Though originally running between 1977 and 1978 in the pages of 2000 AD, there’s something instantly, gloriously dated about Savage’s second volume ‘The Guv’nor’, its depiction of a beleaguered, broken Britain under ersatz Soviet occupation (the Volgan Republic) is so faithfully driven by the original strip’s ‘future as imagined in 1977’, artist Patrick Goddard’s clean linework echoes the war comics that 2000 AD grew out of, and Bill Savage himself, the sort of set-jawed, right-wing, blue-collar working men’s hero forever cracking suspect foreigners on the chin in the comics of the Fifties and Sixties.
Set 10 years after the original Invasion! strip, created by Pat Mills (Sláine, ABC Warriors, Nemesis The Warlock) and written by Gerry Finley-Day (Rogue Trooper), and following on from Mills and Charlie Adland’s (The Walking Dead) first volume ‘Taking Liberties’, ‘The Guv’nor’ has the scowling Bill Savage running a pub under an assumed name in King’s Cross, denounced as a collaborator for his assumed friendliness with an occupying Volgan general, he slips out after dark to safeguard leaked documents from the Volgan command, to the US forces waiting in Ireland to begin the liberation of Britain.
It’s essentially ‘Allo, ‘Allo as imagined by Guy Ritchie, all snarling gangsters, East End boozers and double crosses.
Perhaps because it so intrinsically linked to the early days of the anthology, Savage is relatively free of the canonical clutter that can drive newcomers away from 2000 AD‘s rogues gallery – the exception being a walk-on, background part for some Hammerstein war robots, Mek-Quake and the Ro-Busters’ smarmy, Richard Branson-like chief Howard Qaurtz – but even to fans, it’s a bit of an awkward tonal shift, so you’re not missing out on anything that’ll enrich your read.
Along with Judge Dredd’s co-creator and longterm scribe John Wagner, Pat Mills’ writing – especially on Savage – underlines one of the smaller idiosyncrasies of 2000 AD, that of largely anti-authoritarian, anti-war writers – Mills co-created the extremely left-wing, socially and politically aware Crisis comic anthology in 1988 – write such convincingly heroic right wing characters. Bill Savage would be caricature of a late-Seventies Sun reader were he not so heroic – he idolises the martyred ersatz Margaret Thatcher – Lady Shirley Brown – executed on the steps of St Paul’s during the invasion, and teams up with a man called Littlejohn, who exacts vigilante justice on pedophiles.
Almost a companion piece to V For Vendetta – it’s a similar world, with a similar backdrop of secret police, work-camps and paranoid collaborators peering over their shoulders – Savage is less about the big, meaningful wrestle for ideas, and more about the hard graft of resistance.
Ugly, unflinching and utterly compelling, ‘The Guv’ner’ is a beautifully recreated cocktail of Cold War fears – just try to ignore the robots.