When I was 35 I had a mortgage, a full-time office job and headaches.
2000AD is 35 this week and has killer viruses, dinosaurs, demons, aliens, mutants, werewolves…
I’m glad one of us hasn’t grown up.
I thought this landmark anniversary would be a good opportunity to write about our long history together; the weekly instalments of Thrill-Power I experienced as a kid, the multiple rejections and everything that followed.
My earliest memory of the UK’s foremost weekly science-fiction comic is the spectacle of two giant demolition robots smashing each other to pieces in the middle of an English town.
I was 9 then, and the comic has continued to excite and inspire me ever since. For example, here’s an ‘Influence Map’ I did last year, nearly half taken up by 2000AD artists and writers.
I wouldn’t be doing what I do now if not for 2000AD’s weekly proof that slamming words and pictures together can make a very big bang!
As a small boy I didn’t think much about who drew Batman or wrote Spiderman. But the distinctive art styles rubbing shoulders in 2000AD’s anthology format made me pay attention. I wanted to know more about these amazing artists. Like many others, I was a Bolland fan first, and then a McMahon fan for life.
As for writers, 2000AD gave me my first exposure to one of the all-time greats – Alan Moore. His Ballad Of Halo Jones inspired my first art submission to 2000AD’s ‘Nerve Centre’. My portrait of General Luiz Cannibal resulted in 2000AD rejection no.1, it never made it to the readers’ letters page.
A year later, in 1987, I was lucky enough to visit the studio of Don Lawrence, a giant of European comics (and one-time 2000AD contributor). In one corner, working hard on a Rogue Trooper page, was Don’s apprentice Chris Weston who would go on to become one of the comic’s major artists – here’s his glorious art for this week’s cover.
Visiting Don and Chris added fuel to my ambition. One day I wanted to work for Tharg, the comic’s alien editor! But it wasn’t until I came out the other side of higher education, six years later, that I plucked up the courage to send portfolio samples to 2000AD. My 2nd rejection made me think twice. Was I really cut out to be an art droid? Although 2000AD continued to be an enormous influence on my illustration, I looked elsewhere for work. Another 5 years passed, and rejection no. 3 came from then Assistant Editor Andy Diggle. It was all I deserved for ringing to say I ‘just happened to be in the area with my folio, can I come up?’
By this time the internet had happened and I was in regular contact with other aspiring 2000AD artists and writers. Some, like Frazer Irving, were starting to get work. I kept hoping and even started to contribute to the small press scene and draw the sample scripts used for submissions – the two things I should have done years before!
Appropriately enough, the year 2000 saw the first 2000AD-themed convention – DREDDCON. One of the events was Pitch-Fest – a script-pitching contest. The prize was irresistible – the winner would have their story published in 2000AD’s Future Shocks slot! I worked on a script with my brother Pete and, taking inspiration from Alan Moore’s classic Future Shock A Cautionary Fable, wrote it in rhyming couplets. Pete and I presented our pitch on stage with the aid of 12 big illustrations I’d drawn, but despite these gimmicks we still only managed to scrape a draw with teenage prodigy Si Spurrier and his Space Whale entry. Luckily for us, Tharg was magnanimous and both stories went into 2000AD. Even better, I got to draw the strip. I finally got to draw for 2000AD!
I even wrote and drew a bizarre fan strip involving Tharg himself, in time for Dreddcon 2.
In the following decade I only drew one more Future Shock, but having 2000AD on my CV became a real help in job interviews – a lot of my prospective employers turned out to be readers!
I’ve always liked the idea of one day going back to The Galaxy’s Greatest Comic. Last year I finally decided to send a fresh batch of samples to the Nerve Centre. I was delighted when editor Matt Smith sent me a script written by none other than Si Spurrier, my one-time Pitch-Fest rival! I won’t say too much about it before it’s published but it is one of the best (and hardest) scripts I’ve drawn.
So, that’s the story so far for me and a comic that’s been part of my life since the 1970s. A very happy birthday to 2000AD, you’ve meant a lot to me personally and creatively for more than 3 decades. Splundig vur thrigg!