This is part of 45 Year Of Thrills, How to Love Comics’ celebration of 2000 AD’s 45th anniversary throughout 2022. Find out more and read other posts in the series here.
D.R. and Quinch are the ultimate teenage delinquents. A pair of friends who first burst through the pages of 2000 AD in a one-off Time Twister as penned by Alan Moore and Alan Davis way, way back in 1983’s Prog #317. Clearly popular, it wasn’t too long until the pair were upgraded into their own strip, starting with Prog #350. Two characters based loosely on National Lampoon’s hyperbolic and destructive O.C. and Stiggs (a reference lost on most UK readers in the ‘80s, including myself) with a hint of ‘50s rock and roll sensibilities too. The pair only appeared in a few short stories. However, their star burnt brightly and are still fondly remembered to this day as one of the all-time classic strips to appear in 2000 AD.
While Moore is better known for his dour deconstruction of the superhero genre in such stories as Watchmen and Miracleman, in these handful of strips he shows what a great, and wicked, satirist he could be. An early hint of his greatness as a storyteller. D.R. and Quinch is a heady mix of anarchic humour, over-the-top situations, violence, mayhem and two central characters with an irreverence for anything. The delinquents stumbled through one drama after another, often oblivious to the mayhem surrounding them, even though it was all their own making!
UK based artist on DC Comics’ Swamp Thing, Mike Perkins, shared his memories of the strip with me and the sheer audacity and genius of Moore’s vision:
“I think from the outset in their Time Twister the massive attraction of D.R. and Quinch for me, apart from the magnificently wonderful artwork of Alan Davis, was the, seemingly, 1000 different ideas Alan Moore would stuff into each page. There’s enough within those initial 6 pages to spark, at least, another 25 stories….and that was it. No more. Just that one-shot. Or so I thought. And then…and then…along came the series! Slightly more cartoony from an illustration point of view but the depth of whimsy – pushing itself into slight political leanings and, eventually, satire of the entire movie business was just mind blowing. Brilliant, brilliant work that encourages re-read after re-read.”
Having romped through time, leaving their mark on various eras of history – literally and metaphorically – when next we meet them they are up in front of a judge doing their best to con him out of a long sentence. Having been given a month to prove themselves, it’s not too long before D.R. – which stands for “Diminished Responsibilities” – and Quinch are causing havoc across the cosmos. And all done stylishly in their souped-up hotrod, picking up a coterie of mad, bad and dangerous to know friends along for the ride. In their first mad-cap adventure “D.R. and Quinch Go Straight” the boys try to set up a haven for war veterans. A haven wherein said war veterans can blow up things up to their hearts’ content.
Following that adventure, we had one of the most outstanding characters of the whole run introduced, Crazy Chrissie. A prim and proper girl who Quinch abducts in order to save his friendship when D.R. declares his love for her. Exposing her to all the crimes the young D.R. has committed did not have the desired effect on her, but rather drove her into a life of delinquency and crime to rival the two chums own rap sheets. Kind of like the reverse of Malcolm McDowell’s Alex in A Clockwork Orange crossedwith Sandy from Grease. These two initial adventures alone have enough cramped into them that future stories were often fuelled by the characters and callbacks Moore and Davis set-up. A short spree of stories that Moore clearly had all mapped out from start to finish.
Another UK comic book artist, Jake Detonator, also shared his memories of the strip with us:
“What’s amazing is that because Time Twister was a one shot, Alan Davis came up with such distinct designs for DR and Quinch, and I’m guessing he had no idea he’d continue drawing them. I did a drawing of them holding huge rifles with a speech bubble saying ‘Real Men Don’t Fire Blanks’ and blu tacked it to my wall. My mum went nuts at me, but I had idea of the double meaning. But that made them even more special to me.”
Of course, another fondly remembered story, and one that would foreshadow Moore’s disdain for Hollywood in later years, was the reference-rich “D.R. and Quinch Go To Hollywood”. A sharp satire on an industry that even exaggerated by Moore and Davis, probably isn’t that far from the truth. Then, or now. Another great strip that has stood the test of time, like all of them really.
Adding a sheen of respectability to proceedings, and a good reason the strip did so well beyond Moore’s writing, was Alan Davis’ art. An artist who’s slick, clean lines could effortlessly capture the frantic pace and detailed descriptions of a Moore script. He managed to blend the real with the unreal to give the whole saga an exaggerated cartoon-like feel at times with some of his character designs. And an artist who could easily capture the likeness of real-life figures such as Marlon Brando.
All-in-all, looking back at these strips after a good few years, other than a few dated references, these stories are still as exciting and entertaining as ever. And as relevant too. British comics have long held up the tradition of anarchic humour, sticking two fingers up to authority with characters like Dennis the Menace and Minnie the Minx and D.R. and Quinch are just the natural, gonzo progression of this tradition. 2000 AD, built on an ethos of punk rock and satire, was the perfect home for these two rascals.