The Mean Arena was a strip created by Tom Tully and John Richardson which débuted in 2000 AD prog 178 (published September 1980). The reader is transported to the twenty-first century, where the hugely popular and insanely dangerous sport of street football is a cash bonanza for the advertising companies, but a near-death experience for the players. The strip's protagonist is Matt Tallon, a highly gifted striker who plays for Slater's Slayers but has a mission beyond that of achieving championship glory: he wants to avenge his brother's untimely demise.
To get to the point where he can do this, Matt will have to battle teams such as the Southampton Sharks (whose heads protrude from the mouths of huge artificial shark heads, because all the teams take a theme and then flog it to within an inch of its life) and Mother Vlad's Vampires. Oh, and the Penzance Riggers' pitch contains several "loathsome sludge-holes" which were "left over from the Penzance oil-boom" and are deep enough to drown a man. Several team names were suggested by readers who were rewarded for their imaginative efforts, one of the best names being the Ellesmere Port Elephants (who wore an appropriately ludicrous costume).
Slater's Slayers roll-call
- Manager: Mike Slater
- Trainer: Shulga
- Keeper: Sourpuss (constantly belly-aching)
- Right-flank blocker: Hangman
- Right-inner blocker: Screaming Sid (he screams a lot, and "no-one can throw a skreemer as accurately and viciously as Screaming Sid Sloan")
- Left-inner blocker: Dirty Nigel (his hobby is looking through rubbish bins)
- Centre-blocker: Crazy Lil (the only woman on the team until the arrival of Brazen)
- Strikers: J. T. Venner, Don Barret, Jigsaw Jones (dies) and Matt Tallon
- Shieldmen: Napoleon Jones and Ryk Rogan (equipped with medieval knight-style shields. Jones appears to be the only black player on the team)
- Mysterious new players: Wolf Rawker and Brazen
- Killed in action: Crash Crawford
- Substitute: George Roper (dies)
- Sponsor: Kosi-Flex Sportswear™, whose boss Rollo Hartie is a "grotesque product of 21st century medical science"
- Matt's bodyguard: Chip, an android which looks like a nine-year-old boy and fires lasers from its fingers