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Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
"America's Most Beloved Comic-Book Writer & Columnist"

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for Thursday, March 25, 2004

Thursday was INTERNATIONAL DAVE COCKRUM DAY in the land of TOT and I hope you enjoyed the celebrations. I did hear from a couple readers who didn't quite understand what all the hoopla was about, or who were upset because they didn't know about the day in time to plan for it. As always, your beloved Tipster is here to extend the benefit of his compassion and wisdom.

X-Men 101

What the hoopla is about is this:

Marvel Comics and comics creator Dave Cockrum, hospitalized with pneumonia and other related/non-related health problems, have reached an agreement that allows Marvel to fully own the characters created by Cockrum while compensating Dave for his years of service to the company. This is good news because a) this settlement eases substantially the financial burdens and concerns hanging over Dave and his wife Paty due to his hospitalization, and b) it's always a cause for elation when a comics publisher does right by a comics creator. That doesn't happen as routinely as it should. You can get more details here:

To commemorate INTERNATIONAL DAVE COCKRUM DAY, I recommended a host of activities. Among them was to visit the Cockrum tribute site that has been established at...

...and spend some time reveling in Dave's wonderful artwork, many accomplishments, and too-brief-biography. Then, of course, I strongly suggested readers order THE UNCANNY DAVE COCKRUM TRIBUTE benefit book and learn about the forthcoming benefit auction. Both these activities will help the Cockrum family get back on its feet in the months to come.

For those of you who missed TOT's celebration of INTERNATIONAL DAVE COCKRUM DAY, you don't have to wait until next year to honor Dave. As I explained elsewhere: "Comic books exist within a vast multiverse of possibilities; it's always International Dave Cockrum Day somewhere!"

MIKE STERLING'S PROGRESSIVE RUIN, for example, is keeping the party going by posting a daily link to an item of Cockrum interest. You can check out one of my favorite blogs at:

Oh, yeah, today's opening illustration is the Cockrum cover of X-MEN #101 [October, 1976], the issue which introduced the Phoenix. It seemed like an appropriate scene to use.



P.J. Maybe, a child prodigy whose special passion was for murder, is one of the most intriguing recurring characters in the Judge Dredd mythos. Dredd and the readers of the 2000 AD weekly first met young Philip at the tender age of 12. He murdered two of his neighbors in his first appearance and got away with it. Dark humor doesn't get much darker than that.

2000 AD Extreme Edition - PJ Maybe

2000 AD EXTREME EDITION #2, published by Rebellion, reprints the entire P.J. Maybe saga to date, "the life and crymes of the worstest drokking juve in Mega-City-One." The magazine is larger than standard format - 114 pages at a little over eleven-and-a-half by nine inches - and follows Maybe's malevolent misadventures from age 12 to 26. The terrific cover art by Cliff Robinson puts me in mind of Brian Bolland's legendary 2000 AD covers.

Writers John Wagner (co-creator of Judge Dredd) and Alan Grant teamed on that first Maybe story, which was notable for the age of the criminal, Dredd's failure to apprehend him, and the Liam Sharp artwork. Sharp would draw the next several Maybe tales, which span two-and-a-half years of the murderous lad's life.

Wagner would solo on the succeeding scripts, making Maybe's crimes, heinous as they were, delightfully and darkly entertaining. Over a dozen victims past his first, Maybe was finally brought to justice by Dredd and sentenced to the "psycho-cubes." However, the battle of wits between the Judge and the juve still had more than a few rounds to go. Teaming with artist Anthony Williams, Wagner took advantage of a major Dredd serial ("Necropolis") to put Maybe back on the streets. The kid was not yet 16 and still ahead of the law at that point.

P.J.'s fortunes and the stories took a turn for the worst with a Garth Ennis-written arc. Drawn by Williams, "P.J. and the Mock-Choc Factory" reintroduced us to Maybe at age 17. The scripts for this serial weren't as amusing, even in the dark sense, and the kid no longer seemed like a match for Dredd.

Wagner returned to his creation for a pair of stories drawn by Peter Doherty and Ben Oliver. Now 26 years old, Maybe had regained his competitive form. Wagner's scripts had their good moments, but P.J.'s youthful "charm" was gone. Unless someone can come up with something truly unexpected for Maybe, this great character may have run his course.

I can't find my purchase records for 2000 AD EXTREME EDITION #2, but my memory is that this all-reprint magazine was priced in the vicinity of six bucks. That's a great price for over 100 pages of good-to-great writing - even the Ennis arc is quite readable - and remarkable artwork. On my scale of zero to five, this magazine earns four-and-a-half Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Half Tony



That brings us up to JUDGE DREDD MEGAZINE, the slick magazine published every four weeks by Rebellion. Each issue combines new comics with classic reprints and prose articles, including the odd short story. The usual American price is $10.99 for each 98-page issue, though some special issues offer extra goodies.

The JUDGE DREDD MEGAZINE mixes up its covers nicely. I have issues #213-216 in front of me. We start with a humorously risque Dredd cover, continuing with a group shot of several features and an action cover before ending with a symbolic generational shot of two supporting characters from the Dredd strip.

