Thursday, 13 August 2009

The Stars My Degradation

Long before From Hell, Watchmen, Swamp Thing or even Marvelman, Alan Moore was actually going under the name of Curt Vile and writing and drawing a little strip for weekly music paper Sounds called The Stars My Degradation.
In the early '80's, the music press was still pretty vibrant and we had three weeklies: Melody Maker, New Musical Express ( NME to it's friends ) and the aforementioned Sounds. I think only NME still exists, although in massively truncated form. Anyway, all three papers regularly carried comic strips on their inside back pages, some of which were good, some not so good, and a select few being great.
The Stars My Degradation was one of the great ones, being as nihilistic & blackly humorous as a great British comic strip should be, and enjoyed a surprisingly long run (1980 to '83).
It was all about Dempster Dingbunger's adventures throughout the cosmos, alongside such deathless characters as Three Eyes McGurk and the literally dead Nekriline. There was also a psychotic cyborg named Axel Pressbutton (later, natch, to get his own series in Dez Skinn's brilliant anthology book Warrior, also home of Marvelman & V For Vendetta. See how this all fits together?) Axel, if I remember rightly, had appeared previously in an underground called Dark Star where he died ( or maybe he died in this strip, memory plays tricks as I say ). Anyroadup, it does make him the one character in comics history to actually have his story told backwards.
A select honour I think you'll agree.
As a real pop-culture smorgasboard, TSMD seemed pretty much made up on the spot, in the best way, and took potshots at just about everything during it's run including, obviously, comics.
It's unlikely this strip will ever be reprinted anywhere, but you can read most of it over at, as written and drawn by Curt alongside co-creator Steve Moore (then known as Pedro Henry). Here they are giving the classic (and then current) Claremont/Byrne X-Men run a sound kicking.


  1. Pete, you're a star! I used to love this strip back in the day, but most of my issues of Sounds are long gone. Coincidentally, last weekend I bought ( from a charity shop! ) an old copy of the mag featuring the first part of the X-Men parody. To quote Eyeclops:
    "Okay you villainous filth, everybody up against the wall or suffer the gosh-awful wrath of the Ex-Men!" Great stuff!
    Another obscure fact: back in the mists of time when I was a crap guitarist and dodgy song-writer, I played in a band called Three-Eyes Mc.Gurk & The Death Planet Commandos, named after characters from this very strip.Notta lotta people know that...

  2. And I bet every pub you played got the name wrong on the posters, am I right? Check out that site for more McGurk & chums.

  3. True: we had to just abbreviate to DPC in the end. All good fun...

  4. Hey Pete,I just realised: the character I called "Eyeclops" is actually called "The Look"!! Where did I get "Eyeclops" from? ( To be honest, I think it's a better name. Sorry Mr. Vile. )
    Looks like I picked the wrong week to give up sniffing glue...

  5. If anyone has a copy of the TSMD strip where Pressbutton falls out of a helicopter, through the roof of the hospital (and through a patient containing bed on every floor he passes through on the way down to the basement), finally coming crashing through the door to confront Harry the Hooper saying "You're dead blubber fat boy" and the strip closing with HtH's line "I think I have to change my underpants". - Well, just lets say I'd be very happy if it were posted on a website somewhere so I couold read it again. I sill ask about this trip in comic shops, but the ever younger staff are looking more nonplussed by the day now.

  6. Did he also do a strip called Roscoe Moscoe: Who Killed Rock N Roll?

  7. TSMD was punk rock comix in a punk rock music mag. The 2nd wave of punk was my main reason for buying Sounds but this strip was how I wanted 2000AD to become. I still have a pile of yellowed originals, it always reminded me of Jim Starlin Warlock.