With 2000 AD Prog 2220, it’s time to get REGENED once more, as we hand over control of the Galaxy’s Greatest to Joko Jargo, Tharg’s favourite nephew to bring you another astonishing assortment of all-ages thrill power for readers old and new!
Later in the year, you’ll be treated to the return of the hit series Pandora Perfect by Roger Langridge and Brett Parson, and the Dredd-world series Department K by Rory McConville and PJ Holden, but right here, right now, Prog 2220 has all the thrills of Action Pact by Michael Carroll and Luke Horsman to enjoy and a brand-new Dreddworld tale, Viva Forever, by David Baillie and Anna Morozova – and we’re pleased to be chatting all things Viva right here!
2000 AD Regened Prog 2220, is on sale from newsagents, comic book stores, and from the 2000 AD web shop on 24 February 2021.
Okay, David, Anna, Viva Forever…
When I saw the Thrills of the Future teaser image and the title, there was only one thought crossed my mind, you’re doing the long-awaited 2000 AD / Spice Girls crossover, aren’t you? Posh Spice as the silent assassin above, Ginger Spice as the Prog’s version of Captain Britain, wrapped in the Union Jack, Sporty Spice a superhuman athlete, backflipping her way into action.
Seriously, we’ve waited too long for this! But why now, so many years after the breakup? Do you know something we don’t? Is the world’s greatest girl group getting back together again?
David Baillie: Oh Grud – don’t! I was worried that Tharg would reject the idea based solely on the Spice Girls reference. And if he missed it on first viewing, he’ll be twice as likely to Rigellian Hotshot me now you’ve brought it up… Goodbye cruel wor-laaargh!
Anna Morozova: Well, when I first saw the name of the strip, ZZ Top’s ‘Viva Las Vegas’ sprung to mind before anything else did. Considering the strip’s premise though, it’s rather a good thing that I kept such an association to myself and didn’t channel it through the art this time (maybe next time, mind you).
Spice Girls’ ‘Viva Forever’ is probably closer to reality here; however, after having to Google the music video, I now realise I drew it all wrong! This being said, might there be a potential chance for a Space Girls reunion maybe? Who knows! Sad news to all those Space &/or Spice Girls fans from 2000 AD fandom for just now, I’m afraid… which shouldn’t discourage them from checking our strip out, of course – we made sure our Viva Forever is the-viva-forever-est-ever!
Okay, okay, so we’ll just have to get over the disappointment of not getting the 2000 AD / Spice Girls Special – maybe one for you both to develop for the future?
But in that case, just what is Viva Forever all about then?
AM: She’s an enigma wrapped up in a mystery. David, over to you here… but, as with my previous collaboration with David, Viva is set in Mega-City One, so the possibilities are endless.
DB: Viva Forever is the vaccine for the virus that is the Mega-City One Billionaire!
She’s an enigma, wrapped in a mystery, wrapped in a techno catsuit capable of evading quantum laser security grids!
She’s the most legendary thief to ever skulk the pedways of Mega City One, and she’s going to steal everything you ever dreamed you could hide from the world!
She’s also your new favourite Dreddworld character, with Viva Forever set firmly in the world of Judge Dredd. This is an attempt by Anna and myself to create a new solo character to capture the Dreddfans attention in a way that hasn’t happened since Chopper. Actually, that’s a good antecedent: Marlon Shakespeare, when he first appeared, immediately screamed ‘hello!’ and confidently took up space in Mega-City One lore. We hope that’s what we’re doing here with Viva.
Anna’s designs for the character are incredible – in fact they’re so good that I don’t even know if it’s possible for me to mess this up.
Although you’re planning something that’s initially a one-off strip for Regened, I’m presuming that there’s an element of world-building going on here, thinking of back-story, working up histories for the characters and the worlds, as well as formulating plans for any potential future for the strip?
DB: Anna and I have already discussed the potential for more Viva. My notebook is bursting at the seams (virtually – it’s a digital notebook these days) with ideas for what Viva Forever might steal next. We leave this story on an explosive high note that I honestly think is just begging for a sequel. We just hope that Tharg, and the readership, agrees.
Similarly, Anna, I’d assume there’s an awful lot more work involved for you in terms of designing everything?
AM: There’s a lot of work and fun involved. An exciting process, no doubt. Glad it’s limited by the page count and deadlines though! It was fantastic to design Viva Forever from scratch using David’s guidelines. World-wise, MC-1 already exists, I just had to illustrate some bits of it to my current ability. Personally, I always focus on the story first, I don’t spend much time on doing sketches and variants – I just start the page and see where it takes me and what comes to mind, really. I know that if I dedicate too much time to pre-production work, the ultimate choices will be harder to make and the focus might shift from the story to details that might not be relevant – or, at worst – distracting. It’s a complicated balancing act: keeping pages visually appealing, yet clear.
