It’s the return of Joko-Jargo and Regened, Earthlets, bringing you the latest all-ages thrills for young and old when Regened 2000 AD Prog 2256 – out now! Inside, there’s fun a-plenty with Cadet Dredd, Time Twisters, plus two completely new tales in Scooter & Jinx by James Peaty and Steve Roberts and Enemy Earth by Cavan Scott and Luke Horsman.

But there’s also a very special reappearance (well, sort of) of a Strontium Dog character from the past – when we welcome back Middenface McNulty and his granny’s very special mutt, Dougal in Strontium Dug, written by David Baillie and with art from Colin MacNeil.

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So, David, Colin, lovely to talk to you – hopefully both of you are keeping safe, sane, and well after the fun of these Covid times.

DAVID BAILLIE: Always safe. Never sane, though – that way lies boredom!

It’s nearly time for the final 2000 AD Regened Prog of the year – coming out on 3 October – 2000 AD Regened Prog 2256. And inside, you’re bringing us a strip I don’t think anyone imagined would ever happen – Strontium Dug, with Middenface McNulty‘s pup on the case – ‘dogged in pursuit of the galaxy’s criminals.’

So… what? why? Give us all you can of what we can expect from Strontium Dug?

DB: If you don’t mind, I’ll respond to this question in the voice of the Strontium Dug himself:

Woof! Ruff, ruff — grrrrr! Owwww… Ruff ruff woof!

Hope that clears that up.

But of course it does!

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Middenface has had a couple of ‘Dugs’ over the years, as far as I can remember – Dougal the Dug, who died in tragic SD circumstances, and his littermate, Black Boab. This new Dug? Is he a littermate? a rebooted original? an alt-reality mutt?

DB: Well if Middenface’s granny is to be believed, this Dougal, Dougal IX, is a clone of the original Black Boab. The IX in his name even suggests a long line of canine tragedies since we met that guy. But our story also suggests that pretty much everything Middenface’s granny says is to be taken with a pinch of salt, so feel free to disbelieve her… At your own risk!

Colin – did you take inspiration from those previous iterations – either Simon Harrison or John McCrea’s bundle of rather violent and snapping black fur and teeth?

Colin MacNeil: No, this one’s all mine! The script was already written when I came on board, so the dog had to be designed to fit the strip. If I’d been involved at an earlier stage, then the dog could have certainly been a lot different, but then the story would have been different too. Just as in real life, it’s all about the right dog for the right job.

The generations of Dug…
from left to right – art by Simon Harrison (from ‘The No-Go Job’ Progs 580-587, 1988),
John McCrea (from ‘Wan Man an’ His Dug’ Judge Dredd Megazine 1.15-1.20, 1991–1992),
and Colin MacNeil (right here, right now!)

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David, is this something that was pitched, or did Matt come to you in particular for the strip?

DB: The idea was born late one night a few years ago. I was in Turkey scripting a film with my occasional co-writer Dan Lester (Prog 1932, fact fans!). Between mammoth Fade In sessions one night, over a bottle of Turkish moonshine, we took turns coming up with ridiculous story ideas.

I proposed Strontium Dog‘s Dog – and rattled off a quick plot for what could happen if, instead of Johnny Alpha bounty hunting, it was his dog that tracked down the bad guys. We laughed, then I stopped laughing, wrote it in my notebook – and waited for Tharg to ask if I had any ideas.

David – you’ve become something of the go-to guy with Strontium Dog adjacent Regened strips now, with The Trouble With Gronks (read the interview on that one here) and now this!

DB: Huh – I hadn’t actually noticed that. I’m a huge Strontium Dog nerd (although not as nerdy as I thought I was – see later in the interview!) and will wrestle any other writer to work in that universe. Any! Even if Stone Cold Steve Austen starts writing for 2000 AD!

So, next up? Young Middenface perhaps?

DB: I’d love to do a Young Middenface story, now you mention it. Wait – if I write one now, do I owe you some sort of inspiration fee?

Oh yes, yes you do. I’ll take it in MC-1 credits.

