FutureQuake : Your Next Punk!

Every comic fan has their answer to the question of what was their first comic.  The answers are incredibly varied. Equally varied is the answer to the question of what was your first import comic. Mine was Judge Dredd and 2000AD. That experience still reverberates with me today. Even now, decades later, I am a fan track of the 2000AD universe.

Imagine my surprise to discover an independent publisher of 2000AD’s current publisher (Rebellion) that is publishing 2000AD characters. That company, FutureQuake, is wildly interesting.  Not only are 2000AD creators popping up at FutureQuake, but the company (like 2000AD) has also launched the careers of popular creators of today.

In today’s industry, there are more differences in how companies operate than there are similarities. I think it’s refreshing to see these differences. I applaud FutureQuake’s uniqueness as a publisher.

I’m excited to present to you an interview with three key editors and creators of FutureQuake.  Their lineup includes a lot more than just 2000AD-centric titles, too. Find out more below!

Joeseph Simon: As a fan of 2000 AD characters I’m happy to have found a company devoted to the creations of 2000 AD. FutureQuake publishes Zarjaz and Dogbreath. Both are comics devoted to the world of 2000 AD.

Judge Dredd is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the coolness that is 2000 AD. One has to include Strontium Dog, who you happen to devote Dogbreath stories to.  How would you describe 2000 AD and then how would you describe FutureQuake?

Dave Evans: 2000 AD is the source. It is the first comic I read that made me want to read more. 2000 AD is probably best known as the home of Judge Dredd, but it should possibly be more widely known as the ‘birthplace’ for Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, Brian Bolland, Simon Bisley, Dan Abnett… the list could go on. 2000 AD is a home for the finest storytellers to work their craft. The core of 2000 AD has always been its very healthy disrespect for authority. At FutureQuake Press we started publishing our work but quickly realized that there was a wealth of talent working in ‘Small Press’ that deserved to have their stories seen.

Owen Watts: I think it’s all about giving space to new talent. FutureQuake is a sounding board for people who might otherwise get lost in the notoriously vast 2000 AD ‘slush pile’ of unread scripts and unseen sample art. For me the vital element of 2000 AD as an anthology first and foremost is variety – and in the small press, you have access to boundless new and exciting talent which is what draws me to it.

Richmond Clements: For me, apart from the fun of playing with all these incredible characters, it’s about giving a platform for new writers and artists to practice their craft. We can work with an artist or writer, taking them through many rewrites and getting their work just right in a way that an editor on a ‘big’ comic simply doesn’t have the time to do.

JS: From IPC to Fleetway to Rebellion, 2000 AD is always an exciting read. I became a fan during the Fleetway years, but thanks to reprints I admit to loving the early years as well. Dredd was my gateway into 2000 AD. Everything else quickly followed.

Where does your appreciation of the 2000 AD comics begin?

DE: My first prog was 120 (July 1979) and what grabbed me was the cover by Dave Gibbons. The issue boldly proclaimed itself the ‘Big Robot Issue’ and there on the cover was a huge robot with humans held in the palm of its hand. Inside the comic were the traditional five strips, but what pulled me back for the following week wasn’t Judge Dredd; it was the A.B.C. Warriors.

OW: It wasn’t Dredd for me either! Mine was Prog 1218 (Nov 2000) and I fell in love with Henry Flint’s spidery chaos art on Deadlock and Simon Fraser’s bold characteristic Nikolai Dante. 2000 AD had only just been taken over by Rebellion and there were a lot of new things being tried out and that new energy was palpable – it was all really exciting! Then when you find out there are twenty-three years of back issues to catch up on…

RC: Not saying that I’m old or anything. But Prog 1 for me. I remember seeing the ad on TV and tracking down an issue at the local newsagents.

JS: Rebellion coming into the picture was quite a shocker. I view their dedication to archiving the history of British comics as inspiring.

Speaking of inspiring, what happened that clicked everything into place and made FutureQuake a reality?

DE: FutureQuake grew out of pain and rejection – for Arthur Wyatt. Arthur had been pitching ideas for Future Shocks to Tharg the Mighty (TMO) for a while and had built up several rejections. Rather than just let these stories die, Arthur had them drawn by artists he knew through 2000 AD fandom and published the first issue of Future Quake. Arthur produced three issues, and by the third, he was already using other writers to help him hit the page count for the comic. I was an artist on one of the strips in the third issue, which was a big deal for me at the time (around 2003). After the third issue, Arthur moved to the US, and FQ was continued initially by another fan named James Mackay. He hadn’t any experience of putting a physical comic together, but he knew I had, having seen my ‘Whistler’ stories that I put out as a Dogbreath special. He contacted me and writer Richmond Clements to effectively generate the content for what became FutureQuake 04. We launched in Bristol in 2005 and that was it. We have been producing at least one issue of FutureQuake a year since then.

JS: You are not only creating fan-based 2000 AD stories for other fans to enjoy the greatness that is 2000 AD. You are opening it up for those same fans to contribute to your comics out of love for these characters.

What do they have to do to be part of this? Let’s say someone submits a story, does it have to have an artist attached? If you’re an artist who loves 2000 AD but has no story, do you play matchmaker? What is the process from fan to seeing your work in FutureQuake publications?

DE: This is the part of putting the comic together I’m best at. Scripts arrive, via email, and are initially read by me. If I like it I pass it over to Richmond Clements (Still my compadre in this after all these years) and Owen Watts – my co-editors; to gain their opinion. I am a fair judge of scripts, but comics are a synergistic medium. The whole is always greater than the sum of its parts and I greatly value the advice and opinion of both of these men.

Script accepted – I inform the writer and the script is logged in my spreadsheet ready to go to the artist.

