Out right now – the latest 2000 AD Regened – Prog 2280 – has hit the stands and is packed with all-ages action and thrills for you and your younger Earthlets!

Inside, there’s five strips of wonderful things, including more of everyone’s favourite lawman of the future, Cadet Dredd, the adventures of a young Marlon Shakespeare in Chopper, an AI nightmare of a Future Shock, magical misadventures with the kids of Lowborn High, and post-apocalyptic classroom chaos when the kids of Class Omega-Default IV return in The Unteachables by Karl Stock and Xulia Vicente.

Introducing The Unteachables! Art by Xulia Vicente

Hi Karl, Hi Xulia… The Unteachables is a new strip in name only, as the kids from Class Omega-Default IV have already appeared before in Regened, back in Prog 2130’s Future Shock: That Weird Kid.

The Weird Kid ended with the class triumphant and a group of anarchic, rebellious kids running the school. So, I suppose the first things to ask are… what made you decide to bring the class back in the Unteachables?

KARL STOCK: I’m not sure when it struck me, but I was toying around with ideas for what might work for 2000AD Regened in an all-ages context and remembering how much I loved the Bash Street Kids when I was young. They were briefly my favourites until 2000AD and Star Wars hit around age 7 or 8.

I absolutely see what you mean with the Bash Street Kids. And it’s something that was there with Carl Giles’ kids in his fabulous cartoons – kids, go ask Grandpa!

KS: At some point it just landed that I had already created – with artist Brett Parson, whose great character and world designs are a massive part of this story – a group who fitted that mould exactly, in my first Future Shock for 2000AD Regened back in 2019, That Weird Kid. But this realisation was a pretty meandering process; the Shock always existed as a done-in-one in my mind, and my efforts since have gone into more Future Shocks and various bits for specials. General ‘learning the comic writing trade’ stuff. I guess I rediscovered These Weird Kids when I felt ready to.

Miss Hitts is ready to teach! Unteachables art from Xulia Vicente

So you have the idea of the feral kids running riot a la Baxendale but then it’s taken a sci-fi step by shifting it to some post-apocalyptic future setting. One thing I really liked was how you’ve not gone to great lengths to really explain what the hell’s going on outside the classroom up to this point. A great example, of course, is Slug and how it’s never brought up about how alien he is – a simple visual proof that this really isn’t the Earth we know – if it even is Earth that is! And of course there’s the puzzle over Arthur and the technology involved there.

Now with this second Unteachables – we can retroactively go back and call That Weird Kid an Unteachables, right? – it’s still got all the Bash Street kids anarchy but there’s more of a Walking Dead vibe about the thing. You’ve expanded the series to look more to the outside world, hell-hole that it is, and what the other survivors are doing there.

KS: Put simply, the premise in my mind is, ‘what is school like in a dystopian sci-fi future?’ There are all sorts of avenues to explore in this world, which we’ve seen a little of in the first page or two here – perhaps we can explore more of them in future?

Absolutely! So then, what sort of things can we expect from this new episode?

KS: A story that hopefully takes them out of the thinly-sketched world of that one-off and gives their situation a bit more context and structure. I was aiming for one part Bash Street Kids, one part 2000AD Regened, and one part Kids Rule OK from Action – which is an ambitious blend, but I’ll try to keep honing it if we see them again.

And also this episode, we have a new artist on board, as Xulia replaces Brett Parson on art – how did this come about?

KS: As soon as the strip was commissioned I asked Tharg, aka editor Matt Smith, if Brett would be able to come back – but I’d missed the boat, he was already busy with the outstanding Pandora Perfect. Xulia was Matt’s choice, and she’s done a great job as a more than capable replacement.

I like to say hello to every artist who’s commissioned to draw one of my strips, and usually we exchange pleasantries and they get on with it. That was kind of the same here, but Xulia was keen to double-check references and things like that – I suspect she found it difficult recreating some of the characters from Brett’s original pages, where all we saw was maybe one side of their face once. I reckon that would be a tough job for any artist.

Meet The Weird Kid – the original Unteachables tale from Prog 2130 – art by Brett Parson

KS: By the way, it’s important here to pay tribute to Brett once more – only maybe two or three of the ensemble cast in the Unteachables were characters I’d described in the first script, who they’ve become in the new story was all extrapolated from the life he brought to them in the brief glimpses we saw in the Future Shock.