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Actually, thinking about that, so far in the Regened Progs we’ve only really seen Johnny Alpha as a young kid, up until the point he gets to become a Strontium Dog. But with Dug, and maybe Middenface, are we getting the first glimpses of an older set of Strontium Dogs inside the world of Regened.

DB: In this story we see Middenface at his usual vintage – grown up and grumpy. I’ve been treating our Regened stories as being in regular continuity, so it wasn’t breaking any (of my own) rules using him here.

Is it a more recognisable Strontium Dog setting, maybe with the Dog House? Or is it something that stands very much on its own?

DB: This tale takes place on Evan’s World, named for the sadly-missed creator and editor Dave Evans, BOLT-01. It is, according to the script I have in front of me, “A wee artificial planetoid just ootside the Kuiper Belt.”

That’s a wonderful little touch and a fine tribute to a much-missed name in 2000 AD history.

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When you’re dealing with these established characters in the new Regened setting – is there any sort of playbook for dealing with the Regened versions of the characters?

DB: Quite the reverse – I’ve been careful not to contradict regular continuity, so that we can shift from one mode to the other, simply by either inserting or removing exploding brains from a couple of panels. (I can’t believe you tricked me into giving away my Regened writing formula!)

And would it be something you could see working as a Regened strip, a full-on Strontium Dog or Strontium Dug series Regened style?

DB: The further adventures of Strontium Dug would definitely still work without the Regened tag. We’d just have more exploding brains.

But as for more Regened Stront action – Alec Worley and Ben Wilsher’s Young John Alpha story in the very first Regened is absolutely perfect. I rave about it whenever I can, and it turns out this is yet another opportunity to do just that. (Track it down if you haven’t read it!) I would read a million Young Strontium Dog stories by that team!

If you want to track down that Worley and Wilsher Johnny Alpha, Earthlets, and you should, it’s in the first Regened collection – available at the 2000 AD web shop!

I’d imagine the classic bounty hunter/cowboys in space aspect of it would work extremely well for an all-ages readership.

DB: It’s certainly the sort of stuff I loved when I was a youngster. (I think I read my first classic Strontium Dog when I was six or seven – what better age to marvel at the many horrors of The Slavers of Drule?)

Or perhaps there’s a series of Dug strips in planning stages right now?

DB: Colin and I have certainly discussed the potential for more Dougal IX! We’ll see…

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Now, perhaps most importantly of all – David, did you finally manage to get Victoria Coren Mitchell into the pages here? Or do we have to wait for that momentous event in some future Baillie scripted strip?

DB: She was in the script! My mentioning her the last time we spoke was an elaborate attempt at setting up a joke. The punchline was going to be a statue of her in the Solenoid Casino, where this story takes place. For reasons of clarity, and space – and definitely nothing to do with the restraining order you hinted at in our last interview! – Colin didn’t get a chance to draw said statue.

Aside from presenting the greatest quiz show of all time (Only Connect) Victoria is also the only poker player to have won two European Tour championships. So it makes perfect sense they’d have a solid gold statue of her in a futuristic space casino. Now please, Ms Coren Mitchell, if you’re reading this: can you ask your lawyers to leave me alone?

Yes, and talking of that last time we chatted, about your Chopper strip in the 2000 AD Sci-Fi Special 2021, you mentioned you were working on something ‘for an upcoming Regened Prog starring a very familiar face, to be drawn by a firm fan favourite artist, who I’ve worshipped since I was a nipper‘ – I’ll go out on a limb here and guess that Strontium Dug is the familiar face and Colin MacNeil is the artist you’ve worshipped since you were a nipper?

DB: Yup! I spent hours studying Colin’s art as a teenager – especially classic tales like Top Dogs in the 1991 annual and Song of the Surfer in the Prog. When I was at uni, a friend told me that she was Colin’s cousin and I was honestly speechless for about twenty minutes. How could Colin MacNeil be human?!! Oh how she laughed, as I clutched by Tesco bag full of recently purchased 2000 AD back issues. (This is actually true – I went round to hers for tea after buying a bunch of old 2000 ADs at Double Zero comics in Edinburgh!)

