Dicing with Death – 2000AD’s Diceman

Dicing with Death – 2000AD’s Diceman By David Court

The hardback is big and heavy enough to use as a reasonable melee weapon, and it’s a wonderful keepsake of a bold – but ultimately flawed – experiment

David Court

Dicing with Death – 2000AD’s Diceman By David Court

Not to be confused with the 1971 novel from Luke Rhinehart, “Dice Man” was a limited comic series that ran for five issues in 1986 – IPC Magazine’s attempt to combine classic 2000AD comic characters with the craze for the Choose your own Adventure books that dominated the literature market of the eighties.

As a fan of both the Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone Fighting Fantasy books and the seminal British comic, the idea was faultless. The ability to play Judge Dredd confronting the four Dark Judges, step into the combat boots of Rogue Trooper on the hellish warzones of Nu-Earth, or strap on a loincloth and be frequently slain as Sláine? Too hard to resist for the 15-year-old me.

It wasn’t solely restricted to existing 2000ad characters – the series introduced a new character in issue 2; the titular Dice Man – a square-jawed hard-drinking hard-boiled Bogart-esque gumshoe with access to the supernatural through magical enchanted Atlantean dice. Featuring in the final four (out of five) issues of the short-lived magazine, Rick Fortune – AKA Dice Man was a welcome horror element to the proceedings. Reading it again, it’s very possible that Fortune may have been part of the inspiration for my own detective character Rick Bannerette from my short story “Brother, can you spare a paradigm?”

Many of the stories had horrific elements – the artists and writers seemed to take particular delight in the panels where your character met a grisly end, and who can blame them? Where else would you get the opportunity to violently kill off heroes such as Judge Dredd, Rogue Trooper, and ABC battle-droid Hammerstein?


Another particular highlight was “Twilight’s Last Gleaming” in the final issue – an excellent satire in which you played President Ronald Reagan, attempting to avoid destroying the world in a nuclear holocaust. Excellently illustrated by cartoonist Hunt Emerson, the concept would be revisited in the standalone full length graphic novel “You are Margaret Thatcher: A dole-playing game” released separately the next year.

Oddly, this wouldn’t be the only time that President Reagan appeared in 2000AD – the Republican 40th president would “team up” with Strontium Dog Johnny Alpha after he’d been kidnapped by Aliens in 1987.


“Dice Man” eventually folded after issue 5. 2000AD urged followers to keep an eye out for news of an issue 6, but it didn’t take the magical prediction powers of Rick Fortune (achieved by rolling a 1 on his Dice of Destiny, Atlantean artifact fact fans) to know that it was as dead as Dredd in panel 79 of Issue 1’s “House of Death”.

My own copies lie either coverless or well-read in my comics pile, but fans of the series have been crying out for reprints for years, only to be told that there wasn’t enough interest. But now – perhaps with the recent resurgence of interest in roleplaying games – the Powers That Be have finally seen fit to reprint the entire thing with bonus content.

“The Complete Dice Man” comes in at a whopping 320 pages and contains all five issues of the series, as well as content from 2000AD’s other brief foray into roleplaying games from 1985. The “Sláine” strip “Tomb of Terror” ran between progs 447 and 461 with each episode followed by a few pages of Choose your Own adventure related malarkey – it’s good to see that included here for completeness’ sake, even though it was never a part of “Dice Man”.

The adventures themselves? The quality is variable, but it’s wonderful to see a fine array of art from the sadly deceased Steve Dillon, as well as John Ridgway’s very Indiana Jones-esque take on Rick Fortune. It’s definitely a book for fans of the “bookmark where I just came from and let’s pretend that didn’t happen” school of Choose your own Adventure books, with many a tale very keen on killing you off without warning just for choosing to go left and not right. It’s unfair to be too critical of that though, as sudden death was a common theme amongst all the variants of Choose your Own Adventure tales that flourished in that time period.


The most fascinating tales in the book are the ones that dare to deviate from the norm. “Volgo – The Ultimate Death Magazine” sees you play ABC War-droid Hammerstein against a huge mechanised killing machine, and the entire of the tale is a glorified boss fight – and is all the better for it. Both the stories relating to the “Nemesis the Warlock” strip are excellent; “The Torture Tube” sees you play the alien freedom fighter in a glorious Kevin O’Neill space dogfight and “Trapped in the Garden of Alien Delights” has you portray über Fascist Torquemada in a thinly veiled facsimile of Hieronymus Bosch’s seminal triptych “The Garden of Earthly Delights.”

“Twilight’s Last Gleaming” is the absolute highlight, a biting mockery of western politics. 2000AD never shied away from satire – we wouldn’t have Judge Dredd without it – but it was never as on the nose on this. This was clever and adult stuff, and feels almost out of place in a book where you spend the rest of your time playing occult detectives, Celtic barbarians, and super-cops. Hunt Emerson’s art is outstanding, and every re-read of this short but impressive adventure reveals new details I’d previously missed.

Dicing with Death – 2000AD’s Diceman

“The Complete Diceman” isn’t cheap, but there’s certainly a lot of content. The hardback is big and heavy enough to use as a reasonable melee weapon, and it’s a wonderful keepsake of a bold – but ultimately flawed – experiment. A few of the stories rely on text too much, with whole pages of art-less panels, the quality of some of which haven’t come out too well in the reprint – but it’s a whole lot of fun.  And you get to punch Himmler in the face.

David Court

david court

David Court is a short story author, radio presenter, voice actor, and novelist, whose works have appeared in over a dozen venues including Tales to Terrify, StarShipSofa, Visions from the Void, Fear’s Accomplice and The Theory..

His last collection, “Contents May Unsettle,” was released in 2021. As well as writing, David works as a Software Developer and lives in Coventry with his wife, Aslan the cat and an ever-growing beard. David’s wife once asked him if he’d write about how great she was. David replied that he would because he specialized in short fiction. Despite that, they are still married.

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