The Future Shock has been the classic entry point for new writers and artists throughout the long history of 2000 AD, cautionary tales from the infinite worlds of the universe that have become the things of legend, their shocking ends a salutory lesson in hubris.
And in 2000 AD Prog 2257, out now, we get a Prog debutant on art duties on the Future Shock tale, Keyboard Warriors, written by Karl Stock. The artist is Rob Richardson who gets to draw his first Future Shock that takes us to a distant world, mineral-rich, with a mining company busy resettling the native people… with force if necessary. But, in Keyboard Warriors, the resettlement gets done remotely, drone invaders sitting comfortably many miles away in their little cubicles. Of course, as this is a Future Shock, what do you reckon happens when the natives on the next planet go on the offensive?
Now, let’s chat to Rob Richardson…
First of all, Rob, introductions are in order! So, who are you, what have you done, and how the devil are you?
RR: I’m good, thanks! I’m an illustrator living in Sheffield and working on a variety of stuff – storyboarding, video games, T-shirt designs, film production art and whatever comes my way.
In 2000 AD Prog 2257, you’ve got your debut work for the Prog, with the Karl Stack scripted Future Shocks: Keyboard Warriors.
What does it mean to you getting that first Prog credit?
RR: A credit in 2000 AD is an absolute highlight and, genuinely, something I’ve aspired to since I was a kid. I still can’t believe it.
Now, I’m hoping I’m not insulting you too much by saying you’re no spring chicken, having been working for 20+ years in advertising, film, TV, and games with storyboards and illustration. But am I right in saying you haven’t had all that much to do with comics over your career?
RR: As a teenager, I constantly drew my own stories (printed in Nick Percival’s first self-published comic in the 80s!), and got a job at Sheffield’s Nostalgia and Comics shop where I would meet and get advice from many established artists and writers.
I’d lug my portfolio to UKCAC and GlasCAC every year, and was courted by a few publishers but ended up taking a job in video games and focusing on that instead.
Well, it’s a small world indeed! You were at N&C Sheffield whilst I was working at N&C Birmingham (Now World’s Apart Birmingham).
RR: Ah, cool – was that with Phil Clarke at N&C?
That’s right. An absolute pioneer of comics retail here in the UK and my very first boss as a 16-year-old!
RR: It seemed like all the local artists either worked in or shopped at our branch- Nick Percival of course, Dean Ormston, Greg Staples, Si Spencer, Matt Brooker, Pete Doherty et al. Great times!
Great shops to work at! There was a real comics buzz in the air when I was at N&C. Must’ve been there as assistant manager for four or five years. I’m really pleased to be in the prog alongside Matt/ D’Israeli, he gave me my first brush pen back in the 90s when we traveled down to UKCAC.
That is definitely a who’s who of 2000 AD art droids coming from one store!
So, having moved away from comics, how did this debut in 2000 AD come about now?
RR: With the initial Covid lockdown most film production got halted and I had time to work on some sample comics pages. Drinking tea and talking comics with Nick Percival led to Nick kindly sending my pages to Tharg, who offered me the Future Shock.
Hah, that’s sort of how we got Dermot Power back to the Prog as well! Well, we’re glad to have you, film production’s loss is comics gain again!
So, you’ve been an artist since young and you’ve told us that getting into the Prog is something you wanted since you were a kid. I’m assuming you were with 2000 AD as a reader from early on?
RR: Oh yes, I read 2000 AD from Prog 1 (my Space Spinner’s stored in the loft) and picked it up every week from the newsagent, who wrote ‘Richardson’ on the cover in biro! I’ve always loved sci-fi and would read each issue over and over. It remains a fantastic comic and I’m always blown away by the quality of writing and art.
Okay then, while we’re talking quality art, what artists have influenced you over the years?
RR: In comics, I tend to look at old stuff such as Alex Raymond and Milton Caniff. I especially love EC comics, and many Marvel and DC silver and bronze age artists.
With 2000 AD, I leaned toward Mick McMahon and Ian Gibson as a child, copying their art and trying to understand how it was done.
And while we’re talking about art, how do you make yours?
RR: Process wise, I do fairly detailed thumbnails in pencil, around 13cm high, then these get scanned and enlarged to full-page size. I work over the thumbnails for digital pencils, then digital inks, and last I add grey tones.
Now, seeing as you’ve got your first gig a bit later in life, is there any advice you’d give to up-and-coming artists about getting into comics in general, and into 2000 AD in particular?
RR: In my experience, stick at it for about thirty-five years and doors will open! Seriously, though, it all comes down to storytelling, everything springs from that.
In the future, when you get the call to draw your dream 2000 AD strip, what would it be?
RR: I’ve actually had that call already, and I’m working on it now, but I imagine my goalposts will shift once I’ve finished it. I’d love to get to a point where I can write and draw my own strip.
Hey, congratulations on that dream strip, we’ll look forward to it!
Finally, what’s coming up for you in the near, or not so near future?
RR: Hopefully more 2000AD work, it really is a dream come true!
And finally, finally, I understand you might have a connection with a certain Sheffield zombie punk band? The wonderfully named Iron Sphincter-The Zombie Band.
RR: Well, I may or may not be the Archdeacon Of Gruyère for Iron Sphincter – I mean, it’s all for fun, but they’re totally anonymous, and the Archdeacon wears a full balaclava, bloodied lab coat, and has four arms! Iron Sphincter are trying out a new drummer next Tuesday, hopefully in time to rehearse our infamous Xmas carol service!
Now that sounds like a very cool Christmas gig!
That’s it for now from Rob Richardson, although you’ll be able to see more from him in 2022 with that dream 2000 AD job he was talking about. In the meantime, his first work at 2000 AD comes in Prog 2257, out from 10 November from all the best comic shops, newsagents, and the 2000 AD web shop.
And of course, should you want to check out Iron Sphincter – The Zombie Band, here’s there Twitter, and here’s just a hint of what they’re all about…
And finally, Rob was kind enough to send over his process pages – thumbnails, pencils, and inks, for the first couple of pages of what proves to be a damn fine debut and a great Future Shock, Keyboard Warriors.