Co-writers Leah Moore & John Reppion take "2000 AD" back to 800 AD this July for supernatural Viking tale "Black Shuck." Featuring "Zenith" co-creator Steve Yeowell on art, "Black Shuck" is Moore and Reppion's first contribution to "2000 AD" proper, although the married duo wrote "Scouting for Bots," a one-off short for "2000 AD" sister publication "Judge Dredd Megazine" last year. "2000 AD" famously served as home for much of the early writing output of Moore's father, the legendary Alan Moore.
Reppion and Moore spoke with CBR News about their latest collaboration, revealing what their dark tale of Viking adventure is all about, how they balance marriage duties with a writing partnership and more.
CBR News: Leah and John, what is "Black Shuck" about?
Leah Moore: "Black Shuck" is about a massive and taciturn Anglo Saxon taken by Viking raiders back to their home and their King. We are telling the story of the journey at the same time as what happens when he arrives, so the reader has to do a little bit of legwork to put it all together, but we pile on the action all the way through, so there's no chance of anyone getting bored or wandering off. Shuck is a great character to write. We have a habit of making our lead characters people that we identify with or at least like on some level. Shuck isn't exactly likable, but he's incredibly fun to write and hopefully to read.
John Reppion: Vikings vs. trolls sums it up pretty succinctly but there's a bit more than that going on. There are some supernatural elements that will become more apparent as the series progresses. I don't want to give too much away so I'm being very careful what I say, but there's a bit of magic in there too.
You say you make leads you can identify with or like on some level, so what do you like about Shuck?
Moore: No, he's not really very likable at all. He's a big brute whose motives are a bit sketchy at best. He's also probably a bit mental, I think, but then perhaps you had to be a bit unhinged to survive all the Viking raids and stuff.
You said, "We are telling the story of the journey at the same time as what happens when he arrives, so the reader has to do a little bit of legwork to put it all together." If this means the story isn't going to be told in chronological order, how are you structuring the narrative instead?
Reppion: We're cutting between the "present" (in 813 AD) where Black Shuck has just arrived in King Ivar's land, and flashbacks which show the events immediately preceding his arrival. The present will be in color and the flashback pages will be black and white. Eventually the flashbacks will catch up with the beginning of the first episode so that we've filled in that whole chunk of back-story.
What inspired "Black Shuck?"
Reppion: I made a list of things I wanted to write and thought would suit "2000 AD," then I worked out a way to squish as many of those things together into one story as possible. The result was a historical action horror with monsters and supernatural elements which, as it turned out, Tharg liked the sound of.
Will you be using any real-world Vikings, places or events for the story?
Moore: We aren't basing it on any real events, or specific places, but we are trying to make sure that the look and the language are spot on. I've been re-reading "Beowulf" a bit, which is always fun, and we are putting in the research on Scandinavian folklore and history to make sure it reads right. At the end of the day though, it's good fun and packed with Thrill Power, which is all anybody wants!
Reppion: It's not going to be a History Channel-type fact fest, but hopefully we won't embarrass ourselves with too many glaring anachronisms. Steve is really, really good with Viking architecture, armor, weaponry, etc. so he's coving our arses. Seriously though, there might be words, phrases, and allusions to things here and there but it's not going to be laid on too thickly.
Is "Black Shuck" a one-off Thrill or the start of an ongoing tale?
Reppion: It's a self-contained nine-part story, but there's definitely scope for more adventures down the line if things go well.
How does your writing partnership work? Do you try to separate "writing partner" from "spouse" when you work?
Moore: We used to do every part of it together, and say that we were two halves of one writer, but we now have a 4 year-old and 20-month-old twins, so we have to do the various bits of it separately and hand it over to the other person to carry on with while we take care of the kids. I think over the years we have both grown as writers, but perhaps not necessarily grown closer together as writers if that makes sense. We used to be quite bashful about it all, and really grateful if the other person had a clue about how to do it, but now we're a pair of battle hardened ornery old codgers who are really opinionated, so when we do sit and talk about it, we quite often end up with very different ideas. In the end it all turns into scripts and pays the bills and we still enjoy it very much, but it has certainly changed over the last eleven years.
What's it like working with artist Steve Yeowell? How did you convince the fan-favorite "Zenith" artist to come aboard?
Reppion: Tharg brought him to the project and we were very, very happy to welcome him onboard. We managed to meet Steve (very briefly) at last year's Thought Bubble convention which is a real rarity for us; we've actually met very few artists we've worked with face to face, having done most of our past work for U.S. publishers. He's a lovely, friendly chap as well, of course, as being hugely talented and has been a genuine pleasure to work with thus far.
When will we see you finally take on "Judge Dredd?"
Moore: Hey, ask Tharg, not us! We'd love to write the best chin in comics! I love Mega-City, and the Judges, and all the little background details and in jokes. We did do a little Cursed Earth story for the Black Museum in the "Megazine" which was tons of fun. I think we'd have a hard act to follow judging by the recent storylines, but hopefully we could do something cool. We'll get our thinking caps on and see if we can talk the big green fella 'round!
How does having to write a cliffhanger every six pages due to "2000 AD's" format affect your storytelling?
Reppion: It's fun, actually. It's a really nice way to break up an idea; to know you've got to catch up with the previous issue, get your story in, and then lead into the next issue in a way that's going to keep people interested. That's how any episodic story should work really, but six pages at a time really crystallizes that approach and forces you to make the most of what you have.
What other projects do you have coming up?
Moore: Hoo, well, we are currently finishing our beloved series "Damsels" for Dynamite, which ends at issue #13, and will be out as a collected edition later this year; we have three stories in the digital-first "Vampire Diaries" from DC which we have so enjoyed doing. Two of them are out already, in #4, and #7 and one is still to come. I was lucky enough to be asked to write for Gail Simone's "Legends of Red Sonja," #3 of which I share with Rhianna Pratchett and Nicola Scott, and has just come out. We have two big tasty projects which we are about to shop around, one of which is a YA book, and the other a historical GN, we have also just heard we have the green light on a big project which will take up much of 2014 for us, but that we are sworn not to reveal anything about until its announced officially, so watch this space! All in all we are very happy, and there is a lot to look forward to this year.
"Black Shuck" begins this July in "2000 AD."