Tummy trouble? Bowel bother? Alimentary anxiety? You need The Intestinauts… micro-bots designed to get right to the bottom of the problem… before heading out the bottom of the problem.

And in 2000 AD Prog 2230, the micro-bots made for all your medical maladies return in the new series Intestinauts: Symbiotic Love Triangle, by gross-out merchants extraordinaire, Arthur Wyatt and Pye Parr.

Carefully wiping down all surfaces and keeping a good social distance, because the last thing anyone wanted was to need to get the Intestinauts exploring us internally… we chatted to Arthur and Pye…

BORAG THUNGG, EARTHLETS – Prog 2230 is out on 5 May!

Arthur, Pye, we’re getting a new Intestinauts in Prog 2230. Is it another Tharg’s 3Riller or a longer series this time around?

AW: Symbiotic Love Triangle is a 3Riller, so three parts. I’m hoping the next one we do may go bigger – all the way up to six! There’s a couple of one part thrills I’ll pitch some time as well, maybe we’ll get to do a one-pager again just to keep people on their toes. Intestinauts can be effective at any scale!

For those who didn’t have the pleasure of these heroic micro-bots fighting intestinal injury, digestive distress, and alimentary ailments, can you give us an idea of both what’s gone before and what to expect here in the new series?

AW: We all love spaceports, and their boundless opportunities for unfettered commerce and exciting new culinary opportunities, but what about when exotic cuisine and/or alien gastric parasites cause intestinal distress? That’s when Intestolab Biotech’s Intesinauts come in…

The process is simple:
1: Feeling like you made a tummy mistake? Take Intestinauts Maximum Formula in handy pill form.
2: A squad of I-R unit micro-robots, each with their own combat specialities, makes its way from your stomach down through your alimentary canal, using high powered nano-weaponry to take out parasites, disease bearing spores, bacterial colonies etc…
3: The micro-robots programming directs them to head for The Big Flush, i.e. exit through the toilet bowel next time you use the facilities. Easy and convenient self disposal!
4: The bot bodies dissolve upon receiving a termination signal, and their onboard telemetry and data matrices (personality? “Soul”?) uploads to Intestolab servers.
5: Intesolab engineers combine all the data telemetry, selecting for the most effective outcomes, to continuously upgrade all I-R unit subtypes. Newly created I-R bots “remember” millions of previous missions that their subtype have undertook!

What could go wrong?
(Things frequently go wrong. That is how we have a comic)

Now, in previous Intestinauts (and Infestinauts), we’ve learned so much of this micro-world of these cure-all wonder-bots and their vital (albeit somewhat gross) work in the muck and the slime of some poor sod’s gastrointestinal tract or dealing with some hideous skin infection. But the end of the Infestinauts ramped things up to another level with a whole corporate war between the group behind the Intestinauts and the Bowel Bots.

Will we be taking it all to the next level in the next adventure?

AW: Will we see a gigantic Bowelbot Prime many millions of times the size of the average Intestinaut? Only time and the second page of panel 2 will tell – but how? And why? But yes, we will be seeing more of this conflict and how it spills out into the rest of their world.

And more importantly, will we be going deeper into the smallest yet greatest love affair of all timeI’m talking of that between I-R-101 and I-R-102 of course.

AW: Intestolab Biotech has detected a significant synergistic relationship between I-R-101 and I-R-102 when placed together and have exploited it, maximizing effectiveness and therefore profits. All shareholders should be greatly pleased by this!

The Symbiotic Love Triangle however may involve a different combination of entities… and a lot of attention in this outing will be going to I-R-404, a rookie bot who manages to get themselves lost.

Now, every time I read Intestinauts I’ve had a great time and couldn’t help but think that you’re both having a blast giving us all of the gags about the end results of a Venusian Vindaloo, tapeworms, and amoebic dysentery. It’s effectively the pair of you putting a story around a series of poop gags, right? And we all know how much fun that is!

AW: You know, for kids!

This sort of all-out comedy is something that 2000 AD doesn’t all that often, but when it does, it does it very well – I’m thinking of the likes of DR & Quinch, Hewligan’s Haircut, and more recently with Survival Geeks.

I’m presuming you have your own favourites and how do you feel these sort of strips fit into the world of 2000 AD?

AW: Love all of those. Also assorted weird offbeat Peter Milligan things. I first started reading the Prog (The Monthly I’d started on earlier and DR & Quinch were a highlight). It’s an important part of a balanced Thrill diet – even in the “serious” strips. Dredd is basically a comedy a lot of the time, Slaine needs Ukko, ABC Warriors needs Ro-Jaws, Sinister Dexter needs terrible puns.

Probably not a huge surprise but I always used to love when a comic would have a fake parody advert or a choose-your-own-adventure section or encourage you to ruin the comic with scissors to make a boardgame.

Will Tharg ever greenlight the idea that’s possibly in the back of your minds that all this is secretly taking place in MC-1 and you’ll finally get the okay to give Dredd some digestive distress needing the Intestinauts to jump into the Judge?

AW: It’s not a secret Dreddworld strip. Could one of the spaceport terminals offer a trip to MC-1? Possibly, but it’d have to be via dimension warp technology. There are a few nods to some other Rebellion properties in there though.

Okay, Arthur’s taking a toilet break – time to hand the toilet brush of intestinal investigation to artist Pye Parr…

Pye, as the artist, have you got that sort of juvenile glee going on that we imagine comes with this sort of thing?