You’ve worked together before, on Judge Dredd Megazine issue 423’s Tales From The Black Museum: The Obsidian Ingress, dealing with a Death Cult operating MC-1, working possession rituals from dead Judge’s helmets.
DB: As soon as I saw Anna’s art for that Black Museum story I knew I wanted to work with her again. I’m a huge fan of her work, and I’m so glad we’re getting this chance to do another project together. In that story, she captured perfectly a spooky menace and dramatic tension that many veterans would struggle with. In this tale, she’s nailed a level of intricate world-building and action-based storytelling that I think will blow people away. I hope I’m not embarrassing her when I say that I’m pretty sure she’s going to be a huge star in a few years’ time.
AM: Black Museum was my second gig with Rebellion, and I felt very much privileged to work with David on his script. I was delighted when I found out that David liked my interpretation of his ideas and I’m happy we’re working together again.
Anna, with your art on Viva Forever, have you made any particular changes to your style here?
AM: My style is still evolving, it’s still in the making. It has been changing for the past couple of years and I hope it will continue to do so going forward. My sequential work is primarily influenced by European comics art, which hopefully comes across in the most recent job here on Viva Forever. I’m never 100% happy with what I do and try to push myself more and more with every job that comes along, whilst keeping my mind open for as diverse briefs as possible. It’s hard for me to analyse my own work, I’d rather leave it to the editor and readers to judge.
Are you colouring your own work with Viva Forever?
AM: No, the brief specifically requested the line art to be fairly open for one of 2000 AD’s amazing colourists to do their magic on it. As of now, I’m still to find out who the colourist on the strip is – which is extremely exciting for me as I’ve never seen my work coloured by someone else! I’m sure they’ve done a brilliant job on it.
How are you working now – traditional, digital, a mix of both? And can you describe to us the process involved in making your art?
AM: All my sequential work has been done digitally so far. Me being my naive self I have been under the impression that digital art is very beneficial in terms of the production process… and I was sort of right. It gives you the power to change things you’re not happy with, shift panels if needed, zoom 1,000,000x times closer to details – you name it. It’s also closely related to the fear of making a mistake and having to live with it afterwards – the temptation to constantly alter work is real.
The funniest thing is that even after making God-knows-how-many-changes – I’m still thinking of those panels I would do differently, so what’s the point? Where’s the rock’n’roll in all that? I applaud professionals who can make digital artwork quickly for themselves and I’m a huge admirer of the ‘digital’ aesthetic in comics myself, but I think it’s now the time for me to go as traditional with comics as possible; or at least mix both to my best ability.
I truly enjoy working traditionally and I would very much like to allow myself to take up such a route from now on. Needless to say, I find traditional pencilling and inking way faster and more therapeutic (personally speaking, of course).
As an illustration of that point, Anna was kind enough to send along an example of her working traditionally – a couple of stages of a Hershey drawing from her Instagram feed –
AM: A bit of detail here on the process. I always start by sketching the emotions and gestures of given characters (it obviously looks like a hot mess at first) rather than work on thumbnails and layouts to begin with. My way of working is far from linear; I construct pages around characters once I know what they’re doing within the page limits. If I switch to traditional comics art, this process will surely have to get more concise since I will no longer have the luxury of putting together the jigsaw of small elements scattered across the pages. Once I’m happy with the initial sketched features, I start pencilling over them – this time ensuring that proportions and anatomy aren’t too off whilst trying to maintain the original energy of the roughs.
Again, Anna sent along pencil and ink versions of page 2 of Viva Forever…
As far as Viva Forever is concerned, where would you see the strip going forward, either in Regened or as a part of 2000 AD?
DB: I’d be delighted to bring Viva back for either the regular Prog or another Regened. We’ve designed her to, hopefully, be quite a versatile addition to the MC-1 mythos. It’s almost in her DNA to pop up wherever she’s needed, like some sort of narrative multitool, that steals all your stuff.
AM: I think Viva Forever’s character has got great potential to go in multiple directions. I would personally be very much wanting to explore this character more, develop her further, visualise her future (or past) path if I get the opportunity: be it in Regened or 2000 AD’s main line.
As this is for Regened, what sort of changes have you made to your work to fit in with the all-ages brief of these Regened Progs?
