When the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic was taken over by Tharg’s nephew Joko-Jargo for the very special all-ages 2000 AD Regened Prog 2130, one of the strips everyone wanted to see more of was Alex de Campi and Eduardo Ocaña’s Full Tilt Boogie.
Well, the great news is that this wonderfully fun tale of family, with teenager Tee, her Grandmother, and their cat all working as some kind of bounty hunters from the patched together spaceship, the Full Tilt Boogie of the title, is getting a full series, beginning in 2000 AD Prog 2185.
We chatted to Alex de Campi and Eduardo Ocaña about the origins of Full Tilt Boogie.
Read on to discover what we can expect in the new series, how things might have changed from that initial all-ages strip to what we’re going to see in 2000 AD, how sci-fi suits family sagas perfectly, and whether the ship’s cat really does have an inter-dimensional portal for a stomach….
Full Tilt Boogie debuted in Prog 2130, the 2019 2000 AD Regened Prog. And the story there was particularly fun, with a real sense of the space opera, space odyssey to it, feeling almost Saga-like with the sense of a self-contained little family unit with a whole strange universe to explore – although obviously with less of the adult stuff.
Firstly, for those new to the strip, what’s the whole thing about?
Alex de Campi: Tee is a young bounty hunter who is always short on cash and sometimes also short on a plan, and she travels the galaxy with her grandmother and a cat, whose name is Cat, and who may or may not have a portal to another dimension in its stomach. While trying to rescue the Luxine Empire’s wayward Prince Ifan and collect a bounty on him, she accidentally re-awakens the last remains of the Empire’s mortal enemies, an Anubite warrior and Horus, its (rather rotten and possibly senile) war computer. Just like that, Tee is now Public Enemy Number One.
In that first episode back in the 2000 AD Regened Prog, we ended things with Horus wondering if now they take over the Universe after the black shrouded character dispatches the Borrower bears in speedy fashion… is that what we can look forward to here or have you pulled back slightly from the universe conquering (for now at least)?
AdC: Well, Tee is still just trying to collect her bounty, ditch Ifan with the fangirl paying it, and then go to the beach. Unfortunately, everybody else thinks she wants to start an interstellar war and the Luxine Empire is in a “shoot first and ask questions later” mood. But Tee isn’t the only teen pulled into this mess against her will…
Another obvious thing to cover… where did the genesis of Full Tilt Boogie come from, this wonderful space opera thing which works perfectly for all-ages?
AdC: It’s completely from my childhood love of Gatchaman and Space Battle Cruiser Yamato, which streamed in bad English dub on Saturday mornings on TV when I was a kid (as Battle of the Planets and Star Blazers, respectively). So with the Luxine Knights (you’ll meet them) there’s a sense of the Gatchaman super-sentai team, and there’s a dash of Captain Harlock in there, but I took all that and then thought, “what if these kids were just really normal kids in the middle of this incredibly abnormal situation?”
Full Tilt Boogie deliberately avoids the classic orphaning of the hero of the piece, beloved by fantasy writers, and involves Tee and her Grandmother (and the cat) as a family unit, operating together, hunting down those bounties. What’s the attraction for you of keeping that family unit together and involving them all in the adventure?
AdC: Orphaning is such a cheap stunt; people only do it so they don’t have to write too many characters or to provide a thrift-shop method of character actualisation. I’m a single mom myself; I still take care of my own mother. I wanted Tee to have a family. Families are good. And Grandma is an awesome character who’s really fun to write.
The initial story was a good 10-pages of done in one strip, setting out everything you needed to know about the characters and the world they’re in whilst still telling a satisfying mini tale with its own beginning, middle, and end. Given that you packed all that much into what was, if it were in the regular Prog, two five-page episodes, will you be keeping that level of density to the series or will you take advantage of the extra page count this time to slow things down at all?
AdC: It’s still pretty dense. Five to six pages per prog is not a lot of space, but I am cognizant of allowing Ed space to really show his stuff. So every so often, we let it breathe a little. It’s a tough balance: wanting to provide a good read in that short space, with letting people soak in the wonderful environment Ed has created.
The initial episode certainly had plenty of explosions, destruction, mayhem and its fair share of peril, albeit without the bloodshed – robotic bears can been blown apart at will without going up an age range.
Was there any thought to changing the all-ages tone of Full Tilt Boogie for the series in 2000 AD? Or, hopefully, was it always seen as something that could and should fit perfectly in the pages of 2000 AD as many strips in the past could easily be seen, at least partly, as all-ages in terms of content and tone, if not in the concepts or language used?
AdC: We kept it all-ages. I may be guilty of obeying the letter and not the spirit of the ratings law here and there, but: kids need comics! Kids should have comics! This doesn’t mean the book isn’t gripping or scary and bad things don’t happen. Trust me, there’s plenty drama and boom-boom.
Eduardo Ocaña: The idea is to develop Full Tilt Boogie maintaining that tone, I’m attracted graphically to move away from using bloody visuals and instead get tension and atmosphere by working the reactions of the characters to the violent situations.
