Multiver-City One, our 2000 AD column, brings you insight and information about the weekly British sci-fi anthology comic week after week. But we understand that getting into the right mindset to enjoy such injections of Thrill-Power can be overwhelming for the layperson. So in an effort to make sure no Earthlet is left behind, we’ve compiled this reference guide to bring you up-to-speed on everything 2000 AD, making sure to include links to free comic samples and information on the best way to get your hands on these zarjaz tales, no matter where you call home.
And once you feel like you’re a real Squaxx dek Thargo, come over to the weekly column and join the fun!
WHAT IS “2000 AD”?
Launched in February 1977, “2000 AD” is the weekly British anthology comic that spawned such notable comic characters as Judge Dredd, Rogue Trooper, Sláine, Zenith, Judge Anderson, Nikolai Dante, and has been the launching pad for almost every major British comics creator since its inception. Talents like Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Dave Gibbons, Jock, Sean Phillips, Brian Bolland, Garth Ennis, Mark Millar, and too many others to count have graced the pages of “2000 AD”. Each weekly installment, called a Prog (short for “Programme”), is 32 pages, full color, magazine-sized comic that leads with a “Judge Dredd” strip and usually contains 4 or 5 strips in total.
(Quick note: just to avoid confusion, “2000 AD” is currently published by 2000 AD/Rebellion. So when we mention “2000 AD” with quotation marks, we are specifically referring to the Progs; when we mention 2000 AD without the marks, we’re referring to the larger publisher or stable of characters.)
Running concurrent with “2000 AD” since September 1990 is the monthly “Judge Dredd Megazine”. The 64-page “Megazine” contains not only the requisite Dredd and Dredd-verse comics, but also a creator-owned strip, feature articles & interviews, and a separate 64-page saddle-stitched reprint volume of classic “2000 AD” material bagged with every issue.
There are also quarterly & one-off issues released throughout the year: the Summer Special, the Winter Special, the Free Comic Book Day special, and the Year-End Annual.
All of those are released in the UK and day&date digitally through the various 2000 AD mobile apps or online store (in DRM-free CBZ or PDF formats). For print readers in North America, the weekly Progs are sold through Diamond in monthly bundle packs usually the last week of the month following the month the Megazine/Progs were on sale.
As for US-native content:
2000 AD republishes select stories as US-format comics. These have so far included: “Brass Sun”, “Jaegir”, “Aquila”, “Ichabod Azrael”, and the Dredd Movieverse titles “Underbelly” and “Uprise”.
And if all THAT wasn’t enough, IDW has been an official licensee of 2000 AD properties since 2012. They have reprinted classic material from strips like “Rogue Trooper”, “Sinister Dexter”, and “Judge Dredd”, as well as commissioned all-new stories from “Rogue Trooper” and “Judge Dredd”.
IDW’s original “Judge Dredd” content output so far has consisted of:
- “Judge Dredd” Volume One by Duane Swierczynski and Nelson Daniel
- “Judge Dredd: Year One” by Matt Smith
- “Judge Anderson: Year One” by Matt Smith and Carl Critchlow
- “Judge Dredd: Mega-City Two” by Douglas Wolk and Ulises Farinas
- “Judge Dredd” Volume Two by Ulises Farinas & Erick Freitas and Dan McDaid
WHAT IS THRILL-POWER?
While “2000 AD” began with a heavy science-fiction slant to it, there have been many successful strips over the years in other genres. The thing that unifies all the stories appearing in the Progs (and Megazines) is Thrill-Power.
Thrill-Power is difficult to put into words but unmistakable when you encounter it. It’s the thing that makes a comic leap off the stands and grab you by the throat when you see it, and keeps you thinking about that comic long afterwards. Thrill-Power is the excitement, hilarity, shock and dread Tharg and the droids put into every Prog.Continued below
WHO IS THARG THE MIGHTY?
