The latest 2000 AD Regened – Prog 2280 – has hit the stands with the usual thrill-powered mix of all-ages thrills and spills for all you Earthlets, young and old!

Inside, there’s another chance to take a look at the earliest adventures of one Marlon Shakespeare, who would go on to be the greatest skysurfer Mega-City One has ever seen! First introduced in Regened Prog 2246, we’ve seen the young scrawler get busted, serve his juve-cube time, and come out to discover the lure of getting on a board and soaring through the Big Meg.

It’s all brought to you by David Barnett and artist Nick Roche

Our first look at young Chopper in Chopper Don’t Surf from Regened Prog 2046

David, you’re returning to the Regened Prog 2080 with the second installment of the young Chopper series, What Goes Up, tackling young Marlon Shakespeare before he became the legendary skysurfer. (As well as authoring another new strip – Lowborn Highinterview for that one right here!)

Was it a pleasure to return to the world of skysurfing and young Marlon?

DAVID BARNETT: It’s always a pleasure to return to this corner of the Big Meg in the company of Chopper. I feel like Nick and I have really hit our stride in terms of the tone, feel and look of this strip. It’s very much something new in terms of the way this strip comes off and yet is still really in Judge Dredd continuity. It’s a different way of looking at things, with a different — yes, comedic — slant. And I think there’s definitely room for that… Mega-City One is a big place, and it’s fun to revisit times past through a slightly off-kilter lens.

More from Prog 2046 – Chopper Don’t Surf

The first episode, Chopper Don’t Surf, in 2000 AD Regened Prog 2246, caught us up with Chopper’s mishaps as a scrawler leading to six months in the Juve-cubes with a robo-teacher reading him Shakespeare as his punishment. Once he got out, he discovered Skysurfing – well, it’s better than heading eggs and washing dishes with mom and dad I suppose.

DB: Yeah, that’s the central concept of Chopper — he’s from common stock and there’s absolutely nothing expected of him in life, so that’s how he breaks the mould, first through graffiti and the Scrawl Wars, which happen before we meet him in this iteration, and now through skysurfing.

And now he’s back, still learning the board, still getting in trouble, still dodging the Judges.

So, where are you taking young Chopper this time? What crazy MC-1 things are you getting him mixed up in?

DB: Well, those who have read the story in Prog 2280 will know that Nick and I bring in an old Mega-City fave, Boinging, and a friend of Marlon and his skysurfer pal Keisha, called Clayts Marquez, who is mad for the craze. But Boingers are disappearing, and it’s up to Chopper and Keisha to find out why.

Boinging into Regened – it’s Chopper: What Goes Up

Of course, the character is one of the most iconic and beloved in the Dreddverse. Was there some trepidation on your part in going back and exploring the earliest days of Chopper?

DB: Chopper has a long and illustrious history and some absolutely great creative teams have documented his adventures at various points in his life. He’s a much-loved character and that’s why, really, Nick and I wanted to take a different tack on this, and bearing in mind this is also for the Regened all-ages issue. The idea is to get new readers on board so you want to honour the character and at the same time not weigh them down with decades of continuity. A nine-year-old should be able to pick up Prog 2280 and enjoy Chopper while getting a sense of the broader canvas he’s drawn on, but not be put off by there being stuff that’s happened that they should know about to read the comic.

Who came to this one first? Was it collaborative from the off or did you get the idea for Chopper and then Nick came onboard?

DB: I wrote the first strip and then Nick was assigned, and I was completely blown away by the energy, dynamism and fun he brought to the story. When it came to the second strip, I asked him what he wanted to draw, and he immediately said, “Big robots!” So there’s a clue for those who haven’t read this issue yet. Knowing Nick’s style makes it so much easier to write.

Writer-Artist communication right there folks! – ‘BIG ROBOTS!’

