Thursday morning at Comic-Con International in San Diego saw the "Anarchy in the USA" panel which had Pat Mills, long time writer-editor and creator of "2000AD"; Keith Richardson, the graphic novels editor of "2000AD"; and Jock, the artist from "The Losers" and "Detective Comics" discuss "2000AD," the long running weekly British sci-fi/horror comic and the publisher's plan to break into the US market with a new graphic novel line starting this summer.
The room started off with a small crowd, but attendance quickly grew as the panel went on. By the end of the presentation, the room was almost at capacity.
To start the panel, Keith Richardson asked who was a long time fan of "2000AD," to which nearly everyone in the room raised a hand. He then asked who had never read it, and a ten year old boy up front raised his hand, one of the few who did.
Pat Mills spoke about founding "2000AD" which was heavily influenced by American comics such as "Weird," "Eerie" and "Vampierella." "I wanted to do a sci-fi comic. I wanted it to have the flavor of the Warren comics and European comics."
"Our heroes are generally the underdogs; there aren't any billionaire tycoon heroes," Mills said, explaining why "2000AD" is different from traditional American comics, saying that it embodies a cynical, British type of humor. Many "2000AD" writers have brought this to America after becoming popular, but he feels "it gets slightly diluted when it crosses the Atlantic."
"ABC Warriors: The Meknificent Seven" will be the first volume released in a new US initiative by "2000AD" owners, Rebellion. This volume collects the first strips by Pat Mills and a host of artists, including Kevin O'Neil, Dave Gibbons and Mike McMahon. "ABC Warriors" is about a ragtag group of mercenary robots set in the future.
Mills recalls working on the "ABC Warriors," which is still being produced in current "2000AD" issues. "ABC Warriors," Mills says, "actually has got something to say. Although it's set in a fantasy world, there's a reality that lies beneath it, and that's what gives ["The ABC Warriors"] it's appeal."
Clint Langley is drawing the current "ABC Warriors" strip about the Volgan War. Slides of his artwork were shown on a projector, and must be seen first hand to be believed. These volumes, Keith Richardson said, will eventually be released in the USA.
Mills then went on to talk about what is one of his most popular and long running comics, "Slaine." The comic, about a violent Celtic warrior, has been running for decades and showcases some of the earliest Simon Bisley work. The epic Slaine volume, "Slaine: The Horned God," is set for release in the US next spring and features what Mills calls "Bisley's finest work. It's just incredible. Theres a passion for these stories that's very much part of the British tradition."
The panel conversation then shifted to Jock, who reminisced about how "2000AD" helped get him in to comics. After thanking Pat Mills profusely for creating the book, Jock said that the first time he picked up an issue of "2000AD," "it just blew the back of my head off. There was nothing like it."
Now famous for books like "The Losers" and "Detective Comics," Jock 's first published work was a "2000AD" Judge Dredd tale. "It was a dream come true," since Judge Dredd was, and is, his favorite comic book character, ever. Some of his best work will be released in the states in the volume "Judge Dredd: Megacity Masters," with a cover by Tim Bradstreet. Jock is also working as a concept artist on the new Judge Dredd Movie and he says "hopefully the [US audience] gets the back of their heads blown off, too!"
Pat Mills said he feels that "2000AD" was "a rebellion against the comics of it's time" because there was nothing else like it, and it allowed him more creative freedom than anywhere else in 1977. The weekly format of the book made every issue a creative competition between the creators, with each one vying to be the lead story that fans would turn to first. Through the years, major stars have all filtered through 2000AD first, such as Alan Moore, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely.
A perfect example of how "2000AD" is unique can be found in Pat Mill's early strip, "Flesh," which tells the story of a war between dinosaurs and humans, showcased the difference between US and UK comics. As in US movies such as "Jurassic Park," "Flesh" featured a cute kid helping to fight dinosaurs. However, in the "2000AD" version, the cute kids get eaten. The dinosaurs win and the humans lose, showcasing early on why "2000AD" is special. In "2000AD," the humans tend to be the enemy.
A fan brought up how he loves that "2000AD" never brings back dead character or uses retcons, something that fans bemoan major US comics companies for doing. Jock agreed and also pointed out that Judge Dredd has been published for 33 years and he has actually aged 33 years. This creates a realistic continuity to in comic.
Mills talked about how there's no pressure to continue strips in 2000AD once they end, and he often takes years to find the perfect artist before starting a new volume of a popular strip. For example, mentioning again "Flesh," which has taken him 30 years to continue, will begin again in the near future after finally finding the right artist.
Mills not only writes for "2000AD," but was heavily involved in the art editing of the early issues of the book. At first, all they used were studio artists whose art could be quite boring, so he would cut up their art and arrange it in dynamic panels to make the page look exciting. Eventually, this method attracted artists, such as Mike McMahon, who were good enough to do the art on their own without editorial interference.
A fan asked what the panel felt was different between US and UK comic fans, to which Jock replied that there's a cynicism in British fans that is lacking in US fans. "There's always differences [in the readership] because we are different countries and that's what makes "2000AD" unique."
Jock was tight lipped when asked to spill details about the new Judge Dredd movie. He and Keith Richardson did hold out hopes that Rob Schneider, whose role in the first Stallone film was a major criticism, would be cast as Judge Dredd himself this time around, just so he can get shot through the head!
2000AD's sales manager then got up on stage to answer a question on why he feels that this new venture in to the US market would be successful when past attempts to bring "2000AD" to the US, most famously by DC Comics, had failed. He said that past books had too high a price point, weren't made easily available and offered no continuity. Books chosen to be released were random and not in the order that the stories were published. This time around, they are choosing which volumes to release carefully, making sure there is a narrative continuity between books as well as pricing them competitively with American graphic novels.
Mills briefly discussed his popular comic "Marshall Law," which he described as a "2000AD" character who just happened to appear in a different comic book. Alan Moore, he said, liked writing super heroes, but Mills didn't. This made him "supremely qualified to write a super hero hunter," and he misses writing the character. He offered a bit of hope to fans saying that "Marshall Law" will be coming back.
The panel said that they had never talked to the BBC about doing television versions of any "2000AD" comics after being asked by a fan is such a conversation was possible. "[The BBC] are far too straight-laced for '2000AD,'" said Jock. Mills agreed, saying "2000AD" is slightly too counter culture and too underground for the BBC.
The last question of the panel asked if Americans could ever submit writing to "2000AD." Jock immediately shouted, "No! We don't allow them!" After heavy laughter from the audience, he answered more seriously that of course they allow Americans to pitch, and in fact have had several American artists over the years. Owners of the first "Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files" volume will see that John Byrne drew one of the earliest Judge Dredd strips.
At that, the panel concluded and the creators were applauded off stage. As everyone filed out of the room, Keith Richardson ran off the stage and down to the front row. He went up to the 10-year-old boy who had raised his hand at the beginning of the panel, handed him a copy of "ABC Warriors: The Meknificent Seven" and told him to take it for free. The boy grabbed it, smiling, and began flipping through it immediately.