Earthlets old and young have thrilled to the all-ages adventures since the first Regened in 2018 and this 48-page special is the first of a quartet of 2000 AD Regened Progs for 2020.

Alongside Cadet Dredd, returning strips Finder & Keeper and Rogue Trooper, a new Future Shock, you’re heading to the planet of the Gronks, famous from the pages of Strontium Dog, with writer David Baillie and artist Rob Davis.

So, what are you waiting for, say ‘Oh my poor heartses’ and get ready for The Trouble with Gronkses, just one of the all-ages awesomeness coming your way in Regened…

(2000 AD Prog 2170 – cover by Mark Sexton)

In the first Regened Prog of the year, Prog 2170, you’re responsible for bringing back one of Strontium Dogs’ weirder characters, The Gronk, in The Trouble With Gronkses… Oh my poor heartses! So, what’s it all about?

David Baillie: I’ve been a fan of The Gronk since I was knee-height to a Strontium Dog, and when Tharg asked if I’d be up for penning a new tale starring one or more of the belly-mouthed, furry little rascals I literally jumped at the chance. (I’ve set up my phone to send template emails based on its interpretations of my physical movements. It’s saved me a lot of time this year so far!)

DB: So this story takes place on the Gronks’ homeworld, Blas in the Galago system. Which a universe-famous reality holo-star called Atlantis Valentine has decided to make his new home. Atlantis is four metres tall, and looks like a T-Rex with claws and fairy wings. I’m not known for my subtle conflict set ups.

The Gronk(s) have long been friends to Strontium Dog Johnny Alpha but they’re singularly unsuited for the adventuring life, given their natural timidity and the unfortunate tendency for keeling over with heart failure at the slightest bit of excitement.

So, given that any hint of excitement kills them, is this going to be a very sedate, even boring tale of the Gronk staying home for a Netflix and chill?

DB: Far from it! When your protagonist has a habit of clutching their chest and whimpering, ‘Oh! My Poor Heartses!’ when anything exciting happens in the plot, the only solution is ensure there’s another Gronk to take up the slack when the current one falls over.

And so this is a tale of The Gronk as a species, rather than a single fallible, fall-overable character.

With Regened, we’re obviously looking to attracting younger readers to the Prog, keeping it fresh and alive for the future. And obviously, a cute alien works perfectly well for the Regened all-ages vibe. But why did you pick the Gronk?

DB: I was as surprised as anyone when Tharg decided to turn his Mighty hand to creating tales for Sproglettes, but he quickly assured me that this was simply his latest tactic for corrupting the Squaxx at an even earlier age than usual.

It was Tharg Himself what done chose The Gronk, and assigned Rob and myself to the case, and I for one am too terrified to question his judgement.

Rob, you’ve got a style that adapts and changes depending on the work. Whether it’s your Motherless Oven trilogy (which EVERYONE should be reading, although maybe not necessarily the lower age range for Regened), Roy of the Rovers, Don Quixote, Doctor Who Adventures, or Nelson. And of course, this isn’t your first time doing some more all ages work with 2000 AD, with your work on Judge Dredd: Lawman of the Future back in the 90s. And then there’s a fair bit of illustration work to your name as well. So, what sort of look do we have here?

RD: The script David sent over had weird and wacky aliens (Gronks) being menaced by a weird and wacky alien who is then in turn menaced by even more weird and wacky aliens. So I went for weird and wacky with this one.

Any particular ways you’ve adapted things to bring the Gronk back?

RD: The script required a Gronk with a bandana which kind of invoked Axl Rose to me. Other than that I think all the familiar Gronk attributes are present and correct.

Both of you, what’s coming up next? Will we be seeing you in the
pages of 2000 AD or the Meg any time soon?

RD: I am at the mercy of Tharg’s whims as regards what I do next for 2000 AD. I have a new book in the works that I am planning with Rob Williams, a regular script droid on 2000 AD, so that may be the next big project for me.

DB: I have a ten-page Tales From The Black Museum currently being drawn up by a very fine droid indeed (nope – I have no idea who!) and coming soon in the Megazine. It’s a terrifying story about an arcane summoning ritual gone wrong, or perhaps right, in our favourite Mega-City.

With more and more classic 2000 AD characters being brought into Regened, do you have any particular faves you’d like to get involved with?

RD: I would love to draw (or write) a Regened Robo-Hunter. Or Nemesis! I could probably reel off a list, but those two spring to mind as Thrills I’d love to have a go at. The early adventures of Sam Slade all droid-noir, or winding Nemesis back to the Terror Tube… all sounds good to me.

DB: Zenith, Babe Race 2000, and Big Dave all spring to mind. (Please, Tharg – please!)

(Not wanting to speak for the Mighty One, or his nephew, but I think you’re out of luck there Mr Baillie)

DB: Okay, then… I genuinely think an all-ages ABC Warriors could be amazing.

Obviously, Regened is all about opening up comics to new, younger readers (as well as giving the existing ones something fun and different)… what are your thoughts on getting kids and new readers involved?

RD: Reading comics is second nature for kids; they just get how comics work instinctively. The problem is that there just aren’t enough original comics being made for kids. 2000 AD is well placed to make that connection because it is one of the few comics that still has pride of place on the newsstands in the UK, plus it has a rich fictional world that kids can delve into.

DB: Vital, if the comic and the comics industry as a whole is to survive in any shape. To be selfish for a moment, I’d really hate to do anything else for a living!

Finally, with Regened being all about getting younger readers into comics, how about your own experiences of discovering both comics and 2000 AD?

RD: I’m old enough to have lived in a world when every kid read comics (that world being the 1970s), so the only question was which comics you bought. I got Prog one the day it came out. Invasion, Mach One, Dan Dare, Flesh, Harlem Heroes, space spinner down the back of the fridge. That was how I shifted from Whizzer and Chips, Krazy and the like to the kind of comics I’d spend the rest of my life making. It was exactly what this eight-year-old needed.

DB: I first discovered comics when I was about four. I lived in a tiny mining village in Scotland and our local shopkeeper, a lovely woman called Esther, used to save stacks of pre-ordered comics that weren’t picked by customers for me. I have really vivid memories of whole worlds opening up before my eyes thanks to her generosity. In fact, now I think of it, I probably owe her a cut of my earnings.

It’s how I first saw 2000 AD, Marvel comics (old black and white Stan and Jack reprints) and all sorts of other very cool stuff.

Now my own daughter is discovering comics, she’s three, and every day is a Proustian rush recall of those first doses of four colour magic.

You’ll be able to get hold of the first 2000 AD Regened of 2019 as 2000 AD Prog 2170, a 48-page special on sale from newsagents, comic book stores, and online now. Future Regened Progs will be Prog 2183, Prog 2196, and Prog 2206.