He’s been commonly referred to as the greatest editor of “2000 AD”, ever. He is personally responsible for the golden era the book has been going through the past decade and currently runs both “2000 AD” and the “Judge Dredd Megazine.” He has also been known to commit genocide from time to time. He is, of course, the irreplaceable Tharg the Mighty, the fictional alien editor of the classic UK anthology comic “2000 AD.” For decades, Tharg has been tantalizing and taunting readers in his weekly letters column as the public face of the iconic comic book.
In CBR’s 2000 AD THRILL TEASE, we get to know Tharg and his chief minion, long-time “2000 AD” and “Judge Dredd Megazine” Editor-in-Chief Matt Smith, a little bit better. They will be letting us know about upcoming plans for “2000 AD,” announcing new projects and answering fan questions from their forums at 2000adonline.com.
Smith was kind enough — with Tharg’s consent — to answer a few questions about what’s been going on lately in the world of “2000 AD,” discussing the partnership with IDW Publishing on a new “Judge Dredd” series, Lenny Zero’s return, the upcoming Karl Urban-starring “DREDD” feature film and more.
CBR News: It’s been a while since you last spoke with Comic Book Resources. What’s new for the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic?
Matt Smith: A lot of it’s been gearing up towards the pre-publicity for the “DREDD” movie. Since the release of the poster and the trailer, Lionsgate have been ramping up their plans. Chris Ryall at IDW has also been sending me covers to approve for their Dredd comic, some of which were previewed at the “2000 AD”/IDW panel at SDCC.
What was the reaction of the Nerve Centre [slang for “2000 AD” headquarters] to the recently released “DREDD” movie trailer?
Smith: We all thought it was great. It’s good to see how popular it’s been, and how much expectation there is out there for the movie. It had 1.4 million views on YouTube after having been online for a week.
You guys ran a teaser campaign a couple months ago for the reintroduction of the Dark Judges in “2000 AD” prog 1781. How successful was it in garnering attention for the book?
Smith: When John Wagner revealed that he was going to bring back the Dark Judges in the “Day of Chaos” storyline, I mentioned it to the rest of the Nerve Centre that it might make a good promotion — black out the website with the words “They Are Here.” PR droid Mike Molcher engineered a countdown to maximize interest, and it certainly built expectation. I think it was pretty successful.
How hard has it been to coordinate the main “Judge Dredd” series with the “DREDD” movie and upcoming IDW series?
Smith: With something as big as the “DREDD” movie, and the varying companies involved in it, I’m fairly low on the rung of having any say or hand in it. But when it comes to the comics, I like to keep an eye on it all, make sure nothing’s going off reservation. IDW are keen to keep their Dredd title consistent with the “2000 AD” one, far more than DC’s version in the mid-nineties, and I’ve been able to comment on story outlines and scripts in advance.
What new thrills are planned for the second half of this year? Prog 1792 seems to be a jumping on point for a lot of new stories.
Smith: Yes, prog 1792 (on sale now UK and North America) is a mini-launch issue, with four new stories starting alongside the ongoing “Grievous Journey of Ichabod Azrael.” There’s the start of a new Dredd story, “Debris,” by Mike Carroll and PJ Holden, which is another post-“Day of Chaos” tale as Dredd battles a besieged block; there’s the return of Lenny Zero by Andy Diggle and Ben Willsher in “Zero’s 7,” in which Mega-City criminal Lenny puts together a heist team; “Aquila: Blood of the Iceni” by Gordon Rennie and Leigh Gallagher is the first series proper for the servant of the Devourer as he reaps souls in Roman-occupied Britain; and “The Red Seas: Beautiful Freak” by Ian Edginton and Steve Yeowell is an occult miniseries that leads to “The Red Seas” grand finale next year.
After that, there’s prog 1800 (September 12), which sees the start of new series for “ABC Warriors” by Pat Mills and Clint Langley, “Grey Area” by Dan Abnett and Lee Carter and the debut of “Brass Sun” by Ian Edginton and I.N.J. Culbard.
Can you touch on “Brass Sun” a little bit? It seems to be a bit of a departure from the usual fare in “2000 AD.”
Smith: I’ll quote the first paragraph of Ian’s pitch, which should set the scene: “The Orrery is a fully functional, life-size, clockwork solar system. A clutch of planets, moons, asteroids and comets orbiting a vast, life-giving brass sun via immense metal spars. Its origin and purpose long since forgotten. The once-unified collection of worlds have regressed into eccentric fiefdoms and petty baronies. Some are no longer aware that life even exists on any of the other worlds. The only certainty is that the sun is winding down…The Orrery is dying.”
So Wren, our heroine, escapes her tyrannical world, Hind Leg, where it is heresy to talk about the brass sun dying, to seek out a key which could save the worlds. It’s a steampunky-fantasy story, not that far away from “2000 AD’s” fare, though I.N.J. Culbard’s art gives it quite a European look.
How happy are you to have Andy Diggle regularly writing for “2000 AD” again?
Smith: Oh, we’re happy to have Andy back writing for “2000 AD” — it’s a natural fit for him, having grown up reading it and having edited it, so he knows the title well. You get a lot more freedom working for the prog, too; a bit more latitude in the kind of stories you can tell, so that suits any writer. I should imagine there’ll be more “Lenny Zero” to come, plus one or two brand-new series far off down the line.
