This coming year marks the 20th anniversary of my first 2000AD Published work.
tl;dr Just that. This year, twenty years drawing Judge Dredd, and hopefully I’ll get to do more… now read on…
I’ve told the story many times, but to recap, following 2000AD’s purchase by Rebellion, Rebellion decided to have the first 2000AD Convention DreddCon:1 in November 2000 –
Having previously wheedled my way in to the online 2000ad fan community, via the fanzine “Class of ’79” (itself a product of the imagination of sadly missed WR Logan aka Stewart Perkins) and drawn a few strips for it, I’d also become friendly with Gordon Rennie – who was writing Dredd at the time – from doing some small press work for the fanzine “Violent” (created by Mike Sivier) It was clear I needed to go to the new convention.
I was pretty active on alt.comics.2000ad – a newsgroup (newsgroups were message board type things that had elements of social media to them – ask your parents)
And had set up a nascent web cam type operation to draw live from my drawing board (twitching before there was a twitch) And thanks to the wonders of the internet, here that is:
There’s a reason I’m telling you this and it’ll be clear shortly…
The year 2000 was a seminal year for a multitude of reasons, I’d applied for a new job that I’d started on the 1st of that year, working for a charity as their IT manager, but, importantly, it was a part time job and I’d intended to spend the remaining time drawing more and – as a kid growing up reading 2000ad – the year itself, obviously, meant something.
Plus, and this might have been the clincher, 2000 was the year I turned 30.
So I went off to DreddCon, with a pile of comic pages (having advised people over the years you only need a few pages, I decided I’d try a slightly different, idiotic, tact and bought a whole load of work with me, the hope being I’d show it to then editor Andy Diggle and he’d relent under the pressure of my resolve and volume of my pages)
As it turns out, Andy was one of the people who’d watched the webcam (see, told you it would be relevant!) and said he thought (as he surface skimmed the art on the top of the massive pile of comics pages I’d bought) that my art had improved, so yes, he’d give me some work. I was a little anxious because he wasn’t really looking at the mountains of artwork I’d bought for him to look at.
In one of those happier coincidences, my girlfriend (who’d become my wife a few years later) was with me, so it was a glorious glorious con – best of my life, probably. (She remains not-a-con goer though)
I phoned Gordon immiediatly, and Gordon, to which I’ll always be in his debt, said he’d just sent in a Dredd and he’d ask for me to draw it.
And lo, I ended up debuting in Prog 1233 in March 2001 in Judge Dredd.
Some mad person has done the leg work of checking all of the contributors to Judge Dredd and the number of appearances (in the Megazine and 2000AD) and in the twenty years since, of the 146 artists to have worked on Dredd, in terms of number of appearances, I come in at number 9. Something which even now I’m slightly baffled by – how did that happen? In my head I’m still trying to break in to comics in general and 2000ad specifically. This past couple of years I’ve gotten more comfortable with how I handle Dredd himself, even as I’m still casting around trying to figure out how to draw his entire mad world.
That first Dredd strip, I redrew it maybe three/four times, a curse that has followed me around on almost every job – the most recent Dredd I abandoned pages and redrew them with just as insecurity.
Anyway, twenty years. Kind of remarkable to do anything for 20 years really – I think my life working in IT lasted from the age of 14 to 37, in comics 30 to 50 (seven year overlap). Maybe, as the comics time frame takes over the IT time frame I’ll stop thinking of myself as an IT nerd who draws comics and instead ease into old age thinking of myself as a comic artist first and foremost.
This next year, in the bag already for 2000AD is more Judge Dredd, a solo Chimpsky series and more Dept K – if I end up spending the next twenty years working for 2000AD, well, it’s a life well lived as far as I’m concerned.
There’s no central committee to say “Here you go, twenty years of service, well done” so I make no apologies fort the self-congratulatory nature of this blog post, almost everything I’ve ever done in comics has been a way to connect to an 11 year old me, sitting in my room drawing Judge Dredd and trying to escape the real world, so well done you – you did it. I love drawing Dredd, I always have, I always will, and now I’ve finally gotten good at it, I’d like to do more.
Thanks to everyone who’s helped me get here – WR Logan, Gordon Rennie, Andy Diggle, Mike Sivier, Christian Dunn (former Warhammer editor) and, of course, Matt Smith – Thargs current incarnation who’s been there as long as I have, as well as the pals I’ve made along the way, Rob Williams, Si Spurrier, Arthur Wyatt, Al Ewing, and many, many more. And, finally, of course, special thanks to the readers who’ve put up with me as my art style has evolved over the years, there will always be ups and downs in quality, sometimes because you learn and try things out, sometimes it’s because drawing is bloody hard and life is hard and everything is HARD. But it’s never, NEVER because I don’t love the job.