Oh – and a prize to anyone who can tell me where Double Zero got its name. I’ll give you a clue, it’s a Dredd reference!

And you can get hold of David at his Twitter to claim your prize!

DB: I just saw the coloured pages the other day and it’s absolutely gorgeous. Chris Blythe and Simon Bowland have worked wonders, as always. As ever, I cannae believe my luck.

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Colin, did you make any changes to your usual process for the Regened strip?

CM: When I got the script I noticed there were a number of technical details in the script that were incorrect that needed sorting first. Tharg put me in touch with David so we could sort it out together. Once that was done, then I got on with drawing it as per normal. I did make an effort to try and keep the images bright, as opposed to the normal heavy blacks of my latest drawing style. I think this strip was a reasonable first effort, but I’m definitely looking forward to doing more and making it better.

DB: Yeah – I thought I was the ultimate Strontium Nerd and assumed I wouldn’t need to Google any Strontium details. I was using a Time Trap (in a now deleted scene) like a Time Drogue, and Colin spotted my mistake immediately! I’d also been suffering under the misapprehension all these years that the Lifewire (standard SD kit) was electrified. Carlos always drew it surrounded by wee ‘spiky’ lines (emenata) in his brilliant tech-demo montage sequences. Looking at those panels again with 40-something-year-old eyes, it’s clear that was just his way of conveying how sharp the monofilament is.

These technical hiccups actually helped, because they got myself and Colin talking on the phone, and after a great couple of chats we moulded our Strontium Dug tale into a far better story.

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With both Regened and the new Monster Fun series in 2022, we’re seeing Rebellion and 2000 AD more engaged with kids than ever, grabbing them on two fronts now – sci-fi and humour. What were your own experiences of getting into comics as readers?

CM: Comics were a normal part of life for kids in the early 70’s. I was no different. I read Twinkle when very young, soon progressing on to the likes of Sparky, Topper, Dandy, then Hotspur, Victor, Warlord, Action and finally 2000 AD in 1977.

DB: Those early 80s black and white Marvel UK reprints. Stan and Jack X-Men and Thor, Spider-Man Weekly and then Transformers (also Marvel UK). I talked with Nick Roche and Mike Molcher on the Thrillcast recently about this – pretty much every British comic reader born between 1976 and 1980 adored the Transformers comic. No one outside of that very narrow age bracket would believe just how good a weekly comic based on a toy licence could be. Simon Furman deserves some sort of prestigious award for achieving the seemingly impossible!

And how do you see the future of comics – do you think that the industry is moving into a good place for that future as far as engaging with younger readers?

DB: I’ve been lucky enough to see lots of youngsters pick up their first comics in the last few years. It’s absolutely electrifying watching their faces light up as they realise they’ve discovered a whole new world. I think we’ll be okay.

Finally, what’s coming up for both of you?

CM: A new John Wagner strip for the Megazine.

Oh yes! More from you and John is always the best news for the fans!

DB: I’ve been kept away from comics this year by a couple of TV projects, but I’m determined to get back in the saddle ASAP. I have a mini-series with wunderkind artist Conor Boyle that we’re hoping to finish soon, something in the pipeline with another regular 2000 AD collaborator, also for the Americans – and I have an idea that I’m just about to send to The Mighty One, that I think will melt the eyeballs of Squaxx Dek Thargo all around the world.

And any news on the Red Thorn TV series that got optioned, David? (Yeah, I know, loads of NDAs! But I figure I’d keep asking in case there’s more you can tell us!)

DB: I imagine that if any such Non Disclosure Agreement existed, it would contractually forbid me from confirming its existence. That’s the sort of  Möbian logic knot that I love putting in my own stories. All I can really say (Can I? I don’t know…) is that some pretty big names have read the Red Thorn comics and love what Meghan Hetrick and I did in them.

Tease!

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Thanks to both David and Colin for chatting with us. Their Strontium Dug can be found, being a very, very gud boy indeed, in 2000 AD Regened Prog 2256. It’s out from 3 November, in all gud comic shops, newsagents, and the 2000 AD web shop.