I think it’s pretty obvious from various posts and reviews that I am something of a 2000AD fanboy. This is not unusual among British comics readers and is especially common to those of us who were the first to be exposed to Thrill Power back in the late 70s as Punk fought with traditional celebrations for the silver jubilee (two very different approaches to God Save the Queen). As we flicked through M.A.C.H. 1, Flesh, Invasion and the new Dan Dare it was a case of never mind the Sex Pistols, here’s the Biogs. People like John Wagner, Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons and Brian Bolland first got into our comics soul through this comic and there they have stayed. We were the 2000AD generation.
British Comics Month kicked off last Monday with a personal look back at the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic, so it seems appropriate that to start this second week we’re going to be talking to Jonathan Oliver of Rebellion, a man who is on first name terms with Tharg the Mighty and who is also the man who guides some of the finest 2000AD strips into the graphic novel collections we offer you on the FPI webstore (and end up having to get them for our own personal collections usually too). Join us as Jonathan talks to us about Rebellion’s growing range of excellent graphic novels, the launch of their new prose novels range, Lawgiver waterpistols, SF cuss-words and more:
FPI: Thank you for taking some time out of the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic to talk to us. 2000AD is fast approaching its thirtieth anniversary (makes me feel old as I remember the first issue!) – are there plans afoot for a big celebration? And if so, can we expect figures from 2000AD’s past (writers/artists and characters) as well as present to be involved?
JO: Plans are indeed afoot for something significant and most zarjaz but nothing has been confirmed as yet so I can’t really say anymore than that. Trust me though…some really exciting stuff is going to be coming your way to celebrate our 30th birthday.
FPI: 2000AD has had its fair share of problems with publishers, but seems to have found a real home with Rebellion, which gives comics fans like me the impression that they are as big a bunch of fanboys as we are. How do you think Rebellion giving 2000AD a home has changed things in the last few years?
JO: Having only been here a year myself that’s a little tricky to answer. What I do know is that the CEOs of Rebellion have always been huge fans of 2000AD and I think that having a company that has a lot of love and respect for its product means that we you get is a true quality publication.
FPI: One thing I have noticed as both a reader and comics seller is a very welcome growth in graphic novel collections of 2000AD material direct from Rebellion. While companies like Marvel and DC have well-established and popular lines of classic material reprints, British comics haven’t been as well-served – is this a deliberate attempt to redress that imbalance a bit? And have you been pleased with the response to them?
JO: I think that we’ve always been keen to emphasise to the comics world as a whole that 2000 AD (and by extension Rebellion) is a major player in the world of graphic novels. Our books are beautifully produced and contain some of the best stories in the comics world. We have such a wealth of material to draw on that we can show the market that British comics are indeed a force to be reckoned with. I’ve been massively pleased with the response to the Graphic Novels and I’m really proud with how they are being received.
FPI: I have to single out the excellent Judge Dredd Complete Case Files from your recent graphic novels output, which I’ve been enjoying and know our readers love as well. Now we have the Complete Nemesis to look forward to in the same format – can you let any hints drop as to any future titles which may join this library? Is there any chance of a certain mutant bounty hunter being collected like this? Will we ever see Middenface McNulty again?
JO: At the moment that format is limited to Judge Dredd and Nemesis. As for Middenface McNulty…well you never know.
FPI: What other developments can we look forward to as the thirtieth anniversary approaches? There have been rumours online that Dredd will finally remove his helmet – is this web hogwash or are we finally going to see JD’s smiling face?
JO: No comment on that I’m afraid, but I’m sure that Tharg will have plenty of surprises in store.
FPI: Looking away from the comic, Megazine and graphic novels for a moment, what other ideas are in the works for Rebellion? We’ve had the recent and very well-received Rogue Trooper video game and the new range of novels coming – any other plans to diversify into different mediums? Will we ever see a proper JD movie? Animated webcomics?
JO: Movies wise, there are certain areas that Rebellion are looking to develop but, again, nothing is really confirmed yet so I can’t really say anything further on that. At the moment we have an excellent range of computer games, two award winning comics, a critically acclaimed line of Graphic Novels and a new fiction range, so Rebellion’s has many eggs in many baskets and I’m sure that the company will continue to expand into other exciting areas over time.
FPI: Can we talk merchandise for a moment? It is another area where the British comics fans have traditionally been less well served than with major US publishers. We’ve seen bobble-heads and the exquisitely detailed Harrop’s statues in recent years – can we expect to see more in the future? D.R. & Quinch action figures? Lawgiver waterpistols (lawgiver to high-soak!)?
FPI: 2000AD has famously been a great breeding ground for new British talent, with many writers and artists going on to become some of the biggest names in the comics world. Presumably Rebellion are pretty darned proud of this legacy (especially since you recently released Alan Moore’s early work in Future Shocks) but can it also sometimes seem like a bit of a millstone, adding pressure and raising expectations? Or does it act as an incentive to keep pushing the envelope?
JO: I think definitely it acts as an incentive to push the envelope. The very diversity of 2000 AD and the Megazine is what I think makes them such unique comics. I’m always staggered by the wealth of talent that we have and always pleased that we nurture new voices and artists amongst those already established. Yup, we’re damned proud of our legacy.
FPI: With the rich legacy of excellent artists, from Mike McMahon and Carlos Ezquerra through Simon Bisley, Steve Dillon, Brendan McCarthy, Kevin O’Neill and a host of others, have you considered producing a good hardback art book featuring some of their 2000AD work over the years? I’m sure I’m not the only fanboy who would like to see an Art of 2000AD.
JO: Something to consider certainly but no plans as of yet.
FPI: Do any particular characters or stories stick out especially in your memory?
JO: When I started reading Necropolis utterly blew me away. Other favourites were Hewligan’s Haircut and Slaine: the Horned God. Recent favourites have to be Leatherjack, Dredd: Sin City and Red Seas amongst others.
FPI: Budget and schedules aside, is there any writer or artist who hasn’t worked for 2000AD who you would really love to get in for a series or two?
JO: Can’t think of any off the top of my head. Maybe having Clive Barker pen a horror series would be cool, or something from one of the classic SF writers like Silverberg or Harrison. Tharg always has such a great stable of talent with new people coming in all the time that we’re pretty content here at the Nerve Centre.
FPI: Ending on a lighter note, have you seen the Wiki entry on fictional expletives and phrases? 2000AD is responsible for a great number of those entries (‘drokk’ is still one of my favourites), does this impart a warm glow of pride in the Rebellion team?
JO: I believe that warm glows abound indeed!
FPI: Jonathan Oliver, thank you very much for talking to us.