The art of writing for your artist – Nick wanted big robots. David gives him BIG ROBOTS in Chopper: What Goes Up

David, although you’ve kept the thrills of the skysurfing and adventures in here, you’ve also made this something of a meta-comedy from the off, with Chopper regularly breaking the fourth wall to talk to the readership. It’s something that gives the young Chopper strip a real easy-going freshness, perfect for the all-ages audience but also clever enough to satisfy older Chopper fans I would expect.

Here, we get all that and the ridiculousness of Judge Wannabe, sorry, Judge Watanabe. But the constant is the tongue-in-cheek commentary and chatting to the audience from Chopper.

DB: Yeah, when I was thinking about the first strip in particular, I wanted to get across that anarchic, teenage, adventurous stuff, and I immediately thought of Ferris Bueller, who famously broke the fourth wall, so I thought that would be a nifty little device to both give the strip something different and throw in some sneaky exposition for readers to explain things like, for example, Boinging. Judge Watanabe came about because I really wanted to write Dredd! And I’m not sure he actually fits into the strip’s tone, at least not yet, so why not have a Judge who really, really, really idolises Dredd so much that he wants to be him.

He thinks he’s the LAW – meeting Judge Watanabe

Why did you head off into comedy for Chopper? He’s not a character that’s been really played for laughs before. Although, of course, 2000 AD has a long history of playing with the ridiculousness of the worlds we’re in.

DB: Yeah, exactly that. 2000 AD is built on satire. Our Chopper is a little less subtle and more in your face than satire — we do play it for laughs. But at the same time, we do try to keep it logical and in continuity. And you see at the end of this episode that Chopper is learning some unpalatable truths about the world he inhabits.

Chopper: What Goes Up. It’s all in Nick Roche’s fabulous…

And I have to say how good Nick’s artwork is at getting over everything that’s required. Firstly, Chopper stories always have great visuals, all with those strange skysurfing angles, but he’s also having to pull off some great comedy – whether it’s playing with brilliant bits of physical comedy such as Chopper’s first trip out on a board or the great wait for it, wait for it, wait for it moment here in What Goes Up with Judge Wannabe waiting for the street boinger to come down.

DB: I’d like to say, regarding Nick’s art, that he absolutely nails both the bigger picture of Mega-City One — he obviously has huge respect for the source material — and the individual character looks. And his comic timing is perfect, especially with the expressions he gives the characters. I think Nick is having great fun playing with his Chopper (*looks to camera, raises eyebrow*).

And our huge congratulations to David for leaving it THAT long in the interview to make that gag!

… timing.

As for the future, can we expect to see the pair of you coming up with more of these young Chopper stories in future Regened?

I would LOVE to do more Chopper with Nick. I think we make a really great team and we’ve definitely hit some kind of groove here. The best thing is that we have the whole of Judge Dredd lore to play with. All those amazing storylines from the 1980s… imagine Chopper during the Judge Death saga? Or the Apocalypse War? Would he still be able to keep his sense of humour?

Okay then, how about other work you’d fancy getting into Regened? Seems to me that we’ve seen some great all-ages versions of classic 2000 AD characters already, but is there anyone you’d absolutely love to get into Regened?

DB: Obviously there are some issues with some characters when it comes to 2000 AD, and who’s available and who’s not. I think most of the ones I have ideas for are probably problematic. I’d love to do Young Zenith, kind of in some wacky Monkees-style strip. And Flesh, but from the other side… eco-warrior kids going back in time to stop the hunters killing dinosaurs.

Finally, what’s on the horizon for you both? More Chopper hopefully, but what other work will you have coming out soon, whether for 2000 AD or elsewhere?

DB: For 2000 AD I’ve just written a three-part 3Riller story which is a folk-horror adventure I’d love to see given a longer run, if it proved popular. And there are other irons in the fire and other projects on the go for other publishers which are very exciting but which sadly I can say precisely nowt about right now!

Our thanks to David for making the time to sit down and chat – you can thrill to young Marlon’s latest misadventures in the pages of 2000 AD Regened Prog 2280, out right now from your favourite places to pick up thrill power, including the 2000 AD web shop.