse’ series that caught my imagination way back in 1988.
Set in a dystopian future, the only job that mutants like Jonny Alpha can get, is as Search and Destroy agents or Strontium Dogs and their headquarters are called simply, ‘The Doghouse’. Here, you can find mutants who don’t actually want to be bounty hunters – but they have to be, and of course, they’re not the high powered super humans that you find in the x-men movies, they’re characters like ‘Back-to-front-Jones’, whose head is on the wrong way round, ‘Froggy Natterjack’ who’s like a toad and Tom ‘Birdy’ Lilley who has little wings – but can’t fly. Usually one off stories, they were very British tales of unlikely heroes and those doing the best they can in terrible and difficult circumstances.