Judge Dredd Megazine 213

Dredd is always a key feature in the zine. "Crime of Passion" (#213) by writer John Wagner and artist Cliff Robinson has gamblers trying to fix the World Sex Championships by kidnaping the child of two of the competitors. The tale is a fine blend of crime, satire, and science fiction.

The issue's other new material included the conclusion to the current and seemingly interminable "Devlin Waugh" serial (bringing an actual new development to the existence of the Vatican vampire and vampire-hunter's life); the final half of a readable two-parter starring Armitage, a Brit-City detective, and new chapters of the plodding "Xtinct" and "Judge Death" serials.

The classic reprints? They were deserving of the designation. We got the final chapters of the epic "Harry 20 on the High Rock" convicts-in-space epic by Gerry Finley-Day and Alan Davis...and three chapters of "Charley's War," the legendary World War I series by Pat Mills and Joe Colquhorn. That adds up to a healthy three-and-a-half Tonys for the issue.

Tony Tony Tony Half Tony

MEGAZINE #214 was a holiday special. It started with a wacky Dredd tale ("Turkey Shoot") by John Wagner, Cam Kennedy, and Henry Flint. Dredd also appeared in "Whatever Happened to Tweak" by Pat Mills and Chris Weston, which brought some closure to an alien ally of the Judge; and the opening chapter of Mills' "Blood of Satanus II" with art by Duke Mighten. The one-off was a good one, but the Satanus II arc has not, thus far, gotten up to speed.

More Dredd? The issue also kicks off a text series which will list and discuss every Dredd story from 2000 AD #2 to the present, and includes an article on the history of the Satanus line. Here's the short form:

A T-Rex named One-Eye was the real star of "Flesh," an early series about humans harvesting dinosaur meat in the prehistoric past. The kin of One-Eye made it to Dredd's time and, in one form or another, have returned with the aim of taking a bite out of crime-fighters like our pal Dredd. In the new serial, we have a dinosaur-human hybrid. Probably a Republican.

Other features in the issue proper: another chapter of "Judge Death"...the incredibly welcome end of "Xtinct"...a terrific prose story by Jonathan Morris...more chapters of "Charley's War"...and the start of an "Anderson PSI-Division" serial by Alan Grant, Tony Luke, and Arthur Ransom. But, wait...there's more.

This issue came bundled with a second 48-page mag reprinting a terrific "Strontium Dog" thriller by John Wagner, Alan Grant, and artist Carlos Ezquerra...and also a two-sided 2004 poster calender featuring Judges Dredd and Death. So much goodness earns MEGAZINE #214 four-and-a-half Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Half Tony

MEGAZINE #215 led off with "My Beautiful Career," a brutally violent-yet-poignant Dredd tale by Wagner and Simon Coleby. That was followed by additional chapters of the Judge Death, "Blood of Satanus II," and Anderson serials.

The issue's remaining new story: "Whatever Happened to Maria" by Gordon Rennie and Graham Manley. It's not bad, but, even if you can accept Dredd having had an intrusive housekeeper (which I can), it strains my willing suspension of disbelief to accept he knew so little about her.

For the reprints, we get "Hitman" by John Wagner, Alan Grant, and Jim Baike (thrill-killer of famous people sets his cap for our boy Dredd) and more "Charley's War," a series whose chapters rank with the best war comics the medium has ever seen. This issue gets four Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

Anderson and "Blood of Satanus II" continue, and Judge Death concludes, in JUDGE DREDD MEGAZINE #216. The "stars" of the issue, however, are the Giant family.

John "Giant" Clay was a star on the Harlem Heroes "aeroball" team; the sci-fi sports series appeared in early issues of the 2000 AD weekly. His son and his grandson both became judges. We get to see all three of them in this issue.

In "Prodigal," the son of John Clay ends up working with the clone-brother of Dredd. Giant is an established judge while Rico is a rookie. Their intriguing team-up was written by Gordon Rennie and drawn by Simon Davis.

Rennie also wrote "Whatever Happened to John (Giant) Clay?". Drawn by Rufus Dayglow - and that must be a pseudonym - is a warm-and-fuzzy story which really worked for me.

Reprinted this Megazine is the 30-page "Young Giant" by Wagner and Ezquerra. This serial introduced the grandson of John Clay, a Judge cadet at a pivotal moment in his life.

With more "Charley's War" chapters - and only the Judge Death conclusion being a disappointment - JUDGE DREDD MEGAZINE #216 earns four Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

It will likely be a month or two before I read/review any more issues of 2000 AD and its companion magazines. In the meantime, I do urge you to give this material a chance. They do some excellent work across the pond and it's deserving of your notice.



Look for my next TOT on Saturday, March Justin and I work our way up to *daily* publication. You'll get my column from COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #1584, some more Dave Cockrum stuff, and a few other surprises to boot. See you then.

Tony Isabella

<< 03/22/2004 | 03/25/2004 | 03/27/2004 >>

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Zero Tonys
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.

ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.

TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?

THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.

FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?

FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.

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