Xulia’s carried that on, her pages and characters are lively and real, and there’s something pleasingly Marvelesque about a lot of the action. I’m lucky to have had them both work in this world, and colourist Matt Soffe and letterer Simon Bowland of course.

Xulia, have you enjoyed coming in and stamping your own look on Class Omega-Default IV?

XULIA VICENTE: It sure was a fun pack of feral kids to work with! The source material was great and even if we don’t know much about each of the characters, their designs already have so much personality that it was easy for me to imagine them alive in my head. I also got to introduce a few new characters, so I can just hope they blend well with the cast!

One of Xulia Vicente’s new characters fro The Unteachables – The Ticky Man!

How did this new partnership come about and how did the relationship develop to get the strip finished?

XV: I had worked on a small strip for 2000AD previously [Oh yes, the Judge Death rocking out strip in the 2018 Sci-Fi Special- interview right here], so editor Matt contacted me again for this one. Then Karl reached out to me too to discuss any doubts I could have, and was so kind as to provide a few references I was missing and clarify some parts of the script. English is not my first language so I sometimes struggle to fully understand descriptions, so Karl was really helpful there.

Xulia, you’re coming on to The Unteachables after that initial episode by Brett Parson – I think it’s safe to say that you have very complementary artistic styles and the transition is near seamless – but did you have any thoughts of changing your art at all for The Unteachables?

XV: Well I’m flattered that you’d see a resemblance to Brett’s pages! I guess you could say our styles align well, sure, though I also think part of the merit is thanks to Matt Soffe’s colours and Simon Bowland’s letters, I feel they help the strips blend a lot.

So… even with Brett’s strip as reference, I didn’t really make significant changes to my art style for this. I tend to trust the editor’s choice when they hand me a job and just do my own thing. However, I do feel like adding more blacks and more of a baroque style when working for 2000 AD, mainly because it’s the vibe it brings and also because scripts have more panels per page and more information per panel than I normally do.

Yeah, don’t you hate it when that happens? – Unteachables art by Xulia Vicente

When it came to putting the art together for the Unteachables (and for your other work), how do you approach the story, what’s your process?

XV: When I work with someone else’s script, I like to read them through a few times, with some time in the middle (if I’m lucky with the schedules). It helps settle a mood and flow for the story in my head, and lay down any doubts I have for the writer. Then I draw a small storyboard (lately I’ve improved at actually making them somewhat readable for people other than myself) and hand it to whoever needs to see it (Karl in this case).

Storyboarding the Unteachables – Xulia Vicente’s layouts

XV: I designed two characters for this story from the description handed by Karl. Really nothing fancy: I look through references and sketch until something comes out. I also made sure to sketch and properly list all of the kids, since I only had Brett’s strip as reference for them.

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XV: From then on, it’s easy: draw the pages. I work with red pencil, a brush and ink, on a Din A3 format. I should really stop stacking paper at home and switch to digital processes, but I just can’t bring myself to work on a screen 24/7…

And a final Unteachables page from Xulia before Matt Soffe and Simon Bowland work their magic!

It’s another example of strips that start as Future Shocks or one-offs and later develop into something more – in the same way as The Intestinauts sprung from the first Regened back in the 2018 Free Comic Book Day comic and is now firmly rooted in the pages of the Prog.

Any plans for the future of The Unteachables? Is it one of those strips that can be transferred to longer stories or do you think it’s something that works a lot better as individual stories? Have you got some sort of massive plan all mapped out across your walls with every detail of the world and what potentially could happen with all of the characters?

KS: It’s not worked out to the level of the corkboard on the wall with the bits of string linking up every character – but yes, I’ve got a few ideas for these characters and their world, and many more half-ideas waiting to be jigsawed together somehow, the possibilities are… not quite endless, but there are loads of them! As ever, it’s down to Tharg whether they see the light of day. This is the first thing I’ve co-created for the prog which might in any way be described as a series, so I’d love to take it further.

Now, as we promised you – the full-size character designs from Xulia –

Thank you so much to Karl and Xulia for chatting to us – you can find The Unteachables running riot in 2000 AD Regened Prog 2280 – out now from everywhere the Galaxy’s Greatest is sold, including the 2000 AD web shop.