¦ Features ¦ David
Interview Part 1
Interview by Richmond
first script for 2000AD - Vector 13
editor of both the Megazine and 2000AD, David Bishop has seen both highs and lows.
Everything from Dante to the Space Girls in fact. And even today, making his way
as a writer, he is still managing to make waves, with his controversial Dead Men
Walking, or his highly praised novels and audio plays.
Here, he talks
with us frankly about both the good and bad...
with the easy questions! How did you get started in comics and how did you come
to be editor of the Galaxy's Greatest Comic?
I was born and raised in New Zealand, where I read comics as a boy: Australian
reprints of The Phantom, a few British titles (including some early issues of
2000 AD) and Marvel Comics from the US. I liked the Marvel titles best of all
because they were the only ones available in colour. DC Comics were only available
in New Zealand as black and white reprints bashed out by somebody called Planet
Comics in Australia. NZ didn't have a comics industry, being way too small. It
had one comic published when I was growing up, a luscious full colour title called
Captain Sunshine, IIRC. Very eco-friendly and drawn by Colin Wilson, who later
worked for me at 2000 AD.
I worked for five years as a daily newspaper journalist after leaving school in
NZ before emigrating to the UK in early 1990. I applied for every job advertised
in The Guardian's media pages (still waiting to hear back about presenting a new
gardening show on Channel 4, come to think of it). Amongst these was becoming
a sub-editor for the 2000 AD Group of Comics. When I turned up for the interview
with Steve MacManus and Peter Hogan, it was actually for the assistant editor
job on soon to be launch mature monthly Revolver. I didn't get the job but impressed
Steve Mac enough for him to hire me as his assistant editor on the soon to be
launched Judge Dredd Megazine.
I started on July
25, 1990, working three days a week freelance. The title launched seven weeks
later and I was editor within a year. That first year was my on-the-job training.
Steve Mac was a brilliant mentor and taught me so much about editing comics. He
deserves far more credit than he gets for the so-called Golden Age of 2000 AD.
It's no coincidence that most of the comic's finest moments happened under Steve's
first Megazine as Editor
I edited the Megazine for four years from Autumn 1991 to Autumn 1995, during which
it went from monthly to fortnightly and won Best British Comic for four years
running. Towards the end of 1995 I was offered the chance to become editor of
2000 AD and grabbed it with both hands. I was gagging to get hold of the comic
and get it a bloody good shake ; ahh, the arrogance of youth! As I was convinced
I could turn it round from a period when it had been losing 8000 to 10000 sales
a year. I had the Rosette of Sirius handed to me by John Tomlinson on December
18, 1995 while he took over the Meg, which was about to revert to monthly status.
Prog 972 or 971 was on sale, 978 was due to repro soon and the first thing I commissioned
for 2000 AD was the cover of 979 - Venus Blue Genes by Jason Brashill, the Valentine's
Day Massacre cover.
editing 2000AD, you had a stint at the Megazine, what were the major differences
between editing these two titles?
On the surface, the only obvious differences are frequency (the Meg being monthly,
then fortnightly, then monthly again and now coming out every fourth week, while
2000 AD is a weekly) and the Meg's official editorial stance of being all about
the world of Dredd and nothing else. In reality, there's a bit more to it than
that. 2000 AD has a momentum to it, thanks to weekly publication. Even the worst
strip in the prog will only last a matter of weeks. Put a 12-part stinker in the
Meg and you could be stuck with it for a whole year. But the helter skelter nature
of 2000 AD means filling the pages can sometimes take precedence over quality
control. Strictly speaking the long gaps between issues should give the Megazine
editor fan more time for fine tuning.
In reality, the Megazine
editor's time is instead filled up with other projects. By 1995 I was editing
the Megazine as a fortnightly, the film tie-in title for younger readers Judge
Dredd: Lawman of the Future as another fortnightly (so, effectively doing a weekly
with a split personality), plus The Complete Judge Dredd every month, various
Dredd annuals, specials and special editions. Plus I was writing all the text
for these, editing all the text and designing every page as well. It was a bit
mental. I'm the current Megazine editor Alan Barnes can probably list a thousand
extraneous jobs he has to do beside the task for which he was
first cover david Bishop commissioned
Historically 2000 AD always had more editorial staff than the Megazine. Just having
someone to bounce ideas off can make the job more enjoyable and rewarding. Of
course, when you disagree, it can make the acid in your stomach boil, but that's
true of most jobs I guess. The Megazine was on Egmont's "kill or cure"
list most of the time I was editing it, so whenever the title was renewed for
another financial year it always felt like a victory. The burden of history is
very strong on 2000 AD, making you
painfully aware any successes you have are being measured against classics of
The somewhat fractured relationship between Andy Diggle and Pat Mills
has been well documented. Were there any creators that you found yourself at loggerheads
with? And are there any that are a dream to work with?
I'll do the dream creators first. I loved it when a John Wagner script turned
up. I'd make a coffee, turn the phone down and put my feet up to savour another
six pages from the master. Alan Grant and I had our disagreements but you could
never accuse him of not caring about the work. Robbie Morrison was wonderfully
creative and he seemed to have some anti-hackwork command built into his psyche.
Rare was the Morrison script that clucked like a turkey! Dan Abnett was the rare
example of a scribe
able to write an overtly comic strip like Sinister Dexter without it being abhorred
by all and sundry.
So many of the artists
who a joy to work with. Steely professionals like Steve Yeowell, who never missed
a deadline and could cope with the most outlandish scripts imaginable (John Smith
on Devlin Waugh, for example). The marvellous Sean Phillips, such an underrated
talent, so intelligent and thoughtful in how he approached each job. Carlos Ezquerra,
who somehow managed to impregnate each computer disc with the scent of his cheroot
cigars. The stunning painting of John Burns. Many, many, many more deserve to
be mentioned but I need to press on.
Hairsine's first work for 2000AD as commissioned by Bishop
The creators I clashed with? Best not to name names, it doesn't make anyone happy.
One or two writers who thought the comic owed them a living or who tried to foist
hackwork on to me. The scribe who offered me a Dredd script so bad it had been
rejected for the Daily Star newspaper strip. The writer who sent me a proposal
that was a blatant rip-off of Frank Miller's Sin City and then whined to my boss
about being rejected. The artists who missed deadlines and then lied about it,
who ignored the script and drew what they wanted instead, the ones who didn't
care about what they were doing. The worst example was the artist who delivered
a job late, had obviously rushed it and then had the cheek to add twenty pounds
a page to his normal rate
without asking first. He spent five years on my shit list for that stunt. When
I did finally relent and gave him another chance, he screwed the pooch again.
There's a word for such creators and it rhymes with bunt.
Do you ever miss the job? When working for either of the titles as freelance
do you find yourself thinking "I wouldn't have done it that way"?
I miss getting a lovely set of pages in or looking forward to reading a Wagner
script with its wonderfully dry and droll panel descriptions. Who can improve
on "Dredd. Headshot. Grim."? Meeting and talking with creators, bouncing
around ideas for coverlines, discovering an exciting new talent like Trevor Hairsine
when their samples just turn up in the post one day. As an ex-Tharg it's all too
easy to sit round bitching about what your successors have done, but life's too
short. My hand sometimes twitching for the subbing pen but I'd gradually learning
to suppress the urge!