¦ Features ¦Limbo
Good ol' Tharg!
He came all the way to Earth from his home planet of Quaxxann ( "You don't have
to put on the red light") to bring us a comic! Yay! That's impressive, not to
mention generous. I mean, this guy can travel through the entire universe, he's
pretty much all-powerful, yet he deigns to exile himself on this cruddy mudball
of a planet in order to provide us with weekly entertainment! What a guy!
Now, Starlord - the alien editor of Starlord - had a
different purpose: he came here to help train us to be soldiers in the battle
against the Interstellar Federation (his training manual was cleverly disguised
as a comic, so that the bad guys wouldn't recognise it). I always thought that
it was a little arrogant of Starlord: I don't remember ever hearing the Int. Stel.
Fed's side of the story, do you? Regardless, Starlord was clearly incredibly efficient
at his job; his crusade succeeded after a mere five months and he handed some
of his characters over to Tharg.
Tornado's Big E, on the other hand, was more that just
an editor. He was also a superhero. Trained by Tharg to fight crime and chase
deadlines, Big E seemed to spend a good deal more of his time editing his comic
than he spent catching actual criminals. I reckon he was a bit of a coward. Anyway,
Big E got the Big Elbow when Tornado merged with 2000 AD after only
And then there was Walter the Wobot, the "editow" (urgh!) of
the extremely short-lived (and thankfully all-but-forgotten) 2000 AD spin-off
Judge Dredd comic. "Gweetings, Weaders!" his introduction began. "I'm Walter,
the twusty wobot sidekick to the gweat lawman Judge Dwedd! I bwing you this tewwiffic
new comic featuwing your favouwite hewo and his fwiends!" and so on, for two whole
pages. It gives me a headache just thinking about it. With his comic unceremoniously
dumped after only a single issue hit the shelves, Walter was fired and packed
off back to Mega-City One to lick his wounds.
Now, let's be honest here... Even as kids, we all knew
that these editors were fakes! Tharg was a guy in a painted caveman mask, Starlord
was a drawing, Big E was guy in a silly costume, and Walter was an annoying little
[Addendum from the hospital bed: Just as I finished writing
the above paragraph, a strange orange ball of flame appeared from nowhere and
zapped my bottom. It was a Rigellian Hotshot. Therefore, I take back what I said
about Tharg being a fake. Trust me, kids, the others might be fakes but Tharg
is a real alien!]
What was the deal with comics in those days? Why did
they think we needed an editor figure at all?
Well, like ads
for Matchbox toys and Trebor sweets, like well-loved phrases such as "not actual
size" and "subscriptions are not now available", like secretly reading your sister's
comics when no one was looking, it was a tradition. Comics publishers wanted to
create a sense of community. If you felt that you were part of a club, you'd be
more likely to keep buying the comic. Some of the DC Thompson comics (such as
Warlord and Bullet) had actual clubs you could join - members received
a plastic wallet, decoder card, pendant, giraffe trap, that kind of thing - but
the Fleetway comics had nothing of the sort. A missed opportunity there, I think!
Just imagine if there had been, say, a Judge Dredd club - the bits
and pieces would be worth a fortune on eBay!
But the big question - and Sprout does love those big questions
- is this: Where are those editors now?
Thanks to my increasingly-handy time machine (which also travels
through space and other dimensions and that), I have managed to discover the hitherto-secret
location of the fabled land of Obscuria, wherein reside many of yesterday's heroes...
A quick shufty around later, and presto! We are proud to bring you an exclusive
round-the-table group interview with Starlord, Big E and Walter the Wobot!
Sprout: Big E, you can probably guess my first question...
Big E: Uh oh! I think I know what you're going to ask!
Sprout: That's right! It's about your uncanny resemblance
to top artist Dave Gibbons! I guess everyone asks you about that!
Big E: Oh, they do! But the fact is, Sprout, I wasn't
always this handsome. You see, when Tharg found me I was just plain old Percy
Pilbeam. He offered me the chance to become a superhero, and - well, it sounds
vain, I know - I asked him if he could make me a little better-looking. Now, seeing
as he's an alien, Tharg doesn't know good-looking from a hole in the ground. He
asked me what I meant, and I pointed to Dave and said, "Something like the way
he looks." Well, next thing you know... Zap! I was a superhero and looked
exactly like Dave!
