FCBD 2018: Preview All-Ages Awesomeness From 2000AD

by Richard Bruton

(2000AD: Regend cover by Nuno Platti)

May 5th 2018 is Free Comic Book Day. And amongst all of the wonderful free special comics coming out for you to pick up that day, the one I’m most excited about has to be the 2000AD: Regend issue.
Since 2011, 2000AD have been delighting us with their FCBD comics, usually a mix of old and new reprints, with a few original strips thrown in. But not in 2018, oh no.
Because, for 2018, not only is 2000AD: Regend a completely new collection of 2000AD strips, but it’s also a very special all-ages version of the comic. Oh yes, those brilliant editorial droids have taken the decision to reimagine 2000AD as an all-ages title.
It’s actually rather a perfect idea. 2000AD is a brilliant comic, but it skews to an older audience. Yet, as we all know, the future of the medium depends on getting new readers in and getting them in young. Which is where 2000AD: Regend comes in.
From the moment you open the comic you can tell they’ve really thought long and hard about this one. It’s a completely different look to modern 2000AD, with a completely on point design ethos, very modern art styles that just scream “right here, right now”. Heck, there’s even time for a few quiz and puzzle pages. It all came about thanks to editor Keith Richardson, who’s been behind the 2000AD FCBD comics from the start, and when attending the various FCBD signings over the years, was taken by the number of incredibly happy children in attendance, all loving the comics. So…an idea took shape!
2000AD: Regend is a perfect FCBD comic, totally new, yet a reminder of just how great comics, and particularly 2000AD, can be.
So join us here at Comicon for a little preview of what to expect at your local comic shop on May 5th 2018.

JUDGE CADET DREDD: CROWD CONTROL by Matt Smith and Neil Googe. 
Every 2000AD begins with Dredd, so it’s no surprise that REGENED is no exception. But this isn’t Judge Dredd, this is Cadet Dredd!
2000AD editor Matt Smith joins up with artist Neil Googe to go way, way back in time, when Dredd was a mere strip of a lad, wearing the white helmet of Justice Department cadets. The tale takes us back to 2073, at the World Aeroball Championships with Cadet Dredd tagging along with a Judge for crowd control.
But if you’re expecting some timid little kid, unsure of his job, worried about getting things right… then you’re going to be out of luck. This is Dredd after all, cadet or not, and he’s every bit as driven to uphold the law as he ever will be. Doesn’t matter whether that’s an unruly Aeroball crowd or the odd Velociraptor. Yeah, Velociraptors… kids love dinosaurs!
Smith does an excellent job of pitching the tone just right and not falling into the trap of over-explaining things. It’s one of the joys of Judge Dredd to be honest. There’s decades of continuity involved, but essentially the basics of the strip shine through and make it easy to pick up Dredd at any point and get just what he’s about.
As for Googe’s artwork, it’s perfectly suited for the all-ages tag, and very similar to his work on the recent Survival Geeks. There’s a subtle sense of exaggeration of characters and creatures, but all done with such style.

STRONTIUM DOG: TRIAL RUN by Alec Worley and Ben Willsher
We know Johnny Alpha as a hard-bitten mutant bounty hunter with X-Ray eyes, most often drawn by the amazing Carlos Ezquerra in wonderfully grizzled fashion. But here we’re back to a younger Johnny, trying out for the Strontium Dogs, desperate to earn his dog-tags.
Just as with Cadet Dredd, Alec Worley‘s put in a fun, joke laden script that still stays true to the character’s origin, whilst making it immediately accessible for younger readers. And Ben Willsher‘s art is totally different from his usual excellent work in 2000AD, coming across as very animated, more Ben-10 than 2000AD.
Here it’s Johnny Alpha’s try out for the Dogs, complete with a robo-examiner with a chip on his robo-shoulders about muties.

Mr Alpha, you are not a member of the Search/Destroy Agency until you pass this field exam. So less of the “big bad bounty hunter” attitude, if you please!

