Dan Abnett is one half of the popular writing team known as DnA, alongside writing partner Andy Lanning. Together, they’re responsible for Marvel Comics titles including “Nova,” “Guardians of the Galaxy” and the cosmic event “War of Kings.” However, it would be a huge mistake to think his solo work on “2000 AD” is only half as good.
As a solo writer, Abnett has managed to become one of the most popular and prolific creators the weekly UK comic anthology “2000 AD” has ever had, not to mention an accomplished novelist. Abnett has written the book’s iconic character Judge Dredd on numerous occasions and has also contributed his own series to the book’s impressive catalog including “Sinister Dexter,” “Kingdom” and, most recently, “Grey Area.”
With “2000 AD” celebrating 35 years of publication in 2012, Comic Book Resources continues its look back at the classic anthology by speaking with the book’s greatest creators. Abnett shared his thoughts with CBR News about why he loves “2000 AD,” his fan-favorite series “Sinister Dexter,” what makes Pat Mills’ storytelling unique and more.
CBR News: Your stories have been featured in over 500 issues of “2000 AD,” stretching back to the early ’90s. Did you ever imagine you would turn into one of “2000 AD’s” most prolific and celebrated writers?
Dan Abnett: No. It’s actually amazing that I’ve been able to contribute so much to “2000 AD.” I grew up reading it and it was a mainstay of my imagination as a kid. I remember the thrill of writing for it for the first time, and not quite believing that I was producing strips for a comic that had been such an important part of my formative years. I also felt that I came to it rather late, oddly enough. Most of my contemporaries in the industry cut their teeth writing for “2000 AD” and then went on to work for American companies, usually DC. Through some perverse logic, I started out with Marvel UK, then worked at Marvel and DC in the States and then began to work for “2000 AD.” All of these things telescope in hindsight, however. I’ve been writing for “2000 AD” for longer than it existed before I was writing for it. I am extremely proud of my contributions to “2000 AD” and will continue to write strips for as long as they want me.
You started out writing for “Judge Dredd” but quickly started creating your own thrills including fan-favorites like “Sinister Dexter” and “Kingdom.” Which of your own creations is your favorite and why?
“SinDex” has got to be the most important. It’s the most personal and I’ve been writing it the longest. It now represents a huge body of work, and some of my favorite art, and it’s properly complicated, like a long-running soap opera. It was also great fun to write “Sinister Dexter” in disguise in the form of “Malone,” a character I’m now coming back to. I’m very fond of all my invented strips like “Atavar,” “Sancho Panzer,” “Black Light” (with Steve White) and, of course, my new thrill [strip], “Grey Area.” But, alongside “Sinister Dexter,” I think “Kingdom” is my best work for “2000 AD.” I’m not quite sure why I feel so involved with it by I feel very engaged with the world we’ve created there. It’s action-packed yet poignant and Richard Elson has done some amazing work. I look forward to doing some more the moment he’s free.
Do you see an eventually end to “Sinister Dexter” and “Kingdom?”
I could imagine writing a final “SinDex” story one day, but, for now, I’ve got loads of ideas to play with. Both Download, the setting for “Sinister Dexter” and the world of Kingdom are both places that could go on indefinitely anyway, so I haven’t really thought about the strips finishing.
Speaking of “Sinister Dexter,” can you share any clues about what happens in the next installment?
Very much. It’s just getting planned out now. But it’s a major new story, a major new departure point, and so much of a restart it’s almost a reboot. The story is called (speculatively) “Witless Protection.”
Have you ever given any thought to extending “Sinister Dexter” and “Kingdom” by having an “Abnett-verse” with other strips set in those worlds?
That would be fun. I think both could handle it, in different ways. “SinDex” has already had a couple of “almost” spin-offs, like “Downlode Tales” and “Malone.” We’ll have to see.
You’ve also written a lot for strips you didn’t create, including “Judge Dredd” and “Flesh,” just to name a couple. Are you particularly proud of any of the stories you wrote for those?
I would say certainly the epic “Durham Red” trilogy I wrote with Mark Harrison would be a standout. I still think that’s a great and epic story, beautifully illustrated. I was very happy to be able to continue the story of “The V.C.s,” which had been my favorite strip as a young reader. Most recently, it would be “Insurrection,” the grand-scale foray that Colin MacNeil and I have made into the world of Judge Dredd for the “Judge Dredd Megazine,” a third volume of which is now underway.
“Insurrection” brings space-opera to the Dredd-verse and you’re a well known “Warhammer 40K” novelist, as well. What is it about the genre that you love so much, and can we expect more “Judge Dredd” space-opera from you after “Insurrection”?
I seem to have a knack for heavy duty military Sci-Fi, so that’s what I do. I’d love to do more space epic stuff for “2000 AD” in general or the Dredd-verse in particular…
When did you start reading “2000 AD”?
Wow, so you’ve pretty much read everything that’s ever been in the book! What are your favorite stories over the last 35 years?
The Dredd classics like “The Cursed Earth,” “Judge Cal” and “The Judge Child” are huge favorites of mine, along with the original run of “The V.C.s,” as I mentioned, the early “Nemesis” stories, “Halo Jones,” “Flesh” and “Harlem Heroes.” In recent years, I’ve been very fond of “Defoe,” “Dante” and “The Red Seas,” and “Dredd” is always an excellent read.
How would you rate the current state of “2000 AD” compared to the past 35 years?
I think it’s in excellent shape and it’s a constant delight to see how new, inventive and groundbreaking strips can be. Long may it continue.
Johnny Alpha vs. Judge Dredd. Who comes out on top in a fight?
I think it would be a close run thing but Dredd is likely to win out in the end by sheer will power and determination.
You’ve worked under editors David Bishop, Andy Diggle and now Matt Smith over the past two decades. What was it like working with each of them?
They each had their own particular way of doing things and I enjoyed working with each of them very much indeed. I find Matt Smith’s script editing insights particularly good and always enjoy getting e-mails back from him because, even if he’s knocking ideas back for revision, he does it in the most interesting way.
Any newer thrills, writers or artists that you think people should be watching in “2000 AD?”
I mentioned that I was a particular fan of “Defoe.” Any strip created and written by Pat Mills doesn’t really need trumpeting, because we all know how good he is, but I really want to say how much I love the art by Leigh Gallagher.
You mentioned some of Pat Mills’ work earlier, as well, so like most of us, it’s clear you’re a fan. How would you describe Mills’ unique style?
I don’t think there’s a more “high concept” writer in the business than Pat. He is brilliant at constructing thematic and tightly imaginative strips that are often almost symbolic. Also, his connective imagination is boundless. Any subject he tackles, he tackles thoroughly and with great enthusiasm.
Why do you think that “2000 AD” appeals to British audiences so much, yet has struggled in the past to get attention in the US? Is there something quintessentially British about it that American audiences don’t get?
â€¨Maybe, in terms of content. I think it’s got more to do with the US not being used to a large format, weekly, anthologized comic. The material always has to be repackaged and re-sized to be appropriate for a US audience, and thus it loses something of the immediacy. The more they know it, the more they’ll love it.
“2000 AD,” featuring “Sinister Dexter,” “Judge Dredd” and more, is available weekly in comic shops and digitally in the App Store