Just the other day, we told you all about Neill Cameron‘s excellent webcomic created throughout this most screwed up of years – 2020 365. Well, I dropped Neill a line and asked him a few questions about one of my favourite web-things this year…
Just to remind you – we’re talking 2020 365, a year-long webcomic up on Webtoons, which is described like this…
A cyborg detective in a dark futuristic city. A stressed-out freelancer coping with COVID-19, deadlines and a new baby. A lone swordswoman in a ruined, monster-filled world. What connects all these? The year… is 2020. An experimental new comic, created one panel per day, every day in 2020.
As I said, it’s a quite magnificent example of how webcomics can work so well, with Cameron using the format to his advantage so well to tell a multi-stranded tale featuring the cyborg detective running X-365 Investigations in one world, the stressed-out freelancer Hannah, and the lone swordswoman, all cleverly defined by the colours Cameron uses… and, so very wonderfully, all connecting up together to tell one big year-long tale.
Now, over to chat to Neill about it all… but first, the opening few panels of it all…
Richard Bruton: So, Neill, why 2020 365?
Neill Cameron: I just thought it would be fun! The original idea just kind off came from my amazement that it was actually going to be The Year 2020, in real life. 2020 was a big year in my childhood imagination – it was where Iron Man was from in the strip in the back of Transformers, and I think Death’s Head lived there for a while? And because those kind of comics were such a big part of my childhood universe, and of making me a lifelong comics reader (and indeed creator), I thought it would be fun to try and honour that, to mark the occasion somehow.
I could perhaps have thought about it a bit longer and come up with a less slightly ridiculous way of doing that.
RB: Seriously, what were you thinking when you committed to the whole one panel a day for a whole year thing?
NC: I realise how absurd this seems now, but at the time, 2019 had seemed like quite a difficult year – I know, I know – and I think I just wanted to do something FUN, to kind of will a better time into existence. We were driving back home from a trip, literally on New Year’s Eve 2019, and I had the idea of doing a comic, one panel a day, every day in 2020. Just as a fun creative project, with all the spare mental and creative energy I was sure to have in 2020.
I CAN ONLY APOLOGISE FOR WHAT AN EXTRAORDINARY PIECE OF FATE-TEMPTING THIS TURNED OUT TO BE.
RB: Okay then, what’s the strip all about?
NC: It is about a Cyborg Private Detective called X-365, in the Futuristic Space Year 2020. He spends a lot of time staring out between the blinds of his dramatically-lit office at the rain-spattered neon future city he lives in, and also fighting vampires. But – at risk of spoiling the first big twist of the comic – it’s not just about him. It’s also about Hannah, a self-employed freelance cartoonist who is coping with deadlines and new motherhood in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. And it’s about what happens when their paths cross.
RB: You describe as an experimental panel a day strip, but where did the original idea come from?
NC: I think the original idea was just that it would be fun to kind of play with that dissonance between the Marvel UK / 2000AD kind of vision of 2020 I was reading about when I was a 12-year-old, and the Real 2020 that was the world my 12-year-old son was actually going to be growing up in.
That felt significant somehow, for reasons I don’t pretend to fully understand, and it made me want to try this. Insofar as I had an idea going in, it was that I thought it would be funny to see the contrast between that kind of dystopian-but-with-cool-flying-cars world we were promised, and what I then assumed would be the mundane, normal, slightly-boring world we actually got.
AGAIN. I REALLY CAN ONLY APOLOGISE.
RB: And although it’s a day by day thing, was there an initial plan for where it was going when you started?
NC: Nope, not at all! I had the idea that there would be a cyborg PI type character, and that he would have a neighbour who somehow lived in ‘our’ world. And that was about it. I didn’t really have any idea of the logistics of how that would work. That was the exciting part to me I think, not having a plan. All my regular comics work has to be quite carefully planned out in advance and structured and go through various stages of approval, and I thought it would be fun for a change to just try trusting my instincts and making something up as I went along.
And it has been fun! For a certain ’terrifying and exhausting’ definition of fun.
RB: Just how much has it changed from what you had in mind at the beginning?
NC: I mean, just, completely. Insofar as I had a sense going in of where it would go, I suppose it would have involved the two leads getting to know each other, exploring each others’ worlds, having fun adventures, that kind of thing.
And then I found myself in a position a few months in where my characters were literally not allowed to visit each other and have fun adventures, because that would have contravened social distancing guidelines. So, for all kinds of reasons, it probably ended up being a much, much weirder story than maybe I was originally intending.
RB: What’s next for it? Collections? Print comics?
NC: What’s next for it is finishing it, and then collapsing in a dark room, and NEVER DOING ANYTHING LIKE THIS AGAIN.
In seriousness, though: I do like the idea of doing a print version at some point, really mostly just so I can have a print copy myself, as I’m really proud of how some of it turned out and I think it’d look gorgeous in print, and would make a nice personal momento of this completely bewildering Hell Year.
It just might not be for a while, because I already have five (FIVE) books coming out next year, all with my Fun Children’s Author hat on, and I don’t particularly want to confuse people around all that by trying to push out my Weird Experimental and Occasionally Ultra-Violent Personal Comic as well. But people can read the whole thing on WEBTOON, for free, for the foreseeable future anyway!
Okay then – thank you so much to Neill for those answers. He’s now taking a few minutes off and then will be getting on with everything!
Just to give you some idea of where the strip’s at when I’m writing this – that last image is as non-spoilery as I can get with where things are as we come into December 2020. It’s bad. It’s really, really bad. And I find myself checking the 2020 365 webtoons site several times a day just to find out whether the next episode, the next panel is up yet – and if that’s not the best recommendation for just how good this is, then I don’t know what is.
You can, and should, catch up with Neill Cameron‘s 2020 365 at Webtoons (latest, from the start) and make sure to check out his website and Twitter and it’s not too late to get some of his books – perfect gifts all!
Perhaps, if we all get in touch with him, we can convince him to write a 2021 365 strip where it all starts with everything going just fine and then getting better and better? Wouldn’t that be nice?