The new all-ages 2000 AD Regened is out now – featuring the all-new strip, Scooter & Jinx – and we talk to the creative team behind this new series, James Peaty and Steve Roberts!
So, James, Steve, lovely to talk to you here – In fact, it’s the first time I’ve properly spoken to you at length Steve, although we did chat about your cover for 2000 AD Regened Prog 2246 recently in Covers Uncovered (right here).
Hopefully both of you are keeping safe, sane, and well after well, you know…
JAMES PEATY: Safe? Keeping out of trouble! Well? Touch wood! Sane? This is an open question…
Inside the last Regened Prog of 2021, you’re bringing us a completely new strip – Scooter & Jinx. So, first things first… what’s Scooter & Jinx all about?
JP: Scooter & Jinx is an outer space riff on that tried and tested genre staple: the odd couple on the lam. So there’s a bit of True Romance, Thelma & Louise with a dash of The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man. But unlike those stories our ‘road’ is the farthest reaches of the galaxy and our ‘odd couple’ are a golden alien war machine and a rascally anthropomorphic cat burglar.
JP: It’s a new strip so not based on anything pre-existing within 2000AD. The title and the basic idea is one I’ve had for a long time, but I wasn’t 100% sure what to do with it. But when Matt asked if I’d like to pitch something for the next Regened issue a lightbulb went off and I thought this might be the right place for it. Luckily, Matt agreed! Matt’s big contribution was to say: ‘Make it more alien’, so we ran with that. Steve especially!
The big problem with new strips is that it’s a hell of a lot of lead-in work for a one-off strip – although obviously there’s always the idea in the back of your heads (I’m sure) to structure it so there’s the possibility of returning to the world you’ve created.
JP: Definitely. These sort of strips are very much ‘pilot episodes’ if you like, so you want to end on a note where there’s a possibility of more stories over the horizon. But at the same time, the initial story itself has to work on its own terms. I think we’ve managed to do that. A LOT happens in 10 pages.
But in terms of prep work – as I said, I had the two main characters in mind from the start and a general direction, but a lot of it unfolds in the telling. And you respond to the artwork. I have some ideas about where it’ll go, but just looking at Steve’s work gets you thinking in a hundred different directions. I’ve recently been rewatching The Sopranos and it’s interesting watching the pilot again. Clearly, a lot of what the show would be was in David Chase’s mind already, but so much of it clearly isn’t. Same with Twin Peaks. I think both those shows are tonally certain from the start, but also narratively open. So that’s kind of what we were trying to do here. Suggest a world beyond the frame, but don’t be a prisoner to any preconceived notions.
Steve, how did you come onto Scooter & Jinx?
STEVE ROBERTS: After completing the Future Shock for Regened, I got in contact with Matt to enquire about the possibility of doing something else for the comic and I was really pleased when he sent over the Scooter and Jinx script. I really enjoyed the story and characters and liked the idea of illustrating a longer 10 page story.
I’d definitely like to do more Scooter and Jinx, they’re great to draw! But I’ve also got a perfectionist streak so I would love to have another go at developing them and their world a bit more. There are things I would like to do a bit differently if I could. I’ve always wanted to draw a full-on Sci-Fi story starring loads of aliens and absolutely no humans!
The world James had created seemed very solid and fully formed on the page.I really wanted to get straight into doing the rough page layouts as soon as possible.
Jinx was described as cat-like in the script. I sketched him a lot. Lots of thumbnails as he wasn’t looking right. A bit too ‘cool’. I think he ended up looking a bit Lynx-like. He was also described in the script as possibly being a bit like Nicholas Cage. I tried to bring a bit of Cage to the design but I’m not sure anybody would see that but me! Scooter was a bit easier to design.Her clothes were meant to be quite 50’s inspired. I don’t think I quite got that as I would have liked but I was pleased with the design in the end. I did a lot of the design work was I roughed out the page layouts actually which is quite unusual. I think the clarity of the story helped.I would like to draw them again as every time you draw a character you get more of a handle on them.
Steve, your particular 2000 AD story is one of breaking through in 2002 with work on Sinister Dexter, at least I think that was it?
SR: It was Sinister Dexter, yeah. It feels a long time ago now. It was all very new to me but I remember being over the moon to be drawing something for 2000 AD at last after a couple of years sending in sample artwork. The stories were great but challenging when you haven’t drawn comics for publication before. I do slightly wince when I see my art on those early strips now. Some things were ok but others were a bit off! They are great characters but I’m not sure I got it right. I’m not sure I could draw their world convincingly but it was fun.
And it all started off with Simon Davis I believe?
