Wednesday, December 16, 2015

No. 53 Simon Geller

First Prog: 180
Final Prog: 604

Total appearances: 182
-mostly for his work as assistant editor, but includes 32 appearances as a scripter

Writing credits:
Rogue Trooper: the Hitman years
DiceMan dice logo.
Art by Dave Gibbons
-and a Dice Man episode of Rogue, too.
Puns for the front cover

Notable characteristics:
As an editor, basic competency and a clear sense of fun. As a writer, it’s hard to say across a relatively short body of work, but I’ll go with straight down-the-line action.

On Simon:
The man got a pretty big boost on joining the 2000AD team in the form of a Tharg story that really bigs him up. He comes into the office, dubbed Sim-1, and gets everyone back on track producing top tier progs.

The reality may boil down to the fact that he wasn’t Burt, the office whipping boy in print and perhaps real life, too.

Sim-1 takes charge!
Art by Carlos Ezquerra
Geller even got to be on TV once, although my only exposure to this is from a photo-montage of the event in the 1987 Sci-Fi Special.

Geller is sat on the right; the long-haired fella on the left is Nico,
who presented a children's TV show called Splash!, I believe.
The real Geller looks a lot younger than his droid counterpart, I feel.

It is, however, surely not a coincidence that Geller’s tenure on the comic coincides with what is generally held to be the longest stretch of concentrated Thrill Power the comic has ever seen, covering seemingly endless runs of Strontium Dog, Rogue Trooper, Robo Hunter, Nemesis the Warlock, Slaine, Halo Jones, Ace Trucking Co, even ending on the high of Bad Company book 1. All the stuff that gets the Case Files treatment, in other words.

And then there was Dice Man, an experimental comic if ever there was one, attempting to cash in on the early 80s craze for Dungeons & Dragons and, more particularly, Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks, in which the reader reads a story but also decides what action should happen, creating many fractured pathways of story, usually ending in death.

Kev O'Neill came up with a death-fixated host for the comic; Geller provided the text

Art by Kevin O'Neill

Pat Mills, I believe, actually took on the job of writing the vast majority of those insanely complex scripts. Geller was the editor. I can’t help but believe he must have had a fair hand in the nightmare of sorting all those panels onto a page in an order that made some sense, although really a lot of this would have been down to Mills and his various artists.

If there’s one thing that characterises this era of 2000AD, it’s the pun-based headline son the front covers. This was an era when the cover image was as likely as not to have a speech balloon, as well as a tagline, and an 80% chance of a hearty chuckle.

According to his section of Thrill Power Overload, Geller was especially fond of, and maybe responsible for, setting up these jokes. Sometimes it’s obvious that the joke follows on from the picture, other times it has been built in to the picture already, possibly by the artist although likely suggested by the editor in many cases. Enough prattle – here’s a selection to enjoy.

Bullet in - geddit?
Art by Ron Smith

It's a homonym
Art by Steve Dillon

Art by Kim Raymond

Young me wouldn't go on to find out what SNAFU stands for until 1989's Tango & Cash.Art by Bryan Talbot

'cos Toby is a robot, see?
Art by Ian Gibson

Art by Massimo Belardinelli

Even the darkest, grimmest, revegeiest of stories can't escape without some wordplay.
Art by Carlos Ezquerra

Phantom of the Shoppera is the gift that keeps on giving.
Art by John Higgins

I can believe Geller retired from 2000AD after realising he'd never top this effort.
Art by Brett Ewins

And the punning wasn;t restricted to the covers. 'Next Prog' ads reeked of them...

A mid-series plug for Halo Jones Book I
Art by Ian Gibson; editorializing has to be Geller, right?
Heck, these 'next prog' bits wer so much fun, that one fo the Annuals or Specials of the era (I forget exactly which) had a whole feature on them, dubbed 'Last Prog's Next Progs'. That's commitment to filling space, but somewhow making it fun anyway. I approve.

Just as Geller was winding down as an editorial assistant (perhaps from boredom, or at least a healthy desire to do something different), he had a crack at writing. Poor old Gerry Finley-Day had essentially been fired from Rogue Trooper, but the character remained popular. The wild-goose chase of the antigen hunt, followed by the rather sudden, but actually kinda neat end of the Nort-Souther War left Rogue himself literally adrift in space.

Geller reimagined him as a hitman, working at the best of some sort of alien gods, who were straddling the line of benign/sinister. This device didn’t really work in itself. What did work, though, was the excuse for a series of quick and dirty storied where Rogue has to infiltrate and assassinate some bad dudes. And the Steve Dillon art didn’t hurt either, especially drawing a ghostly Venus Bluegenes as the mouthpiece of the gods.

It's clear there was no plan behind the Hitman concept, fun as the individual stories were.
Art by Steve Dillon

The four Hitman stories that ran between progs 500 and 600 were the moral equivalent of straight to video action films of the top tier. Think early Steven Seagal, or maybe Michael Dudikoff or even Eric Roberts. Lots of snarling, various one-liners, and vague themes that never get in the way of the action set pieces.  Good solid fun in other words, if never as engagingly weird as the early Rogue stories. If nothing else, the series demonstrated how vital the Nu-Earth setting is to Rogue Trooper, as is contrasting him with regular grunts.

Dissention in the ranks
Art by Steve Dillon
Rogue following orders
Art by Steve Dillon

Geller's first Rogue effort was set during the war.
Art by Brett Ewins

Short, sweet and to the point. Good stuff.

More on Simon Geller
Aside from his chat with David Bishop, I can't find anything.

Personal favourites:
Rogue Trooper: Hit One, Hit 2, Hit 3


  1. I remember Simon well - a nice chap, who gave me a fair bit of work on Diceman. I don't think I'm betraying any confidences in revealing that Simon became depute editor (I think) on Mizz Magazine because he preferred to stay with IPC, rather than become part of Maxwell's 'empire'. Wise choice, given subsequent events.

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  3. Gotta admire a man of principle!