I’ve been revisiting comics from my youth, again. This time, it’s a significant chunk of writer John Smith’s 2000 AD work, which I eagerly and impatiently followed through the late 1980s and early 1990s; he wrote a number of different things for the anthology during that time, both of his own creation — Tyranny Rex, Indigo Prime, Revere, Firekind, Devlin Waugh — and picking up part-time work on other people’s characters and strips. He did some Judge Dredd, a little bit of Rogue Trooper, and even a Robo Hunter at some point, if I remember correctly.
I’m telling you this not to be a fanboy — I think I’ve already established those bona fides simply by being able to list all those strips without having to reference anything in advance, let’s be honest — but to point out that Smith was someone who made a point to keep busy on a number of different projects during this time, with a number of different attitudes on display in each of them. There wasn’t just one “John Smith” flavor, if that makes sense.
And yet, I always knew when Smith was writing something, even as a teen who wasn’t the most adept at understanding the nuances of author’s tics or how to identify recurring themes and obsessions to identify a creator. Revisiting his work en masse as I have been, I realize what clued me in was, of all things, Smith’s language, and the ways in which he’d write things in such a way to be… emotionally centered, rather than practically so, if that makes sense…?
Looking at it today, I can recognize that Smith was using techniques he’d lifted from contemporary poets and literary prose in how he approached language; there would be blocks of purple prose, or sentences in fragments to establish a mood or a feeling, all of which felt brand new and exciting to the me I was back then. I feel as if, in his way, Smith opened up a space in my brain for an appreciation of non-linear writing, and more experimental writing, just by being in that Judge Dredd comic when I was at the right age to learn. I’m forever grateful for that.