Monday, August 28, 2006

They think it's all over...

...and they'd nearly be right. I have just typed two words so beloved by authors everywhere: THE END. Yes, TPO is finished, at least the first draft is. I'm still waiting on a handful of people to get back to me. If their input arrives in time, I'll cheerfully dive back into the manuscript to include the most cogent comments. If it doesn't, I won't lay awake at night weeping into my pillow about the missing piece in my big, fat book about the history of 2000 AD.

Of course, there's a few things I'd liked to have secured. Never managed to get in touch with Mark Millar, despite the fact we live less than fifty miles apart. Didn't manage to persuade Richard Burton or Alan McKenzie to go on the record. And no doubt there will be many more slips betwixt computer and published tome, but overall I'm remarkably pleased and proud of TPO the book as it stands. Now there's just the small matter of printing out all 122,356 words, sub-editing them and incorporating changes. Meanwhile, here's your extract for today.
A week after Leatherjack’s debut, another new series with a lengthy development history finally saw print. Williams had scripted early episodes of Breathing Space years earlier, but artist changes caused a lengthy delay in the strip’s gestation. ‘I fancied doing a noirish murder mystery in the Dredd universe,’ the writer recalls, ‘and Luna-1 seemed a great setting, like a western frontier town. I wanted to write a standalone - no sequel, no attempting to set up a longstanding 2000 AD character. Unfortunately, it was hugely delayed. Pete Doherty did a gorgeous job on the initial episode, but couldn’t draw any more. Eventually Laurence Campbell took over and, again, made it look absolutely lovely, but that took a while to sort out. There’s a lot of things I love about Breathing Space – its mood, its narrative structure, the whole look of the series. I was being quite experimental with panel layouts. On the downside, it’s very difficult to do a satisfying whodunit in 45 pages when you only have a small cast. That’s something I discovered after the event.’

The long delay in preparing Breathing Space for publication meant it was soon followed by another Williams’ series, The Ten-Seconders, illustrated by Mark Harrison. A post-apocalyptic tale about a handful of humans fighting superhuman oppressors, to some it read like a metaphor for US interventionism. But Williams says the allegorical inspiration came from something much closer to home for 2000 AD. ‘The theme of The Ten-Seconders was the American comics market versus a more British, 2000 AD sensibility. This small, struggling group of rather acerbic, violent individuals were fighting a war against a global superhero epidemic. So there were lots of quite parochial British references from the resistance … contrasted with these big, over-dramatic, bombastic superhero archetypes. In series two we’ll be throwing a group of Vertigo-style characters into the mix as a third party. There’ll be lots of fighting, gunfire and explosions too, of course.’ Caballistics Inc illustrator Dom Reardon is taking over as artist on The Ten-Seconders in 2007. ‘Dom’s pages look beautiful, but they won’t be appearing anytime soon,’ the writer says.

The success of Caballistics Inc’s drip-feed approach to storytelling was used as a rough template for Harry Kipling (Deceased), a new character introduced by Spurrier and Boo Cook in February 2006. ‘It started with Boo and me decided we have a mutual appreciation of all things not quite normal,’ the writer recalls. ‘We were tossing about some ideas and kept coming back to a quirky central character killing Big Strange Monsters, as seen through the eyes of a more down-to-earth companion. At some stage we went from monsters to gods. A lot of stuff all just slotted into place in response to questions we asked ourselves: we want Harry to fight gods? Why would he do that? We got a fully-formed universe with its own squiffy logic and fucked-up laws of physics. By running the series in short squirts, we’re letting the stories and the characters do their thing without rushing to let the readers know everything up front. They can just bloody wait.’


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