2000AD Holiday Specials

This year, I bought a handful of 2000AD Christmas specials. This is a long-running comics magazine from Britain, and it's the origin of Judge Dredd.

It's an interesting format that's quite different from the way most Western comics are published today. Longer stories are serialized in small pieces, but short one-offs are featured as well. Because each issue features many short stories and chapters (and there are more than normal in these holiday annuals), you're bound to find something intriguing even if one or two of the pieces aren't to your taste.

Most of the stories seem to share a sense of heightened reality: dystopias, sci-fi blending with other genres, crime and punishment in very stylized worlds.

Each issue was 100-ish pages and featured over a dozen stories, of which only some were seasonal. Here are a few of the more Christmassy stories in the issues I read:

2007 Special

Sinister Dexter: Christmas Time

Sinister Dexter is a long-running series about a pair of hit-men/criminals in a near-future supercity. In this short little piece, Sinister has gotten himself thrown in jail for Christmas in an attempt to free his partner, but his plan isn't going well. He pictures the different paths he thought his plan would take.

Harry Kipling (Deceased): Winter Wonderbrand

This piece of extreme surrealism is about a far future space factory making Santa-themed soda being attacked by old gods of winter. Harry Kipling, some sort of undead spirit of Britishness, deals with them with the help of other supernatural forces.

2008 Special

Judge Dredd: Spirit of Christmas

This was interesting on both an internal story level and an external structural level. A year of Judge Dredd stories have happened in the pages of the 2000AD issues, but this particular story ties back to the events of the (non-Christmas) origin story that had a chapter included in the 2007 holiday annual.

In this one, Dredd scares a few years off his niece's boyfriend at a holiday visit, busts some thieves, and then decides to try to right an old wrong in the spirit of the holiday.

Nikolai Dante: Destiny's Child

The sword of the Tsar rescues a girl who can see the future at Christmas. This character has an interesting aesthetic and setting, a sort of far-future/history mishmash. This particular story strikes an interesting tone, balanced between the futuristic and the supernatural.

Caballisticts, Inc: The Nativity

This is a bit too violent and weird to be my cup of tea, but any series that does a Christmas bit about a maybe-woman carrying a demon child gets some points in my book.

2009 Special
Overall I didn't like the stories in this as much as the earlier ones.

Judge Dredd: One for the Boys

This was sort of unpleasant to read (too violent and weird for me), but it specifically takes place at Christmas. A holiday amnesty releases a bunch of prisoners, which quickly leads enforcers to hidden accomplices. The main story is about a patsy they release because he can lead them to a female-supremacist with a terrorist plot.

Sinister Dexter: Ray and Finny's Daze of Christmas

This, on the other hand, was fun. It's a short little parody piece in which the titular hit men do a job to the tune of the twelve days of Christmas.

Stickleback: 'Twas the Fight Before Christmas

Stickleback is some sort of macabre, supernatural super-criminal, and this parody in poetry features him trying to make a deal with Santa to learn his skills for breaking and entering.

2012 Special

Dandridge: A Christmas Ghost Story

This is okay. The undoing of a bad man is his choice of buying a supernatural present.

Judge Dredd: Choose Your Own Xmas

Hearing about this story is actually the reason I went seeking out these annuals, and it's easily the best and cleverest of the bunch. It's playing off both choose your own adventure books and the time travel/alternate timeline stories that are common to Christmas tales due to A Christmas Carol and It's a Wonderful Life. In this, Jackson Packard hears voices that direct him to make choices, and you can change the story by flipping back and forth between numbered panels. You can follow Jackson that way, and then go back and read all the panels in case you missed anything and get Judge Dredd's perspective - the story works both ways.

I don't know whether I'll seek out any more of these, but it was an interesting side-trip for some surreal and dystopian stories.