It was rather overshadowed by all the Dredd news, but the announcement that IDW would be putting out a reprint of Brendan McCarthy and Al Ewing’s Zaucer of Zilk is also pretty big news as it shows IDW will be reprinting more than Judge Dredd.
Zaucer of Zilk promo image from The Strangeness of Brendan McCarthy.
Colin Smith takes his usual in-depth look at Zaucer of Zilk:
Like a pair of champion athletes out-classing the opposition in a 100 metre dash while treating it as a three-legged race, Brenden McCarthy and Al Ewing have succeeded in making The Zaucer Of Zilk one of the year’s greatest comics pleasures despite hamstringing the project with thin characterisation and unfortunate plot shortcomings.
A new comic on 2000AD, coming March 2012
Now Al Ewing has his say about Zaucer of Zilk with Brendan Mccarthy:
CBR News: How did your collaboration with Brendan McCarthy on “The Zaucer of Zilk” come about?
Al Ewing: It’s [Brendan’s] idea. How it basically came about was that he had the basic idea, and he sent various sketches of various concepts to me. Brendan, he’s absolutely packed with ideas. He’s this astonishing creative talent. [The initial ideas] were kind of unconnected. They were almost a series of dream images, and over the phone he told me some scenes and basic ideas he had for the plot. I took all that and balled it up in to a ten-episode story. The way we worked was that we went over the plot and pitched it back and forth a lot before we sent it to [“2000AD” Editor-in-Chief] Matt Smith.
Can you lay out the general premise for “The Zaucer of Zilk?”
There’s this kind of wizard or sorcerer of a realm, a celebrity magician who ends up going on this quest across various other dimensional realms in order to rescue somebody. I don’t want to give too much away, but thematically, Brendan would describe it as “Dr. Who” meets the “Wizard of Oz” with a heavy influence from “The Mighty Boosh.” I put a little bit of “Entertaining Mr. Sloane” in it, as well.
There’s a hint of this god-like, arrogant element in the main characters. He’s learning humility. It’s almost a classic Dr. Strange story, with the main character starting out as this arrogant, young, full-of-his-own-power person who grows up. He’s learning to take responsibility for himself and for other people.
I think we’ve got something that’s very whimsical and witty and fun. There’s that “The Mighty Boosh” element of that slightly anarchic sense of humor to it, but at the same time it’s got these deeper levels, if you want to look for them. It’s the comics equivalent of a Pixar movie.
Every five or ten years, “2000AD” tends to go through a stylistic and thematic change, from McMahon to McCarthy to Bisley to Flint. Do you think “The Zaucer of Zilk” will herald the next phase of “2000AD?”
I’m walking a fine line between being very proud of the work I’ve done and being very excited about it and a little bit boisterous. Not wanting to boast, I think this is gonna be a biggie and this is gonna draw a lot of people in. If you haven’t been reading “2000AD” for a while, you’ll probably want to read it. To be honest, as a fan of Brendan McCarthy, I’ve seen the first and second episodes, and getting those pages in my inbox was an astonishing day. I was just sitting there looking at them and being blown away. There are some absolutely astonishing things he is doing.
Trust in Al and Brendan - this is one you’ll want to read. However, Al has more coming up:
I’m glad you brought up “Damnation Station.” Having Simon Davis, who for my money is the best artist regularly working on “2000AD,” and Boo Cook rotating main penciling duties is an insane dream team.
Oh, God, yeah. The second series of that is actually going to be the last series. I wanted to do one trade that was a complete story. I wanted to do something that was quite compact. It’s going to be 30 episodes, and I’ve done 15. I left it at this place where Earth is going to war. There’s a terrible betrayal in the last episode, and I’m going to pick up from there. With the last 15 episodes, again, it’s going to split in to four smaller parts with rotating artists. Almost certainly it will be Davis and Cook again, but you’d have to ask Matt Smith. Ben Willshere might do one too. That is something that Matt Smith will decide. There’ll be lots more weird aliens and moral mazes. Quite dark stuff, everything’s going to get worse for everybody. Everything is going to come to a head and finish. Hopefully, I’ll get all that done by Christmas.
So, you’ve got “The Zaucer of Zilk,” “Zombo” and “Damnation Station” coming up in “2000AD.” Anything else you’d like to work on in the prog?
I’d really like to get in to writing more Judge Dredd. I’m doing the Christmas episodes this year, and I’ve got a couple more at the beginning of next year. There’s also something quite huge that’s in the pipeline. I’m going to be quite cagey about it at the minute. In the future, a couple of other people are going to be talking to CBR about it, and it’s going to be huge.
Excited yet?? I might need a lie down.
Look at that bit of Brendan McCarthy loveliness - if that doesn’t make you want it like ice cream in the desert, then you are dead inside. For everyone else, you can read it in 2000 AD next year. If you want more information to help get you through to then without your heads exploding (mine is throbbing) then CBR have an interview with more picture:
CBR News: Can you give a brief run down of what “The Zaucer of Zilk” is and what the strip will be like? How does it set itself apart from other stories in “2000AD?”
Brendan McCarthy: “The Zaucer of Zilk” strip is a phantasmagorical psychedelic extravaganza that features fanciful fantasy rather than hard-core techno sci-fi. It’s something a little bit different for the jaded palettes of the typical “2000AD” reader, I hope.
The art style you’re utilizing for “Zaucer” seems a lot brighter and vibrant than some of your older work. Why the switch?
The digital revolution has changed what can be done in the art, and I’m always looking for the chance to do something new. In this case, the bright delight of “Digital Fauvism” is calling me.
Why the recent resurgence in your “2000AD” output?
I want to keep my hand in getting back into comics and “2000AD” has always felt like home. Also, it’s a bit more open to oddball ideas. There’s a history of oddities in the comic.
