There’s something about the comic form that encourages excess. From the galaxy-spanning origins of today’s vast super-hero franchises to 2000AD and the fringe scene, big, lurid and ridiculous ideas are entertained. You can’t go too big, or weird or outright crackers in a medium that frequently entertains gods, immortals and talking eggs.
The megastars are there, many of which are reaching the apotheosis of TV and film adaptations. Great works like The Sandman, Watchmen, Maus, Preacher, Black Hole, the Love and Rockets series, Blankets and more abound. It’s a burgeoning form with a lot to say.
It’s just sometimes the message involves cracking your brain open, separating the yolks and beating into stiff peaks.
Greg Feely is a dirty old man who lives at home with his cat, Tony, and masturbates a lot. Greg Feely is also Ned Slade, top agent for the multi-dimensional police force, The Hand. And when he’s on a mission someone replaces him as Greg Feely and looks after his cat.
Slade’s missions include, in no particular order, a Russian chimpanzee cosmonaut and assassin, carnivorous televisions, a cyborg dolphin, a sentient immune system and more than enough motivation to clean your house properly. And that’s just off the top of my head. It’s arcane and bizarre, and most unsettling once you start to realise what The Hand’s methods mean. Because for all the inter-dimensional high jinx this is first and foremost a story about a lonely man, who really loves his cat, caught in a delirious loop and maybe, just maybe, losing his mind.
There’s real pedigree in the people involved here, but it seems that Promethea hasn’t quite broken through in the same way that Moore’s other work like Watchmen, From Hell et al have. It’s possible this is because it’s overtly occult, an esoteric journey through ancient mysticism. But whatever the reason, Promethea is also unique.
With JH Williams III involved you know it’s going to be full of incredible artwork. But the thing to really melt your head here is Sophie Bangs' journey to becoming a goddess. The sequence that sees her travelling the kabbalah is glorious stuff, both fascinating and full of the highest fantasy. Same as The Filth, it’s merging personalities negotiating over the same space. Only here one is divine and the other very human.
Interspersed with pulp treats like the Weeping Gorilla and the Five Swell Guys (who aren’t as perfect as their name implies) you have a compelling and glorious climb up the Tree of Life itself.
Good lord, is it silly. I challenge you internet, find me sillier.
2000AD have been host to so many great writers and given space to so many great ideas it's ludicrous. These regular shorts come from open submissions, meaning 2000AD is almost certainly among the first credits of lots and lots of writers and artists. So before we go any further, 2000AD we salute you!
These are the most reduced of stories though, getting as little as 9 panels to set up, explore and twist an idea. It's the real essence of comic writing in many senses. One of Alan Moore's that will always stick in my mind sees aliens set about waging war on two giants. Millenia later they eventually destroy only themselves. And the last panel? A giant looking up at a puff of smoke, saying 'Huh?'
This web comic follows the exploits of Allison Wanda Ruth who has something called the Key of Kings quite literally thrust upon her. By page 6 it looks a bit like this (and for early readers, the colour update is, as you can see, lush).
The hand belongs to a mysterious demon who has broken into the Earthly plain, specifically in her bedroom. One beheading later Allison falls through the crack in reality into Throne, the centre of the omniverse, home to some 800 million souls.
What unfolds from here is a vast and complex new mythology which draws heavily on Hinduism. It has its own liturgy and features a startlingly imaginative approach to world-building, both visually and conceptually. Throne is a huge thing to conceive. Imagine a universe created by 777,777 Gods, Gods who have committed suicide leaving their creations to live on, around and in their bodies, where even the buses are demons.
But perhaps the maddest thing of all? Abbadon takes reader suggestions...