His first mission; capture the ridiculously pompous Carrion Jones, “aka The Zombie-Master” and his cybernetic slimy sidekick Blobba “Sicknote” Jobson. Cartoon villains for a comic perfect for Saturday morning cartton treatment!

FUTURE SHOCKS: HUMANCRAFT by Ned Hartley and Tanya Roberts
As the Regend editor (Joko Jargo) says in the editorial:

My uncle (The Mighty Tharg) has pioneered these bite-sized sci-fi masterpieces he calls ‘Future Shocks’ that run regularly in his comic, 2000AD. This story requires you to put down your console pad and consider this… are you the gamer or part of the game?

Future Shocks have long been a feature of 2000AD. Some are great, 5-pages of super-tight story with a twist ending, others… well, not so good. But how do you take something that’s often dealing with dark ideas and make it all-ages?
Well, if you’re new to 2000AD writer and artist Ned Hartley and Tanya Roberts, you give the kids a take on Minecraft, and you do 4-pages with a very clever concept, gorgeously colorful artwork, and a twist with a very modern political twist! Hartley has worked in kids comics for a while, and obviously knows his audience’s tastes well. He also knows that youngsters are far more aware of what’s going on in the world than we give them credit for. Which is why Humancraft has very grown-up themes of the sheer grind of adult life, complete with rubbish jobs, failed promotions, and end it all (literally) with a certain President doing a very bad thing.

D.R. and Quinch Hijack Free Comic Book Day by Owen Michael Johnson, Colin Bell, and Indio
Of all the strips in Regend, the return of those galactic teenage delinquents created by Alan Moore and Alan Davis was the one 2000AD readers were particularly excited about. Or at least I was. After all, the Moore and Davis D.R. and Quinch adventures are comedic highlights of the long history of 2000AD. All you need to say to a 2000AD reader to get a familiar smile of recognition is “Mind the oranges, Marlon“.
So for Owen Michael Johnson, Colin Bell, and Indio to take on this classic must have been a daunting prospect. Thankfully, they pull it off with aplomb. In D.R. & Quinch Hijack Free Comic Book Day all the gags are there (with perhaps less focus on high-powered weaponry and mass destruction!) and Indio’s art is playful and works really well, sensibly avoiding trying to look anything like Alan Davis. The story stwists and turns, a metafictional time-travel thing with more than a knowing nod to older 2000AD readers, whilst still keeping things very all-ages.

Intestinauts by Arthur Wyatt and Pye Parr
It might only be a single page, but there’s a wealth of gags in this Numbskulls meets Fantastic Journey strip. Join the cure-all wonder-bots in pill form, perfect for dealing with all manner of intestinal infestation and digestive disorder!
Arthur Wyatt and Pye Parr obviously delight in introducing younger readers to the wonders of the end results of a Venusian Vindaloo, tapeworms, and amoebic dysentery. Hey, poop gags are still funny, no matter how tuned in today’s kids are, right?

Chet Jetstream: Hell Island by Henry Flint
And finally… every kids comic needs a two-page centre spread game, doesn’t it? And Regend is no exception! The brilliant Henry Flint tells a tale of primate pilot Chet Jetstream crashing on the terrifying Hell Island. And it’s down to you to help him escape. Of course, this being Flint, the perils are slightly more unusual, so you’ll be facing such horrors as “Plague Tears”, “Voodoo Mermaids”, “Pyramid of Worms”, “Telepathic Ravens”, and the very bizarre “Rabid Geese”. Funny and playable!

2000AD REGENED – roll the credits…
Edited by Keith Richardson.
Cadet Dredd by Matt Smith and Neil Googe,
Strontium Dog by Alec Worley and Ben Willsher,
Future Shocks: Humancraft by Ned Hartley and Tanya Roberts,
D.R. & Quinch Hijack Free Comic Book Day by Owen Michael Johnson, Colin Bell, and Indio,
Chet Jetstream by Henry Flint,
Intestinauts by Arthur Wyatt and Pye Parr.
Design by Sam Gretton (& the design droids!) and cover by Nuno Plati. 
Published by Rebellion and available from a comic shop near you on Free Comic Book Day 2018; Saturday 5th May.

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