“The Zaucer of Zilk” is a kind of bonkers “Monty Python” version of “Harry Potter” and “Dr Who” with bits of “The Wizard of Oz” thrown in, and fits into that wonderful British surrealist tradition rather well. It could be a nice performance-capture CGI animated TV series that would play well to the ever-increasing US “Dr Who” audience. When “Zaucer” is completed, I would like to talk to the BBC to see if it could be turned into a good live-action/animated TV series, with people like “The Mighty Boosh” and other British comedians and actors playing different roles. Noel Fielding as Errol Raine, Bill Nighy as the Zultan, etc., would be just dandy.
Geoffrey D. Wessel has interviewed Al “Alien Brain” Ewing for Comics Bulletin, obviously the upswing in interest over the other side of the Pond is down to his taking over from Garth Ennis on Dynamite’s Jennifer Blood but the interview also goes into plenty of detail about his main body of work for Tharg:
Wessel: The third series of Zombo wrapped up not too long ago, with a 4th entitled “Planet Zombo” promised. How soon ‘til that drops, and what else do you have coming up in 2000 AD and/or the Judge Dredd Megazine?
Ewing: Well, I’m feeling the pressure of success now, in that Zombo 4 kind of has to be the best thing ever, and also I have other stuff pending for Tharg [2000 AD editor Matt Smith] in the meantime, like the second series of Damnation Station, which I’ve been working on forever, and The Zaucer of Zilk, which I’m doing with Brendan McCarthy. Both of these have been quite time-intensive for various reasons, but I think they’ll be worth the wait. And I’ve got a Dredd story or two coming up as well.
Wessel: Glad to hear about a second series of Damnation Station as I really liked that one, but what can you say about The Zaucer of Zilk?
Ewing: It’s like a wild combination of Time Bandits, Doctor Who, Mighty Boosh and The Wizard of Oz, with just a pinch of Entertaining Mister Sloane, and it’s got some incredible work by Brendan! I firmly believe it’s going to be the hit of next year. In fact, I seem to remember saying in an interview with someone else that it might bring some new and lapsed readers back into the fold all by itself, which isn’t something I’ve felt confident saying about something I’ve done before. (Although I understand some new readers out there are big fans of Zombo!)
Wessel: Zombo does definitely hit a certain zeitgeist right now.
Ewing: People definitely like it a lot! Or they do once they read it. I was watching a lot of people look it over at the NYCC, and occasionally, you’d get “Oh, Zombies…” comments [from] people tired of the whole phenomenon. Which is fine, as I’m tired of it too! But it looks like the larger culture still has plenty of time for zombies, given the new Walking Dead TV show and so on. Maybe it’s that, more often than not, zombies provide a framework for other, more human stories, or maybe we’re just living under the shadow of the collapse and the zombie narrative is a way to inoculate ourselves against that fear.
World of Superheroes have got an interview with Tharg’s chief minion, Matt Smith, who includes some news on upcoming series:
Anthology comics have been around for years but few have had the freedom to go where 2000AD have. “It’s a true independent,” he explains which frees you up quite bit in over all terms, “This allows for a wide variety of art styles and genres – you can find a mix of SF, fantasy and horror in any one issue, so allows for a lot more freedom, creatively. It’s a violent, gritty comic without a superhero in sight, and not tied to any toy license.” Smith adds that there are not just simply storytelling differences; value and style is also paramount to 2000AD. “(There’s) variety, innovation, irreverence, violence and satire. Plus 32 pages of comics every week for £2.25 is pretty good value compared to what you pay for a 22-page US comic.”
As you can imagine, with 35 years of experience and no sign of slowing, this alone should tick all the boxes but Smith comes back at me with even more. “By getting some of the best writers and artists in the business to come up with some of the most exciting stories 2000AD is a true independent, so doesn’t need to tie itself to a franchise – whether it’s an SF thriller as in Grey Area by Dan Abnett and Karl Richardson, or a surreal fantasy saga as in The Zaucer of Zilk by Al Ewing and Brendan McCarthy (to name just two new series coming soon), we’re just looking for interesting, original stories that readers will enjoy.” The influx of talent and showcasing of original stories is growing, rather than slowing. With a format that has always succeeded there’s never been any need to change.
Being a weekly that is in tune with the market it comes as no surprise that Smith and his team are aware of the shift from print to digital, with the latter becoming increasing popular. “We currently make each issue available as a digital download a week after the print edition has gone on sale.” But Smith also acknowledges the importance of local comic book stores, newsagents and news stands were the original merchants. “We want to keep our place on the news stand, as I believe that there will always be a market for printed comics.”
2000AD has an extensive back catalogue. Many of who we consider the great writers and artists of our generation. Successful icons such as Dave Gibbons, Mark Millar, Alan Moore and Garth Ennis all wrote progs for the weekly. Have no worries about their works being made available digitally either; 2000AD has already started with the releases. “You can already buy digital versions of collections like Judge Dredd Case Files 1 (which features the early work of Brian Bolland, Ian Gibson, Mick McMahon, John Wagner and Pat Mills), The V.C.s (featuring Cam Kennedy and Garry Leach) and ABC Warriors (featuring Kev Walker) from www.2000ADonline.com.” Smith assures me.
2000AD must have high hopes for this movie as it could lead the way in adaptations for a whole host of other interesting characters. “There’s been plenty of interest from movie people in other characters, but nothing I can reveal at the moment. Sláine, Rogue and Strontium Dog would indeed make killer movies.”
Smith also concludes with a few words of wisdom from The Mighty One himself, as Tharg would never be one to leave us without imparting a valuable nugget of his vast intellect. “Try Thrill-power. Once tasted, you won’t be able to get enough!”