When I heard that Bear Alley Books had obtained a license to reprint a vintage DC Thomson adventure story, I was beside myself with excitement. When I found out that it was from The Crunch, my inner child was overjoyed. The last bit of the puzzle was to find that it was “Arena” that was being published. And that made perfect sense. Few stories of DC Thomson stable have stood the test of time well. Some are timeless classics, but many are definitely of their time. However, “Arena” seems to have been eerily prescient and still speaks to us now.
“Arena” was one of those rare beasts where DC Thomson printed a story that punched above its weight. Mark Sabor, a dissident journalist is stripped of his citizenship as a Britain and is sentenced to suffer in the Arena, a sporting ground more reminiscent of the Coliseum than the cricket ground.
In fights to the death, we see a story that reminds you of “Death Game” from Action, the films Rollerball, The Running Man and George Orwell’s 1984. The gladiators forming a resistance to the totalitarian regime fighting to free the country from within. V would have been proud of his brethern fighting against censorship and the suppression of freedom.
Many parts were taken from different sources with great scripting by Dave Taylor. And the use of a new rising artist from Argentina with his surreal take on comics (take a bow, Enrique Alcatena) made this one of the top stories of The Crunch and made a serious impact on this writer in 1979.
With reality TV overload and the rise of the risque and the brutality of today’s society, this story still has a pertinent message for those of us who are willing to listen to it. In fact, I think the story is more relevant today than it was in 1979.