“2000 AD” closes out the year with prog 1812 in December 2012. You’ve attached a teaser for the storyline leading up to that issue, which features Judge Dredd playing chess against an unknown man with the date October 2011. What exactly is in prog 1812 that this is leading towards?
Smith: I’m saying nothing more than 28 pages, one story. Who the characters involved are, or who’s writing and drawing it, remain classified.
And now, we have a few questions for Tharg the Mighty himself, who joins us now via intergalactic transmission. Tharg, you’re a pretty hard alien to get ahold of — why are you choosing now to reach out to your readers directly through CBR?
Tharg: I am conscious that there are corners of your planet that are still holding out against the inevitable pull of Thrill-power, so it’s zarjaz to have a website like CBR to advertise the ghafflebette contents of the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic!
Well, we certainly appreciate you taking the time to answer some questions from your readers. Kicking things off, Emperor asks, “How many artists have been made droids from your many portfolios? Or writers from the ‘Future Shock’ slush pile?”
Tharg: Very few, Earthlet. Most artists that get their first work in comics have gained experience in other fields (videogames, for example,) so they have at least a design background. It’s worth remembering that if you’re trying to break into comics that you can gain experience illustrating for other mediums (RPGs and the like) before jumping into sequential art. Too many wannabe art droids feel that they can leap into comics without a good grounding first. With scriptwriters, it’s a crowded market — you have to stand out and show you can come up with original ideas and write fluently. Alas, it’s a rare gift, certainly to this emerald eye.
Colin_YNWA asks, “Can Tharg get John Smith working faster so that he has at least one story in every prog? The droid’s a genius… which basically is asking when can we expect ‘Indigo Prime’ back?”
Tharg: The Smith droid seems strangely resistant to my electro-whip, and every attempt to get him working faster has so far failed to succeed. Maybe I’ll have to increase the charge significantly and risk frying his cranial circuits (last time I did that it resulted in “Revere.”) “Indigo Prime” will next materialize in this reality… when it’s ready.
Moving the subject to Rob William and D’Israeli’s fan-favorite series, A chosen ride asks, “Will we be seeing more of ‘Low Life’ any time soon?”
Smith: “Low Life” will be returning in prog 1805 (on sale in the UK 17 October) for the story “Saudade,” courtesy of Rob Williams and D’Israeli. When Dirty Frank wakes up on the moon, it develops into a plot of far-reaching consequences…
A chosen ride also asks, “Any hope of seeing Gordon Rennie’s Dredd stories collected in a book or ‘Megazine’ supplement?”
Smith: “Judge Dredd Megazine” 326 (on sale in the UK 18 July) will be bagged with the collected “Bato Loco,” Gordon and Simon Coleby’s tales of Mega-City career criminal Carlito Agarra. And look out for Simon’s stunning work on “The Simping Detective,” coming to a prog near you in October!
Iborl wants to know, “What happened to the ‘ABC Warriors’ cartoon?”
Smith: Alas, the company behind it couldn’t secure the funding to develop it any further.
With the recently released trailer garnering buzz from all corners, Dweezil2 wonders, “How does the Mighty One intend to exploit the release of the forthcoming [‘Dredd’] movie?”
Tharg: You’ll have to wait and see, Earthlet! Molch-R, my PR droid, is in close collaboration with Lionsgate and the PR company handling the UK publicity, so expect to see the results over the next couple of months…
Pauljholden, also known as frequent “2000 AD” artist and contributor PJ Holden, simply wanted to ask Tharg, “Is it easy being green?”
Tharg: I don’t understand — how does skin pigmentation equate to levels of capability? In fact, why aren’t you working, Holden droid? I want six pages of Dredd on my desk, STAT!
Douglaswolk asks, “What five collections would you say are the best introduction for someone who wants to understand what ‘2000 AD’ is all about these days and why?”
Tharg: Hmm, a toughie. For the complete beginner, I’d go for “The Ballad of Halo Jones” by Alan Moore and Ian Gibson, “Judge Dredd: America” by John Wagner and Colin MacNeil, “Rogue Trooper: Tales of Nu Earth Vol 1” by Gerry Finley-Day, Dave Gibbons et al, for sheer storytelling power and amazing artwork, and to bring them a bit of current Thrill-power, “Shakara: The Avenger” by Robbie Morrison and Henry Flint, and “Absalom: Ghosts of London “by Gordon Rennie and Tiernen Trevallion. But that list could change next week. I mean, I haven’t even mentioned “Nemesis the Warlock” or “Strontium Dog” or “Kingdom” or “Flesh” or “Stickleback”… Look, just buy it all, OK?
Douglaswolk’s next question is, “What’s the longest-gestating serial that’s still in the works and that we still haven’t seen?”
Smith: I’d say probably the second series of “The Grievous Journey of Ichabod Azrael” — started in February 2011, seeing print in June 2012.
Finally, Proudhuff asks, “Letters to Tharg: bane of your life or highlight of the day?”
Tharg: Depends on what they say, Terran. Any criticisms are considered, taken on board and the sender’s address quietly filed away for when the Quaxxann invasion fleet reach’s Earth space. [Ed, could you redact that last bit?]
“2000 AD” prog 1792, featuring many of the stories discussed in this article, is on sale now in the UK and North America. New issues of “2000 AD” go on sale every Wednesday.