2000 AD
Slaughter Bowl
Medium: comic
Year: 1993
Writer: John Smith
Artist: Paul Peart
Country: UK
Keywords: 2000 AD
Format: 2000 AD 842-849
Website category: Comics UK
Review date: 10 March 2022
It's a 2000 AD sports series, not unlike Harlem Heroes, Mean Team or Mean Arena. (Or indeed Supersurf from Judge Dredd's world, with Chopper.) In the year 2029, the most popular sport in the world is Slaughter Bowl. (It was introduced eight years earlier. Time has caught up with this strip.) Convicted killers on Death Row are offered huge amounts of money to ride dinosaurs and kill each other on live television, with the minimum of taste.
"Don, Don, I can't quite believe this, but it seems our Harry camera is still working. We're getting these pictures direct from the dinosaur's stomach! Another viewing first on Word-TV!"
Nothing new in all that, obviously. All but one of the characters are the usual ultra-violent testosterone lunatics. Lots of bragging and killing, zero human interest. Normal in 2000 AD, but nothing to detain you. That all-important exception, though, is our hero, Stanley Modest. He's a milksop who works for a greetings card company until he gets fired in ep.1 because nobody likes him. A colleague sticks a sign on his back saying "World's No.1 Loser". Small children could beat him up. He's like a piece of string, but wearing glasses. Even fate itself hates him and he ends up getting convicted of mass murder and sentenced to death after hundreds of corpses are found in his house, while his wife needs expensive surgery to come out of her six-year coma.
The solution is Slaughter Bowl. The longer Stanley survives, the more money he'll earn for Deirdre's surgery!
This is brilliant. Macho idiots killing each other is ho-hum. Stanley Modest heading out to get stomped by those macho idiots is hilarious, especially since we know he's going to win. (Seriously. It's inevitable. That would be the funniest ending, after all, and he's the hero of the story.)
It's another hit from John Smith. I really like his work, although he's not one of 2000 AD's better-known writers. This also isn't one of his subtler stories, but the concept's so much fun that the story works like a charm anyway. It's a relatively obscure little eight-parter that's never had any sequels or spin-offs, as far as I know, but this is an example of the 2000 AD formula working well.