The Ballad of Halo Jones a graphic novel published by 2000AD
Steve Potter (books 1&2), Richard Starkins (book 3)
Previously published in Progs 376-385, 405-415, 451-466.
The Ballad of Halo Jones is considered a classic by fans of 2000AD. Indeed Book 1 was a classic before book 3 was published.
This is the story of an ordinary girl and her ordinary life getting turned upside down. Halo is no heroine, no great destiny shapes her life. She isn’t an action hero, no superhero. Halo is just an average, if attractive, young lady.
In popular culture Halo Jones has inspired at least two pop acts. Transvision Vamp released their debut album in 1988 featuring a song based loosely on the character ‘Hanging out with Halo Jones’. The band Halo James too it’s name from Halo Jones and band founder & front-man Christian James.
Halo Jones has inspired many writers and artists over the years. In December I reviewed The Legend of Ellie Quin Book 1 by Alex Scarrow, released free on Kindle on Christmas Day. Alex has stated that The Legend of Ellie Quin is his homage to Halo Jones.
There are spoilers below but I don’t reveal too much.
This collection has an introduction by Lauren Buekes, South African novelist, who describes Halo Jones as
“my first love. Or maybe my first role model. The girl who got out.”
The book is published in this volume all black and white.
The artwork is magnificent, Ian Gibson’s art is considered one of the most classic looks for 2000AD in the tos and early 80s. He drew some of the influential Dredd stories, being the first to draw The Academy of Law and Judge Giant Sr (Prog 27) and Judge Dredd’s niece, Vienna (prog 116). He also drew the earliest stories of Robo Hunter (debuting in ‘Verdus’ Progs 76-85).
Alan Moore was already a well established writer for 2000AD having written numerous Future Shocks and Time Twisters as well as creating Abelard Snazz (Ro-Jaws’ Robo Tales: “Final Solution” Progs 189-190, 1980), Skizz (Skizz “First Contact” (Progs 308-330, 1983) and D.R. & Quinch (Time Twisters: D.R. and Quinch Have Fun On Earth” Prog 317, 1983).
Halo Jones was created to deliberately show a female lead but avoiding comic stereotypes, thus we were given an everywoman. As Halo Jones days about herself ‘Anybody could have done it’
Progs 376-385, July-Sept 1984
Book 1 introduces us to Halo Jones, an average 18 year old girl. She lives with her friends Brinna and Rodice, not forgetting Brinna’s robo-dog Toby. They live in a floating city called The Hoop moored in the Atlantic off the coast of USA.
The three friends rarely go out but one day decide to visit an open area of The Hoop to watch the starship Clara Pandy pass over. The ship is due to be disassembled and there is a large protest against this action.
In the brief trip we are introduced to the 50th Century in a measured way. Certainly I found it measured but critics of the first book considered the immersement in to a different culture with a very different way of talking, social values and fashion too sudden. I was almost 17 when the first book closed, so perhaps being a little older than some readers could explain why I consider the approach as measured. To me the criticism is odd, by 16984 2000AD had been brining us a variety of weird worlds for seven years, if we weren’t ready for Halo Jones then we never would have been.
In the first episode as well as Toby, the talking robo-dog, we are shown a teen craze and our first alien. The Different Drummers, a social trend for teenagers who have an neural implant that gives them an inner drumming sound, sometimes little more than catatonic and at other times prone to irrational violence. They have a distinctive uniform appearance, with swollen heads and identical haircuts and facial tattoos. The alien species Proximen, a reptilian biped without arms. Proximen show their status by how many names they have, Halo only knows one Proximen with more than one name; Wilted Continent.
The second episode sees Halo and Rodice at a concert where they see their neighbour, Ludy, playing with her band, Ice Ten. Ludy plays a stringed instrument called a dota, roughly the size of a double bass but the boozouki shaped body of the instrument is placed in water, presumably this affects the resonance of the instrument in a desirable way. Ludy’s playing attracts the interest of a group of Different Drummers wbho make their presence known while the girls are on the way home.
The next five episodes see Halo, Rodice and Toby go on a shopping trip. Shopping is hazardous in the future especially due to rioting supporters of the Clara Pandy and the sector they are passing through being scheduled to open upo to allow the tide to pass. Not only that but there is the unreliable public transport, nothing so futuristic there.