Sprout: I bet that caused a few awkward moments!
Big E: Oh, I could tell you some stories!
Sprout: I bet you could! Don't, though. Instead, tell
us about how Tornado folded.
Big E: Well, first I have to say that we don't like to
use the word "folded". What happened was that Tharg and I discussed the situation
and decided that it would be in our mutual interest to merge the two comics. And
since 2000 AD and Tornado is still going strong after all these years,
it was clearly a good idea!
Walter: But the comic hasn't been called that for a quarter
of a centuwy!
Big E: Er... What?
Sprout: Leave it, Walter! What are you up to these days,
Big E: Oh, I'm working on a number of interesting projects.
Can't really talk about them at the moment, you know how it is! But I can tell
you that last year I met Fireball at a party in his uncle Peter's estate - lovely
chap, Lord Flint. Have you met him? - and we talked about doing something together.
Sprout: That's... er... marvellous. Hope it works out
Big E: Plus, of course, Tornado is still very
big in Albania. Huge demand for it over there!
Sprout: Albania? Really? I was there last year...
Big E: Did I say Albania? I meant Albani... zachi...
stan... grad. Yes. Albanizachistangrad. They love us over there. Conventions and
Sprout: That's great... Thanks for that.
Big E: Not at all. My pleasure, Sprout! And can I just
say that I'll be doing Dick Whittington later in the year?
Sprout: Ah, panto! The great British tradition!
Big E: Panto? Oh. Yes. That's right. [Awkward pause]
Now, Starlord, if I can turn to you... What's been keeping you occupied for the
past couple of decades?
Starlord: The battle against the Interstellar Federation
is a never-ending one! I've been working with other races, in other star-systems,
training the raw recruits into efficient fighting machines!
Sprout: And... Are you still in the comics business?
I'm asking because it seems to me that there's probably a more efficient way for
a military recruitment officer to get his message across. Certainly there has
to be a more dignified way.
Starlord: ... What languages do you speak, Mister Sprout?
Sprout: English, French, German, a little Italian, and
Starlord: You don't speak Xrandeluvian, then?
Starlord: Really? Well, maybe that's because we kicked
the living crap out of Xrandeluvia before those bastards got anywhere near your
damn planet! That answer your question? You goddamn snot-nosed pansy pacifists
make me wanna puke! We're out there day after day, on the edge of the galaxy,
putting our lives on the line so people like you can sit in your comfortable time-machines
and ask smug little questions!
Big E: Now, steady on there, pal! He didn't mean it like
Starlord: You can shut the hell up, kid! I'm a goddamn
war hero! You smartarse little... "Oh, look at me! I'm a superhero! Oooh!
I can edit a comic faster than a speeding bullet!" You ponce! Where the
hell are your characters now, eh? Me, I've got Strontium Dog and Ro-Busters
still going strong! What did you contribute? Wolfie Smith, Black Hawk
and Captain Bloody Klep! I've had pimples that lasted longer than your
Walter: Weally, Starlord! You're just being wude! Mister
Spwout was kind enough to -
Starlord: What the hell is this thing doing talking
to me? Why is it even here? It's just a glorified percolator! To hell with you
lot! I don't have time for this crap! There's a war going on out there,
in case you hadn't noticed!
[Exit Starlord] [Awkward silence]
Big E: Well. He's, um, spirited.
Sprout: He's a git.
Walter: Spwout, I pwesume you're weady for me to wegale
your gwoovy weaders with stowies of the hundweds of hilawious expewiences I had
when I was wunning the gweat Judge Dwedd comic.
Big E: Dunno. Something about a comic, I think.
Walter: I said, I think it's time for you to ask
me some questions!
Sprout: Good idea... Can I have a cappuccino and a danish
pastry, please? Big E? What'll you have?
Big E: It's on you, right? I mean, it's not that I'm
strapped for cash or anything...
Sprout: No, it's on me. Fire away.
Big E: Great, thanks. Okay, Walter... I'll have a double
espresso and a chicken salad sandwich. Er... And the same again to go, please.
Sprout: I thought you'd gone off to fight a war?
Starlord: Yes. I did. Um... I forgot my cape. Sorry.
[Exit Starlord again]