Ian Edginton Speaks!
Ian Edginton has been a vital part of 2000AD in recent years. His stories have been been quite distinct. I found the chance to ask him about his experiences creating those stories an absolute joy.
Paul: Ian, can you began to ask where your relationship with comics began. What was the first comic you recall enjoying? Do you still have it?
Ian: Growing up in the 1960’s/early 70’s my comic reading trajectory started with humour titles such as The Beano, The Dandy Sparky and Topper before gravitating onto Victor and Hotspur, then Lion and Valiant. I was an only child, so I was spoiled by my grandparents who’d hook me up with a steady supply of comics and annuals! I wasn’t a huge fan of the war stories that some of them ran. I leaned more towards the sci-fi and fantastical. I loved House of Dolman, The Steel Claw, Kellys Eye, Adam Eterno, Mytek the Mighty and Janus Stark. In fact Janus Stark and Adam Eterno were a big influence when I came to write the steampunk series Stickleback for 2000AD later on.
Paul: Please, tell me more.
Ian: My favourites though were the Odhams line of Smash! Wham! and Pow! There the humour strips like George’s Germs, the Swat and the Blots, the classic Grimley Fiendish and The Nervs. What made these stand out though was that they reprinted (although I didn’t know they were reprints at the time) Marvel series The Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk and Spider-Man amongst others. They were a revelation, the Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko artwork was like nothing I’d ever seen. The Kirby work had a grand sweeping, operatic dynamism to them while Ditko’s Spider-Man, while still action packed, introduced me to the notion of character driven stories. I remember thinking time though, why was Peter Parker so miserable, HE HAS THE POWERS OF A SPIDER!
Paul: Very cool.
Ian: Alas I don’t have any of my comics from back then, but I have assembled a nostalgic library of the old annuals!
Paul: How did you first meet Tharg and 2000AD? It must have been fun to meet an alien editor?
Ian: How did you first meet Tharg and 2000AD? I first became a reader with issue one, straight out of the gate! I saw it on the newsagents shelf and it stood out from the rest, so I gave it a go and have been a fan ever since. Alas the Space Spinner that came with it ended up on someones garage roof before the day was out!
Ian: I actually started working for the Mighty Tharg back in issue two of Judge Dredd the Megazine (I think?). It was a Dredd story about an evil magician and a vengeful bunny drawn by Sean Phillips. It was a good few years though before I did anything more for the Meg or 2000AD. I was working for CrossGen, a comic publisher based in Florida. I was on an exclusive contract so I couldn’t work for anyone else but it was a very sweet deal, too sweet it turned out! CrossGen was rare in that it insisted that it’s creators worked in-office, which meant relocating to Florida. It was no bad thing on paper but sadly the company couldn’t live up to its lofty ambitions and went bust. Fortunately we hadn’t upped sticks and moved to the US but I was suddenly out of work with a mortgage to pay and kids to feed.
Ian: As it happened, Steve Yeowell and I had been talking about working together on something. That something became Red Seas that we pitched to and was accepted by 2000AD. They also agreed to reprint the first volume of Scarlet Traces in the Megazine and wanted Matt (Disraeli) and I to do more. Further series followed and I found myself a regular contributor to the Galaxies Greatest Comic! Working for 2000AD not only kept a roof over my families head but it enabled me to write a whole raft of fun and diverse stories!
Paul: Did you ever pitch any Dredd story ideas that were declined? You've written extensively for 2000AD, but only a few Judge Dredd stories. Is it true that Dredd is a hard character to write or not?
I found Dredd oddly easy to write, but I got shot down by David Bishop a few times.
Paul: Did you ever pitch any Dredd story ideas that were declined?
Ian: Absolutely. Not everything you pitch gets accepted. Stories can get bounced for any number of reasons. It might be that they contradict established continuity or have been done before (there have been a lot of Dredd stories!) or sometimes they’re just a bit lacklustre. Editor Matt Smith aka Tharg’s feedback has always been spot on. He doesn’t turn a story down flat, he’ll break it down and explain what does and doesn’t work. I’ve sometimes gone back and reworked the story with his notes in mind and then successfully resubmitted it.
Paul: Is it true Judge Dredd is a hard character to write?
Ian: I’ve never found Dredd a hard character to write. I tend to use him as the straight guy or the foil to the events that are going on around him. On the whole I like to write the more humorous Dredd stories. He’s the humourless rock around which all the mad chaos of Mega City One flows around.
Paul: I'm a huge fan of Leviathan. It felt like a perfect marriage of writer and artist. Was it a tough story to pitch? At the time perhaps it wasn't a typical 2000Ad story?
Ian: Not at all, they’d already run Red Seas, a previous series of mine and Steve Yeowell’s which was a supernatural pirate epic, so I knew they’d be open to looking at something different. It doesn’t always have to be science fiction. The joy of 2000AD is that they are open to a plethora of ideas just so long as they’re good stories!
Paul: Ampney Crucis Investigates was very well received with 2000AD fans I believe, can you say what inspired the characters initially? Because it feels like there may have been a few influences. I can see a touch of Sherlock Holmes.
Ian: I wanted to do a period horror/detective story but nothing, Victorian, nothing Steampunk as I’d already dabbled in that with Stickleback. I had the notion of setting something in the 1920’s/30’s. I’d also been talking to artist Simon Davis about working on a series together. In conversation, he mentioned a village in the Cotswolds called Ampney Crucis and I thought that sounds like a cracking name for a character! The name kind of informed the lead character and the actual series. I decided it was going to be part P.G. Wodehouse and his character Bertie Wooster and part Dorothy L . Sayers detective character, Lord Peter Wimsey. The latter was definitely an influence in that Wimsey and Ampney both suffered from post-traumatic stress as a result of serving in the First World War.
Paul: Beyond 2000AD you've worked a great deal for American publishers. Can you compare at all your experiences working for a UK or US publishers? As in are there any significant differences? Would you say American publishers have a massively differently differently approach to storytelling compared to 2000AD? Is that a fair question?
Ian: It is. Not so much differences, it all depends on the writer and artist. Practically, 2000AD is based around tight, five page episodic stories while American monthlies are 22 plus pages so you have a bit more room to manoeuvre. On the other hand, 2000AD does give you the luxury of being able to tell a long form story that can run to hundreds of pages over a number of years. For example my and Disraeli’s series Scarlet Traces ran as a mini-series for Dark Horse, we were hoping to do more but it never really panned out. However when we bought it over to 2000AD we were able to continue with the story and even expand on it, broadening it out into other eras.
Paul: That is a great answer. Do you have an opinion the emergence of digital comic over the last decade or more. Do you like reading comics on tablets and so forth? How you prefer your writing to be read?
Ian: How's this? I like to read both using formats. I like the traditional, tangible feel of reading a paper comic or graphic novel but also appreciate having a great wealth of reading material at my fingertips on a tablet, especially when I’m on the move.
Paul: I guess it saves on space too. Do you enjoy conventions? Covid rather halted such things for a while. , but in general is it a part of your job you enjoy.
Ian: When I’m there, yes, very much, it’s good to catch up with everyone, see what’s new, cruise the stalls and buy way to much stuff. The travelling, lugging banners and boxes of books around though, I could do without!