This week sees 2000 AD celebrate a huge anniversary, as the 2000th edition of the weekly Prog has arrived. Since 1977, the series has been a proving ground for British comics creators, with talents including John Wagner, Pat Mills, Garth Ennis, Peter Milligan and Al Ewing — among many many others — having brought their work to the Prog over the decades. Best known for comics including “Judge Dredd,” “Strontium Dog” and “ABC Warriors,” over the years we’ve seen countless revolutionary new works see print thanks to the serial. To celebrate, Prog 2000 has announcing a staggering line-up of talent, including the return of artists including Dave Gibbons, Brian Bolland and Mick McMahon for all-new work.
They’re joined by the original Judge Dredd creators John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra, as well as new “Nemesis,” “Rogue Trooper,” “Sinister Dexter” and more. Not settling on their laurels, there’s also an all-new series starting from Peter Milligan and Rufus Dayglo called “Counterfeit Girl.” In the lead up to the landmark release of Prog 2000, series editor Matt Smith sought temporary day-release from Tharg the Mighty, and spoke with CBR about went into creating the once in a lifetime issue.
CBR News: Matt, when did planning first start for Prog 2000?
Matt Smith: Early in 2016. I knew if I wanted to approach some big names to contribute then I had to give them as much lead time as possible, to have everything all in hand by the end of August.
I wanted the issue to celebrate 2000 AD’s legacy, first and foremost. Prog 2000 has a spine running through it taking the reader through the history of the title, as represented by the stories — start with “Dredd,” then “Nemesis,” “Rogue Trooper,” “Judge Anderson,” “Sinister Dexter” and finishing on brand-new story, “Counterfeit Girl,” to represent the comic going forward and to show that’s it not all about nostalgia. For long-time readers, there will be a thrill seeing Bolland, McMahon, O’Neill and Gibbons back in the prog — and for first-time readers, it’s a mostly self-contained primer for what 2000 AD is, and why you should pick it up.
As you mention, a number of writers and artists have returned with new work in the Prog. How did they come onboard, and what can we expect from their stories?
I asked them, and they fortunately said yes! When I came up with the idea of having these one-page Tharg interludes between the strips — 2000 AD’s alien editor, walking through the characters’ worlds and introducing them to the reader — I thought that Bolland, Gibbons, et al were more likely to have the time to contribute a one-page black and white strip than take on something more hefty. So they provide a little kickback to the comic’s rich history — Bolland illustrating his first interior page of strip for 2000 AD since 1987, and we get to see Gibbons draw Bad Company, The V.C.s and Fiends of the Eastern Front for the first time!
Judge Dredd’s creators John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra have also re-teamed for a one-off story. To your mind, how important have they both been, as founders of the Judge Dredd concept, to 2000 AD’s continued success over the years?
John and Carlos have been, and continue to be, enormously important to 2000 AD — not just as the creators of Dredd, but ‘Strontium Dog’ too. The two are one of best creative partnerships in comics worldwide, providing witty, exciting, thrill-packed stories for over forty years. I couldn’t imagine the comic gaining the identity and following it has without the influence of this powerhouse pair.
Not many other publishers can boast that some of their formative writers and artists are still contributing to their publication, decades later. Do you think the specific format of 2000 AD means that people can keep reinventing their style; that it gives writers and artists more opportunity to experiment, and keep their creative momentum across long periods of time?
2000 AD is very open to new ideas and storytelling styles, so there’s always room for a bit of experimentation. Being a weekly too, it eats up stories at a frightening rate, so I’m always on the lookout for new strips. The door never closes either — if a creator moves on to pastures new then I’d be happy to have them back if they come up with a story that suits the prog.
I feel we have a strong identity, with a sure sense of what the Prog is, and what works within its pages. A great roster of iconic characters. There’s a high quality threshold, and some of the best writers and artists working for it.
There’s the start of a new story from Peter Milligan and Rufus Dayglo in the Prog. How did “Counterfeit Girl” come together, and what made it a story you wanted to include for the anniversary?
I got in touch with Peter a couple of years ago asking if he’d like to contribute to the prog again. He did, and first him and Rufus and Jim McCarthy came up with a new “Bad Company” story — First Casualties — which ran in 2015. Peter enjoyed the experience, and pitched a couple of more ideas, one of which was CG, which followed his fascination with ideas of identity and persona (I’d read and loved his run on Human Target, years before). So Peter worked that up, and Rufus was his first choice for artist. As I say, I wanted to finish Prog 2000 with a brand-new story to demonstrate the comic moving into the next phase of its life, and “Counterfeit Girl” fitted the bill.
2000 AD has always been political, has always been interested in satire. As society starts to expand to look at viewpoints from marginalized perspectives, do you think 2000 AD has a duty to also seek out new voices, and feature more work from POC and female writers/artists?
Absolutely. 2000 AD is one of the few publishers with an open submissions policy, so I’m always looking out for new writers and artists. I would very much like to feature more creators from different backgrounds, if their work suited 2000 AD.
What do you view as the current mission statement for 2000 AD as a publication? Beyond ‘tell good stories’: what kind of stories and ideas do you want the Prog to explore?
The prog has such a rich heritage that the classic characters — Dredd, Stront, Slaine, ABC Warriors, etc — will continue to feature, but I’ll balance that with new stories across different genres — SF, horror, fantasy, thriller. Recently we’ve had genre-twisting series like ‘The Order’ and ‘Brink,” and you can expect more in 2017 with the likes of Ian Edginton and Leigh Gallagher’s fantasy/SF mash-up ‘Kingmaker’ and Guy Adams and Jimmy Broxton’s 1940s Hollywood supernatural private eye drama ‘Hope.” That kind of mix is what I’m aiming for — that bedrock of classic 2000 AD with new ideas and creations added to it.
Looking out now as we head to Prog 3000 (too soon?) — what are your longer-term goals for 2000AD as a whole?
The 40th anniversary is the next milestone in Feb 2017 — beyond that, increasing 2000 AD’s presence, visibility and readership. Generally bringing people into the fold of the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic by showing them some of the zarjaz stories that we publish!
2000AD’s 2000th’s issue is available now.