The Twelve Blogs of Christmas: Eleven

I'm so sorry this is a day overdue!  My landline went down yesterday, making it impossible for me to blog.  It was very frustrating, especially since I'm trying to finish my working year today, and only have a couple more things to do.  Therefore, this year's Twelve Blogs will extend an extra day, with the final one posted tomorrow.  Oh well, it's not the end of the world!

First off, there's a new competition from those kind people at Comic Book Movie, where you can win a copy of London Falling.  Thought you might like to know.

Secondly, PS Publishing have announced publication of Harvey Horrors Collected Works: Witches Tales Vol. 2, which will be out in January, and for which I've provided the introduction.  These are fabulous pre-Comics Code horror comics from 1952, the sort of thing my Mum meant when she used that descriptor, with much raw talent on display.  (And yes, I do keep wanting to put (sic) after the title.)  As is the tradition with these editions, Jimmy Broxton has drawn me for my intro illustration, in a suitably macabre style.  The link is for the £29.99 book shop edition, but, this being PS Publishing, there are various other luxury versions available.  Do take a look.

Looking ahead, May 2013 sees the release of the second collected volume of Demon Knights, The Avalon Trap.

A new edition of The SF Squeecast is up, where the regulars are joined by Sarah Monette, and I gush about the current series of Merlin.

Okay, so here's the main feature of today's blog.  Continuing our theme of 'The Twelve Days of Christmas', I invited the writers of the recent 'Trifecta' crossover in 2000AD, three strips in the world of Judge Dredd which turned out, a few episodes in, to all be telling the same story, Al Ewing, Rob Williams and Si Spurrier, to talk about Eleven Pipers Piping!  And they do, sort of.  Good morning Al...



'It's been a turbulent year for 2000AD, closing off with 'Trifecta', a multi-prog crossover between three of the comic's 'Dreddworld' strips - Judge Dredd, Low Life and The Simping Detective.  The crossover ran unannounced in the closing months of the year, surprising and galvanising the readership and finishing with an epic prog-length conclusion drawn by Carl Critchlow.
     Nobody had done it before.  That was how Si and Rob sold it to me.  It was a leap of faith.
     It was also a hell of a lot of hard work.  Meetings across the country, skype chats, long email coversations, endless revisions... we put in the hours.  Writing the Dredd bits felt like building one third of an intricate machine, trying to make sure every part fit together with what Rob and Si were doing – and 'Day Of Chaos', when that happened [a John Wagner-written Dredd epic that suddenly changed the shape of Dredd's world -Paul] - not knowing if the damn thing would blow up on the runway.
     (A few coughs and splutters here and there.  But by God it flew.)
     More importantly, it was a hell of a lot of fun.  Never underestimate the amount of fun you can have working with two of the smartest, funniest people in UK comics.  Here's a quick process anecdote: one of my abiding memories of 'Trifecta' is being on a plane with Rob, on the way to New York, more than a year ago now.  I’d just seen Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and I remember telling Rob we should have a ‘Judge Smiley’.  He hated the pun, but by the end of the flight I’d won him over and he was gleefully talking about a secret room done up like a council house, and Alan Bennett... ideas bounced off one another, took root, took flight.  That initial booze/grub session in NYC with Si and Rob remains one of my favourite con memories.
      It took eleven people to make this happen.  Me, Si, Rob, Henry Flint, D’Israeli, Simon Coleby, Simon Bowland, Annie Parkhouse, Ellie DeVille, Carl Critchlow and – most of all – [editor] Matt Smith. ("Eleven people."  What a fib.  Chris Blythe did great colour work and we had invaluable cover and PR support from Cliff Robinson, Pye Parr and Mike Molcher... but there’s no 15th Day Of Christmas, so...)  For over a year, we poured our hearts and our souls and our blood into doing something 2000AD had never done before.  We made a leap into the unknown – and the readership, for the most part, made us feel like Lords.
     Thank you all. Merry Christmas.'


And hello Si...

'One of the most common questions I get asked these days, in a certain breed of interview, goes: “What do you most enjoy about writing?” 
     I’ve taken to hammering out an invective-packed screed in response – nothing!  It’s fucking horrible!  I hate everything!  Kill me!  Kill me with fire! – partly to punish the lazy interviewer; partly because it’s true. 
     But then, generally when I’m moaning like that it’s because I’m visualising my Other Life as a novelist… in which one can earnestly wax lyrical about the satisfaction and pride of having completed a book, but cannot in all honesty deny that the actual process is hard, slow and soul-shatteringly lonely. 
     Comics, by contrast, are a medium of instant and unpretentious collaboration.  You don’t get to be a pissy prima donna about your script when the artist holds its success or failure in their furry little pencil-monkey hands.  You don’t get to be an enigmatic hookah-smoking recluse when you’ve got an editor calling you every afternoon to demand pages, a letterer emailing to check you really did intend to use that dubious onomatopoeic sound (I got away with “klunnnnnge” earlier in the year – ha!) and several thousand X-Men readers direct-tweeting you to demand More Punching.  Like it or not, you get used to dealing with other people. 
     So: I wish I could say the idea of a fiddly secret Dreddworld crossover appealed because I wanted to keep Al and Rob busy enough that they couldn’t pitch for all the juicy gigs I had my eye on elsewhere.  Alas, the ghastly truth is that I really like those guys, I think they’re A-grade writers, and we needed an excuse to go boozing together more often.
     It was hard.  It was frustrating.  It was cortex-poppingly complicated, sporadically fractious and, yes, on one memorable occasion, a bit beer-pukey.  But it all came together like an omnisynchronous orgy, the artists did the work of their lives, the fans shat a lung in surprise, and – truly – it was the most Fun I’ve ever had doing the actual “writing” part of Writing. 
     It couldn’t have worked anywhere else except in the pages of 2000AD, and it wouldn’t have got beyond the idea stage with else anyone except our little team.  
     Comics are fucking brilliant, aren’t they?'


