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Roads Not Taken: Renga, DC Thomson’s Abandoned Rival to 2000AD

The cover for the Renga dummy by Glenn Fabry.

The cover for the Renga dummy by Glenn Fabry.

Nestling for over 20 years on a long-forgotten hard drive incompatible with modern computers, we’re delighted to be able to finally bring you some of the work that featured in a stunning ‘dummy’ comic, Renga, commissioned by DC Thomson, featuring work by Paul Cornell, Alan Grant, John HicklentonTony Luke, Alan Mitchell and others.

While the Dundee-based publishers, best known today for The Beano and Commando were adamant they didn’t want a showdown with Fleetway if the project had gone ahead, it’s clear from the adrenalin-filled style of art and story that DC Thomson’s London rivals would have seen it as a competitor to 2000AD… and, we’re told, were not best pleased to learn of the potential threat to sales.

Renga, worked up in 1995, was the brainchild of comic creator Tony Luke who is of course best known in the UK for his work on 2000AD and Judge Dredd Megazine – and as one of a few Western artists to breach the hallowed ground of being published in Japan with his Dominator manga for Kodansha’s Monthly Afternoon (月刊アフタヌーン Gekkan Afutanūn).

The opening spread of "Devil Cop", written by Alan Grant and Tony Luke, drawn by Paul Green.

The opening spread of “Devil Cop”, written by Alan Grant and Tony Luke, drawn by Paul Green.

We’re delighted to publish the cover of the unseen dummy for Renga by Glenn Fabry here, plus the opening spread from “Devil Cop”, written by Alan Grant and Tony Luke and drawn by Paul Green, these days best known for his work on Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Flash Gordon and Starship Troopers; and a page from “Killer Tongue”, written by Paul Cornell and drawn by the late, great John Hicklenton, who died in 2010.

"Killer Tongue", written by Paul Cornell and drawn by John Hicklenton

“Killer Tongue”, written by Paul Cornell and drawn by John Hicklenton

Tony has very kindly handed the entire project, including emails, over to us for posterity. Over time, we’ll bring you more on the origins of this lost project – how it came about, who was involved, and the road blocks put in its way by a rival publisher to try to stop creators working on it.

Twenty years on, it’s a fascinating story of a British Comic That Might Have Been – and what went wrong…

“DC Thomson just wanted a piece of the then-action in the industry,” Tony told us. “The plan was not to rival 2000AD, but to enlarge the UK comics readership and promote new talent alongside old.

“I just thought the UK scene would benefit from being expanded.”

You can find Tony Luke on DeviantArt here

About John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a "freelance comics operative" who is currently working as a freelance editor for TITAN COMICS, as Creative Consultant on the new DAN DARE audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the LAKES INTERNATIONAL COMIC ART FESTIVAL and LANCASTER COMICS DAY. John has worked in British comics publishing for over 25 years, starting out at Marvel UK, where he edited a number of the Genesis 1992 books with Paul Neary, including DEATH'S HEAD II and WARHEADS. At Marvel he wrote strips for THE REAL GHOSTBUSTERS, THUNDERCATS, DOCTOR WHO and co-created SHADOW RIDERS with Brian Williamson and Ross Dearsley. His numerous credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines, where he was Managing Editor. He also edited STRIP Magazine and worked as an editor on several audio comics for ROK Comics, including TEAM M.O.B.I.L.E. and THE BEATLES STORY. He has written comics for Marvel UK, Judge Dredd Megazine, Lucky Bag Comic, CGL (an Italian publisher), STRIP Magazine and ROK Comics; and edited some of Titan's British comics collections including Dan Dare and Charley's War. Most recently he is writing CRUCIBLE as a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and DEATH DUTY and SKOW DOGS with Dave Hailwood for the digital comic 100% Biodegradable.
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