Wyatt’s World

Megazine 311 – Cover by Brendan McCarthy

The latest Judge Dredd Megazine (on sale now) contains an interview Matt Badham conducted with ace comics writer Arthur Wyatt. As is often the case with these things, there were unused quotes, so in a with-permission cross post from Matt’s own blog, we’re presenting those here as a mini-interview with the permission of both Arthur and alien editor the Mighty Tharg.

(Megazine #311 also contains four pulse-pounding strips, interviews with Steve Dillon and D’Israeli, film reviews and comes bagged with a ‘floppie’ that reprints work by Pat Mills, Tony Skinner, Carl Critchlow and John Ridgway)

Matthew Badham: When did you decide that rather than being ‘just a fan’, you wanted to be a creator?

Arthur Wyatt: Well, it might have been when I was very earnestly doodling Nemesis the Warlock or the ABC Warriors on schoolbooks in imitation of Kevin O’Neil or the Biz [Simon Bisley], but I don’t really think that was going anywhere. I actually started writing comics and being involved in the small press scene around about the time I was heading off to university, during the ‘dark times’ when I’d left 2000 AD behind for a while. Serious, densely written Vertigo-style books were very much the model I was following, with the odd EC comics pastiche or SF piece in between the angsty slice of life works; slices of life being of course that much more difficult to portray if you’ve only really lived a little of it.

Then I pretty much put that all away, got a degree, got a job, moved to London, forgot about it until I picked up Prog 2001, saw the submission guidelines for Future Shocks (always a favourite) and decided to give it a go.

We found this strip called ‘Down the
‘ on Arthur’s web site
and couldn’t resist re-posting…
Art by Adrian Bamforth

Matt: Was your ambition to write for 2000 AD, or to be a comics writer generally?

Arthur: Well, as I say, for a while I was really into the idea of doing some kind of portentous Vertigo thing, or writing an Aliens story, since I loved the Aliens comic. Or writing a Hellraiser story because I’d read a bunch of those and let’s face it, they were all the same bloody plot (someone is obsessed with something or other… which turns out to be a Lament configuration! “Aiie!” Pinhead shows up! Hack, Splash!) So it’s easy to conceive of doing one.

These days I’m pretty focused on 2000 AD, so even if it wasn’t for that comic I’d probably be doing something very similar for someone else. Of course, 2000 AD-like is a pretty broad category.

Matt: Are there any settings or characters in your one-offs that you’d like to revisit for longer stories?

Arthur: People fairly often mention Rapture Ready as something they’d like to see more of, but I don’t really see where it could go from there. [For a synopsis of Rapture Ready, see this review of 2000 AD Issue 1576] One of the great benefits of a short story is you can end with a hard cut-off and have everything after that left unknowable. And really some things are much better as a spooky unknown full of possibilities than nailed down.

Edmund Bagwell’s next gig for
2000 AD is on the new Indigo
series written by John Smith

I’ve some vague ideas of how Cargo Culture — another story I did with [artist] Edmund Bagwell — could be the cornerstone of a setting where humanity has spread across the stars via an alien hyperspace network that’s now been cut off, and what happens in the places that have effectively become backwaters. [For a synopsis of Cargo Culture, see this review of 2000 AD #1664]. I might turn that into a pitch someday.

Matt: You wrote the final series of the 86ers, set in the Rogue Trooper universe. The 86ers was created and, until that point, written by Gordon Rennie. What was it like taking on someone else’s series in terms of having to write in their ‘voice’? Or do you think that’s a ‘non-issue’?

Arthur: It probably helps that to a certain degree it wasn’t Gordon’s, being part of the Rogue universe. I’d never try that with something like Cabbalistics Inc. [also written by Gordon] that’s so closely tied to an author. And I think there probably was a bit of a shift in voice between Gordon’s 86ers and mine.

I certainly kicked it into action mode as soon as I could, with more explosions and cosmic Kirby crackle aliens crammed into the pages than his carefully plotted intrigue. I think it was a bit of a side-effect of watching a lot of mid-season episodes of Battlestar Galactica where people moped around and wept, and emoted all over the place without really doing much. Careful readers of the first part of Samizdat Squad may notice a similar reaction against the boring bits of James Cameron’s Avatar. [Samizdat Squad is Arthur’s new strip for Judge Dredd Megazine]

Matt: What’s your process when it comes to writing, in terms of planning to scripting, and does it differ for one-offs and longer series?

Arthur: My process is basically lots of little boxes scribbled down and joined up in a diagram; first of episodes, then of pages, then, when I’m writing a strip, of the panels in the pages. If I am feeling particularly high-tech the scribble might be replaced by incomprehensible notes on my iPhone: bulleted lists that say cryptic things like ‘Door opens’ and ‘Gas boom!’.

Of course, at some point in this process I need to write things up as a synopsis and pitch it. With something like a Future Shock I probably have gotten to the point of knowing what happens on each page and all the major panels — the big impressive story points — if not the details of what joins them together. I probably over-plan, but I kind of need to get all the details sorted out in my head before I can write a synopsis.

Shako the polar bear, oh yeah!
Art by Cliff Robinson

With a longer story, I’m a little looser. I probably just plan what happens in every episode and the gist of each page, and what a few big panels in each episode are going to be. Also with a bigger story you have a little more room to improvise.

Matt: Having dabbled in the Rogue Trooper universe, are there any other classic thrills you’d like to revisit?

Arthur: There’s my pitch for Shako: 2012, which I’m sure would be drawn by Henry Flint or someone, and maybe be the star attraction of a Christmas prog. You see, it’s 2012, and the icecaps have melted, releasing Shako from where he has been entombed in an icy slumber. Now he is on a rampage, the space capsule he has swallowed giving him strange powers to control wildlife (caribou, penguins, etc…) and turn them against the feeble hu-mans that might stop him.

Only one woman stands in the way against Shako’s terrible quest to destroy the human race: President Sarah Palin.

• Arthur Wyatt’s archive of his comic work is at www.arthurwyatt.co.uk

Categories: 2000AD, Comic Creator Interviews

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