Tuesday, 12 September 2017


Alan Moore & Jim Baikie Skizz (1994)
I drifted away from 2000AD at some point after Alien Cultures, the second Skizz story, and before The Gunlords of Omega Ceti, the final part of the saga, if we're calling it a saga. I'd actually forgotten Alien Cultures had happened, but never mind.

Skizz was born from the English comics tradition of vaguely copying whatever was popular with the kids at the time, the tradition which filed the serial numbers from Jaws, Rollerball, and the Six Million Dollar Man to bring us Hook Jaw, Death Game 1999, and M.A.C.H. 1. Skizz was therefore Spielberg's ET in Birmingham with a hint of Boys from the Blackstuff; except it ended up as so much more, and certainly a thing in its own right, at least for the duration of that first black and white story written by Alan Moore.

Skizz is very much a children's story from a children's comic, but has stood the test of time and my transformation into a fat old man sat at the computer in just his underpants, because Moore kept in mind who he was writing for without talking down to them; and it remains a joy to read even three decades later in a different country. The story is simple enough - genial alien stranded on Earth becomes pals with some kids and is menaced by authority figures. I'd say it's your traditional Children's Film Foundation narrative except I'm not sure I actually ever saw any of their efforts outside of the occasional clip on Screen Test, but that's how it reads, and is as such a familiar form in the history of British comics. It's the working classes pitted against elitist or otherwise authoritarian figures, as were more or less everyone from Alf Tupper to the Bash Street Kids.

Moore's Skizz was perfect, and probably should have been left alone, but it wasn't. The further adventures were written by Jim Baikie, artist on all three, and a genuinely wonderful artist. As a writer, he was better than might be expected. The dialogue, the pace, and the big ideas of the later tales are wonderful, taking Skizz to weird new places and commendably avoiding a simple repeat of what Moore had written; and I seem to recall it working as weekly episodes of five or so pages, but read in one sitting, the problem becomes apparent. The problem is that once you get past Skizz in quarantine for having eaten a yoghurt, time-travelling alien Teddy boys and the rest, there isn't actually much of a story holding any of the big ideas together, and what there is suggests composition by committee in a pub about thirty minutes before closing time with notes scribbled on the back of a fag packet, everyone pissing themselves with laughter as each new ludicrous suggestion is belched forth, ending with everyone stumbling home, giggling, and vowing that no fucking fucker's gunna mess about with this afuckinmazing thing which has been born upon this drunken evening. This, for me, was the problem with a lot of the stuff which got published in 2000AD around the time of Armoured Gideon and Hewligan's bloody awful Haircut. The mag had forgotten who was reading, or maybe it just couldn't tell any more. Even Judge Dredd shows up in an episode of The Gunlords of Omega Ceti, reading very much like Jim had either run out of big ideas or was past caring; which is a massive shame because, as I say, the art is gorgeous throughout.

So the collection looks fantastic, but two thirds are a bit of a dog's dinner up close, trying too hard and forgetting what they was looking for in the first place on a Steven Moffat scale of corpulent indulgence. Most frustrating of all is that it almost worked, and maybe would have done had they just roped in Jamie Delano or someone to talk Jim down from those high ledges.

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