Today I killed an alien. Not your average, run-of-the-mill bulbous-headed, glowing-fingered extra-terrestrial alien. No, this was a very special alien, a cultural icon of sorts within comics - with the emphasis on cult. Today I killed the editor of 2000 AD, Tharg the Mighty.
Of course, there is no guarantee the green-skinned sod will stay dead. Indeed, as far as readers of 2000 AD are concerned, he has merely taken a sabatical to return to his homeworld Quaxxan (sixth planet of the Betelgeuse system). In the introductory column of 2000 AD I've spent the past three weeks laying the seeds of Tharg's departure. My foreshadowing seems to have passed like a fart in a hurricane, although we did finally get a fax of protest a few days ago. But, for the most part, Tharg's imminent departure has gone unnoticed.
Now he's gone. After one thousand and thirteen consecutive appearances in every issue of 2000 AD, Tharg has left the building. Tiresome, infantile and wildly outdated, Tharg has stuck in my throat for the last 10 months since I took over as editor of 2000 AD a week before Christmas, 1995. I've plotted and planned and now I've gotten rid of him. I've replaced him with a new fictional editorial team - the Men in Black from Vector 13. 2000 AD's freelance designer Steve Cook laboured for hours to sculpt the new editor's visage which is based on an old photo of Bela Lugosi - just add Raybans and roast at Adobe Photoshop 5.5 for several minutes until fully formed.
By not actually killing Tharg, I have given myself an escape hatch. If reader reaction is too vitriolic, I simply have Tharg return from his trip to Quaxxan and all is well again. (An aside: how can you kill a fictional character? Tharg was never alive in the first place, except via the collective imaginings of 2000 AD, who must number in their millions over the nearly 20 years the title has been published. With my luck those imaginings will form a gestalt entity by which Tharg exacts his revenge on me for having the temerity to try and dispense with his services.)
Already my managers at Egmont Fleetway Limited are getting cold feet about Tharg's sabatical. Somebody somewhere said a good editor challenges their readers' perceptions of what a title is about. 2000 AD has been stuck in a rut for far too long, slowly disappearing up its own arse. Time to kick some arse instead!
Next time I'll talk about the invisible revolution at 2000 AD.
But there was no next time. It didn't take me long to discover Tharg was a valuable frontman for the comic's editorial team, and his monologues were considerably easier to write and more entertaining to read than the portentous pronouncements of the Men In Black. So Tharg was restored to his rightful place as editor eighteen weeks later, returning just in time for the comic's 20th anniversary in 1997. Hard to believe that's ten years ago...