2000 AD prog 2220 is out on 24 February and it’s REGENED time once more, with the Galaxy’s Greatest bringing you a Prog of all-ages action and adventure to thrill and amaze!
Each Regened Prog brings you a mix of new and old, mixing returning series and brand-new thrills destined to become firm favourites. Later this year, you’ll see more from the hit series Pandora Perfect by Roger Langridge and Brett Parson, and the Judge Dredd-world series Department K by Rory McConville and PJ Holden, as well as plenty of new thrills including Lowborn High by David Barnett and Philip Bond.
As for Prog 2220, there’s more Cadet Dredd, a new Future Shock, and three new tales – Viva Forever by David Baillie and Anna Morozova, Action Pact by Michael Carroll and Luke Horsman, and an all-new tale from the world of Rogue Trooper – Mayflies by Mike Carroll and Simon Coleby – who we talk to right here!
Okay then, Mike, Simon – the new Regened Prog 2220 ends with Mayflies, the new story set in the universe of Rogue Trooper and Jaegir – can you give us a teaser for what it’s all about?
Michael Carroll: Mayflies sort of grew out of a story I came up with a few years back that I unsuccessfully pitched to, oh, loads of publishers. I won’t say what that story actually is, but (a) it’s absolutely awesome and (b) given the number of rejections it’s received I’m willing to entertain the notion that I’m only one who thinks that it’s absolutely awesome.
This isn’t that story, though, I promise! Failure is often a good foundry: if an idea doesn’t work then instead of throwing it away, try twisting it around, turning it inside out, breaking it apart and putting it back together in a different way, combining it with something else. In this case, I took that never-got-off-the-ground story and tried to come up with a way to make it work in the Rogue Trooper universe. I ended up in a very different place from where I started, as often happens!
Mayflies features a group of clone troopers who are removed from their gestation pods earlier than scheduled… so, in keeping with the Regened-issue all-ages approach, they’re effectively teenagers – but of course they have decades of G.I. Trooper training and experience implanted in their brains.
MC: The lead character is Rose, designed to be a scout. She’s a loner by nature – well, actually, by science rather than nature – but she needs the back-up of her team. Zuli’s the squad leader, then there’s Wrecks, a ground-trooper – when his DNA was being compiled the strength and speed parameters were accidentally dialled a little too high. Artie was built to be an engineer, and Otto’s a strategist. They don’t get a lot to do in this story, but maybe in the next adventure they’ll get to shine. Rounding out the team is Slink, designed to be an infiltrator. And that’s all I’m going to say about Slink at this time!
So they are the Mayflies… They have every skill they need to get the job done – but they don’t know who they are.
Simon, this is a return to Nu-Earth and the Nort-Souther conflict for you, having done a number of Jaegir series, how did you come to get involved?
Simon Coleby: My involvement in the Mayflies project came about in the most informal way imaginable. I was following a discussion on social media about Rebellion’s Regened comics and I mentioned, quite sincerely, that drawing a strip in that style appealed to me very much. I was delighted when Michael messaged me to discuss the story he was developing, and to gauge my interest. The story sounded terrific and so, after receiving my orders from Tharg in the Nerve Centre, I was in place for the job.
One of those incredibly rare occasions where I didn’t almost immediately regret a comment I’d posted on Facebook!
I knew Michael’s story was to be set in the Rogue Trooper universe and so while I was briefly waiting for the script I produced a drawing of Rogue, just to try and find a slightly Regened spin on my drawing style.
SC: I had thought that working on an all-ages story might make for an enjoyable, even a relaxing, piece of work. I couldn’t have been more wrong – it was one of the toughest challenges I’ve faced for many years!
Mike, this is the second story in this Regened Prog for you alongside Action Pact with Luke Horsman – is that something of a surprise?
MC: It is indeed! I only delivered the script for Mayflies at the end of November last year, so I expected that it’d appear in the next Regened issue, not this one! That’s a pretty quick turn-around, especially given that we’ve all had lockdowns and Grudmas and insurrections and weather to deal with.
And Mike, Is this your first story set in the Rogue Trooper-verse (for want of a better description of it)? Are you excited to be getting into the history of the Nort-Souther war?
MC: Mayflies is my first official Rogue-verse story, but before I had any professional comics work published I wrote some Rogue-related strips for the 2000AD fanzine Zarjaz, excellently illustrated by Dave Evans. I’ve just checked my spreadsheet and that was back in 2007 – fourteen years ago!
I imagine you’re a fan of Rogue Trooper of old? But he’s one character that seems, perhaps, to be in the past, his somewhat limited storylines possibly all played out.
