Cover of Halo's first appearance. Artist: Ian Gibson.

THE BALLAD OF HALO JONES

Original Medium: Comic books
Published by: Fleetway
First Appeared: 1984
Creators: Alan Moore (writer) and Ian Gibson (artist)
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For a woman like Halo Jones to turn up among the he-man heroes of Britain's 2000 AD, who included Strontium Dog, Judge Dredd, ABC Warriors and other macho ass-kickers, was even less expected than the early 1940s Fight Comics, whose original all-guy protagonists included Kinks Mason and Shark Brodie, mellowing out to the point where Señorita Rio could take over its cover. And yet, there she was, on the cover of 2000 AD #376 (July 7, 1984), beginning an adventuring career that managed …

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… to hold the interest of the weekly comic's testosterone-charged readership without even resorting to the "bad girl" tropes of Elektra or Vampirella.

Writer Alan Moore (V for Vendetta) and artist Ian Gibson (Robo-Hunter) did this partly by placing Halo in a fully-realized future society, not simply spelled out for the readers, but with endless details to be discovered by reading carefully. Halo, probably in her late teens, lived in an impossibly overpopulated 50th century world, specifically in a floating ghetto called The Hoop, where a simple shopping trip was a major expedition, fraught with danger and adventure.

Halo's exasperation with her living conditions was palpable, as she encountered a future cult whose members' surgical implants periodically demanded attention, providing a form of peace that their normal surroundings couldn't come close to offering, but at the expense of making them no more functional than a hopeless drug addict of the present century. Her faithful robot dog, Toby, provided protection from the frequent life-threatening situations she encountered along the way, as frequent news bulletins filled readers in on other strange aspects of her fascinating world. Meanwhile, her already unbearable frustration at her outrageous surroundings grew, chapter by chapter, into a rock-solid resolution to find a better way to live.

Returning home to find Brinna, her roommate and best friend, dead, an apparent victim of the home invaders who were an ordinary part of life in The Hoop, was the last straw. The story ended with her finding a way to leave Earth with Toby, as stewardess on a luxury interstellar starship line, promising to compare notes with another friend, who pledged to do the same, after the voyage.

The stories in 2000 AD were organized as months-long serials, a half-dozen or so running at any particular time, replaced as they ended with a new story about another of the title's regular stars. The story of Halo's shopping expedition was a ten-parter, ending in the September 29 issue. The next, recounting her life aboard the spacecraft Clara Pandy, began in #405 (Feb. 15, 1985) and ran 10 chapters and a prologue, ending in the April 27 issue. Discovering Toby had been Brinna's killer, and barely escaping with her own life, was only one of many hair-raising situations she got into on board. At the end, she found her friend, who'd pledged to escape with her, hadn't even left the planet, and was looking forward to Halo's return. But returning had never been part of Halo's plan.

The prologue to the second story provided a tantalizing glimpse into Halo's future. It depicted a college history professor, far in Halo's own future, lecturing on Halo's interesting life. Readers hadn't yet seen why Halo was destined to go down in history, but were virtually promised she'd accomplish great deeds in stories to come. This gave special meaning to a blurb that had accompanied her adventures from the beginning: "Where did she go? Out! What did she do? Everything!"

But the promise was never fulfilled. After the third story, which ran in 2000 AD #s 451-465 (Jan. 4 through April 19, 1986), a falling-out between Moore and Fleetway, which published 2000 AD, resulted in the abrupt cancellation of the series. Halo, a few years older, was shown departing from her current situation, involvement in a Vietnam-like war on a backwater planet, and that was it. Since Fleetway had a proprietary interest in the character, simply switching publishers wasn't legally possible.

The Ballad of Halo Jones had originally been planned as a nine-book cycle, but ended with only three published. All were reprinted as graphic novels by Titan Books (Swamp Thing, Modesty Blaise), as well as reprinted as standard-format comic books in the U.S. by Eagle Comics (Nemesis, no relation; The Stainless Steel Rat). but we can only guess what the other six might have contained.

— DDM

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Text ©2009-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Fleetway.