SR: I had finished my time in further education and I had spent most of the four years at college obsessed with the idea of doing comics. I was very single minded. Maybe a bit close minded really looking back. I could have possibly got more out of art college if I had been more interested in discovering other things. I got more interested in other subjects as I went along I think and some non-comics stuff did eventually sink in. After college I was a bit lost without the structure of education but still very committed to getting into 2000 AD. Simon kindly agreed to have a look through my portfolio, way before I got anything in print and he advised me. He gave lots of invaluable tips and gave me the confidence to keep sending sample art into 2000 AD until eventually I got in the comic. It was really great of him to help me out like that.
We’ve been friends ever since. I used to go over and work in his studio for a while which was always fun. Lots of tea and listening to bad radio plays whilst working. Very rock n’ roll. Most enjoyable times!
You worked at 2000 AD and the Judge Dredd Megazine until about 2010, one of only a few artists doing the more (for want of a better phrase) cartoony style, when the vogue was for more serious stylings. You also co-created, with Si Spurrier, the comedy strip Bec and Kawl, another rarity in 2000 AD. There was also your work on the final series of Banzai Battalion, picking up the artistic reins from Cam Kennedy, Ian Gibson, and Henry Flint. And on top of all that, you also brought your stylings to Judge Dredd in the Metro newspaper.
But, after co-creating another comedy, Black Atlantic, this time with Dan Abnett, for the Megazine, and altering your style hugely for the black and white Angel Gang, again with Si Spurrier, you disappeared from the pages of both the Prog and the Meg.
SR: Well, I believe 2000 AD, as an anthology, has always had more light hearted strips illustrated in a more ‘cartoony style’.
I loved those as a kid. I loved Ian Gibsons work and ACE Trucking of course. I was also into the comics other than so my style of drawing was just naturally cartoony I guess. That was the style I found the most enjoyable to draw in. My favourite comic as a kid was Asterix and also read Whizzer and Chips a lot. I liked drawing cartoons. Luckily I managed to find a place in the comic.
I really loved working with Si on Bec and Kawl. It was a very relaxed collaborative experience. His stories were excellent to work from and gave me so many great things to illustrate I really did get to draw anything I’d always wanted to. We’d have great chats about ideas on the phone and then off it went! I know some readers really didn’t like the strip but I’m fond of Bec and Kawl and still occasionally doodle them when I should drawing something else.
Banzai Battalion was really enjoyable too. I was a bit nervous about that one though. Working from a John Wagner script and of course lot of brilliant artists had worked on it in the past. I didn’t want to mess it up! I was actually relatively satisfied with the end result!
I think it was onto the Angel Gang stories with Si after that and thought I would challenge myself by trying a grittier style. I thought I would give it a go! Which really, just meant me adding more moody shadow and pen lines. In the end, I came to the conclusion that I preferred trying to make the art as immediate and clear as possible. I’d rather that than every panel looking like a standalone illustration which doesn’t help the story flow. I returned to a more cartoony style on Black Atlantic which was a series I would have liked to have drawn more of, but it wasn’t to be. They were great, funny adventure stories which is what I like to draw.
So, where did you go from there?
Over the years, I’d discovered Ghibli films and Krazy Kat and The Moomins and had fond memories of the TV series that Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin had produced. I started to enjoy drawing characters and comics that were for a younger audience. Really embracing the ‘cartoony’ I guess! Very few people saw these comics as they were just attempts at writing and drawing my own stuff and I was a bit self-conscious about them. I have always loved animation and back in college I had briefly thought about trying to become an animator but it was comics that won out.
I did start to lose my drive with comics a little over time though and then I watched an animated film called Belleville Rendezvous. I loved it and was so blown away that I decided I wanted to try and get involved in animation in some way even if it wasn’t as an animator. I did some enjoyable design work for an animation company called Slinky Pics which included designing a large silly city destroying stop frame animated monster for an advert. I loved it.
Then I applied for a job at Ragdoll Productions. Ragdoll was the company that created the TellyTubbies and In the Night Garden amongst many other classic shows including the fantastic Pob!
I was chuffed to get the job and before long found myself co-creating and writing 50 episodes of a 2D animated show called Dipdap which was shown on the BBC’s CBeebies. I really learned on the job and thoroughly enjoyed working with a small team of very talented animators. Dipdap went on to win a Childrens BAFTA award . During my time at Ragdoll I was also part of the writing team and a storyboard artist on the series The Adventures of Abney and Teal which was created by Joel Stewart. I was also Lead Creative and writer on Twirlywoos. This series was a mixture of live action and stop framed animated and there were 100 episodes. To be involved in a stop frame show was a dream come true as I had always loved the technique going back to Bagpuss, The Clangers, and Morph. I collaborated with Joel Stewart again on the 2D animated series B.O.T. and the Beasties which was a great show to work on. When BOT and the Beasties came to an end I was back in the world of illustration.