Taking that a little further, one thing I always find frustrating when talking to teachers about reading in general and comics in particular is that idea of only allowing children to read at their current reading level. It seems obvious that children should read what they want, will read what they want, and can certainly read above their level. They may not understand it all, but as long as they engage with the work in some way, they will find the desire to learn, to understand what they can’t yet understand, to learn that new vocabulary.
Do you see strips such as Full Tilt Boogie serving as a good way of making the Prog more accessible to younger readers, the sort of readers who’ll love your strip but might also be intrigued with some of the other strips?
AdC: Yes. Maybe having things like this will convince parents to buy 2000 AD for their kids, or at least for parents to share their own copies of the Prog with the small’uns. Again, I don’t think this will be a bad read for grownups. It has teen characters but it’s still a read that adults can enjoy and be thrilled by. And I agree on kids should be able to challenge themselves on reading level. I read so much that was too old for me when I was a kid, it made me the horrible deviant I am today.
EO: I agree. In the drawing, I try to develop something similar, simplifying the storytelling as much as possible but always trying to keep a strong technical base underpinning the art. I really hope readers of other strips enjoy FTB, that would be perfect. In the end, it’s about enjoying a great 2000 AD science fiction universe.
This is Eduardo’s first work for 2000 AD although both of you have worked together on Messiah Complex at Les Humanoïdes Associés. How did that initial collaboration come about?
EO: Through an editor of Les Humanoïdes Associés. I think it was a gift to me starting in comics with such a project, it really marked me deeply in the way I draw.
AdC: Philippe, our editor at the time, introduced us! We really enjoyed working with each other and I stayed in touch with Ed. He’s so good at building exciting, fresh-feeling sci-fi environments, *and* at being able to draw a broad variety of characters… besides, 2000 AD has a fine tradition of welcoming the best in Spanish comic art, no?
Oh yes, absolutely!
As far as I’m aware there’s not been an English language version of Messiah Complex as yet. It seems a shame that those of us with terrible French (I hold my hand up here) haven’t had the chance to read it – is there any possibility of an English version in the future?
AdC: That’s with Humanoids! I wouldn’t think so, at this point. I barely know anyone there these days. All the folks from my time with the publisher are now at places like Glénat.
EO: Never say never!
How does the collaboration between yourselves work in practice?
AdC: Ed and I talk a lot — at the same time he was drawing Full Tilt Boogie, he was also doing a section of my book MADI with Duncan Jones. I wrote all of the current Full Tilt Boogie arc in one go and sent all (from memory) ten episodes to Tharg and Ed at the same time, and Ed’s been sending us layouts and step by step. Because we’d done the first episode already, there wasn’t much development that needed to be done, and what there was — well, I trust Ed. It’s very friendly and relaxed.
Eduardo, the look for that original Full Tilt Boogie strip is, for want of a better description, something of a clean-line Euro style, where your lead characters have that simple line, little shading, solid forms. But alongside that, you have some wonderfully realised and detailed backgrounds, full of some lovely textures. Add in the subtle, almost muted colour palette of the strip and it’s something that really looks quite different from much we see in 2000 AD.
How did you come to this style for Full Tilt Boogie?
EO: The clean-line Euro-style is the graphic style which most identifies my art and where I find my strongest influences. The graphic ideas of FTB arose from continuing to find influence from the art of Moebius, creating an atmosphere and backgrounds with watercolor with an image in my mind from how Juan Gimenez works science fiction.
Can you tale the readers through a little of the creative decisions to get to the final artwork?
EO: Thinking on that curious mix between Moebius and Gimenez, a mix that we see continuously in Anime, I decided to digitally work the characters with simple colours and superimpose them on watercolor backgrounds. I also like to work the ink line with drawing pen nibs to maintain the look of clean-line Euro style.
Will the new series of Full Tilt Boogie continue in this same style?
EO: Oh yes… but getting better and more interesting all the time!
Obviously, there’s such scope in Full Tilt Boogie for a lot more adventuring with Tee and the gang.
Firstly, I’d imagine there’s been a lot of work put into the strip already by both of you to establish just what this world is all about?
AdC: Yes, there’s a lot of worldbuilding around the action in this arc.
But, after this first longer series, are there plans in place to continue the adventures onboard the Full Tilt Boogie?
AdC: Oh yes, absolutely! Although the end of the arc is (we hope) a satisfying conclusion, there’s a lot more story to tell with these characters in this universe. It’s a space epic about friendship and found families. Hopefully readers will like the current arc and we’ll be invited back to do more!
Finally, just a couple of things…
Firstly, where did the Full Tilt Boogie title & ship’s name come from?
AdC: It was the name of a friend’s Etchells (a class of racing sailboat I used to race in Hong Kong) and I always thought it was a really neato name for a ship. It was also the name of Janis Joplin’s band.
Secondly, are we going to discover whether the cat really does have a stomach that’s a portal to another dimension? Or for that matter, just what the ‘cat’ really is?
AdC: Discovery is overrated. If you remove all the mystery from a cat, is it indeed still a cat?
And with that, Alex laughed and said farewell…
Our huge thanks to Alex and Eduardo for talking Full Tilt Boogie with us. You can see the new strip begin in Prog 2185 – out June 10. And the first Full Tilt Boogie adventure is available in 2000 AD Prog 2130.