2000AD, Stripped

SCOOK_2000ADMonthly15Gary Gray, our Senior Scottish Correspondent, writes;

There were a number of 2000AD creators who had their own events to celebrate and discuss their own projects outside 2000AD. But how could the organisers not do a, get the band back together type thing, and arrange a joint talk.

They managed to grab a hold of David Bishop, Robbie Morrison, Dan Abnett, Jim Murray and Warren Pleece. Which is a not bad at all selection, but they could have had so many more such as Bryan Talbot (who was there anyway), and any number of locally based legends who funnily I saw later on that night. And who hadn't been invited to the Stripped strand. Turns out that because it's a Book festival the organisers are only allowed to invite creators who have material that is either published or collected in a book format, this is fair enough but surely an exception could have been made for a panel celebrating a weekly comic?

But none of that really mattered for the actual talk as we had two of the major 2000AD writers of the last fifteen years present in the shape of Robbie Morrison (Nikolai Dante, Shimura, Shakara to name but three) and Dan Abnett (where do I start?). A former editor in the form of sharply dressed David Bishop and two unique talents Warren Pleece (Dandridge) and Jim Murray (Dredd/Batman: Die Laughing). Some might grumble that Murray hasn't worked for 2000AD for a long time and should he be there, but when Murray tells you that ideally he'd love to be drawing comics all the time you do believe him, and after all who could grudge a man who had flown 7000 km to be there a seat on the panel? It was a great crowd of over 240 in the audience, proving that although 2000AD is in its fourth decade there is still a lot of interest in the UK comic.

Bishop kicked things off by asking each of the panel how they first discovered comics with all of them discovering them at their local newsagent, starting with stuff like Action and Battle, and mainly 2000AD. Pleece finding Mach 1 amazing to read in the progs. Murray starting around the prog 400 mark finding Simon Bisley's ABC Warriors artwork inspiring. Abnett the Dredd strip brain blooms in prog 9 and remembering loving the strength of characters with very well realised worlds. It was left to Morrison to reveal why most kids got into 2000AD to start with, the space spinner that looked brilliant!

Bishop then got a bit cheeky and asked which story they skipped over when they were reading 2000AD. As we all know with an anthology title there's likely a strip there just to fill up an otherwise dead space. 2000AD goes through so much material in a year publishing around 1500 pages in a year not even Tharg can possibly get it right every time. But the creators played nice here, I can't even remember Morrison's answer but I seem to remember it being one of his own stories. Abnett mentioned the perpetually maligned Sancho Panzer that he wrote, and that Bishop still likes, which he said was probably because he commissioned it! Pleece and Murray both said skip over their own stuff, a common thing with artists, always too modest.

Breaking into comics, is always something that gets asked at comics panels and why should the 2000AD panel be any different, but with the slight twist of how they did they break into 2000AD? Robbie via selling some Starblazer strips to DC Thomson and then getting work in the Megazine with Shimura. Abnett started working at Marvel UK on staff, and then kids licensed comics, and funnily enough going off to work for the US, finally coming back to 2000AD. Murray came in straight from college, finding it to be a massive learning curve, with Bishop giving him a VERY long apprenticeship of try out scripts. Pleece broke in by collaborating with Garth Ennis on True Faith for Crisis, then going off to DC/Vertigo and finally coming back 15 years later to 2000AD on Second City Blues. At this point Pleece dropped in the superb tale of how True Faith was pulped when it was being printed as a graphic novel. All entirely down to it being sent for to a religious group to try and stir up some controversy, only to stir up so much that publisher Robert Maxwell balked at printing it. But then it finally being published by DC many years later with absolutely no controversy at all.

They were then asked if they could write or draw any character which one would they go for? Pleece revealing that he'd like to do a Dredd strip as he hasn't done one, ideally a Judge Death related one. Murray surprisingly plumped for Robo Hunter, a strip sorely in need of a reappraisal as to its greatness. Abnett went for Strontium Dog, which he has kind of written, but only if Carlos Ezquerra was drawing. Morrison said that Abnett stole his answer, but again went for Strontium Dog before Johnny Alpha was killed off. But settling on Robo Hunter, but saying that that if he couldn't match the quality of the Day of the Droids strip best not to go there.

All the participants were having a great time, with a lot of laughs, being really appreciated by the audience. Unfortunately I had to duck out of the talk at this point as I was scheduled to attend another one. The Book Festival is ran like a well oiled machine and if you aren't in a seat before the doors closed, on the exact time the talk was billed for, you do not get in. No exceptions. In some ways this is fantastic and professional, but a pain when talks are on right next to each other. But I'm sure the audience continued to enjoy the tales that the 2000AD creators continued to tell, for what I caught was good fun with loads of banter between the creators.

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About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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