It’s appropriate that I concluded writing about Crisis in the week Thatcher died. Her presence was all over Crisis; she appeared as Gloria Monday in Dan Dare, she appeared as herself with her emasculated late Cabinet in True Faith, she appeared symbolically in a panel of The New Adventures of Hitler when John Bull was opining on Britain’s need for a vicious bitch as a ruler. And she was in everything else; in John Smith making Britain the 51st state in New Statesmen, in the hopeless deadlock of the Troubles in Troubled Souls, in the dole-claiming underclass of Sticky Fingers, in the furious radicalism of Third World War, in the futile back-to-work programmes of The Real Robin Hood. Crisis wouldn’t have been possible without Thatcher.
The comic enjoyed a large readership at the time. It was available in your local newsagent, part of a new wave of comics in the magazine format along with Deadline and Toxic and Viz. But only one of the series that appeared in it – Dare, which was mostly in Revolver – is currently in print. A McCarthy-Milligan collection coming soon will contain Rogan Gosh and Skin, which is why I’ve not hosted them for download. Otherwise, despite the high profile of many of the creators involved, this work’s unavailable. Apart from the scans, and thanks again to the Welsh Wizard for scanning the complete run and making this blog possible.
Crisis was of its time, of that moment when comics were growing up in public. Gangly, adolescent, frequently embarrassing. But it gave a start to a huge array of talent, and the writers and artists who saw some of their earliest work appear here have, for the most part, continued to produce work which tries to do something new. Sean Phillips and Duncan Fegredo, who were New Statesmen and then Third World War artists, have become two of the most distinctive artists in American comics and have done their best work outside of the superhero mainstream: Phillips teaming with Ed Brubaker for Sleeper, Criminal, Fatale and Incognito, Fegredo taking over as main Hellboy artist from Mike Mignola. Garth Ennis, a Crisis discovery, and John McCrea spent years working together on Hitman and Ennis remains a mainstay of the British invasion, Preacher and The Boys his best-known longform works. Gary and Warren Pleece’s book Montague Terrace has just been released. Brendan McCarthy has triumphantly returned to comics from animation and movies in recent years, The Zaucer of Zilk being an absurd highlight. James Robinson, who wrote a short story for Crisis about oil spills, wrote Starman for DC and continues to work for them on superhero properties. Nick Abadzis, who had two stories in Crisis’s last issue, has published the acclaimed Laika and a collection of his Deadline character Hugo Tate in recent years. Glyn Dillon wrote and drew and painted everyone’s favourite graphic novel of 2012, The Nao of Brown. Grant Morrison appears, after a distinguished career at Vertigo, DC and Marvel, to be re-entering the world of creator-owned stuff. Rian Hughes continues to be a successful designer and is the author of the extraordinary CULT-URE, which everyone should read and which I hope to write about here pretty soon. Peter Milligan was the last writer on Hellblazer, taking it to its 300th issue. John Smith, Pat Mills, D’Israeli, Carlos Ezquerra and Steve Yeowell, among others, never stopped producing stuff for 2000AD. And Mark Millar, who wrote a clumsy story about meeting your girlfriend’s parents and the undistinguished Insiders for Crisis, has managed to bridge the gap between comics and action movies like nobody else and has been uncontrollably rewarded.
A lot of good stuff appeared in Crisis. If it had better understood what it had to offer, if it had settled on an identity focused on quality rather than being 2000AD’s older brother or an illustrated guide to leftism, if it had just been luckier, then it’d be more of a legend than a footnote. It had the right people, the right idea. In a way, it was a victim of its own success; Garth Ennis leapt from Troubled Souls to Judge Dredd to Hellblazer in two years, like almost everyone else on the comic discovering that America paid more. Crisis could have remained a home for the more experimental stuff, but a comic full of Bible Johns wouldn’t have succeeded in the newsagent. The swift collapse of Revolver showed that the UK market had its limits, and the original plan to break America sank in the Atlantic.
Crisis did better, and is more fondly remembered, than almost anything else in the short boom for adult British comics. I bought the first 15 issues. After that, I bought it sporadically or picked up back issues. I don’t remember if I even noticed it die. I’d probably make the same decision today, because most of the time I was uninterested in two-thirds of a given issue’s contents. But that other third was often something different, something new, something exceptional.