A rather successful (to say the least) career outside comics indeed! I think you’re the only art droid to have ever won a Bafta! Tharg must be very proud!
Now, the obvious question really is what brought you back in? I think your first returning work was that cover and the Future Shock strip in Prog 2246? Had you simply had enough of the fame and fortune afforded you in film and TV?
SR: I had never lost my interest in comics and I hoped that the years of storyboarding for TV may have helped me develop my skills further. When I saw the 2000 AD had started its own all ages version of the comic I had to get in touch to see if there was the possibility of getting involved.
And are you firmly settled back into comics now? Was it a weird thing to come back to them or have you always kept your hand in?
SR: I was a bit nervous drawing comics for 2000 AD again after such a long break but my confidence built as I went along. It felt like I slotted back into drawing comics again in a relatively stress free-way which was a relief – there wasn’t too much overthinking! – and I really enjoyed it.
James, this is your first visit to the world of Regened – any particular changes in the writing style for a new all-ages appeal strip?
JP: Yes, it’s my first Regened issue, but I’ve written a lot of all-ages stuff in the past. I did quite a lot of Marvel Heroes strips for Panini about 10 years ago, while I also wrote several issues of The Batman Strikes and Justice League Unlimited for DC around the same time. It’s been a while, but I like writing for that all-ages audience as the storytelling has to be very pure and direct. I’d say a bigger change is that you’re doing a 10 page, done-in-one story. That’s an odd length for 2000 AD, so you have to adjust to that.
With both Regened and the new Monster Fun series in 2022, we’re seeing Rebellion and 2000 AD going after the all-ages and kids readership like never before – what were your own experiences of getting into comics as readers?
JP: My experience of getting into comics as a kid was through re-runs of the Batman TV show in the late 70s. Because I loved that show my godmother bought me a collection of Batman strips from the 1930s to the 1970s as a Xmas present one year. Those reprints were the first comics I can remember reading. I must’ve been about 3 and a half, I guess?!? Those were great and I loved them, but the first comics I read regularly were British comics. I remember Speed issue 1 being the first comic I ever bought as it was advertised on TV. And then when it merged with Tiger I became a Tiger reader. Which meant I also started becoming aware of Roy of the Rovers, Eagle, Buster, Battle, and Scream!. I bought all of those throughout my primary school years, but then around 10 years old I started getting the Marvel UK titles such as Transformers, Action Force, Secret Wars, and Spider-Man & Zoids. I only started reading 2000 AD when I got into American comics when I went to secondary school around 1987/88. The point of this longwinded answer being: there was a conveyor belt of comics for you to ‘age up’ with. When you look back it really was a very special time to be a comics reading kid!
And how do you see the future of comics – do you think that the industry is moving into a good place for that future as far as engaging with younger readers?
SR: I think a version of the comic that can be enjoyed by younger readers is a brilliant idea. It’s also really pleasing to see Monster Fun on the shelves too. I got the issue that was released the other week and was laughing out loud! There seem to be a lot more comics for kids around these days and the quality is very high which is very heartening indeed.
JP: Well, I think the fact that more and more publishers are finally trying to engage that audience is a good thing. I do think there is a market/audience out there that isn’t just a graphic novel audience, but you need to be savvy with your content and format to make it work for you. But I think Rebellion’s moves into this area with the Regened issues and now Monster Fun are very exciting.
With more Regened and the new Monster Fun coming up in 2022 – what characters and strips would you love to play a part in bringing into either comic and delighting the kids with?
JP: I’ve just written a Cadet Dredd story for one of the 2022 Regened progs, which I loved doing. I’d love to have another crack at Dredd in the future. Maybe Strontium Dog? I’d love to write a Portrait of a Mutant era Johnny Alpha story. As for Monster Fun: well, who doesn’t love Faceache!
Finally, what’s coming up for both of you?
SR: In the future I plan to do more comics and I would like to illustrate children picture books too and possibly exhibit the non-illustrative drawings that I make when I get time. I’m also keen to continue working in TV and animation.
I’m currently working on an all ages comic with my friend Joel Stewart .Our collaboration with on Abney and Teal and B.O.T. and the Beasties was really enjoyable and we’ve spent a lot of time talking about comics over the years so we’ve decided to make one together. I can’t go into too many details at the mo but I’m really enjoying working on it.
JP: Apart from that Cadet Dredd, I have the final books of both Skip Tracer and Diamond Dogs coming to both 2000 AD and the Megazine in 2022. Hopefully more Scooter & Jinx too!
Thanks so much to both James and Steve for talking to us about Scooter & Jinx!
Make sure you catch up with their adventures in 2000 AD Regened Prog 2256 – out on 3 November from everywhere comics are sold, including the 2000 AD web shop!