Happy Birthday, 2000AD! From script droid Al Ewing

Al Ewing

Blog or web site:

I’m on Twitter! @Al_Ewing

Currently working on:

Currently writing The Zaucer Of Zilk for 2000AD and Jennifer Blood and Ninjettes for Dynamite Entertainment. More 2000AD work is on the way, some of which I can talk about, some of which remains a secret. But 2012 is going to be yea big.

First memory of 2000AD?

I have a vague memory of seeing the 1985 Sci-Fi Special – ‘I, Beast’ sticks in my mind as the first thing I ever read of 2000AD, and that Cam Kennedy art freaked me out good and proper.

The first prog was 423 – ‘Dark Judges In Crash Dorm 2!’ – and it had one of the best introductions to the Dreddverse a growing boy could have, which was the story where the Judge goes mad. And the week after that you’re into the Midnight Surfer.

Meanwhile, in those first few weeks… you’ve got Strontium Dog and the Slavers Of Drule. You’ve got Jose Ortiz on Rogue Trooper and he’s rescuing a horse from some moths. Nemesis the Warlock gets a done-in-one with some perfect Kevin O’Neill art. You’ve got Ace Garp dying – the first ‘death-and-rebirth’ I ever experienced in comics. You’ve got Slaine getting cliffhangers like ‘The Type 2 Battle Orgot killed ten guards getting it back in its cage – and you’re fighting the TYPE 3!’

After a cliffhanger like that, there’s no going back, is there? And it just got better and better. It’s impossible to describe the energy radiating out of those times, when you’re a kid and you’re listening for the letterbox on a Saturday morning, waiting for your turn to read the prog. These days it’s all Aquaman getting upset about internet memes from 1998.

Favourite Character or Story?

So hard to pick just one! Favourite character – Judge Dredd. Obviously. Because he’s not quite a total bastard – there’s a sliver of actual justice and fairness in there – but he’s never, never the hero.

Douglas Wolk described him memorably in one of his blog entries as a ‘useful monster’. I was lucky to get into writing him at a point where he was being put through the mill a bit in terms of the larger plot John Wagner was doing, so I got to write the continuing adventures of a tired old man who was keeping himself going through sheer bloody-mindedness.

Dredd’s got an incredibly complex personality – if you don’t get the nuances exactly right, you’re buggered – but ‘bloody-minded’ is a good starting adjective. Another good tip is to never have him show an emotion when he can imply one. Or imply implying one. Even the omniscient narrator represses his emotions in Judge Dredd!

Favourite story though… it’s a tough one, but I have a special fondness for the Strontium Dog story Mutie’s Luck. It was a done-in-one in six pages, and is just… perfect in so many ways. The moment when Alpha tips the table over is one of my favourite moments in comics. It’s available to read on BARNEY, the 2000AD database.

What do you like most about the 2000AD?

This is a hard one, because… it’s the same as asking what I like most about comics. The two things are inextricably linked for me. 2000AD is the heart of comics, or the soul of them – it’s everything comics can be. And at the heart of that is the concept of thrill-power, which people are still trying to define thirty-five years later. My brother’s written articles on how it relates to pop music, and I mostly agree with his version – the additional kick, the buzz, the rocket-fuel infused into the comic, the way of looking at what a comic is, what it can do. Jack Kirby was thrill-powered. Kevin O’Neill was so thrill-powered the Comics Code had to ban him in case he made children explode. Irony is the enemy of thrill-power – that’s why the word awesome doesn’t quite mean the same thing. Brevity and density are thrill-power’s friends. Thrill-power!

So I guess that’s what I like most. The thrill-power. And the freedom.

What would you most like to see in 2000AD as it heads to its Forties?

I’d like to see it continue. I have no doubt it will – if anything it feels like it’s in a healthier position than a lot of Marvel and DC, at least to me. I guess I’d also like more people to come on board, both lapsed readers and brand new ones, but I think any comic is wishing for that at the moment.

Do you have an anecdote you’d like to share about your experience of Tharg and his minions?

A lot of people think Tharg isn’t real, but I remember having a chat with him recently which ended with Mek-Quake crashing through a wall, grabbing me with his metal tentacles and tearing great chunks of pseudo-flesh away from my metallic endo-skeleton while shouting about “BIG JOBS”.

Which would have been fine – it’s all part of the work-for-hire process – except Tharg had actually been loudly asking for a milkshake and didn’t want Mek-Quake at all. Also, it happened in the middle of the New York Comic Con, and several convention-goers were mercilessly crushed to death beneath Mek-Quake’s vicious treads.

You’d have probably heard all about it except Marvel happened to be releasing a special Wolverine pog that day which obviously dominated the news cycle.

• This post is one in a series of tributes to 2000AD to mark its 35th birthday on 26th February 2012. More about 2000AD at www.2000adonline.com

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