He's the ultimate hot-footed anti-hero - introducing SKIP TRACER!
New series from Doctor Who comics writer and Judge Dredd veteran artist Paul Marshall begins in the latest issue of 2000 AD!
2 months ago
He's the ultimate hot-footed anti-hero: this week’s 2000 AD unveils Skip Tracer, a brand new sci-fi action series from Doctor Who writer, James Peaty!
Written by Peaty (Doctor Who, Supergirl), with art by Paul Marshall (Judge Dredd), colours by Dylan Teague (Judge Dredd, Jonah Hex), and letters by Simon Bowland (Sandman Universe) this brand new series debuts in 2000 AD Prog 2081, out on 16th May in the UK and Ireland, and 11th July in North America.
What’s a Skip Tracer? What’s the series all about? Who is Nolan Blake? What’s the truth behind the Cube?
Richard Bruton sat down to talk SKIP TRACER: HEAVY HANGS THE HEAD with James Peaty to get some answers. Paul sends his apologies – Tharg has him in detention to hit some deadlines and he couldn’t come out to play this time!
You're bringing a totally new series to 2000 AD: Skip Tracer. Now, a skip tracer is, according to my definition, "someone who locates a fugitive, someone defaulting a debt, or a missing person". Is this what Skip Tracer in 2000 AD is going to be about?
James Peaty: Certainly that’s the starting point for the series. Skip Tracer is about a character called Nolan Blake who lives and works inside a place known as ‘The Cube’, a sort of floating sink estate/refugee camp in space. Nolan’s a former Earth Consociation Shock Trooper – with slightly psychic abilities - who was invalided out of the service and has washed up in ‘The Cube’ where he’s become a Skip Tracer for hire.
So it’s about Nolan doing that job in a place where the undesirables of the universe come to hide. But there’s more to it than just the ‘format’ of the series as Nolan’s history, the nature of the Consociation and the environment of ‘The Cube’ itself are very much central parts of the 9-part series.
What can we expect from the series?
JP: Well, in a sense it’s a classic 2000 AD premise: unique location, slightly underdog protagonist, a tweak on a recognisable genre and a whiff of anti-authoritarianism. Overall though, I think it’s a fast, engaging, snappy, but also quite blues-y series. Quite character led and – hopefully – very new reader friendly.
In creating an entirely new strip for 2000AD, where do you start?
JP: Well, Tharg had commissioned me to do a few Future Shocks and a 3riller, which seemed to go down well, and so I arranged to meet his emissary Cyber-Matt at a convention in London last summer where I was doing a panel for Titan. We had a quick chat about pitching something longer, but it wasn’t a very detailed chat. More a case of getting an idea of what areas were maybe laying a bit fallow. So I went away, came up with the title and a notion of the lead character, which was sort of halfway there. I think Matt mentioned it needing a more defined and unique environment, which is when I went away and came up with The Cube. And that was the element that kind of clicked the whole thing together. I think we met at the con in late August and I was writing the first script by late September.
How closely have you worked with Paul Marshall on Skip Tracer?
JP: We’ve done it in the old fashioned way: I write the scripts and Paul draws it! I think two scripts were written when Paul came onboard, but I think more than talking about how closely you work together it’s how the art influences the writing.
Certainly, as I was writing the rest of the series – and even more so after I saw Paul’s art for Ep1 - the fact it was Paul drawing the strip influenced the way I thought about Nolan and the world around him. All for the better too.
Comics is about that writer/artist alchemy and I think there’s some nice alchemy going on in this series.
2000 AD has always been a comic where the iconic, established characters dominate, but also one where there's always a place for a completely new series. The mix works, but the new strips add new layers and prevent the comic simply becoming a nostalgia exercise full of classic characters. How do you see the mix of new and old in the Prog?
JP: I think you have to get a mix of the old and the new. No comic – whether it’s an anthology or not – can survive on nostalgia, so new strips, new ideas and – more to the point – new creators are key.
In the case of 2000 AD, I think that’s even more important as the new becomes the old very quickly in a weekly comic! But there’s also a lot to be said for the return of the classic strips and creators. I’ve been really enjoying reading the new Strontium Dog series by Wagner/Ezquerra and the recent Pin stories in Dredd by Rob Williams/Chris Weston have been excellent. Like anything, it’s a balance.
Personally, as a reader, I think the most important thing is having a range of strong, distinctive and well-told stories with unique POV’s in any given Prog. That’s what I’ve always liked about 2000 AD and – for my money – that’s when the comic’s at its strongest
James, you've been published both here and in the States, with your credits including Titan Comics' Doctor Who, X-Men for Marvel, and Supergirl, Green Arrow, JSA, and JLA at DC Comics. But you started your 2000 AD career with Future Shocks and Skip Tracer is your very first 2000 AD longer form strip? How important do you think these short tales are, both in terms of finding new talent and giving the Progs a variety of tales?
JP: I think they’re vital. My first 2000 AD commissions were Future Shocks and 3rillers. And, while I wasn’t new to comics, I was new to 2000 AD. So the shorter strips were a chance to prove a) I could fit into the voice and tone of 2000 AD and b) reacquaint myself with writing shorter form stories. Towards the end of last year I wrote some Doctor Who again for Titan, after doing a lot of 2000 AD work back-to-back, and it was interesting how much more decisive my writing felt in the 22 page format.
Working for 2000 AD isdefinitely like being sent to writing boot camp! As for finding new talent: well, I think you only have to look at someone like Rory McConville to see how important Future Shocks and 3rillers are for finding and developing new talent. I think he’s a very talented writer who’s really honed and developed his craft through working on those strips. But the list is endless: Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Pete Milligan, John Smith, Si Spurrier and Al Ewing are some of the best writers the comic has produced and they all cut their teeth on Future Shocks.
How pleasing is it to finally get the nod from Tharg to play some more in 2000 AD?
JP: Oh, it’s been brilliant. I’ve been lucky to write some pretty famous characters down the years, but writing for 2000 AD feels special. Maybe it’s because it’s a British comic and that you’re also following in a tradition of creators rather than simply writing characters? I don’t know. To be brutally frank, I never thought I’d work for 2000 AD. I had a pretty bad experience with the comic around about 1997/8 when I was starting out and it sort of put me off. It wasn’t until I worked with people like Ian Culbard and Rob Williams over at Titan on Doctor Who - and saw what they were doing within the comic - that I started to think seriously about knocking on the door. I’m very pleased that I did.
Finally... what’s next for you after Skip Tracer?
JP: I have a Tharg’s 3riller – drawn by Andrea Mutti – which is out in August, I believe and I’m about to start writing another 3riller – this time for Dylan Teague to draw – which loosely spins off from the recent Future Shock Dylan and I worked on in Prog 2073. I’d love to have a crack at something Dredd-related at some point, but I think you have to be asked! ;)