I spent today in three different decades. Former 2000 AD sub-editor Roy Preston sent me some very helpful answers about his time on the comic in the late 1970s, so that got incorporated into the early chapters of TPO. Then I finished off the last chapter covering the 1980s and plunged myself into the 1990s. Lots of material from Hilary Robinson about her experiences writing for the weekly, especially about how she asserted her ownership of the characters in Medivac 318, Zippy Couriers and Chronos Carnival. I don't think Hilary's ever been interviewed, so that's another exclusive for the TPO book. Of course, you'll have to buy the book to read that sequence. Today's extract is from earlier in time, when she first started writing for 2000 AD:
Writer Hilary Robinson from Northern Ireland served her apprenticeship scripting Future Shocks. ‘I had no burning desire to write comics,’ she admits. ‘I had been writing science fiction and fantasy short stories. A young artist called John McCrea wanted to break into 2000 AD. He asked if I would write him a story he could draw and submit.’ When that was accepted, Robinson decided to see if there were more opportunities at the comic. ‘Being a science fiction fan, I already knew 2000 AD. Writers are always looking for outlets, so I thought I’d have a go. But it was just another place where I might get published, as far as I was concerned.’ She found the brevity required for comics a good discipline.Wordcount target: 120,000. Today's total: 69,136.
‘I mostly worked for Richard Burton, who either accepted a story or he didn’t – mostly he did. I found him very helpful … however, it was the artists who really taught me how to write a script for them. Richard was not keen on writers and artists talking to each other, but I kept in constant touch with those I worked with regularly and I learned a lot from them.’ After having a handful of one-offs accepted, she was invited to submit ideas for longer stories. Robinson offered a deep space medical drama series that became Medivac 318. But parts of the strip and its main characters had already been published elsewhere.
‘They all pre-dated my entry into 2000 AD, which is why I have fought to keep my copyright on them.’ She turned one of her short stories into a script for the first episode and it was accepted, with Nigel Dobbyn chosen as artist. ‘The only debate we had was over the title. I wanted to call it Medivac Station and Richard didn’t seem to like that. I renamed it Medivac 318 after my extension number at the hospital where I worked. Richard said I couldn’t have a number in the title. I asked him what the comic was called.’