MC: I really loved the original Rogue Trooper. It was fantastic, inventive stuff for the most part (but don’t get me started on the revelation that Gunnar, Bagman and Helm had those nicknames before they ended up as biochips in Rogue’s gun, backpack and helmet!), and the artwork was perfect. Dave Gibbons, Steve Dillon, Cam Kennedy… pure magic distilled into ink! The hunt for the Traitor General was tremendous fun, though I was a little disappointed when they finally caught him. That would have been a nice way to end the whole the series, but because it carried on there was a sort of “what do we do now?” feeling to the strip – it took a while to regain its footing.
SC: I wouldn’t wish to say that there is absolutely no scope for more of the traditional Rogue Trooper war stories, although it is perhaps a little difficult to imagine how that scenario could be taken in an interesting new direction. Many of the original stories were superb – the art by Colin Wilson and Cam Kennedy is some of my all-time favourite work from 2000AD.
It might be argued, however, that a war story that focuses on the actual conflict is something of a self-limiting format. Nothing very much can change – the war can’t be won by either side – or the story is over. The temptation is always going to be to introduce increasingly dramatic combat and more eccentric characters to retain reader interest. Rogue stalking through chem-clouds and destroying yet another squad of anonymous Nort soldiers are strong images, but there are possibly only so many times they can be presented before they start to become somewhat mundane.
Is this the reason you think that we’ve seen offshoot series such as Jaegir and this Mayflies strip come out – that the whole Nort-Souther war is a fascinating environment for stories but not necessarily for new Rogue Trooper stories?
SC: The Rogue Trooper universe does seem to offer huge scope for building on some of the peripheral elements of the world, though. I feel that’s what Gordon and I do in Jaegir. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I do not feel that we are really telling a ‘war story’, but a story about characters in a time of war.
Likewise, I feel Mayflies offers a fresh and contemporary step back into that world. Michael has introduced new characters which offer huge potential for something exciting and interesting. As soon as I read the script, I had the feeling that this would bring a new energy to a world we’re all very familiar with. This story is the first look at something, and it will be exciting to see where it goes. If circumstances allow, I would love to contribute more to this story, but whoever takes on the art role, this has the potential to be a hugely exciting and energetic story.
MC: That’s certainly the case for me. We’ve seen different aspects before, with War Machine and The 86ers and Tor Cyan, for example, but for me Jaegir really blasted open a new path, and on a much larger scale. It’s easily one of my favourite strips in recent years.
One thing that was really noticeable with Mayflies was that it’s a strip that doesn’t really feel like a Regened strip at all – it’s something that could just as easily have been seen in a standard 2000 AD Prog.
Firstly, for those of us used to seeing Jaegir, having Simon’s art on Mayflies makes it very familiar – I don’t think Simon’s changed his art style one bit for the transition from standard 2000 AD Jaegir artwork to this Regened Mayflies artwork?
MC: When I was developing the script for Mayflies I saw a comment on Facebook from Simon about how he’d like to work on a Regened script, so I contacted him immediately. I’ve been a fan of his art for thirty years – he’s one of those artists who just keeps getting better and better – so this is a dream come true for me! Thanks to an anonymous benefactor I’ve been lucky enough to get an early look at his finished pages for Mayflies and they are absolutely incredible.
Simon has a unique way of bringing solidity and weight to his art. Everything feels real, and yet cinematic at the same time. In the past decade or so there’s not been a single page of his artwork that hasn’t made me go “Wow!” at least once.
Similarly, the tone of the story and some of the content here is decidedly older than a lot of what’s been seen in Regened before. Yes, there’s been storylines covering war before in Regened, but this seems to take a darker view – with the inclusion of the concepts of Rose being marked for disposal, the genetic engineering being shown in all its unpleasantness, the Nort Commanders order to terminate all the survivors on the Souther ship apart from the Mayfly specimens – all of that is very dark.
Is this new Regened darkness something you talked over with Tharg at all?
MC: If we skip back to this exact week in 1976, two action-packed comics launched at just about the same time were DC Thomson’s Bullet and IPC’s Action. Compared to its stable-mates Bullet was fairly hard-hitting, but Action just surged ahead of the pack like a wide-eyed, Mauser-wielding psycho on a stolen burning motorbike fuelled by adrenaline and fury. And almost half a century later its influence is still lingering. From our present-day perspective it’s clear that Action went too far, but going too far is the only way to test the boundaries of what’s acceptable… and to stretch them a little. By doing so, Action made room for 2000AD to come into existence.
