Tuesday, January 5, 2010

2000 AD in the USA; Or: This Must Be How UK Marvel Fans Feel

A salesman once told me that you should start your pitch by dazzling them with visuals. Wait, maybe it was a University Professor that told me that. Either way, check this out!

Awesome, right?! That little teaser video features the characters from one of my favorite 2000 AD regular story lines, the A.B.C. Warriors, a race of sentient robot warriors created to fight in the Volgan War. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

One of the gifts I got for ComiXmas (thanks Kim!) was The Best of 2000 AD hardcover. I had been wanting this for a while, but had been reluctant to buy it. You see, I can't eat chocolate.

Allow me to explain.

I get migraines, and can't have caffeine. Hence, I can't eat chocolate. It's been so long since I've eaten chocolate that I'm not even sure what it tastes like anymore. But I still kind of remember what it tasted like, especially Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Having gone through that, I try to avoid similar circumstances in my life. I obviously don't subscribe to the "better to have loved and lost" mentality.

So I was reluctant, at first, to read any 2000 AD. As a British comic book, it is almost impossible to get in the US. In fact, a majority of this post concerns how to lock your eyeballs on regular weekly copies if you reside here in the US of A. That's right, weekly. Therein lies the problem. But again, I'm getting ahead of myself.

So why did I taste the chocolate of 2000 AD? Well, because I decided it was worth the possible migraine. (You know, this metaphor is getting annoying. I'll stop now.) As I've commented on this blog before, I've been looking for a good anthology sci-fi comic for quite some time. I finally decided that there were only two options: check out 2000 AD, or give up on ever seeing a regular monthly anthology sci-fi comic in the US of any quality. For some reason this is just not what most US comic readers are after. So I took the plunge with the aforementioned hardcover.

Guess what.

It fucking rocks.

Oh course, as soon as I realized that, I also thought: "I'm screwed."

"Now I have to figure out how to get more of this!" So I checked Amazon for more 2000 AD books. Nope. The Best Of is the only book currently in print in the USA. Shit. As a monthly import comic, it would be really expensive to read weekly issues from my comic shop. I knew they'd have to be special ordered, and I knew from previous research that they only come in "month packs". Apparently, Diamond can't be bothered with shipping a weekly comic... you know... weekly. Now a month pack from Diamond is going to run you about $20, if you have a decent discount from your comic shop. Damn. To make my budget work I'd have to drop a few comics... maybe that's doable. So I did more research.

Turns out these month packs are a nightmare. You can read accounts here and here, but the short of it is that the issues (or "progs" as they are called) don't necessarily come in order in the month packs! A month pack will include four progs. They may be in order, they may not. They may have been printed before last month's month pack, maybe after. You may not get certain progs, for no known reason. Since 2000 AD stories are serialized weekly over a few months, this is obviously the recipe for intense personal suffering.

The search continued.

How about buying them directly from the company? Well, that option does indeed exist. Of course, this invokes my extreme hatred and distrust of the US Post Office, so I wasn't too confident that I would receive my weekly books in one piece. Still, let's check the price. A monthly subscription to 2000 AD costs £15.50, which at current exchange rates is... $24.81 !! Holy shit! I'm not made of money! This is like half my monthly comic budget! Maybe twenty five bucks a month doesn't seem like too much to some people, but I intend to stay married, so this wasn't really an option for me.

There has to be another option. There has to!

Then it dawned on me: this is the digital age! That must be an option...

Sure enough, CBR did two stories (here and here) about 2000 AD going digital, specifically to reach non-UK residents. But it gets better. These are not shitty digital comics like Marvel's Digital Flashfuck Subscription Service. These are downloadable DRM-FREE digital comics! There are currently two places you can get authorized, totally 100% legal DRM-Free digital copies of 2000 AD: ClickWheel and DriveThruComics.

