Stripped was the 2013 Edinburgh International Book Festival’s major comics strand which featured many talks and workshops with comics creators both British and from overseas. Stripped had its own blog which featured book reviews, previews of events and post event reports as well as links to video interviews with the guests and some full length video or audio recordings of the 1 hour talks.
To celebrate the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic Stripped brought together two artdroids, two scriptdroids and a former incarnation of Tharg in an event entitled ‘2000AD: Back To The Future’.
At 36 years old 2000AD is the third longest running comic currently published in the United Kingdom, only DC Thomson’s Beano and Commando have been around for longer. Over the years, as the other boy’s adventure comics have faded away, 2000AD has effectively grown up with its readership to become a mainstay of the British comics industry initially consuming other titles, Strontium Dog was originally a Starlord strip, before spawning others such as the now long running Judge Dredd Megazine. Modern 2000AD readers are not the 10-year-old boys that the title was aimed at in 1977 and are more likely to have 10-year-old boys of their own now for whom not all the modern strips would be suitable reading. They are also highly knowledgeable on the plotlines of the its strips as well as on the history of the title, indeed as Doctor Who is now made by people who were fans of Doctor Who in their youth, so 2000AD it now written and drawn by people who were readers of the title. Four of those readers, now turned creators, were on the panel which was evenly split between two writers, Robbie Morrison (Nikolai Dante, Shimura) and Dan Abnet (Sinister Dexter, Kingdom), and two artists, Jim Murray (Judge Dredd, Harmony) and Warren Pleece (Second City Blues, Dandridge).
It seemed appropriate that one of chairman and former 2000AD editor David Bishops’ first questions to the panel was what their earliest memories of the comic was. For both Warren and Robbie it was the first issue with Robbie even remembering the Space Spinner being advertised on TV although the reality of the free gift was that it was nowhere near as brilliant as the TV advert portrayed. Warren was 11 or 12 and a reader of 2000AD’s predecessor Action until his father banned him from reading it. Being thoroughly into Star Wars at the time, he found 2000AD an inspiration and, being interested in art even then, said that it was the first comic that he was aware of the different artists working on it. At a time when he was also reading Battle and his friend’s copies of Action, Dan remembered the Judge Dredd story about the brainblooms in Prog 18 with its striking cover of heads growing in a field. Jim came along much later around the early Prog 400s at which time he particularly remembered Robohunter and ABC Warriors as well as finding Simon Bisley’s artwork from that period particularly inspiring.
When asked if there was one character that they had never worked on that they would like to for Warren it was Judge Dredd, preferably including the Judge Death, for Jim it was Robohunter, for Robbie it was Strontium Dog preferably the original version of the character and in black and white, and for Dan it was also Strontium Dog – while he has done the spin-off strip Durham Red he would like the chance to work with artist Carlos Ezquerra on the original.
This lead to the question of which artists the two writers would like to have illustrating their work. Robbie went straight to the top with Carlos Ezquerra, Brian Bolland or Cam Kennedy, while Dan, perhaps slightly pipped to the post, added Colin Wilson or Kevin O’Neill. As for the two artists, other 2000AD artists that inspired them were, for Jim, Mike McMahon and Ian Gibson plus Frank Quitely’s work in the Judge Dredd Megazine, Jim reckoned that his learning curve shot up by looking at Frank’s work, while for Warren it was Brian Bolland’s Judge Dredd work and the fantastic draughtsmanship which showed him that everything should be drawn realistically.
As for what writers inspired the two writers on the panel, for Dan it was Pat Mills and John Wagner’s early and long running Judge Dredd sagas, The Cursed Earth and The Judge Child, which showed him that it was possible to write long arc stories made up of strong individual episodes, while for Robbie is was TB Grover. He said this with a smile as that particular ‘script-droid’ was actually a pen-name for the writing partnership of John Wagner and Alan Grant, but Robbie went on to highlight John’s Judge Dredd stories and Alan’s Strontium Dog stories as notable favourites.
The inevitable question of why the title has lasted so long produced some interesting answers. For Robbie it was the fact that it continues to produce great material; for Warren it was the fact that it used so many different types of artists and writers which kept it fresh; for Dan it was that it had developed a loyal following which allowed it to last long enough for it to become an institution; while for Jim it was one word – Dredd.
And perhaps Judge Joseph Dredd is the reason that 2000AD still continues. As Eagle was known for Dan Dare, Dandy for Desperate Dan, Tiger for Roy Of The Rovers, and Beano is still known for Dennis The Menace, 2000AD is best known for its anonymous and single-minded lawman who has inspired readers through five different decades – and continues to do so.
There are more details of modern 2000AD on the Rebellion website: www.2000adonline.com
There are more details of the history of 2000AD on the Barney Database website: www.2000ad.org
This event report was first posted on the Stripped Book Fest blog and is re-posted here with full permission.
News, reviews, interviews and features for print and on-line: Spaceship Away (since October 2005), Bear Alley (since February 2007), downthetubes (since June 2007), and Eagle Times (since October 2008). Plus DC Thomson’s The Art Of Ian Kennedy, Titan’s Dan Dare and Johnny Red reprints, Ilex’s War Comics: A Graphic History and 500 Essential Graphic Novels, and Print Media’s The Iron Moon and Strip magazine.