Wednesday, 8 April 2009
Yeahh...1984 is kind of hard to defend, isn't it?
1984 / 1994 was Jim Warren's answer to Heavy Metal & Epic Illustrated, assuming the question was : " Hey, Jim, can you come up with something not quite as good as those two mags? "
Harlan Ellison called it 'wretched' and 'true pornography', and even taking into account how much Ellison hated Warren at the time, he was pretty much right on the money. It was edited by Bill DuBay, who also wrote a fair few of the stories, and, for a lot of it's run, it felt like you were listening to 2 twelve year old boys sniggering over a porn mag.
DuBay never met a cuss word he didn't like, and 1984 is filled with pointless swearing instead of actual dialogue, though I guess you have to give him credit for being creative, with phrases like 'spurtbag', 'scumnuts' & 'dick-lickin' asswipe'. ( And that's just a random scan of one story! )
The magazine was also wall to wall weird sex & violence ( tho' mostly sex ), frequently racist, and generally seemed to be designed to offend as many people as possible. More often, of course, what it ended up being was just plain boring, as potentially interesting stories were constantly scuppered by the need to swear or show a pair of tits every 2nd panel. Don't get me wrong, I like a 'good girl' strip like Axa or Barbarella as much as the next man, but even Heavy Metal at it's worst was never so all-pervasive as 1984. After reading it, you generally felt the need to take a shower.
So why am I defending it? Welll...It had great art. I know, I know, that's the get-out clause we always use as comic fans. Screw the complete lack of a story, as long as the art's good. But 1984 did have mostly great art.
Alex Nino for instance, was in almost every issue, though again, it was often painful to watch his good work being undone by DuBay's ( and partner Budd Lewis' ) asinine sexual references.
Not to mention them undoing their own occasionally good stories all by themselves.
Also, Frank Thorne was there, with his 'adult' version of Red Sonja, the incredibly rude Ghita Of Alizar. By this time, we were all old enough to realize that the artwork we'd previously hated on Sonja was actually the work of a master. And, although Frank did constantly feel the need to be as pornographic as possible, at least he wasn't dull like DuBay or Lewis so often were.
Then there was Richard Corben's Mutant World, incredibly for him, the least sexual thing in 1984.
And even the occasional story where you got an actual story, like Twilight's End, with the lush art of Rudy Nebres, and good scripting by 'Alabaster Redzone' ( if memory serves, actually Gerry Conway moonlighting ).
But for all the good stuff, you also had to wade through an awful lot of bilge. Beautifully illustrated bilge, but bilge all the same.
Like the nice looking but utterly empty ( and not even funny ) Rex Havoc & The Asskickers Of The Fantastic, which went on, and on, and on.
Or The Warhawks, a deeply dull strip which took 17 pages to tell a one page gag; that Blackhawk and his pals were racist's. Which we kinda already knew.
Or The Adventures Of Idi Amin, where the real-life dictator ( oh the hilarity ) is transformed into a luscious naked babe, which was funny. For one episode.
And, of course, prime contender for dullest comic strip ever done: Kaiser Warduke and The Indispensable Jasper Gemstone, which is a parody of the worst, most predictable kind of superhero story, and just ends up being worse, and more predictable than it's target.
So: Why do I still kind of like 1984? Well, I think it's a couple of things really. Firstly, there's nothing comparable, then or now. Also, I do actually miss Warren magazines. 1984 isn't a patch on Creepy, Eerie or Vampirella, but Warren were an important part of my comic reading experience in the '70's. They were utterly unlike anything that Marvel or DC put out, which is a lot more refreshing than these days, when most mainstream comics look, sound & smell exactly the same. Then, of course, there is the fact that now that comics are accepted by the mainstream, and there are graphic novel sections in the library, and comics win major book awards, and everything's very worthy & important, well.....sometimes you just want something sleazy. Sometimes you just want trash. I mean, look at those covers again. Read the ridiculously over the top spiel there. Who on earth writes like that?! Am I right, scumnuts?