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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 251: 2000AD #278: “Hot Item”

Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from 2000AD #278: “Hot Item”, which was published by Fleetway and is cover dated 21 August 1982. This scan is from The Complete Alan Moore Future Shocks, which was published in 2006. Enjoy!

Man, this is a corny story

Back in 1982, who knew that John Higgins would once so thoroughly betray his partner in crime, Alan Moore, by drawing a pirate comic? No, thirty years ago, it was all lollipops and ice cream for these two, as they worked on goofy stories for 2000AD and dreamed of taking over American comics (in Moore’s case) and drawing one of the most incomprehensible comics ever written (in Higgins’ case – guess which one!). Good times!

This first page shows us how clever Moore is and how well he builds drama even though he’s writing a silly tale. He creates this atmosphere of doom and gloom with references to “Fimbulwinter” and “the heat-death of the universe,” making it seem like we’re going to read a horrible story about all energy vanishing from the universe. Two things belie this notion in the final panel: The title of the story and the way Moore gets to it (“any source of energy will be a precious commodity, will be a real … hot item”) and the shouting of the two men in the vehicle, which seems all dramatic until you actually read the words: “two hundred metres an hour”? What the crap? Yes, on this world, everything moves extremely slowly, and Moore plays with that throughout, as those “heat-jackers” stop to argue about something and then realize they can’t catch up to the vehicle because it’s put so many “centimetres” between them and it since they stopped running. It’s quite humorous. Then, their source of energy is … a copy of 2000AD. Yes, it’s true. That Alan Moore – before he got all crotchety, he was quite the japester!

Higgins doesn’t have too much to do on this page, but he does fine. The vulture in the first three panels is part of the joke – it dies in the time it takes that smoke cloud to come closer because everything moves so slowly, and the poor vulture can’t live long enough to see the vehicle pass underneath its tree. Higgins does a nice job subtly putting the smoke by the narrative boxes without being too obvious – our eyes are drawn to the vulture, so only when we try to figure out why it disappears in the third panel (it could conceivably be flying away) do we start to suss things out and notice the smoke and the lengthening icicles on the branches. The “heat-jackers” are silly monsters, but they’re imposing enough on this page, so when they become jokes on the next page it’s a decent misdirect. Higgins designs an interesting steampunk vehicle, with the giant chimney and furnace on the back and the sleeker driving area, indicating both the characters’ advanced science and their degradation. The vehicle is slightly to the left of the panel because the tableau of the vehicle and the monsters is centered well on the page. The mountains on either side complete the framing of the central image.

This page shows Moore’s oddball imagination at work, and it’s interesting to read these stories (and others from 2000AD) because they show how much the writers had to pack into very few pages. Moore is good at that, so these stories are fun to read!

I’ve gotten a few more e-mails from readers asking for a specific comic to be featured here in October, but I can still use more! Let me know out there in Internet-land which comic you’d like to get a spotlight! My e-mail address is gregorymburgas@gmail.com. You know you want to!

Next: Oooh, horror comics! Pretty freaky stuff, if you can handle it! Fret not – there are many non-horror comics in the archives!

8 Comments

Are you talkin’ Razorjack with Higgins? (the incomprehensible thing)

Cuz to me, it’s violent demons with big tits, and if that’s not totally comprehensible, I don’t know what is.

HA

Yeah, I haven’t read Razorjack in a while, but it’s in with my War of the Independents, as apparently the characters are in there.

I should probably read this piece later.

Travis: No, I’m talking about World Without End, the mini-series he drew for Jamie Delano. I have no idea what happens in that thing. It’s quite nice to look at, though!

Greg have cheated a bit?

I don’t have the prog in question to hand but from memory it’s very unusual for a Future Shock to be the first story in an issue of 2000ad Looking at Barney’s listing for the issue ( http://www.2000ad.org/?zone=prog&page=profiles&choice=278 ) I’d guess the Robo Hunter was the first strip in that prog

There’s a fab trade of all of Moore’s Future Shocks & Time Twisters which is well worth you dropping a few $ on as his short story work is fabulous. Sadly I can’t find it on Amazon and the wife’s still asleep preventing me from getting the ISBN for my copy

Well, Greg’s a total cheater head, so probably. I think he’s just doing “first pages of a story”, not necessarily “first pages of a comic”.

And if I’m not wrong, the trade you’re talking about, Philip, is the one Greg scanned this from. Unless there’s a different one…

You’re right it is. That’s what you get for being still awake at 3 and up again at 745

CBDB.com lists this as the 5th story in the orginal magazine, behind Robo Hunter, ACE Trucking, Judge Dredd and Rogue Trooper.

The precis has been wrong from the first month, with Greg picking the first page of a story, not “the first pages of random comics” And often forced to use first pages from single issue reprints and trade paperbacks.

But that’s just nit-picking of a very useful , if still poorly-named, column. But we are an obsessive bunch.

Philip: Yeah, I’ve been doing the first pages of individual stories if it’s an anthology. I don’t know if 2000AD would even count, as it’s a magazine! But yeah, I don’t simply do “the first page of a comic” all the time. Obviously, if I own a trade of a story that was a back-up, I use that. I first started it on Day 20, when I used the Doctor Thirteen back-up story in Tales of the Unexpected!

David: I still love the name of this column!!!!! But thanks for reminding me about CBDB. I always forget about it for some reason …

Loved reading this & Moore Future Shocks/Time Twisters at the time! I had just started reading 2000AD as it was the first comic I’d really discovered for myself.
Even for my young, uncritical mind it was obvious these Moore stories were written by someone special: they were so well crafted in 4-5 pages. It’s a shame Moore has this sort of cranky, pompous public persona as his early stuff was full of humour. It seemed to be taking the piss out of earnest sci-fi & its nerdy readers, too.
Moore & Gibbons’ “Chrono Cops” is a classic: the trade is worth buying just for that.

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