Carrying on into 2020 stronger than ever, Rebellion has been the proud publisher of tons of long-running titles. But after forty years, we’re lucky enough to be preparing for a brand new title with Best of 2000 AD coming in the new year! We’ve already gotten to see plenty of previews of the new covers done by much-beloved artists; but now it’s time to get excited about what we can expect from the stories, too! And who better to talk to than the editors in charge of putting it all together — 2000 AD’s Publishing Coordinator Owen Johnson and Editor-in-Chief Matt Smith?
I was fortunate enough to talk to both of these gents about why this title is what it is, and what new readers can look forward to with it’s release.
Chloe Maveal: First of all — wow. This is the first entirely new monthly title from 2000AD in almost 30 years! How did it feel to make the decision to take that on? But also, why did you choose now to make this happen?
Owen Johnson: I didn’t read 2000 AD religiously growing up (I know!). But since working in the Nerve Center I’ve fallen in love with 2000 AD and what it represents as a snarling, grimy banner of action and outrage, all delivered through some of the highest quality comics storytelling in the world. As anyone who has worked on a long-running comic knows, to be a small part of that legacy is a true honor. In 2017, the comic celebrated forty years of publication, and with that came a certain amount of reflection of where we’ve been and where we’re going. The most frequent question asked is: “where do I start with 2000 AD?”, and Best of 2000 AD is our answer. It’s the end result of two years spent asking comic book stores about what works for them and what doesn’t, and asking fans what they love about the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic.
Maveal: We’re seeing tons of great stories from previous years coming back and finding a home in these pages. How did you go about choosing which stories get the spotlight? But also, as someone who is a massive fan of the old-school material, how far back in the 2000 AD catalog are you planning to go?
Smith: It was a combination of creators that have something of a profile in the US, top-drawer characters, and some of the best stories to have been published in 2000 AD in the modern era – that means we’ve gone exclusively for all-color material, as we find that the black and white stories from the title’s early days just don’t always fly with a wide US audience. The oldest series in the line-up is the three books of Alan Moore and Ian Gibson’s Ballad of Halo Jones, which was recently colored by Barbara Nosenzo. The series is one of 2000 AD’s undisputed high points that anyone in the US who hasn’t seen it before needs to read so we’ll be reprinting the colour version.
Maveal: Having becoming the most widely-known and beloved touchstone for 2000 AD, Judge Dredd is obviously going to be a part of the line-up as we’ve seen from the recent cover previews. But can you give us any idea of what other characters’ stories we can expect to see?
Smith: Each issue will feature a complete Judge Dredd story of around twenty pages or so, although the first issue collects the thriller Terror by John Wagner and Colin MacNeil, which is just under fifty pages. It’s a fantastic, meaty story in which Dredd tackles the democracy activists Total War. It’s got everything that’s great about Dredd – fast-paced, with a sharp political edge – so I thought that would make an ideal launch story. But the Best of 2000 AD will also feature Brink, Dan Abnett and INJ Culbard’s deep-space cop drama, John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra’s Strontium Dog, about a mutant bounty hunter, and paranormal troubleshooter Devlin Waugh by John Smith and Sean Phillips, and many others across the twelve issues.
Maveal: I can’t help myself and have to ask — in organizing this, how tempted were you to make an entire issue dedicated to Shako and properly introduce the world to the only bear to ever make it on the CIA death list?
Smith: Tempting, but alas Shako didn’t make the cut. However, polar bear fans should keep an eye out in 2020 as he may well be making an appearance elsewhere…
Maveal: If I wasn’t thrilled to begin with, that hint has me hooked! But in terms of other American readers, you all have got a lot of American artists being announced for the cover artwork for Best of 2000 AD. Are you hoping to use that as an incentive to pull more American readers and turn them into a Squaxx dek Thargo?
Smith: Yes, the idea is that covers by artists with a high profile in the US will grab readers’ attention who wouldn’t necessarily know about 2000 AD, and pull them in to the amazing stories inside. We’ve gone with Judge Dredd on every cover as he’s the character most people will know, and it allows the chance for artists that have never drawn him before to go wild – as you’ll see over the coming months.
Johnson: There isn’t a bad one in the bunch. Each artist has been hand-selected because we love their work and know they are at the top of their game. It’s been an absolute dream to see them knock it out of the park and deliver their unique vision of the character. And there are plenty more behind the curtain…
Maveal: So, what are you ultimately hoping to accomplish overall with releasing this title?
Smith: I’m hoping that when people see the stories, it’ll encourage them to explore the whole wealth of amazing material collected in the many trades that are available.
Johnson: Matt’s absolutely right. At the bottom line we want new readers, and a fun, slick presentation that speaks to them. Something accessible to everyone and crucially modern. A huge part of that has been working with designer Tom Muller, who got what we’re trying to achieve and brought a sensibility to the whole package which really raised everything. We talked to Tom about what has come before, and a step forward in evolution. We wanted Best of 2000 AD to be like stories heard via pirate radio, or a favorite record imported from another country with strange new typography. Something familiar but alien at the same time. It’s my favorite description of what this will feel like. Ultimately we want to speak right off the racks to that kid, wherever they may be, who really loves comics but wants something wild and challenging and explosive. Something they’ve never read the like of before. As long as you need for a jolt of rebellion, 2000 AD will be there.
Maveal: If –and inevitably when — the title proves to be successful, would you plan on pushing past the twelve issues? Or possibly launching a second title altogether?
Johnson: We’d love to! It entirely depends on whether readers and retailers throw their weight behind this. Pre-orders on books like this mean life or death in a market this volatile. That said, we think we have a special comic here, and the buzz is strong, so fingers crossed!
Smith: If it goes down well, we’ll put together a second volume – there’s certainly no shortage of gems to be showcased.