Comics are most definitely an art form. If you can call a crucifix in a jar of urine art, then surely you can allow some room for comics, yes? One of my favorite parts about collecting comics and it's art is trolling through the vast amount of back catalogue available and discovering the early days of artist x, or the great inspirations of artist y. I think that beyond all, the early years of 2000AD and Judge Dredd encapsulate the former.
I have had a love for the Judge Dredd character and world since the early nineties. When I first learned about the character, the World was preparing for the all encompassing stink that was the Sylvester Stallone film. To be fair, it sounded pretty cool. I ended up falling into my standard obsessive behavior and began devouring what information I could. In the middle of Oklahoma, the choices were somewhat limited. This was in the dark ages of course before the advent of the internet.
I even have an old drawing I did of Dredd back in the day, which at the time was one of my better attempts. I never really knew the true joy of Dredd and his 2000AD brethren until recently when I started getting the Judge Dredd Complete Case Files from 2000AD and Rebellion press. It is awesome, campy, fanboy love. The stories feel like a lot of other independent comics of the time. There is a fair amount of corny humor and beat you over the head storytelling, but in the middle of all that, you see the writer's working towards some great social satire and the art is off the walls bonkers.
There is a book called, "How to draw comics, the Marvel way" full of the method used by the John's Romita and Buscema. Everything is orderly, dynamic and one of the better references of the time. It's a great intro into how to develop a cinematic feel for the medium. 2000AD acts if books like that never existed. Every page is eye blisteringly full. Characters fall out of panels. Each page is so crowded that at first you have no idea where to look because your brain is processing so much visual stimuli. the stories are all the better for it. It feels like the sprawling, claustrophobic megalopolis that Mega City 1 is supposed to be. You can see the spittle flying from the lips of the villains hurling insults at the Judges and the grim steely visage of Dredd's chin.
The true shame of all of this is that 2000AD and the Judge Dredd Megazine no longer function in this manner. The stories are far more cohesive with modern dialogue, but the art no longer seems to push the boundaries in the fashion of old. It resembles the American comic structure, and it seems lesser for it. Don't get me wrong though, They are still introducing some of the great artists of the future who will leave their impression on the industry for years to come. Part of me still misses the chaotic independent style that permeated Dredd in his earliest adventures.