Pye Parr: I’m absolutely riddled with juvenile glee. Arthur will tell you about all the interesting interpersonal relationships between doomed AI robots, corporate skullduggery and stuff like that. I’m in it to draw veiny fleshy innards and indistinct hairy stuff, floating lumps of poo and people being sick. And robots. Love drawing robots.

The whole working on something about bodily functions thing – ever tempted to put the odd Fungus The Bogeyman refernce in amongst it all?

PP: Man, my favourite bit as a kid in that book was the CENSORED bit over the bogeymen’s toilet. I was so annoyed by the ‘publishers’ adding it over the art to deny me the sight of the horror. I added one of those on a one-pager we did where the whole strip is a cutaway of the bowels and the Intestinauts get blasted out into the big flush when they get to the bum. It hides nothing, but that’s the point. 

And if you’ve never had the joy of Raymond Briggs’ Fungus The Bogeyman… go buy it now. We’ll wait for you to come back and we all know you won’t regret it.

Right then, now that you’ve all gone and bought a copy of Fungus… back to Pye Parr…

How do you put the whole grossness of the pages together?

PP: Okay, process…

Well, at this point Pye just kept firing pictures across to us, cackling as he did so, something about I’ve done the work, you show the readers the pain, or something like that. So, here’s Pye Parr’s process to putting together the intestinal insanity… it’s a lot. A perfect insight into the whole insanity of being an artist.

First off… designs, infographics, and logos… Pye said he ‘got carried away,’ we think he might need to be carried away somewhere safe…

When he’d finished with the maniacal laughter, he did point out how he puts together a page.

PP: First off, step one… I do a thumbnail of the page digitally, in black and white. mainly just to decide panel layout and angles/composition. It’s pretty much stick men – here’s the thumbnails to a page…

Intestinauts thumbnails – art by Pye Parr

PP: Next up, step two… I mainly work digitally, but I almost always do the pencils IRL, for two reasons – first I’ve actually made something I can hold, one of the downsides of digital art is it doesn’t really exist outside of your screen, but mainly because I find I draw in a more focussed way with a real pencil.

It’s very easy to vaguely waft around a brush in clip studio and it looks like you’ve roughed out a background, but then you come to ink it and find you’ve done absolutely nothing useful. It’s like I try harder with a pen and paper somehow, Anyway, I bought some new coloured pencils before I started this strip so I used those, hence them being all green and red. I don’t worry too much about drawing a full page either, just stick panels where they fit and draw slightly more than I need so I can crop them once they’re scanned in and get the nicest panel layout I can.

For some reason, I decided to work on A2 here (just the paper I had to hand), which looks nice, but took bloody ages. 

Next up… pencils in red and green – art by Pye Parr

PP: With the pencils done, it’s time for step three, time to scan them in and do the lettering. I always do a rough pass at the letters over the pencils so if there’s not enough room I can fix it before inking. I’ll send this to Matt/Arthur at this point to make sure I’ve not screwed anything up.

At this point, I changed the page layout from the thumbnails in step 1 on a few pages. Mainly cos I thought a few of them could do with pumping up in size to make the page more interesting, but also I’d drawn a couple of the panels a lot larger and more detailed in the end than I intended.

Step three – scan it in and do the lettering to see if it all works.

Also, I spend a lot of time on logos and background design stuff, I’ve included some screen grabs of the logos I make to fill up the background of the panels, plus infographics (which both Arthur and I enjoy a lot) and the original designs I did for the Intestinaut suction traps.

(Yep, we’ve seen the obsessive behaviour over those already)

PP: Onto step 4, ‘Inks’ (clip studio paint): I work at print size but double resolution so 600dpi. I normally do some very simple colour flats at this stage too.

Step four… adding in the inks.

PP: Now we’re onto step five, colours. Once I’ve inked the whole part/story I’ll go back and finish all the colours together. I could do it one page at a time but I find I’ve forgotten which colours/techniques I used and it’s hard to keep it consistent otherwise. 

Step 5 – getting a bit of colour in there

PP: And finally, step 6 and a final pass on lettering. There’s normally a bit of shuffling about here as stuff doesn’t sit as well over brighter/darker areas once the colourings finished. 

And here’s the final Intestinauts page we’ve been showing you… this is what Pye Parr’s been driving himself mad with over the last few months…

And Pye, now you’ve finished, for now, on the adventures of the bowel bandits, what’s next for you?

PP: Covid/homeschooling basically ruined my work life for 6 months, so I’ve got jobs coming out my ears that I’m desperate to get onto and that everyone seems to be shouting at me to finish, so quickly: designing book 3 of the Trigan Empire series for Rebellion, a book cover for a collection of podcasted horror stories, a comic thing with Alec Worley, a personal project I’ve been beavering away on involving cars and robots which is finally turning into something good, a set of WW2 warplane jigsaws…. and hopefully more Intestinauts!

So… thanks to Arthur and Pye for taking time out from putting together the next Intestinauts spectacular and figuring out just how many different ways they can find to gross Tharg out.

You can find part one of the three-part Intestinauts: Symbiotic Love Triangle in the pages of 2000 AD Prog 2230, out everywhere from 5 May, including the 2000 AD web shop.

For more Intestinauts, check out their previous pustule-like appearances, first with a Future Shock in 2000 AD Prog 1822, followed by their appearance in the 2018 Free Comic Book Day Prog (the very first Regened Prog), and finally in the Tharg 3Riller of Progs 2106-2108 where we met the Infestinauts.