Late toothy celebs...A column article, Fool Britannia by: Regie Rigby
There are times when I really hate my broadband box. It just stopped working a couple of weeks ago for no apparent reason. My ISP confirmed several times that there was no problem. Still couldn’t connect to the magic electric interwebs. Today it just started working again. For no apparent reason. So I’m getting online right now and posting an extra-long column. If my box goes down again I’ll be changing ISPs, but since in my experience that can be a real pain in the arse I’m not taking my tech for grated at the moment. This enforced absence from the ‘net hasn’t improved my mood any, and it was already pretty bad. If you’ve been waiting with baited breath for the second instalment of “Old Friends, New Projects” I’m afraid you’re going to have to wait a little longer*. Being off-line for so long has meant that I haven’t been able to talk with some of the creators I really wanted to talk to, and because the projects I want to look at are so damn awesome I don’t want to do a bad job on them, so I guess we’ll just have to let the anticipation build. Don’t worry. It’ll be worth it. Still. Having to put off talking about stuff I’m really enthusiastic about makes me grumpy. Not quite as grumpy however, as the recent price hike in 2000AD. I’ve spoken before about the problems I have with the apparently inexorable rise in the price of comics, but ‘Tooth hitting the two pound barrier is something of a watershed moment for me. Assuming the price doesn’t go up again** that means I’m going to spend something in the region of £104.00 on ‘Tooth this year. £104.00. Is that too much? Has the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic finally priced itself off my pull list? Once upon a time such a thing would be unthinkable. When my sixteen year old self discovered comics more than two decades ago 2000AD was the first thing I bought and in the twenty two years since I picked up Prog #528 it’s been ‘Tooth that has been my constant companion. Other titles have come and gone*** but ‘Tooth has always been there. It’s an old friend, and as such, not to be cast aside lightly. Of course, on the other hand, it’s just a comic and as such if it costs more in money than it provides in entertainment, it should indeed not be cast aside lightly, it should be hurled with great force… And there’s the thing. At its Thrill-Powered peak, ‘Tooth really is an old friend. Witty, with a personality you’ve grown up with, seen mature and grow itself. Familiar, but not dull or predicatable. At its Thrill-Sucker infested lowest it’s pretty close to unreadable. Often these extremes exist in the same issue, and in many ways that’s been ‘Tooth’s strength over the years. The weekly anthology format that ‘Tooth**** adopted means that it can cover every genre, every tone, every narrative style imaginable in every issue. The truth about ‘Tooth has always been that if you don’t like it, all you have to do is to turn the page. This is, perhaps, why when Frenchie was looking for something to keep The Female engrossed he went on e-bay and bought a couple of box-loads of back-progs. As he said himself, it’s “…nice also to have the progs. After all, nobody will ever reprint Death Planet.”***** So. 2000AD, as endorsed by Frenchie from The Boys. How can you go wrong? But still. Two quid? It’s not a lot of money in the grand scheme of things, but I’m old fashioned, and I can’t help thinking that it’s a lot of money to pay for a comic. Then again, the thing about ‘Tooth, as I’ve said many times before, is that however realistic, unsentimental or even downright cynical I choose to be, 2000AD really is more than just a comic. I have no idea why, but as Ennis’s tribute in The Boys****** demonstrates it has a way of getting under your skin. While it would be fair to say that ‘Tooth has produced work of astonishing quality over the years, the level of love and devotion the publication inspires still seems out of proportion. And so I worry. I worry that the publishers of ‘Tooth might be feeling too secure about this support. Are they charging so much because they believe we’ll pay it? I worry that production costs actually might justify such a high cover price – if that’s true then the price can only go higher and while old “Decca Thargo”******* might tolerate that it can only serve as a barrier to new readers. Eventually, without new readers, we’re doomed, and sadly quality isn’t always enough to get new people through the door. So what will? Well, although it pays me to say it – and this is another thing that makes me more than a little grumpy – in this modern age of reality TV and instant manufactured celebrity logic dictates that if you get established celebrities to write comics then people from the heard will read them and that will increase the number of comics readers in the world. Which would be good. On that basis, the news that British talk show host, movie critic and obscene phone caller Jonathan Ross, as well as uber cool Hollywood A list cool guy Samuel L. Jackson are to write their own comics can only be a good thing********. Both of these gentleman have fans – or at least followers – who exist entirely outside the comics reading bubble. Some of these people will surely pick up their comics and subsequently go on to pick up more comics in the future. It’s a nice idea, and I wish it were so. Trouble is, I don’t think that it is so. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against “celebrities” writing comics. I don’t know about Samuel L. Jackson, but I do know that Jonathan Ross is a massive comics fan. I imagine that with his long background as a reader he’s got quite a lot of ideas kicking about in the back of his head – surely every long term reader of comics has thousands of stories in their heads that they wish had been told. It’s a short step from there to an original story of your own*********. What I’m not sure about is that being famous makes you qualified to write things that people would want to read. Again, I have to concede that I don’t know whether Ross and Jackson will make good writers. Ross certainly has a good turn of phrase, as anyone watching his innumerable chat shows can testify*********. Does that mean he can write a good script? Does that mean that he can write a good story? Let’s just say that I’ve also read his autobiography, and I remain to be convinced. I dunno**********. There’s a part of me that just wants more people to write comics. That part of me says that if getting famous people to write them will increase the readership, then fine – even if the comics that come out of it are utter bobbins, new readers are new readers. It can only be good. The problem with that, says my inner cynic, is that if what he produces isn’t good, new readers will read it, discover it isn’t any good and conclude that comics in general aren’t any good. In short, such celebrity involvement can be a positively bad thing. What can I say? Lets hope I’m wrong… *And, let’s be frank, you should probably get out more. **Which is by no means assured… ***Although my beloved Batbooks have also been entirely constant since I first picked up Batman #433, that was something like a year later. ****Not to mention every other British comic in the history of the world. *****It’s possible that you don’t know what I’m talking about at the moment. That would mean that you weren’t reading Garth Ennis’s The Boys. I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t be doing that, and can only suggest that if that is the case you take rather urgent steps to rectify the situation. ******Which even featured accurate facsimile covers of several progs, including prog #1. *******Which IIRC is what you get to call yourself if you’ve been reading ‘Tooth for more than ten years. ********Assuming that this rumour is true, of course. Lack of internet means that when my comics pimp (hi Darren) told me about it I just believed it without checking. If it turns out he was winding me up, let me know. Although the general point remains unchanged. ********Indeed, if I’m honest, that was the genesis of my own comics story that is still, slowly and painfully, inching towards completion… **********And I’ve been watching Ross since his “Last Resort” chat show in the late eighties. At this point I sort of feel the need to acknowledge that if you’re not British then you probably don’t know Ross. A household name in the UK, he presents late night chat shows on BBC TV, music and talk radio shows, the most influential film review TV programme and a good deal else besides. He’s also a rabid self publicist with a taste for the controversial. Google him and you’ll see what I mean. **********And yes, I know – I never do.