Preview: ‘Armoured Gideon’ Ushers In A Year Of Digital ‘2000 AD’

by Richard Bruton

2021 is the year 2000 AD embraces digitally even more than it already does, with a series of perhaps lesser-known titles coming out once a month – all leading off with the adventures of a certain Armoured Gideon. So… are you ready to “Annihilate”?

Yes, the 2000 AD digital line is publishing 12 collections, one per month, through 2021, all beginning right here with Armoured Gideon and continuing with collections from across the history of 2000 AD, including Time Flies (Ennis, Bond, Beeston, and Langridge), Revere (Smith & Harrison), Aquila (Rennie, Davidson, Goddard), and Durham Red (Worley, Willsher, Carter).

You could say, uncharitably perhaps, that it’s merely a clever marketing ploy to generate a revenue stream from material that might not be financially viable in print. You could also say so what? It’s 2000 AD‘s material and making it available in a form other than old paper Progs and the digital Progs makes sense, means that we’re getting the chance to look in on some books that, for one reason or another, have been lost to readers.

Case in point, Armoured Gideon, that giant robo-thing above, a strip that rather defines the idea of unmemorable – appearing in just 45 episodes from 1990-1995 before popping up in 2018, for no real reason aside from why not, in The Order.

I’d never read the strip before now and couldn’t ever see myself getting excited about enough to go back into the Progs to read. Except here it is now and, what do you know, it’s not a bad little read at all…

As with all good big monster, big robot, big anything tales, Gideon doesn’t get that much to do until the inevitable big finish here, instead we’re with our everyman representative, ex-combat photographer, Frank Weitz, who just happens to be in just the right place at the right time to get himself all involved in the world of Armoured Gideon.

Gideon, as we’ll find out through this one is the 20-foot robot with a vocabulary consisting just of one word, “Annihilate,” the creation of ‘The Silent Ones’ to patrol a parallel dimension, ‘the Edge’, charged with stopping anything nasty getting out – “to keep the temporal plane clear of supernatural interference.”

It all kicks off when terror group the Crimson Jihad take Ambassador Harbinger hostage as a bloody great 20-foot tall robot turns up screaming ‘Annihilate’ and destroys a lot of things, including the Ambassador, who’d already turned into something alien before turning into, as Weitz puts it, “a rather sad pool of smoking ectoplasmic slush.”

Now, as first episodes go, it’s a pretty good one, fast and frantic, loads of stuff going on, setting up the mystery of what the hell the big robot is, what the hell’s going on, and doing it neatly enough through the old story trope of the everyman observer.

And whilst Jacob’s artwork does struggle a little bit at times to get over just all that’s happening, and there’s moments where stylised just stumbles over the line into not particularly well realised – it’s still not too bad at all, in a sometimes rough but always interesting to look at fashion anyway.

The thing is, this is, as far as I can work out anyway, Jacob’s early work for 2000 AD. Or rather, it’s his only really big work for 2000 AD. Sure, there were a few other series, but after this on Armoured Gideon that was pretty much it for Jacob as artist. He did some more stuff, more colours, but nothing really big since this. And that means you really need to compare this stuff to similar early works by the likes of John Hicklenton, Sean Phillips, Simon Bisley even, all artists with their own distinctive style. You look at their early work and compare it to their heights, well that’s where we are here I reckon with Jacob. Which means I reckon it’s a damn shame we haven’t seen more from him in the Prog.

And as far as the rest of the first series goes, it’s all pretty much in the same vein as that first episode – fast and furious, lots of big robo-action as we uncover the origins of Armoured Gideon, and Frank gets more and more out of his depth.

Then up pops the other big robot, Armoured Jerubaal, and we get the inevitable big fighty robo-scene. We also get to find out just why Frank’s so important to Gideon, and all the whats and the whys of the series. 11 episodes, beginning, middle, and a sort of ending, with plenty of chance to carry it on, as they did. And all rather enjoyable as well.

Additionally, we get another three one-off tales, Prog 722’s No, No, Nanette and the 2000 AD Sci-Fi Special tale ‘Starhavon’s Edge’ from 1990. Both one-off follow-ups from Tomlinson and Jacob here, both of them heavy on not involving Gideon all that much. And then there’s the non-Tomlinson, non-Jacob strip, Making Movies, which is every bit as throwaway and pointless as you’d expect.

But those first 11 episodes actually work pretty well and although they’re not exactly going to win awards for the greatest story you’ll ever read in 2000 AD, they’re certainly good enough to justify making this all available once more. And that, I do believe, is exactly the point.

Armoured Gideon Volume 1 – written by John Tomlinson, art by Simon Jacob.

Includes the original first series, published in Progs 671-681, No, No, Nanette, from Prog 722, and Starhavon’s Edge from 2000 AD Sci-Fi Special 1990, all by Tomlinson & Jacob. Also contains the one-off Making Movies from 2000 AD Sci-Fi Special 1992), script by Alan McKenzie, art by Sean Phillips.

Released on 6th January 2021

So… the very first episode of Armoured Gideon, the first of 2000 AD’s digital-only releases… enjoy!

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