Seen at left, Tharg the Mighty is the alien Editor of all things “2000 AD”. (ALL HAIL THARG!) Coming to Earth from Quaxxon, he and his team of droids produce the Progs and Megazines from the spaceship-esque Nerve Centre building in Oxford. Tharg is also responsible for not only Thill-Power, but also some of the alien lingo used by “2000 AD” fans, such as:
- Zarjaz (excellent)
- Boragg thung (welcome)
- Squaxx dek Thargo (friend of Tharg)
- Scrotnig (exciting)
- Krill Tro Thargo (Honored by Tharg)
And while that is absolutely true, it would not be untrue to tell you that Tharg was also “2000 AD”’s in-comic spokesperson when it premiered in 1977. British comics of that era usually had their own slang and host characters, a la the Crypt-Keeper from the EC Comics of the 1950’s. Barring a brief period when the men from Vector 13 staged a failed coup of the Prog while Tharg was away tending to a crisis, the alien dictator has been in power ever since. Seeing his will be done as Editor-in-Chief for almost the past 15 years has been Matt (not the Eleventh Doctor) Smith.
WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH JUDGE DREDD?
Think of Judge Dredd is the Batman of the 2000 AD publishing line: incredibly versatile and iconic, able to support almost any type of story, and one of those characters that nearly every creator has a take on. But unlike Batman or the vast majority of mainstream action comics, co-creator John Wagner has managed to remain the guiding vision for Dredd and Dredd’s world over the character’s entire history, giving The Lawman of the Future and the world he patrols a simultaneous diversity and cohesion.
As for good jumping-on points, Dredd’s got a ton of them. But if I had to pick one in particular, I’d go with “Judge Dredd Case Files” Volume 5. The first four books aren’t bad, but Volume 5 is where things really kick into high gear, and seeds are planted that keep paying off almost 30 years later.
And if you want more of the Dredd universe but just think ol’ Stoney Jaw is too much for you, there’s always titles like Judge Anderson, Low Life, Mega-City Undercover, Shimura, Devlin Waugh, and Insurrection.
DOES 2000 AD HAVE ANYTHING TO OFFER ME IF I DON’T LIKE JUDGE DREDD (AND WHAT HAVE YOU COVERED)?
Absolutely! You don’t publish 37 years of weekly comics and not build up a pretty significant library. So in the interest of pointing you in the direction of material readily available, here’s a brief list of some other offerings from 2000 AD:
ABC Warriors by Pat Mills & Clint Langley
Mars, the far future. War droids created for a conflict that ended centuries ago, the A.B.C. WARRIORS are resistant to Atomic, Bacterial and Chemical warfare. Recruited to bring peace to the civil war-ravaged frontier colonies on the Red Planet, the Mek-nificent Seven comprise leader Hammerstein, the mystical Deadlock, sharpshooter Joe Pineapples, the brutish Mongrol, voice of Mars Steelhorn, the treacherous Blackblood, and the pin-headed battle-tank Mek-Quake.
Aquila by Gordon Rennie & Leigh Gallagher
Following the gladiator slave Spartacus’s failed revolt against his Roman masters, his army of rebels was crucified along the Via Apia. Among the six thousand screaming figures is the former slave-turned-gladiator known only as AQUILA.
