As 2000AD turns 40, here are 40 reasons why it's the galaxy's greatest comic

Legendary weekly sci-fi comic 2000AD celebrates its 40th anniversary this month. How has it endured when so many others perished, and why is it so loved? David Barnett offers 40 reasons

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The Independent Culture

1)    2000AD launched with a cover date of 26 February 1977, just a few months after its predecessor from IPC magazines, Action, had been withdrawn over complaints of violence and anti-authoritarianism. Editor Pat Mills, who launched both titles, brought the same sense of anti-establishment anarchy to 2000AD, but could get away with it “because we just said it’s science fiction”.

2)    The comic is actually edited by an alien, Tharg the Mighty, who hails from the planet Quaxxann. He has green skin, a goatee beard, and the Rosette of Sirius implanted in his forehead. He refers to humans as “Earthlets” and IPC’s original headquarters, King’s Reach Tower in London, was actually Tharg’s disguised spaceship.

3)    Since Pat Mills launched the comic in 1977 there have been nine human editors who have worked day-to-day bringing the comic out every single week, under Tharg’s watchful eye. The current incumbent is Matt Smith, who has never played Doctor Who on TV.

Sláine, a barbarian adventure series based on Celtic myths and stories, first appeared in 1983

4)    “For me, 2000AD is an important and subversive antidote to anaemic American superhero comics” – @andyjohnsonuk

5)    The first three issues of 2000AD came with free gifts. Number one had a “Space Spinner”, two had “Biotronic Man” stickers, and three offered a “Red Alert survival wallet”. Original comics complete with the free gifts fetch good money on eBay.

6)    Judge Dredd, 2000AD’s most famous character, didn’t appear in the comic until the second issue. He’s a rather dour law-enforcement officer in Mega-City One, which covers the eastern seaboard of a post-apocalyptic America.

7)    Mega-City One has its own swear-words, including drokk, grud, stomm and spug. Use sparingly.

8)    There have been two Judge Dredd movies. 1995’s Judge Dredd starred Sylvester Stallone in the title role. It didn’t go down too well, unlike 2012’s lower budget and much grimmer Dredd, with Karl Urban beneath the lawman’s helmet.

9)    “2000AD’s dystopian scary future gave us a early preview of our dystopian scary present” – @petehall76

10)    First issue debut stories included “Flesh”, which was about time-travelling cowboys who go to the prehistoric era to hunt dinosaurs to provide sustenance for a food-depleted future society.

In 2012, regular strip Zombo predicted that Donald Trump would become US president

11)    Also in the first issue was Harlem Heroes, a progressive (for the Seventies) strip featuring an all-black team of sportsmen from the year 2050 who played Aeroball – a mix of football, basketball, kung fu and boxing.

12)    Classic comic character Dan Dare also returned to publication in 2000AD’s first issue, with the space pilot being revived from suspended animation in an unrecognisable future.

13)    Each weekly edition of 2000AD is not called an issue but a “prog”, which was a quite futuristic way of saying “programme”, with its computer-y connotations.

14)    In the world of Judge Dredd, there are similar sprawling conurbations to Mega-City One around the world, including Brit-Cit, which takes over most of the south of England, Cal-Hab (Scotland) and East-Meg One and Two, in the former Soviet Union.

15)    “In '77 other kids said 2000AD was just a pale Action rip-off. It's true it started pretty derivatively, but what it created from that melt of ideas was extraordinary enough to keep it alive long after its every rival had closed” – @JonathanLHoward

Tharg, from the planet Quaxxann, has edited the comic throughout its four decades

16)    Since Prog 25, 2000AD has regularly run short, sharp, twist-in-the-tale one-off strips called Tharg’s Future Shocks.

17)    Some of the biggest names in comics started their careers writing Future Shocks, including Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta), Grant Morrison (X-Men, Invisibles, Batman) and Neil Gaiman (Sandman, Coraline, American Gods).

18)    In 1978 the comic introduced Robo-Hunter, a futuristic private detective called Sam Slade who specialised in robot-related cases. He had a robotic cigar called Stogie which was a forerunner of today’s vaping e-cigs.

19)    Mega-City One’s residents live in huge tower blocks, between which wars regularly break out. Blocks are named after famous figures and popular culture characters from the 20th and 21st century, including David Blunkett, Tom Cruise and Walter Cronkite.

