Preview: ‘The Mean Arena Volume 2 – Eat, Slay, Shove!’ It’s Football Gone Crazy

by Richard Bruton

It’s back into the Mean Arena for another round of future sports – 2000 AD style! It’s classic 2000 AD, simple, fast-paced, and laced through with that streak of nasty…

Cover by Steve Dillon

The latest release of these new 2000 AD digital collections takes us right back to the early days of the comic with some high-energy, high body count ultra-violent sports action.

This second volume of The Mean Arena picks up where the first left off, straight into the world of violent street football with Slater’s Slayers and its star striker, Matt Tallon. He’s still determined to hunt down the killers of his younger brother, but there’s a hell of a lot of action before we get to that, both on and off the pitch now that the people Tallon’s after are coming after him.

Created by Tom Tully and John Richardson, this was another one of those early 2000 AD strips (it debuted in 1980) that riffed off anything that was popular at the time – this is very much in the spirit of Gary K. Wolf’s Killerball and the brilliant but oh so of its time movie, Rollerball.

For the second volume, we get the brilliance of Eric Bradbury and Mike White, two legends of Brit comics, bringing their fabulous artwork to bear on the strip.

Mean Arena – art by Eric Bradbury

If you’re on your first visit to Mean Arena, it won’t take you that long to get up to speed, which is all part of the fun of these early 2000 AD strips, they were all so wonderfully simple things. Here, all you really need to know is that there’s a big business behind bringing ultra-violent street football to the specially evacuated town and city arenas, where armoured warrior sports-stars battle to pass the plasti-steel ball through the streets and buildings until eventually scoring. It’s armoured MMA with weaponry meets American Football – brutal, nasty, and absolutely thrilling.

All the way through Mean Arena, it’s a procession of wonderfully over-the-top match-ups and plenty of crazy teams to play against. You know, like the Penzance Pirates, where the teams play on pitches full of holes ‘filled with ancient sludge,’ a holdover from the Penzance oil-boom and a nasty surprise for the visiting teams. Then there’s the Salford Slicers, the Southampton Sharks with the comedy shark heads, or the Oxford Invaders who’ve all had work done to look more alien – all of them suitably as nasty as they are ridiculous.

But that’s all part of the fun of The Mean Arena, like so many of the early 2000 AD strips, it’s very single-minded and fast-paced. But it’s also bloody violent and particularly nasty at times – all gloriously detailed by first Bradbury and then White…

Gloriously detailed deaths a speciality – art by Eric Bradbury

And if it’s not opponents meeting grisly deaths on the field, there’s plenty of viciousness in Tallon’s search for those he holds responsible for the death of his brother, including the complex plot to kill the doctor who failed to treat him that involves torture and plastic surgery before Tallon sticks the doctor into the Mean Arena to meet a fiery fate.

Torture, plastic surgery, and setting up your enemy for certain death – it’s the Mean Arena way – art by Mike White

It’s the great thing about these digital editions, that they give a new focus to some of the stories that you’ve maybe never seen from the now 45-year history of 2000 AD. And it’s a damn good thing as well, when it’s something that’s as much fun as Mean Arena.

Mean Arena Volume 2 – Eat, Slay, Shove! – written by Tom Tully, art by Eric Bradbury & Mike White, letters by Peter Knight & Tony Jacob. Cover by Steve Dillon

Released by 2000 AD on 2nd March 2022

Features the storylines
The Penzance Riggers (Progs 226-229 & 234-235) The Salford Slicers (Progs 236-238) The Edinburgh Executioners (Progs 239-244) The Oxford Invaders (Progs 246-251, 253-255, 258-259)

Now, preview time, with art from both Bradbury and White:

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