AM: Luckily for some, you can still find some ‘drokks-n-gruds’ on the strip’s pages – the acceptable face of profanity! Art-wise, I can’t think of any specific changes I had to apply to my way of working. My own style is still very much in development I would say. My goal here was to visualise the story in a clear and engaging way, whilst doing the script justice. Did I succeed? We’ll soon find out.
I tried to not think too much about any specific age group while completing my job. Audience preferences vary greatly within any demographic category, and once you start prioritising a certain group of readers over another, the results can be absolutely unpredictable. What is popular in some ways doesn’t always equate to financial success. Ultimately, your work will be loved by some, hated by others or completely ignored altogether. Trying to change your style unless it’s specified in a brief can either fly or flat-line miserably. If I’m asked to complete a specific job, then it tells me that there’s a certain expectation from me, along with trust, otherwise, I wouldn’t be assigned the gig. Yet again, there’s a fine line between staying true to your artistic voice and being so self-indulgent that your vision gets in the way of the job you were asked to do as an illustrator. One of many things I love about 2000 AD is the variety of work you can witness while reading it.
The all-ages specials are a great platform to reach out to new audiences whilst giving them enough variety to see, comprehend and choose from, and this is what makes 2000 AD stand out personally to me. We’re simply asked to be ourselves, which helps maintain the fun and energy that, if faked, readers may see right through.
In the foreseeable future, all I do will be somewhat new, there will hopefully always be a shift; but not because I make changes to my existing style (there’s still a long way for me to go), but simply because I want to do the best job I possibly can whilst answering the brief.
DB: I just write what I usually do and then perform a ‘search and replace’ for swearing and any mentions of communism (currently deemed taboo by the British Government’s new education edicts and likely to get us banned in just the kind of establishments we’re trying to infiltrate).
We also made it fun. Kids love fun. I remember that from when I was one.
My favourite Regened story so far was the young Strontium Dog yarn by Alec Worley and Ben Willsher: a standalone story, with a proper beginning, middle and end, loads of fun and it looks great. We’ve stolen that disarmingly simple formula and we’re pretty confident it’s going to lead to fame and riches.
I love writing for younger readers, and one of my very few complaints about my career to date is that I haven’t have the time to do more of that. I learned really early on that you can’t speak down to kids with your stories, and that they can spot a fake, or dumbed down version of a story a million miles away.
I really enjoyed writing the Gronk story for an earlier Regened, and to be honest, a bit like this one, there isn’t much I would change if it were in a regular Prog.
As far as the all-ages nature of Regened is concerned, how do you think comics for children is going to succeed in the future?
DB: I’m a bit surprised that a young reader-led digital revolution hasn’t happened yet, but I imagine it will. Now that so much of our culture and lives take place online, physical distribution is a bottleneck in the process of getting books into eager hands.
There’s so many great comics being created for younger readers right now, it really is a publishing golden age. And luckily we have Raina Telgemeier and Dave Pilkey, who between them have created this rising tide that’s lifting all the other boats. They should be sainted, knighted and have airports named after them.
AM: This is a question that remains very open for discussion. I think that ultimately, the more you try to force a solution, the more resistance it may potentially get. It is difficult to shape an answer as we live in the age where new trends come and go so quickly it’s almost impossible to keep track of it all. Interestingly, the more you try to follow the trends and shift your style to what’s popular at the moment, the less of a personal voice gets left in your work. Even more so, the work may face the risk of becoming ‘of its time’. Yet again, the trends shouldn’t be ignored completely, and it’s important for comics as a medium to remain reactive to them without falling into the trap of wiping off their own identity and legacy. I suppose experimenting with existing and upcoming digital platforms can be utilised, but with caution.
And finally, as we always like to ask, what can we expect from both of you this year, whether 2000 AD related or elsewhere?
DB: I’m writing the Chopper section of the just-announced 2000 AD Sci-Fi Special this year, which has been curated by the mega-team of Michael Carrol and Maura McHugh. I also have a few projects that should have appeared last year but, y’know… so they should start popping up soon. I think?
AM: I’ve recently completed a Future Shock written by John Tomlinson, which will hopefully see print soon. It’s a much darker affair than Viva Forever art-wise. Hopefully more Viva Forever? Will see what the future holds!
Thank you to both David and Anna for chatting Viva Forever with us – you’ll be able to read it for yourselves in the brand-new Regened Prog 2220, out on 24 February and available right here at the 2000 AD web shop.
You can find more from David Baillie in this interview (along with Rob Davis) on his brilliant The Trouble With Gronkses from Regened Prog 2170, this interview (with Brendan McCarthy) on Chopper: Wandering Spirit, and find him online at his website and Twitter. Anna Morozova can be found on Twitter and Instagram.