Preview: ‘Mean Arena Volume 1’: Future Sports, 2000 AD Style

by Richard Bruton

The latest digital-only 2000 AD collection brings back one of the great future sports strips in British comics, with street football given a brutal and deadly twist in The Mean Arena, the high energy, high action sports comic strip from the early days of 2000 AD.

Created by Tom Tully and John Richardson, and debuting in 2000 AD Prog 178 (1980), this was very much in the spirit of the 1975 movie Rollerball, not to mention the very, very familiar themes of the 1976 novel Killerball by Gary K. Wolf.

Mean Arena brings sport to the streets, mixing American Football with something way more violent and it all takes place on the specially evacuated town/city arenas where the teams stalk each other through the streets and buildings, with the ball passed from street-level to roof-top and back until one team scores by getting the plasti-steel ball into the revolving goal.

It’s a classic 2000 AD strip of its time that holds up remarkably well today. Tom Tully may well have looked a little too closely to Rollerball and especially Killerball for inspiration, but the resulting comic is still exciting and fun as we get to follow the new US striker for Slater’s Slayers, Matt Tallon, as he looks for glory on the pitch and for revenge off it!

Artistically, it’s all about John Richardson in the early episodes, bold, detailed artwork and interesting, kinetic page designs that push the storyline along so well. And later on, we get some of the early work of Steve Dillon, complete with the classic look to his artwork that was there from the beginning of his career.

Mean Arena Volume 1 – All To Slay For – written by Tom Tully, art by John Richardson, Steve Dillon, Johnny Johnstone, letters by Peter Knight, Bill Nuttall, Tony Jacob, Steve Potter.

Features the storylines The Southampton Sharks, written by Tom Tully, art by John Richardson, Steve Dillon, Johnny Johnstone (originally from 2000 AD Progs 178-180, 182-187, 191-202), and The Jensens, written by Tom Tully, art by Steve Dillon (originally from 2000 AD Progs 218-223)

Released on 3rd March 2021

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