While writing about Before Watchmen last week I was reminded that occasionally comics are promised but they don’t arrive. Sometimes this is because of economic or political factors, other times it’s because the creators changed their minds, or were otherwise unable or unwilling to produce the work. Now and then it’s because the comic was never actually promised in the first place, and it really only existed in the assumptions of the fans.
So in my finite wisdom I’ve decided that it’s time for an occasional new series focusing on comics that never came to be no matter how much we might have wished for them (wishing doesn’t work on its own, folks: it needs to be backed up with graft). Or even just wholly imaginary comics created solely because the idea tickles me. (Or because I want to show off my meagre but enthusiastic Photoshop skills.) You never know: this feature just might be the spark needed to bring some dormant projects back to life.
Our first imaginary publication is the long-yearned-for fourth entry in a classic 2000AD series by Alan Moore and Ian Gibson, two creators at the very top of their game…
The Ballad of Halo Jones book 4
Halo first appeared in 2000AD #376 (7 July 1984), and that initial ten-episode Book One wasn’t, as far as I understand things, an immediate hit with the readers who had been more conditioned to expect granite-jawed cops, malfunctioning robots and slavering monsters. Absolutely nothing wrong with stories about cops, robots and monsters, of course, but a fan cannot live on Dredd alone.
Personally, I loved Halo Jones, but then I was already a huge fan of Alan Moore and Ian Gibson so it was a shoo-in for the “favourites” list.
Book Two (also ten episodes) and Book Three (fifteen episodes) followed in 1985 and 1986. Moore and Gibson had apparently planned nine Halo Jones books, but those three are all we got: a total of thirty-five episodes, or about 180 pages.
The good thing is The Ballad of Halo Jones is pretty much as close to comic-book perfection as it’s possible to get. I see the series as one of the clear points at which 2000AD — and comics in general — took a definitive step towards maturity. (Maturity in a good way, that is, not in that self-important way some comics attempted by being preachy and “relevant”, or going the opposite direction and pretending to be grown up by including lots of sex or swearing.)
I won’t go into too much detail about the story, because readers really should discover its delights through Moore’s words and Gibson’s pictures rather than my clumsy attempts to interpret them. All you really need to know is that Halo is an ordinary teenager who dreams of a better life than she has on The Hoop, a huge artificial habitat floating off the east coast of the USA. As the story unfolds, and her relatively comfortable situation deteriorates, Halo finds a way to break out. Halo is a truly fascinating and credible character, and the story is captivating, tragic, uplifting, horrifying, heart-breaking and utterly glorious.
In 1986 the three Ballad of Halo Jones series were compiled into individual volumes by Titan Books, each containing a new introduction by Moore with character sketches by Gibson (in early copies of Book 3 the last page of the introduction was accidentally replaced with the last page of the introduction from Book 2). Today those volumes often sell for ten times the original cover price.
Subsequently, there’s been a huge number of different printings, including the recent set that was completely coloured by Barbara Nosenzo (the Titan volumes are in black and white, although the first two pages of episode one, book one appeared on the comic’s centre-spread in colour), and several single-volume editions.
The remaining six Halo Jones books might not have been exactly promised, but they’ve certainly been speculated about at considerable length. What did Moore and Gibson intend for the character, and the rich, full — and often terrifying — universe she inhabited? They’ve both hinted that all of Halo’s life would have been explored, from youth to old age, from ordinary to extraordinary — and perhaps onwards to legendary. Sadly, it doesn’t seem likely that we’ll ever get to experience that for ourselves.
But perhaps it’s some small consolation to know that somewhere out there in the multiverse, maybe something akin to this exists: