FCBD INTERVIEW: D.R. & Quinch return for Free Comic Book Day!

Writer Owen Michael Johnson and artist Indio! discuss their revival of Alan Moore and Alan Davis' teenage delinquents for Free Comic Book Day

1 year ago

We all love Free Comic Book Day, where the world wanders through the doors of their local comic shop in search of some fabulously free comics!

This year’s Free Comic Book Day is Saturday May 5th - head to any comic shop and you’ll find readers, old and new, delighting in the free comics on offer.

But can such a zarjaz day get even better? Well, heck yes! With the all-ages 2000 AD: REGENED, 2000 AD are reimagining some of their greatest characters for a special one off FCBD comic.

Alongside Cadet Dredd and a young Johnny Alpha trying to earn his dog tags, there’s the riotous return of those teenage alien delinquents, D.R. and Quinch. In D.R. & Quinch Hijack Free Comic Book Day.

Richard Bruton talked to two thirds of the creative team behind the strip, Owen Michael Johnson and Indio!

How did the opportunity to bring back two of 2000 AD's most beloved characters come about?

Owen Michael Johnson: I’m forever grateful to Keith Richardson for asking for a pitch. We just went for it. He was great in letting us cut loose. Being younger characters, and irreverently anarchic, made them a perfect addition that came with a certain amount of freedom. I pitched the ‘Hijack Free Comic Book Day’ meta story because it seemed to fit nicely with the event itself, this one day a year where everyone is there in the comic shop for the same reason.

Indio: When Owen told me it was potentially D.R. & Quinch my mind was blown! No other strip had quite the same impact  on me as that one did, and there’s been nothing else like it in 2000 AD before or since! I loved those guys and having been a pryomaniacal teenage delinquent myself during that period, those characters were my boys!

I don't think I'm exaggerating here, or dismissing the work in the other strips in this 2000 AD FCBD comic, but taking on D.R. & Quinch seems to me the most daunting of all the strips on offer in REGENED. The classic Alan Moore and Alan Davis strips are possibly the finest comedy material 2000 AD has ever put out. What on Earth made you agree to doing this?

OMJ: Given the opportunity, why would you say no?  Of course it’s daunting, and there are those out there who would write us off sight-unseen purely because we’re not Moore and Davis, so with nothing to lose why not have fun? We knew early on we were doomed to crash and burn, but we were determined to do so in style, and do so in your own way and retaining as much of the spirit of the original as possible. To actually acknowledge that we were essentially a bootleg version. Once we made that decision the goal was easy: make a D.R. & Quinch comic we’d love to read.

Indio: I knew that the strip’s creative pedigree was monumental but it didn’t daunt me. I couldn’t have passed it up, those two rascals are in my blood, and I love Alan Moore and Alan Davis so much that this work was my tribute to them.

You've certainly kept the comedy aspect of the strip going, albeit with less death and destruction and a fondness for lethal weaponry of the original. But with the story, you've gone beyond the simple brief of delivering an all-ages strip and introduced a wealth of meta-fictional goodies. Was it the intention to add these in as a knowing nod to older 2000 AD readers, whilst keeping the playfulness of the story intact?

OMJ: The only thing we pulled back on were the thermo-nukes and guns. Beyond that we channelled Moore’s original intention that D.R. & Quinch fit into a long history of British teen delinquents. Anyone who’s read Raygun Roads will know it was right down our street. Young readers want the same things from their stories as older readers. You don’t have to ‘simplify’ or make a story any less interesting or dense. They just want good comics. I think it’s lazy to deliver more of the same. It’s indulgent to update the characters (which aren’t yours) unnecessarily. The ‘Pixar’ sweet spot is to deliver an accessible, no-strings adventure for the total beginner that also manages to satisfy die-hards and could slip along-side the original. We worked hard on that, down to Colin emulating the credits and Tom Frame lettering style. It looks GORGEOUS in black and white, not that it will see the light of day. Also we shamelessly re-skinned the original Time Twisters short, albeit with a ‘history of art’ twist so you can tell your parent and/or guardian there’s some cheap educational value

How did the co-writing thing happen with Owen and Colin?

OMJ: When I got the call from editor Keith Richardson I put Colin forward as co-writer because Dungeon Fun is the best UK all-ages comic of the last decade. I like the big concept stuff and the ‘throw it at the wall and see what sticks’. He’s a great wit, mostly at my expense, and has a great bullshit detector. We work well together.

Indio, unlike the other strips in REGENED, D.R. & Quinch has one unique artistic vision in Alan Davis, pretty much the only artist to have drawn the terrible two-some. Given that the previous work I've seen of yours is the wildly psychedelic and absolutely not all-ages Raygun Roads, how did you approach D.R. & Quinch artistically? Was there any thought to adapting your style for the D.R. and Quinch 2000 AD REEGENED strip, either with a view to the all-ages nature of the comic, or even in some way stylising it with a view to making it fir the Alan Davis mould? 

Indio: I could only do it as me as opposed to a knock off of Davis! Although I did re-read D.R.and Quinch’s Totally Awesome Guide to Life for the umpteenth time before starting it to really get my head in gear.

The thing that I think lends itself to the strip that I had covered is that Alan Davis always drew really demented looking throwaway characters in the pages of Harry Twenty, Captain Britain, and Marvelman. That really rubbed off on me as a kid; I’ve got sketchbooks full of fiends, goons and miscreants which Owen had seen most of so he knew i would be able to handle that side of things!

For those who haven't seen your previous work with Owen on Raygun Roads, can you give us an idea of the who, what, and whys of working together?

OMJ: INDIO! illustrated the first solo comic I wrote for release, Raygun Roads in 2013. We met on the UK underground comics circuit. We shared a love of music, Danger Diabolik and Pop comics with a capital ‘P’. Colin I met just before Raygun Roads came out. He was one of the first big vocal supporters of it. We’ve been firm friends and comic collaborators ever since. He lettered my series Beast Wagon and my upcoming graphic novel Reel Love. He’s the best there is.

Indio: I’ve been doing art for 2000 AD fanzines Dogbreath and Zarjaz and then came across AccentUK and got involved with their zombie, Western, and Robot anthologies. That Robot anthology segued into the Stephenson’s Robot strip that I’m still putting out with Dave West. Along the way, I had a meeting of minds with Owen Michael Johnson who got me to do some pieces of art for his Thaddeus Mist book. And off the back of that, after Owen saw what I could do, he wrote Raygun Roads for me - which is by far the most “Me” thing I’ve been involved with so far! Owen just knows which buttons to push when it comes to igniting my brain artwise. I just loved putting the art for that book together and it was a fevered experience for both of us.

Seeing as this is the first time I’ve grabbed you for these – and in fact, your first 2000 AD credit... a few old favourites... What are your first memories of reading 2000 AD?

OMJ: I didn’t read the Prog growing up. Admitting that will probably get me a year in the isocubes. I read the trade reprints in Waterstones. I loved the self-contained, finite stories like Halo Jones, Zenith and D.R. & Quinch. But all of it was pretty late on, I’d say my teens or early twenties. I’ve since come to not only appreciate the huge legacy but also massively enjoy the stories for pure entertainment. 

Indio: I was ill as a kid and an older cousin who had been buying 2000 AD since it first came out brought me a copy. It was the issue where Judge Death returns, with art by Brian Bolland. That was also my first exposure to Kevin o’Neill’s art and it completely twisted me!

What is your background, and what have you worked on thus far?

OMJ: My first solo comic was the aforementioned Raygun Roads, which was nominated for a British Comic Award, as was my 2015 series Beast Wagon (with John Pearson and Colin). I’m finishing up on my debut graphic novel as writer/artist, Reel Love, which is out next year through Unbound.

Indio: Art was really the only thing I’ve ever been any good at and it’s something that I did every day. But I’m kind of all over the place so I will be tattooing people one minute (which is my day job) and then painting or drawing or sketching and trying different styles another!

Free Comic Book Day is on 5th May. For more details visit the FCBD site...