They say that “what goes around comes around”, which is what my lovely wife would call an “ASBO”, or “Another Statement of the Bleedin’ Obvious”. But just because it’s a trueism, doesn’t mean it isn’t true.
If you’re either A:Under thirty, or B:Not British, then I suspect you don’t remember Minder. Minder was a TV series that pretty much dominated British TV in the early eighties. It was the story of small time crook Arthur Daley and his “Minder” Terry, who bumbled around in the world of London’s small time crime trying to do the right thing and turn a profit.
This may be rose tinted hindsight*, but it was good telly. Funny, profound and entertaining, it was a joy to behold. And a good deal more than a quarter of a century ago it ended. Its time was up and the story was over. TV moved on.
The Minder brand remained strong though. In this country, if you want to suggest that a business person is a little bit dodgy and outside the law, you still describe them as an “Arthur Daley”, and although the last episode of Minder aired more than two decades ago, the brand still inspires a certain degree of fondness.
It should come as no surprise therefore that Minder is back on British screens. Arthur and Terry (alias George Cole and Dennis Waterman) are of course nowhere to be seen, given that both of them are now well past pensionable age, but the spirit of the aspirational spiv and his well meaning muscle lives on. You couldn’t use the original actors for this – they’re too old and they wouldn’t be convincing.
So, instead we have Archie Daley, the nephew of the original Arthur, and his newly recruited sidekick Jamie Cartwright. The basic dynamic is unchanged – this is the same old show with some new faces and a couple of modern tweaks. And it’s not just the UK that is reviving old shows and giving them a modern twist. I understand that Knightrider, that stalwart of eighties TV and the show that gave The Hoff** his big break*** is coming back to our screens****. There’s even a new Star Trek (The Original Series)***** movie coming out next Christmas. It seems we have a real thirst for the shows we were watching in the sixties, seventies and eighties.
The same seems to be true of comics. I’ve noted several times recently that there really aren’t that many comics out there that I want to read, and just as TV seems to always revert to revivals of old favourites****** comics too are often wont to return to the successes of the past.
Judge Dredd: the Megazine the now venerable sister publication of the equally venerable 2000AD has recently revived the late eighties phenomenon Tank Girl, for example – not that she hasn’t been around in the odd US publication, but for me Tank Girl is much like Dredd himself – she’s at her best on home soil. The revival seems to be going well. I know I’m enjoying it.
And then, of course, there are the reprints.
I used to be quite sniffy about reprints. I used to think that what I really wanted were the originals, and it’s true that there is something deeply satisfying about hunting down hard to find back issues to complete that classic storyline. Except I’d have to say that it’s only deeply satisfying when you actually do succeed. Otherwise it’s deeply frustrating. Sometimes you can hunt literally for years and never manage to fill that irritating hole in your collection.*******
These days I embrace the reprint. Anything that makes it easier to read those great classic stories from the past surely has to be a good thing – now more than ever given the current quality drought we’re enduring.******** When the reprints are put together with obvious love and care, well, that makes it so much the better. Which brings me to Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files #12.
Now, I’ve spoken about this excellent series of phonebook style collections before, always in fairly glowing terms, but I haven’t mentioned them for a while. This was a little remiss, given that they’ve all been blindingly good. On the other hand, a constant stream of fawningly positive reviews might not have been the most entertaining reading. Volume #12 has found its way to the top of my “to read” pile a week or so ago though, and it struck me that it was time I drew the series to your attention again.
The last time I reviewed one of these we were still in the early(ish) black and white days, and I remember commenting at the time that I wasn’t sure what they were going to do when they got to the more recent full colour era. Well, we’re there now, and I have to say, I can’t believe that I didn’t see the obvious answer. When they get to a story that was printed in colour, they simply print it in colour. Yeah, I know. I just couldn’t quite believe that they really would. We’ve had so many mediocre reprint collections in the past, when somebody gets it so damn right it comes as something of a surprise.
We start with glorious black and white with the odd flash of colour. The first stories take place immediately after Dredd’s return to the Big Meg after the epic OZ storyline.********* These were the stories that I read when I first started reading ‘Tooth. They matter to me, and they are beautifully re-presented here. John Wagner and Alan Grant present some of their finest Dredd stories. If you know Dredd, and the Wagner/Grant writing partnership, you know just how good that makes these tales of Hitmen, Lizard Men and child psychopaths.
Their words are complemented by art from the pens and brushes of such luminaries as Jamie Hewlett, Glenn Fabry and Brett Ewins. I can honestly say there isn’t a dull tale here – although it’s the debut of recurring character P.J. Maybe, boy genius and mass murderer that really stands out from the high quality crowd.
The nostalgic in me loves this opportunity to wallow in such great stories from yesteryear. The bit of me that wants to read some new stuff laments the fact that there is so little being published today that can even touch the hem of the garment of this kind of quality. Like I said, it’s out there, but you have to look awfully hard. If you remember these stories from the first time around, pick this volume up and remind yourself how good things used to be. If you didn’t get to see them back in the eighties, then buy this collection and discover how good comics can be.
*Like there’s any other kind.
**Praise be his name…
***But we’re not going to hold that against it, are we?
****Indeed it might be back already if you’re in the US. Let me know, yeah?
*****Well, almost. You know what I mean.
******And you know it does there are so many examples to compliment the ones I’ve already listed – Doctor Who? Battlestar Galactica? Honestly, there are hundreds.
*******Don’t believe me? Trawl through the archives and find The Ballad of ZOT! #18.
********I should at this point mention that there are several great comics out there. 2000AD, The Boys, Air, House of Mystery, to name but a few. My issue is that I don’t believe I’m any more demanding now than I was ten years ago. Back then I was buying fifty or sixty titles a month. Now? Not much more than a dozen, and many of them languish unread for weeks before I can be bothered to get around to them.
*********This was the first Dredd Epic I read in “real time”, as it were.