Way back in the 1980s, the British weekly Sci-Fi comic 2000AD introduced a serial with a difference. The Ballad of Halo Jones had a young, female protagonist, which made a big change from the male heroes who usually flexed their muscles on the comic’s pages. Written by Alan Moore and drawn by Ian Gibson, Halo had a difficult birth with the strip in real danger of cancellation after its first series. In the end, only three volumes were ever made before creative differences put paid to the project. To read more, have a look at a new interview on Amazing Stories which Ian Gibson did with me over the weekend of 1-4 February 2013. He was a very cool guy, and gave loads of gossip on Halo and his other recent projects.
So who was Halo Jones? As the story opens she is an 18-year old girl living on the Hoop, a marine dumping ground for all the unemployed of 50th century earth. Beset by gangs, violence and lobotomised police, she sets out to escape into the deeper universe.
Book 2 sees Halo as a waitress on the spaceship the Clara Pandy, seeing at first hand the gilded life of the rich. Yet on the sidelines are other forgotten members of society, including the Glyph who has been through so many sex-change operations that even s/he isn’t sure what sex s/he originally had. When freedom fighters take the ship’s dolphin navigator hostage, we also get our first inkling of a wider war that is rumbling in the distant Tarantula Nebula.
This is not to say that the Ballad is a tale of violence and horror. Of all Alan Moore’s work, it is probably the funniest with jokes constantly springing up out of the storyline. No mean feat when the events are taking place millennia in the future.
Moving forward some eleven years, Book 3 begins with Halo as a washed-up alcoholic on the miserable planet of Pwuk where “the Catsblood never ran dry”. A chance encounter with an old friend finds her enlisted in the army. Suddenly, the former waitress is fighting wars on strange worlds such as Moab, where the gravity is so strong it even bends time. When the shooting stops, Halo’s inner conflict goes on as she discovers that she has unwittingly committed a heinous crime in her youth.
That was where the story ended, although Ian Gibson has said that he wanted to continue the plot with further adventures of Halo as a slave as well as a sort of pirate queen, tales that were never realised. Despite Ian’s own enthusiasm for the character (born out by his stunning artwork on the strip), Alan Moore has never picked up the thread of Halo’s adventures since their premature end in 1986.
A new edition of the three completed books will be released later this year and I urge newer readers to give it a look: http://www.2000adonline.com/news/10-01-2013/lauren_on_halo/. With its themes of crushing unemployment, alienation, green politics, imperial conflict, substance abuse and shifting gender roles, The Ballad of Halo Jones is more relevant today than ever before.