Thursday, August 24, 2006

TPO is still surprising me, after five years

Way back in the dim mists of time - okay, more like the latter stages of 2001 - incoming Megazine editor Alan Barnes asked me to write a series of articles detailing the history of 2000 AD. Five years later, I'm fast approaching the end of this mammoth project, after nearly a hundred interviews with dozens of creators [some of them up to six times to get the full story]. But even after all I've learned and been told, I'm still discovering new things and being surprised by what people say.

For example, artist Chris Weston sent me a fistful of answers to questions today about his work on such 2000 AD series as Indigo Prime, Canon Fodder and Rogue Trooper. He was refreshingly frank in his comments [don't worry, Chris, you weren't too frank!] and told me something I never knew. It's a joy to still be finding out fresh and interesting facts, even this late in the project. It means the TPO book will be full of new and startling material, not simply a flaccid retread of my original TPO articles.

Let's put it another way: the articles published in the Megazine ran to some 78,000 words. At four this afternoon I reached the end of those articles and the running total of my wordcount was 111,535. That means the book already contains 43% more material than appeared in my original articles. And that's before I incorporate all the new material covering everything that's happened since the comic turned 25 in February 2002. I'm guessing the final book will be 50% larger than the articles, not to mention the old text had been completely revised.

Regulars to this blog will have noticed nothing much happened yesterday. I was busy with another project and TPO got shoved to the back burner for the day. But I've been back on it fulltime today and added another 8000 words, so I'm fast making up for lost time. Not long to finishing line now! Right, on to today's extract. Here's Andy Diggle talking about his falling out with Pat Mills over ABC Warriors...
Acrimony also soured the return of the ABC Warriors. Diggle had long been a fan of the Mills’ classic characters: ‘I very much wanted to see them back in the comic and back on track, so I asked Pat to create a Deadlock-on-Termight solo series, return Sláine to his Celtic roots, and bring back the ABC Warriors in an old-school action story free of Khaos Magick trappings.’ ABC Warriors returned to 2000 AD for a new epic set on Mars, The Third Element. At Diggle’s request, Mills’ scripts divided the fifteen-episode saga into shorter stories, each to be drawn by a different artist. ‘It took over a year to get the scripts in. When they finally did arrive, they fell a long way short of Pat’s best work,’ Diggle believes. ‘He had said that writing the series was like “pulling teeth”, and frankly it showed. We see Mek-Quake die in a crash, but then suddenly he’s back to normal in the final episode because they’ve fixed a “computer virus”? It didn’t make sense.’

‘I was especially unhappy with the first episode, and foolishly took it upon myself to punch up some of the dialogue. This wasn’t like the misunderstanding over the subbing on Dante, this was me deliberately re-writing Pat’s dialogue. It was a lapse of judgement on my part, and I shouldn’t have done it. Jason Kingsley said that if I wasn’t happy with Pat’s writing, I was perfectly at liberty to get someone else to write it, but I didn’t want to do that. Obviously what I should have done was ask Pat for re-writes, and moved the series back in the schedule - again. Instead, I let my anger and frustration get the better of me. It was the culmination of a long line of frustrations, and I’d simply run out of patience. Everything was always someone else’s fault - mine, previous editors’, the artists’.

'I had tried to take a collaborative approach to story development, but with Pat it was disastrously counter-productive, as he deeply resented what he saw as my “editorial interference”. Unfortunately, my working relationship with Pat had been strained from the start. I found him to be confrontational, aggressively overbearing, and unable or unwilling to accept criticism, and there were numerous occasions on which I felt I was being unfairly attacked. If Pat was unhappy about something, he went into instant full-on attack mode, rather than simply picking up the phone and trying to resolve things amicably like anyone else.’


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