Regular readers of the blog – and my Twitter followers – can’t have failed to notice that I’ve been covering an awful lot of 2000AD-related material over the past few months. It started on my birthday, when I purchased a copy of the latest Judge Dredd Megazine as a treat to myself; it wasn’t long before thrill-power took over once more and led me to some Dredd board games (the brilliant but punishingly difficult The Cursed Earth and the flawed but mechanically interesting, visually stunning Block War), before I discovered the wonderful documentary Future Shock – which really sealed my return to The Galaxy’s Greatest Comic.
2000AD started out in 1977 as an edgy, politically and socially aware sci-fi comic aimed at kids, but as with most comic books it grew more and more mature as its audience did – and in the process lost sight of attracting new generations of kids to the material, which is often far more mature and graphic in tone to the content that 2000AD started off with (as controversial as it may have been in its day). It’s quite a conundrum, however; the core audience of 2000AD – usually men in their 40s or 50s by now – still read it consistently and loyally, so the last thing Rebellion (2000AD’s custodians for 20 years now) want to do is alienate them. The fact remains that they won’t be around forever though, as sad a thought as that may be. So new blood is definitely needed to keep 2000AD alive in the decades to come – but how?
Enter 2000AD Regened; an all-ages takeover of the main series, in which an entire prog is filled with stories that anyone of any age can read. Not only that, but keeping them as one-off tales and divorcing them from the serialised weekly stories usually found in 2000AD means that you don’t have to worry about strategically picking up an issue where you won’t be starting in the middle of a series – each story is self-contained; one and done.
There are familiar takes on classic characters – such as Judge Anderson, Rogue Trooper and Strontium Dog – who, for the most part, are presented as they always are – albeit with a slightly more cartoony appearance. Dredd is dialled back from the old man we currently follow around Mega City-One (and beyond) to his earliest days on the streets in Cadet Dredd (which also features his clone brother Rico before he made his heel turn). There’s more Future Shocks (the twist-in-the-tail stories that 2000AD have always done so brilliantly) and even new stories, such as the excellent teen ghost-busting adventures in Finder & Keeper or space kid weirdness of Full Tilt Boogie (which has recently been featured as a longer serial in the pages of regular 2000AD).
Promisingly, the first Regened issue – published in May last year – was the biggest selling prog of 2019, so thankfully there’s been more since then. Four issues are planned for 2020 and three have been published so far; what’s been most refreshing about them is that they don’t feel dumbed down in any way whatsoever – true to 2000AD form, they don’t talk down to readers and still offer the same pop culture references, along with political and social commentary that 2000AD has always thrived on. Even if readers don’t realise this, it’s most definitely there.
The latest issue of Regened is the current (as of the time of writing) issue (or prog, as is the correct terminology when talking about The Galaxy’s Greatest Comic) of 2000AD. Of the four issues published so far, it has my favourite cover; a stunning illustration of the young Dredd and Rico in their distinctive white cadet helmets, astride their Lawmaster bikes. It’s a beautifully colourful and kinetic piece that artist Neil Roberts reveals (in a great interview with Roberts, which features some brilliant behind-the-scenes pictures of the piece and its progress from concept to finished cover) was inspired in many ways by the motorbike sequences in Manga/animé masterpiece Akira.
Though family-friendly and perhaps more diverse in terms of tone than ‘regular’ 2000AD, the Regened issues really are a great read for comic book fans of any age, including adults. There’s little in the way of background knowledge required to enjoy the stories within; anything you need is on the contents page or in the stories themselves. Each one of the Regened issues is a masterclass in introducing each character and even the general feel of 2000AD to new readers, young or old. Though perhaps it’d be difficult to recommend that the youngest of readers continue reading the mainline comic on a weekly basis given the maturity level of its content in most cases, there is at least plenty of older material currently in print from Rebellion that they can sink their teeth into if they want to continue reading.
It’s great to see Rebellion experimenting with the format and looking to expand the readership of the title; given how much fun I’ve had personally with the Regened issues, however, my only wish is that there was a more regular Regened series. Four a year just doesn’t feel like enough, especially as there’s a more light-hearted and fun feel to the strips than the darker – albeit also darkly comedic – tones found in the usual weekly progs. The good news is that most of the currently available Regened material is being collected in a graphic novel format, which is being released in paperback early next year. It’s probably the most exciting new format that 2000AD has seen for quite some time – long may it continue.
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