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 Hicklenton, Tony 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).
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.
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.”
• Sea Lion Press: Comics Of Infinite Earths: Renga! by Charles EP Murphy
Published 24th January 2020
Update – 17th November 2018: Since this item was posted, Tony has died and I think it only fair to note that some of the images here, especially the cover, may well have been work in progress (although given what was considered “style” at the time, who knows?). Tony isn’t here to confirm but I have no idea at what stage the project had gotten to in discussions with DCT.
So it may be, for the designers out there, that that cover was not “final” and was a dummy after all, despite the cover lines – which knowing Tony’s sense of humour, would not surprise me.
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.