20)    Judge Dredd hardly ever appears without his helmet. His first name is Joe.

21)    Dredd used to live in the Rowdy Yates Block, a nod to the character Clint Eastwood played in the TV western Gunsmoke. Dredd is loosely based on Eastwood’s movie character Dirty Harry.

22)    “But for #JudgeDredd I'd never have studied law. I'd probably be doing something useful and productive with my life instead” – @TheBlankSimon

23)    Judge Dredd once met the equally taciturn Batman in a 2000AD/DC Comics crossover in 1991. That must have been some party.

Judges Anderson and Dredd: 2000AD has had a number of strong female characters

24)    One of 2000AD’s best loved stories, Strontium Dog, actually began life in another IPC comic, Starlord. When it was cancelled 2000AD took the best strips from it, including this one about mutant bounty hunter Johnny Alpha.

25)    Another classic is Rogue Trooper, featuring a blue-skinned GI (Genetic Infantryman) bred to fight an interminable future war between the Norts and the Southers on a blasted planet called Nu-Earth. It was co-created by Dave Gibbons, artist on Watchmen.

26)    Rogue Trooper has a helmet, gun and backpack which are implanted with “biochips” containing the personalities of his dead comrades.

27)    Grant Morrison and Steve Yoewell’s Zenith strip was about a shallow superhero who partied and became a pop-star. Which is what anyone with super-powers would do in real life. Until he got drafted into a cross-dimensional war against horrific cosmic entities.

The Absalom strip features policing in 21st century London, though with a supernatural twist

28)    2000AD was generally considered a boy’s comic when it first launched, but it has had some excellent female characters, including Dredd’s fellow Judges Hershey and Anderson, Halo Jones (written by Alan Moore) and, more recently, Jaegir, a veteran of the Nu-Earth war featured in Rogue Trooper.

29)    In 2012, the regular strip Zombo predicted that Donald Trump would become president of the United States.

30)    “The fact that innovative sci-fi and political satire run through its DNA is a big reason for its success” – @Tim_Pilcher

31)    Among the many criminal activities policed by the Judges of Mega-City One are umpty-bagging – dealing in a highly-addictive candy; perp-running – getting criminals off the planet to escape justice; and body-sharking – lending money to people who use cryogenically frozen family members as collateral.

32)    Judge Dredd has only fallen foul of the law once himself… when 2000AD put a self-imposed ban on ever reprinting strips satirising McDonald’s, Burger King and the Jolly Green Giant for fear of legal action. The ban was lifted in 2016 and the stories saw light again for the first time since 1978.

The debut issue featured ‘Flesh’, about time-travelling cowboys hunting dinosaurs for a food-depleted future society

33)    Perhaps 2000AD’s weirdest character (and that’s saying something) is Nemesis the Warlock. He was a demonic-looking alien who fought against the tyrannical head of a futuristic take on the Spanish Inquisition, Torquemada, who had also been Adolf Hitler in a past life.

34)    Actually, scratch that. The weirdest character is Big Dave, the “hardest man in Manchester”, who recruits former special envoy for the Archbishop of Canterbury Terry Waite to help him battle Saddam Hussein, who’s teamed up with aliens to turn everyone on Earth into “poofs”.

35)    “Amazing writers and artists and inspired a generation to look up from their slate-grey streets to see the future now” - @edgechristopher, via Twitter.

36)    2000AD was given the title because no one really expected it to still be going in the year 2000. The first issue of the new millennium was Prog 1174, which featured Strontium Dog on the cover. 

Do you want fries with that? Dredd makes a meal of it. See No 20

37)    The 40th anniversary issue out this month has a cover by classic 2000AD artist Carlos Ezquerra featuring Judge Dredd, Strontium Dog, and the Mighty Tharg.

38)    This weekend an anniversary bash is being held at the Hammersmith Novotel with fans rubbing shoulders with creators past and present. The event has been sold out for some time though.

39)    But never mind, there’s just been released on DVD and digital download a documentary called Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD, featuring interviews with the creators of the characters.

40)    Why is 2000AD the galaxy’s greatest comic? “Because Tharg said so. Isn't that enough for you Earthlet?” – @RdotDrew