ClickWheel is owned by Rebellion Developments, a British video game company who, in 2000, bought the 2000 AD comic. (Those Brits are clever, no?) So if you need some assurance that ClickWheel isn't going anywhere, there you have it. You can be pretty sure that as long as 2000 AD is still being printed and sold, ClickWheel (or something like it) will be there to give it to you digitally. New progs appear on ClickWheel one week after they hit news stands in the UK, which means I can actually get newer copies of 2000 AD than most US comic books, as I can only make the 45 minute drive to my comic shop about once every 2-3 weeks. ClickWheel has a complete back issue database that currently starts with the first 2006 issue, but they are constantly adding more back issues. When you create an account and list yourself as living in the USA, prices change to US$. Individual progs go for $2.99, which I think is really affordable since these are 30 or so pages of magazine size comics. This is actually a better deal than many US comics, except of course that this is digital only. They also have a monthly subscription service that is four progs for $11.49, which is definitely doable (this is 3-4 monthly US comics at current price rates).

The other awesome thing about ClickWheel is downloading options: most ClickWheel comics are availble as PDFs and CBZ files. I'm in the minority that prefer PDFs, but most people that read digital comics prefer CBZ or CBR files, so that is a big benefit/attractor. Once you purchase a comic you can download it as many times as you want, and in whatever format. They also have a format they call "iComic", which means it has been specially reformed for the iPhone/iPod Touch and can be accessed through the free ClickWheel iPod App. Worth getting as they have access to some nice free comics, although you need WiFi access to use the app.

You can see the full list of 2000 AD progs here. They also have a nice selection of free comics if you are new to 2000 AD or just want to check out some free content! Judge Dredd Metro Strips (iPod and CBZ format); Droid Live (iPod and CBZ format); Judge Dredd: Fifty Year Man (iPod, CBZ, PDF, and dumbass movie format); The Ten Seconders; and 2000 AD Origins #1, which contains some of the classic strips in the Best Of hardcover.

The other buying option is DriveThruComics, which has a slightly different selection. They have some older (but still modern) progs, but at a much lower price. They only have one downloading format: watermarked PDF, but it's still DRM-Free, and individual progs are only $1.99! The main advantage of DriveThruComics is that they have digital trade paperback collections. Let's say you wanted to read all the original A.B.C. Warriors strips. Well, those TPs are not in print in the US, but you can get it on DriveThruComics for $9.99. The same goes for Rogue Trooper (another of my favorite strips) also available for $9.99. They have a good number of collections for cheap. Check them out!

Want to check out a few free, classic 2000 AD strips? The BBC has them for you. (Are you starting to see what 2000 AD is in the UK?)

Now I haven't really done much to convince you to read 2000 AD. My point here was to tell you how you can read it, at an affordable price. If you check out the above free content and think it's zarjaz (2000 AD lingo for "awesome"), then pick up the Best Of hardcover from Amazon. It's one of the nicest hardcover comic collections I've ever seen, honestly. If you like that, maybe buy some of the collections from DriveThruComics, or maybe you like it enough to get a monthly (or yearly for a $12 savings) subscription from ClickWheel.

Okay, maybe you're the type that can't stand these digital comics, but you can't afford or don't want to pay for weekly issues mailed from the UK. You can get many of the trade and hardcover collections from Amazon UK, but it will cost you. There is a chance that customs will charge you something too.

So what do you say? Check out the free stuff! Taste the chocolate (damn it, I need to stop that)! You might like it. Besides, you don't want to stay a nonscrot, do you? Check out the zarjaz thrills in each prog, or Tharg the Mighty might get angry.

Update (1/8/2010):

I just discovered that you can order many "graphic novels" (ie: collections of related stories) from the 2000 AD online store. There is shipping to the USA as an option, but it is pretty pricey, as you'd expect. Shipping is $7-$9 per book, although prices on the actual books are on par with US graphic novels/trade paperbacks. Just another option. Unfortunately, many of the books appear to be out of stock, which you can't tell until you click on their page and try to add them to your cart. I don't know if this is just because it's right after Christmas, or they don't stock them anymore.


Lee McKnight Jr. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lee McKnight Jr. said...

For 2000AD graphic novels, coming from someone in Cincy, you have 2 fantastic options:

1) Amazon US-Used-there are tons of them dirt cheap
2) Just google "Book Depository"-free shipping from the UK, no matter how small the order.

Thank me later.

Unknown said...

Thank you!

2000 AD @ Book Depository

*wipes away drool*

There are also upcoming US editions of Halo Jones & ABC Warriors v1.