So, yeah, Tharg and I had some back-and-forths as we worked out the right balance of action for Mayflies… Regened is an all-ages comic so we don’t want to show people being massacred, but this is a war story: to pretend that everyone comes out of it with little more than a few scratches would be disingenuous. And kids know that, too: certainly, by the time they’re eight or nine, they know when a story is patronising, or has been otherwise sanitised for them… I think we managed to get the balance right!
Simon, I presume you’re working in the same way as you’ve told us about in your covers uncovered pieces for Mayflies? A fairly traditional process of fineliner rough sketches, through to pencils and inks before scanning it in and then over to Dylan Teague to add his colour magic to it all?
SC: Having done this for rather a long time, my drawing style is somewhat established. Without wishing to stray too far into cliché it is a part of who I am, I suppose much like my accent, vocal mannerisms or other aspects of my personality. I felt that trying to drastically change my style for this story would be a mistake and would inevitably look contrived.
There are already artists who take, perhaps, a somewhat manga-influenced approach to their art, and they do so quite brilliantly. That style of work seems to be well-suited to stories aimed at younger readers, but it isn’t what I do. If I tried to adopt that kind of visual approach, I felt that at best I could only produce a pale imitation of those artists who do that kind of work naturally.
My work is somewhat chiaroscuro, as I generally tend to gravitate towards darker-themed projects. I did take a slightly different approach for Mayflies, however. Customarily, I use rather a lot of texture in my drawing – splatter, grease pencil and other tools all have a place in my work. For this project, I opted to shelve all those tools which generally contribute ‘grittiness’ to my art. I decided to only work with very clean lines and solid shadows. Working with that limited palette was a huge challenge. I wanted the work and storytelling to be as clear as possible, and so I found myself debating over almost every line or area of detail – did it contribute anything, and did it help the story?
SC: It was a very intense process, though I enjoyed it very much. I also opted to use a small amount of digital rendering in some of the feathering, again to try and add a slightly enhanced element of sharpness and cleanness to the line-work.
Whether anyone will notice any of this I really can’t say. I feel that this work is a little sharper and fresher than my customary art, but I’ll have to see if readers notice that at-all.
Likewise, in some of the areas of action, I took a slightly different approach from my usual work. In a story such as Jaegir, for example, the violence is quite extreme and graphic. With this being for an all-ages audience, I clearly needed to restrain that somewhat. There is a panel where Rose punches a Nort officer. If that were a scene in Jaegir, there would inevitably be blood, sinew and smashed teeth. In this tale, I went for the classic ‘wallop in the chops’. I must admit, that might be my favourite panel of the story!
Of course, having Dylan colouring the strip was an absolute joy. The guy is an artistic genius, and I was thrilled by how much his colours added to my drawings!
And as far as the future for Mayflies, without giving away the ending of this first episode, do you have hopes that there’s going to be the opportunity to do more for either Regened or 2000 AD?
MC: I haven’t yet talked about it in any detail with Tharg, but I do have plans for more Mayflies stories should it prove popular enough. We’ve only begun to explore the characters and their situation, so, yeah, there’s a lot more to tell.
I think a series could work in the regular progs, although that wouldn’t be ideal: it’d feel unfair to create new strips for the younger Regened readers and then continue those strips in a comic they’re not allowed to read!
In an ideal world Regened would be a separate monthly publication, a younger companion to 2000AD. That’s been tried before – with Judge Dredd: Lawman of the Future, in the mid-1990s – and the comic market isn’t nearly as vibrant now as it was then, but with the right balance of stories it could definitely work!
2000 AD Regened Prog 2220, is on sale from newsagents, comic book stores, and from the 2000 AD web shop on 24 February 2021.
Thank you to both Mike and Simon for taking the time to chat to us here at 2000 AD. You can find Mayflies in the brand-new Regened Prog 2220, out on 24 February and available right here at the 2000 AD web shop.
For more from Mike Carroll, head to his website, his writing blog, and his Rusty Staples comics blog. Here at the 2000 AD site, there’s the chance to read him talking about the recent Judge Dredd: Desperadlands saga with artist Will Simpson here, as well as the just-completed first series of Dreadnoughts – Breaking Ground – over in the Judge Dredd: Megazine here.
For more on Simon Coleby’s artistic process, do be sure to check out these great Covers Uncovered pieces from Simon – The Vigilant on the cover of Judge Dredd Megazine 421 and his Hookjaw cover for 2000 AD Prog 2202, and you can (of course) follow him on Twitter.
And Simon was also kind enough to send along some more of his amazing artwork and the initial concept piece for the Mayfly characters.