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Home ¦ Features ¦ The Legacy of GFD

The Golden Age
6th June 06

2000 AD -  The Legacy of GFD
by Martin Charlton

So I’ve been thinking how to follow up my first article and, partly inspired by a messageboard thread on this site, I reached a conclusion on the topic. The thread was ‘Rate Your First Prog’. This got me thinking. it was Meg 201, a fairly uneventful entry into the house of Tharg, except for one thing. We often have ‘your first prog’ related discussions, but while mine is hardly worth talking about, ‘My First Thrill’ bears a legacy all its own.

The first thrill I read in its entirety was Gerry Finley Day & Carlos Ezquerra’s ‘Fiends of the Eastern Front’, reprinted in its entirety as a supplement with Meg 201. I sat in bed one Sunday morning and read it in one go. And I loved it. The introduction about it being off the wall as far as 2000AD goes meant nothing to me as I had no frame of reference. What I did have, however, was Prog 2003, containing two stories originally conceived by the writer of FotEF, namely Rogue Trooper & the V.C.s, neither of which really blew me away.

Over the following months I was exposed to more of those stories, as well as Harry 20 on the High Rock. I also borrowed Rogue Trooper: Future War from my local library. During this time I heard much praise given to John Wagner, Alan Moore & Pat Mills, among others, but for an author with such a wide spreading reach over current 2000AD output, Finley Day seemed to be passed over or damned with faint praise. During my time reading 2000AD (3.5 years, stat fans…) there’s been a continued resurrection of Rogue & The V.C.s, reprints of Rogue & Fiends in GN form, reprints of Harry 20 & Ant Wars in the Meg & Extreme Editions, spin-off stories of Rogue & Ant Wars (The 86ers & Zancudo respectively) as well as a (no pun intended) resurrection of Fiends in the Meg & Black Flame novels by David Bishop. This is without even mentioning the Rogue Trooper game, which I’ve just finished playing through. That indicates pretty much a continued presence in 2000AD of everything Finley-Day co-wrote during his time under Tharg.

With this in mind, I’d like to take a few moments of your time to celebrate Gerry Finley-Day and to examine why his stories have such enduring resonance among not only squaxx but clearly among droids too…

2000 AD -  The Legacy of GFD

Perhaps the thing that sticks out at me the most from Gerry Finley Day’s 2000AD work is the easily transferable nature of his central concepts. Harry 20 is about being in prison, Rogue & The V.Cs are future war stories, Ant Wars is your standard monster story, while Fiends is a monster story set during the Second World War. However, none of these stories are actually ‘about’ those things at all. Harry 20 concerns itself more with the freedom of the individual in a fascist society, something easily transferable to a modern day concept. Rogue concerns itself with the notion of brotherhood, about how we each have different strengths and weaknesses, but when we put our minds to it, we can overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. The V.C.s is a similar tale, centred more on being the new guy in a situation and feeling inferior to the more established members of a group around us. Ant Wars isn’t about Ants at all, it’s a story of culturally based prejudice, one with as much, if not more importance in this world as in the late 70s. Finally, Fiends of the Eastern Front deals, at least in my mind, with the prospect that at times in our lives we all believe in things wholeheartedly, but may find ourselves questioning its methods.

Maybe you took different readings from those thrills, but they seem to be the central conceits as far as I can discern. Perhaps they’re told without the requisite subtlety we’ve come to expect in a post-Watchmen/Maus world, but surely the same can be said of Jules Verne in comparison to some of the more contemporary Science Fiction writers, but the resonance of the stories, their morals, remain unchanged. They remain universal truths, and perhaps that is why they’re so ripe for plundering by today’s droids?

Lets take a look at the more recent ‘updates’ shall we, and see how they compare?

2000 AD -  The Legacy of GFD
It’s early day on Fiends in the meg, but in the novels David Bishop does seem to be having a whale of a time exploring WW2, much like Pat Mills obviously did with Charley’s War. While we take much for granted about this conflict (Nazis were bad etc.), Bishop mostly steers clear of the unsavoury aspects of WW2, but the current Da Vinci Code trend for fictionalising history allows him to have great fun dropping Constanta into ‘real situations’ and managing to humanise the characters admirably. Mission accomplished there.

Rogue Trooper’s various post GFD iterations have mostly been poorly received by the thrill buying public, but I for one liked Gordon Rennie’s recent take on it. While Friday may have been too jumbled, and Tor Cyan (like its namesake) may have lacked identity, Rennie’s work has gone some length to fore fronting the sense of camaraderie the classic strips had in spades. Mission partly accomplished, let down by the sheer volume of GFD strips having a monopoly on Rogue ideas.

Zancudo ran for a few months and hasn’t been heard from since but, for its part, tackled a similar issue of being out of your comfort zone and struggling to maintain authority from one world in a completely different one. Mission quietly accomplished.

2000 AD -  The Legacy of GFD

Finally, the V.C.s, a strip which has drawn howls of derision from most quarters, be it for the art, pacing, narrative or the fact that it was in the prog and Nikolai Dante or Halo Jones weren’t. Abnett has gone some way to showing the ‘War is Hell’ nature of the first strip, and the rotating cast, while often at the detriment of empathy, gives an impression of the problematic nature of a war narrative for telling ‘team’ based tales. Unlike the A.B.C. Warriors, these pesky little buggers keep dying on us! Mission accomplished as a concept piece about war. Not sure about the story though…

So overall, the lasting impact of Gerry Finley Day seems to come not from his great story telling techniques (RE: Alan Moore), his ability to ooze charisma (Grant Morrison) or his love of wild ideas (Pat Mills), but because he told good, old fashioned, camp fire style stories. Clunky dialogue? Yes, but Finley-Day had the ability to turn some of the central concerns of mankind into enjoyable romps with morals (and talking hats).

If Gerry Finley-Day should be remembered for anything, its not a Blue Super Soldier of a bunch of Vampires, it's that sometimes the simple approach works best.

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Original content (c) 2002 Gavin Hanly (contact 2000AD Review).