Readers of 2000AD already know the writer Gordon Rennie as a go-to guy for comic strips expertly merging the fields of action adventure, the supernatural and horror. He’s the man who brought us “Necronauts,” “Caballistics Inc.” and “Absalom,” all strips that gleefully cross genres, and share something of a Wold Newton-ian outlook. “Necronauts” was the strip that introduced many of us to the work of Frazer Irving, and told the tale of a team-up of sorts between Charles Fort, Harry Houdini, Arthur Conan Doyle and H.P. Lovecraft. The much-missed “Caballistics Inc.” featured a team of supernatural investigators forced to migrate from the civil service to the private sector, and featured casual references suggesting it shared a universe with Doctor Who, Quatermass and 2000AD’s own “Zenith.” “Absalom” was an indirect spinoff of “Caballistics Inc.,” fusing classic cop-show DNA into the mix. At one point, Inspector Harry Absalom lists Jack Regan of The Sweeney as an old colleague.
Rennie worked with artist Paul “PJ” Holden on the 2000AD strip “The 86ers,” which, while set in the world of Rogue Trooper, still managed to have allusions to Lovecraft lurking in its backstory. You may well know Holden’s work from the critically acclaimed Numbercruncher, being published by Titan Comics. Others will know him as one of the men who essentially invented digital comics as we’ve come to know them, working on comics that could be distributed as apps way back in 2008 (as well as being the first to run afoul of Apple’s censorious streak then, too). He also occasionally finds the time to be one of the trio of presenters of that most uproarious and vulgar of all comics webcasts, Sunnyside Comics.
Their upcoming comic together at Renegade Arts, Department of Monsterology, shares a lot of influences with these predecessors, while being notably less dark and cynical than Rennie’s work for 2000AD. There’s a great five-page prequel at USA Today that goes a long way to revealing the tone of the first issue: While the debut features pitched battles against Lovecraftian undersea creatures and Chinese vampires, the more playful emphasis reminds me of the Indiana Jones movies. Like Indy, the cast members of DoM are ostensibly academics who just happen to find themselves in the unlikeliest of high-stakes adventures, all in the name of science. We spoke to Rennie and Holden to ask them about Department of Monsterology, its influences, and their hopes for its future.
I remember that a year or two ago, Chris Weston playing a little game with his Twitter followers: casting an imaginary Carry On X-Men film. If memory serves, I may even have contributed to it myself; I think I might have been the first to suggest Bernard Bresslaw as Colossus. And that was the end of that, we thought — until he updated his blog with this image.
Surely he’s not been working on this all that time? Weston is something of a movie poster nut, regularly uploading fine examples from his collection, and I’m also enough of an illustration nerd to realize he’s copping the style used by the great Renato Fratini on several U.K. Carry On movie posters.
Northern Ireland’s little podcast that could, Sunnyside Comics, has relaunched at a new location, sunnysidecomics.com. The show’s mix of opinion and hilarious, scurrilous in-fighting has left it with the reputation of being the comics equivalent of The Ricky Gervais Show. The show has a similar tripartite chemistry (with PJ Holden in the outspoken Gervais role, Ron Abernethy as the droll Stephen Merchant lynchpin and Scott Ferguson as their Karl Pilkington), and a similarly irregular broadcast pattern.
Holden is a Belfast-based comic artist who’s been working for 2000AD for more than a decade. In the U.S. he’s drawn Happy Valley (part of Garth Ennis’ series Battlefields for Dynamite), Robocop/Terminator (with Rob Williams) also for Dynamite, and Fearless (written by Mark Sable and Dave Roth) for Image Comics. His work is appearing in Judge Dredd for 2000AD. Ron Abernethy is a face and voice familiar to anyone acquainted with Belfast’s music scene, and has worked for Northern Ireland’s leading commercial media company. He’s responsible for producing the podcast. Scott Ferguson is involved in the technical end of media production, and works on one of the biggest TV series in the world, Game of Thrones. Below, we speak to Paul, Ron and Scott about the relaunch and the trio’s unique relationship.
This week, 2000AD launched its new iOS reader, adding the U.K.’s iconic anthology to Apple’s lucrative Newsstand application. 2000AD artist Paul “PJ” Holden is a longstanding commentator on the digital distribution of comics, frequently blogging and podcasting about the subject, since long before the launch of the game-changing iPad device. ROBOT 6 asked Holden to review the app, and he quickly obliged.
PJ Holden: First, let me get this out of the way, I’m a 2000AD artist, who’s worked for “The Galaxy’s Greatest Comic” (as it is sometimes known) for something over a decade. In fact, I’m currently the artist on “Judge Dredd” (at least for the next two weeks). So, in some respects, I have a horse in this race. Rebellion, the parent company of 2000AD, has had a curious relationship to digital comics. They bought the digital comics company Clickwheel a number of years ago, far in advance of the real blossoming of digital comics with the advent of the iPad (and whatever you feel the merits of Apple vs Android, the iPad was what really opened the doors to the tablet becoming a mass-medium digital comic reading device) and have been selling PDF/CBZ formats of 2000AD ever since. Since then they’ve also opened a digital comic shop on the 2000AD website itself, again selling DRM free versions of 2000AD (in both PDF and CBZ formats). But now, at last, they’ve joined the surprisingly small ranks of publishers who’ve put out on iOS comic reader, and, as a publisher which also happens to be a video game developer, the only thing that’s really a wonder is how long it’s taken.
Not every comics artist is at Comic-Con International in San Diego this week; some are at home updating their blogs. Like Paul Pope (above). For this I’ll forgive his minor part in the Before Watchmen farrago.
Dan McDaid is home in Scotland posting an Easter egg-laden image from an upcoming issue of Doctor Who Magazine.