Brass Sun by Ian Edington & INJ Culbard
The Orrery is a fully functional, life-size clockwork solar system. A clutch of planets, moons and asteroids orbit a vast, life-giving BRASS SUN via immense metal spars, its origin and purpose long since forgotten. The once unified collection of worlds have regressed into eccentric fiefdoms and petty baronies. One such planet, Hind Leg, is ruled by religious dogma – its leaders believe the Cog is Creation, and any suggestion that the sun is slowing is treated as heresy. But for many, there’s no escaping the truth that worlds are dying and something needs to be done…
Damnation Station by Al Ewing & Mark Harrison
Earth space, the late 21st century. When it was revealed that Earth in fact belonged to an alien race known as the Hosts, the human race was obliged to pay off their debt to their extraterrestrial landlords by fighting for them in the Host Auxiliary Legion, a volunteer force that helps protect the galaxy from invading races, operating out of Earth Station One – otherwise known as DAMNATION STATION. But the station was destroyed by an alien incursion, there was massive loss of life, and the mysterious Joe Nowhere, Tura and a traumatised Brett Gayle are all that remain of their unit…
Darkness at the Break of Noon
In Another Lifetime
After Losing Every Battle
Flesh by Pat Mills & James MacKay
With food scarce in the future, TransTime send cowboys back through time to farm the dinosaurs for their meat – but Tyrannosaur hag Old One-Eye will not go down without a fight!
Jaegir by Gordon Rennie & Simon Coleby
Set in the Rogue Trooper universe, Kapitan-Inspector Atalia Jaegir serves in the Nordland State Security Police, hunting down the war criminals that have escaped justice!
Brothers in Arms
Sláine: The Brutania Chronicles by Pat Mills & Simon Davis
Celtic hero Sláine – exile, wanderer and later king – defends his people from the sea demons, at the behest of the Earth Goddess…
Ulysses Sweet, Maniac For Hire by Guy Adams & Paul Marshall
Maniac for hire, who causes more problems than he solves.
I’M SOLD! WHERE DO I START?
You might think I’m joking, but since these are newsstand publications, they’re designed to be picked up in media res. They are much more new-reader friendly than your average US comic and you should feel safe just diving in as soon as you get the chance. The strips run different lengths and Tharg is always throwing in one-off ‘Future Shocks’ or ‘Time Twisters’ or 3-part ‘3rillers’ to keep things lively, so there’s usually something to get in on the ground floor with.
That said, 2000 AD has made it a practice in recent times to have at least two Prog-wide jump-on points a year, where all the strips are either brand new or at starting points for new stories. Prog 1924 was the most recent, but Progs 1800, 1824, 1850, 1874, and 1900 have all been reset points for easy Thrill-Power access.
You can download a 130-page PDF sampling of classic Judge Dredd material here.
You can download the Dredd Movieverse one-shot “Underbelly” here.
HOW CAN I GET “2000 AD”/”JUDGE DREDD MEGAZINE”/ETC?
If you live in the UK, pop on down to your local newsvendor or comic shoppe.
If you live outside the UK, things are a little trickier:
- The best way to get your weekly dose of Thrill-Power is to use the 2000 AD Newsstand app (iOS only at the moment, but Tharg assured me the droids are working on an Android app as well). You can buy the Progs/Megs a la carte or subscribe for a discount and, in a move I’m sure makes Tharg immensely happy, have them beamed directly to your device automatically. You can also purchase back-Progs and Megs from the last few years and 2000 AD graphic novels on the app as well.
- If you want actual digital files for your purchase, you can go to the 2000ADonline.com and buy DRM-free PDFs and/or CBZ files. The digital issue selection goes back further on the site than the app (back to 2009). The site also has a pretty extensive back-catalog of print Progs, going back to the early 2000’s.
- If you want to get your hands on the actual physical Progs (which you should because they are magazine-sized and fantastic) as they come out, they can be ordered through Diamond by your local comics shop. Diamond groups the weekly Progs together in one-month bags, so there’s no real way to just get a single Prog. The monthly Megazines can be ordered individually.
WHERE CAN I FIND OUT MORE?
If you are intrigued by all this and want to delve deeper into Thrill-History, I would recommend several other places to start:
- For video: The Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD! feature-length documentary
- For audio: The 2000 AD Thrill-Cast, 2000 AD’s official fortnightly podcast hosted by PR droid Michael Molcher
- For prose: “Thrill-Power Overload: Thirty Years of 2000 AD” by David Bishop (former 2000 AD Editor-in-Chief).