GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY'S GREATEST COMIC: 2000 AD
SFX|February 2022
CELEBRATES ITS 45TH BIRTHDAY IN FEBRUARY, AND ITS SECOND YEAR WAS A TALE OF TWO VERY DIFFERENT MERGERS
STEPHEN JEWELL

FIRST PUBLISHED IN February 1977, 2000 AD has truly established itself as the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic over the past four and a half decades, thrilling Earthlets with the weekly adventures of classic characters such as Nemesis the Warlock, Slaine, Rogue Trooper and, of course, Judge Dredd. But having been rocked by the copyright scandals that plagued Dredd epic “The Cursed Earth” and the fallout stemming from future-sport strip Inferno’s notorious ultra-violence, the Prog could so easily have been cut off in its prime. For according to former IPC editorial director John Sanders, it was very nearly 2000 AD that was merged into the short-lived Starlord.

“Starlord was sacrificed to keep 2000 AD afloat,” says Sanders. “The truth is, strong and far-sighted management saved 2000 AD and without that management, the publication would have been dead and buried in 1978, a year after its launch.”

“I remember some conversations with John Sanders about the merger, and it may be true that he nearly folded 2000 AD,” continues 2000 AD’s second editor Kelvin Gosnell, who was also in charge of Starlord. “Obviously I argued for 2000 AD to remain as the lead title, and happily, that is what happened. Starlord had started off quite well but tailed off quite a bit, so it was losing more than it could support. Its more expensive production was certainly a factor, but it was IPC’s open-and-close policy that killed it more than anything.”

With the two sci-fi titles joining forces in October 1978’s Prog 86, 2000 AD was given a new lease of life, partly through the addition of Starlord’s leading stories Strontium Dog and Ro-Busters (which later morphed into ABC Warriors). “They were both such great series,” says Gosnell. “It might be said that the migration of those two stories was the best – and maybe only – good thing to come out of Starlord. I didn’t want to do Starlord to begin with, as I wanted the budget for the launch to be used to further make 2000 AD into its own unique and brilliant publication.”

Steve MacManus, who began his nine-year tenure as 2000 AD editor with Prog 86, also believes that the Prog benefited from the arrival of Johnny Alpha and Hammerstein and Ro-Jaws. “Sales didn’t improve so much as hold steady, boding well for the future,” says MacManus, who’d previously worked as an assistant editor on Starlord and Battle Picture Weekly. “Suddenly, I was responsible for a staff of three, a stable of 30 freelancers, and I had the task of entertaining 100,000 kids every seven days!”

I, DREDD

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