All just normal life for a normal girl. However Halo’s life gets turned upside down when she gets home from the shopping trip. Halo visits USA mainland where her low class status from being a resident in The Hoop becomes more apparent. In the end Halo thinks things are so bad she decides to leave The Hoop behind for good and sign on as crew on the Clara Pandy.
Progs 405-415, Feb-April 1985
Book Two opens with a prologue set in a place of education in 6427. We don’t know why but Halo is the subject of a lesson. This prologue is used to remind the reader of the setting and to act as a a buffer for time elapsing between the two books.
Halo is now a hostess on the Clara Pandy, in a uniform she hates and not least because it shows her bare feet.
She has new room-mates; Toy Molto, a seven foot tall bombshell, and Whatsizname, an individual who has undergone gender re-assignment so often that even she isn’t sure if she started out a girl or a boy. Also with her is Toby.
Toy is quite an imposing figure. she is as strong as she is attractive. Whatsizname however is so bland she is most commonly over looked.
Again we are following just an ordinary girl in an ordinary job. She might be seeing the galaxy but she’s doing it at the bottom of the service industry on board. Though the cabin she is housed in isn’t too bad considering no-one ever remembers Whatsizname is even birthed there.
The ship is piloted by a Cetacean, yes I mean a dolphin. Much as they had in Douglas Adams’ So Long and Thanks For All The Fish, published 1984, the Dolphins have left Earth to explore the galaxy.
Another animal migrant from Earth is the Rat King, a hive mind made up of five rats joined at the tail. The Rat King is in a private suite surrounded by guards, quite why he is there and why he is so important no one knows. In fact no one but Halo knows he is there at all.
Oh wait, someone else knows. Can’t quite recall who that is… oh what’s his name? No, I can’t recall, maybe I am wrong.
On the journey Halo again has he life changed by circumstances around her and ends up sad and alone on the ice planet Charlemagne.
Progs 451-466 Jan-April 1986
The Prologue takes us through several years to reach 4960 and the planet Pwuc where Halo is now an unemployed drunk.
She’s at rock bottom until an old friend arrives on Pwuc with a recruiting ship for the army. The war has been mentioned throughout Books 1 & 2 but has always remained distant. A drunk Halo however signs up and is soon in uniform.
The story becomes something between Private Benjamin and Tour of Duty from here.
Halo sees her first trees on Lobis Loyo, or Warzone 18 as the army call it. A Human colony world where the natives have become disaffectioned with the ruling off-world government. The army are not exactly winning hearts and minds here.
Halo meets a woman who had volunteered to stay in the army longer than required by recruitment, she had re-enlisted eleven times and had a rather interesting taste in jewelry. She has become known as Life Sentence.
We are finally introduced to General Luiz Cannibal who was first mentioned in Episode one of Book 1.
A giant among men, taller even than Halo’s old friend Toy. His imposing stature is made more so by his imposing tusks, artificial though they may be. Luiz is destined to be the love interest of this story, though that isn’t too obvious at the beginning of their relationship.
Halo was told that they were on Lobis Loyo as peacekeepers but there is no war here for them to keep peace. They are here to keep the populace under control and some, if not all, have no intention to be controlled.
Yet again Halo goes through a turbulent time without particularly looking for anything.
She quits. She re-enlists. Life has changed so much for her she no longer knows who she is. Returning to the army she rejoins her unit to find that Life Sentence is now among them. Life Sentence makes her very welcome, seeing in her now a kindred spirit.
This time Halo is dropped right in the middle of the war on Moab, or Warzone One. A planet with such a high gravity sound-waves can’t escape its pull.
There is a lot of training o be done before she is put into combat in an area of such high gravity that it twists time itself, The Crush.
Here the gravity is so strong that special gravity suits are required at all time. Much of the training is simply how to move. However the training goes on until they are put into combat. One hole in the gravity suit is enough to kill and falling over is almost as fatal as it is near impossible to regain one’s footing in normal gravity.
More than by luck than skill Halo survives, promoted along the way into dead women’s positions. But the end of the war brings more confusion as it comes to light that one of her old acquaintances wasn’t quite as innocent as she had assumed.
Biook 3 ends with her again alone and leaving her life behind.
There was no Book 4 due to disagreement between then publisher Fleetway and Alan Moore. A great shame. There were to be as many as six more Books each covering perhaps a decade of Halo’s life. We can only wonder at what delights Alan Moore and Ian Gibson had in store for us.
In some ways perhaps this was all for the best. Halo went out on top, a crowning success for the creators.