And hello Rob...

'It's the season for giving and selflessness and so it's probably apt that we're talking about the most collaborative creative endeavour I've ever been a part of in 2000AD's 'Trifecta' or 'The Cold Deck' or whatever we're actually calling it (it says a lot about the project that, even now it's done, I'm still not entirely sure what it's called - this is something that, more than any story I've been involved with, seemed to have a life of its own). 
     At the risk of sounding trite and gooey - it's Christmas, what you going to do? - this was a project where giving was integral to it.  Three writers creating a very complex interwoven story from nothing with an eye on fairness to each of us - there were no leads here, despite Dredd's fame and obvious seniority - I think we trusted each other and looked out for each other throughout to ensure that each of the three story strands and our protagonists were equally important.  With each major story decision the best idea won, regardless of who suggested it, and the ideas of one would spark off the others.  Three brains, living in just one mind, as Phil Collins so famously sang.  Egos were to be kept on leashes if not completely thrown out the door, and even though we agreed a veto where, in times of disagreement, two yays won the day over any nay, it says a lot that we rarely had to use it. 
     It helps greatly that Si and Al are both friends along with being writers who I respect hugely (sincerity! It must be Christmas).  But everyone simply wanted this to be something GOOD and rare and unusual.  We discussed whether or not to publicise it ahead of time very early on and were unanimous in deciding no, wouldn't it be more fun if it were a complete surprise to the readers?  This wasn't about trying to make PR noise for us all and further our careers, it was about trying to make something as simple as a fun story.  And then, continuing the Yuletide theme, a lot of other very talented people joined in.
     Matt Smith agreed to it and made some integral additions of his own (I had an invasion fleet being built on the moon, Matt suggested it be a city - BETTER), Henry Flint, D'israeli, Si Coleby and Carl Critchlow all made it look otherworldly wonderful.  The letterers worked their arses off.  Chris Blythe.  Cover artists.  Pye Parr drew some fun mysterious promotional teasers.  Comics is always, ALWAYS a collaborative art from.  But this was something else again.  All concerned made it bigger and better than the sum of its parts.  I like to think we looked after each other a bit along the way and made something organic built from nothing but good intentions.  That all sounds very Chrismassy to me.  Gawd bless us every one.
     Oh, and at our initial story meeting in a Covent Garden pub Al rushed outside and threw up into a bin.  Which also sounds Christmassy.
     Have a Merry Christmas all.'


You have been watching...



Al Ewing is best known for his work on 2000AD, where, as well as working on flagship character Judge Dredd, he co-created Zombo, Damnation Station and The Zaucer Of Zilk (recently reprinted as a miniseries from IDW).  Other work includes the crime comic Jennifer Blood for Dynamite Entertainment, several pulp sci-fi novels for Abaddon Books, and the groundbreaking iphone comic Murderdrome - the first comic to be banned outright by the Apple corporation as being completely unsuitable for man, beast, fish or fowl.


Simon Spurrier was born in 1981.  Working as an art director for the BBC, he took an unscripted tangent into the murky depths of writing and has since become an award winning novelist and comicist.  His latest crime novel, A Serpent Uncoiled, was released to critical acclaim in 2011, while in comics he's currently writing X-Men Legacy for Marvel and the free weekly horror webcomic Crossed: Wish You Were Here for Avatar Press.  He hangs out on Twitter too much (@sispurrier), drinks more coffee than he should, and still thinks swearing is big, funny and clever.


Rob Williams’ credits for Marvel Comics include Ghost Rider, Daken: Dark Wolverine, Amazing Spider-Man, Wolverine, Punisher Max, The Iron Age, Fear Itself: Uncanny X-Force and Skaar: King of the Savage Land. he is also the writer of 2000AD's Low Life and The Grievous Journey of Ichabod Azreal and National Comics: Madame Xanadu for DC Comics.  His other past credits include Indiana Jones and Star Wars for Dark Horse, Robocop and Terminator for Dynamite and Ghostbusters for IDW.  His first comic work was Cla$$war for com.x.

Thanks, you three.  We'll continue tomorrow with author Maura McHugh talking about... Twelve Drummers Drumming!  Until then, Cheerio!


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