Artists simply need to email us at FQP through any of the email addresses in the comics (they all get forwarded to me) and I’ll get in touch to see what their art is like. Ideally, I want to see sequential pages, but if an artist simply has never drawn a comic strip and wants a go we can help with sample scripts or in some cases actual scripts that are waiting to be drawn.

We have had a fair few strips arrive fully formed over the years, but there is almost always something we want to adjust – be it a line of dialogue or a caption, a panel that doesn’t quite convey the story as well as it could or most likely – poor lettering.

This process applies to all the comics we produce – after all the standards that see FutureQuake enjoy critical success also allow creators working on the other titles to hone their skills with actual results when a comic is published.

JS: The 2000 AD characters must have a great synergy with creative people.  2000 AD itself has launched many careers in the comic industry. Thanks to your efforts, you have helped launch a few creators into their careers.

Cullen Bunn, for example, and others started their careers in your comics.  That has to be exciting. You also had Alan Grant, Al Ewing, Charlie Adlard, and others pop up as guests at FutureQuake.

Any surprises from working on these titles?  Have fans shown you new insights into characters you thought you knew everything about? Have any stories submitted about obscure characters or storylines?  Has 2000 AD shown interest in new talent that comes by way of your company and the stories published on your pages?

DE: We’ve been putting out comics for almost 15 years now, with a largely unchanged process. We’ve seen many creators move from Small Press to being working professionals and it never stops being exciting. Recently, with Rebellion expanding into work relating to the vast Treasury of British comics we have seen more than one artist actively contacted following a strip that they have worked on for FQP to work on a strip for Rebellion.

OW: More and more in new creator interviews you see “Zarjaz” and “FutureQuake” pop up in the first paragraphs where they explain where they started working. It’s genuinely amazing.

RC: Speaking to your question about insights into characters, yes. I wrote a Slaine script for Zarjaz a few years back, and it was only then in writing the dialogue between Slaine and Ukko that I realized the complex dynamic between the two characters. Apart from Slaine’s physical bullying of Ukko, there is also the way that Ukko subtly undermine Slaine and uses psychology to get the barbarian to do what he wants.

JS: What are you hoping for in submissions that complete the FutureQuakes goals? What won’t you accept in submissions? While you are from England, do you accept submissions from fans from all over?

DE: For submissions to FQP, be they script or art, we want to see talent. A script needs to be complete, in and of itself with a beginning, middle, and end (and a twist in many cases). Art needs to show a grasp of storytelling; if an artist is inexperienced but has a good grasp of storytelling then working on scripts for us will help them to hone their craft.

RC: I’d also add that if you are submitting to Zarjaz, we get a LOT of Dredd scripts. You’d be more likely to catch our eye if you went for something less obvious. We’ve never had a Dante script submitted, for example.

JS: I always felt Dr. Who has its own identity as a science fiction show, it has its feel. The same can be stated about the 2000 AD characters.  There is a completely different mindset. 2000 AD characters are unlike anything else in comics. Even more so, each series has its vibe. As an editor for FutureQuake, how do you keep the spirit of 2000 AD in FutureQuake?

DE: I’d say that the spirit of 2000 AD is in everything we do at FQP. The amount of classic Future Shocks, Time Twisters, Terror Tales, and even Past Imperfects that have gone before serve to act as guides and inspiration for the type of storytelling we want to present.

JS: There is something wonderful in what FutureQuake is doing. Publications that are devoted to and celebrate other creations can be found in journalism and fanzines. It’s a valuable part of the creative community. Specific to 2000 AD there is a bigger idea that I’ve been thinking about that I’d like to go into.

Many creators at 2000 AD and also at FutureQuake later go on to work at bigger companies in the states. This is very interesting. British creators have innovated and energized the American comic industry.

The comic media has coined this over the decades as the British Invasion.  This also happened in the music industry starting with the Beatles and TV starting with Dr. Who.   I’m keeping within modern times and pop culture. One could easily go back throughout history and discover plenty more examples.

This has been repeated by other countries as well.  Japan with a wide variety of things such as manga and anime. Africa with afro-futurism. China’s (Hong Kong) action films and current success with science fiction are a few examples.  Each is unique, inspiring, and innovative.

It’s an interesting, because, it’s hard for those involved to acknowledge that in the moment. The different creators behind these great works, at the moment, don’t realize the impact that they have.

With the internet and the data it brings, this impact can be quantitatively observed and understood to a greater degree. But that’s just raw data.

I suspect, FutureQuake is more intimately knowledgeable about that based on the kind of publisher FutureQuake is.

I said quite a lot with the above statement. As a fan of 2000 AD and as part of FutureQuake, and a fan of comics, what are your thoughts on what I stated?

DE: My thoughts on this boil down to this – around 50 years ago, many of the creators working in the small press today would have been gainfully employed by publishers and working full-time making the comics of the day. As the current market for comics has shrunk to what almost amounts to a cottage industry, many of these talents will forever labor at comics around a full-time job, as they provide for their families. FQP; with all of the titles we produce, is determined to provide a facility for writers and artists to learn, gain experience, and work to the best level they can. The upside of working on the 2000 AD fanzines is that as the characters are ‘known’ it is possible for a writer and artist to effectively work on submissions for the comic that need to work within the reality of the strip. That provides other editors with a view of how the writer understands the source material and can still bring original ideas to it.

JS: FutureQuake, of course, is also known for MangaQuake (a Manga-influenced anthology) and the horror anthology Something Wicked.  2000 AD science fiction, Manga, and horror. It reminds me of a more culturally inclined EC Comics to a degree. This is exciting stuff. I know the company is non-profit, and with that understanding, I am curious if FutureQuake intends on staying small press. Non-profits doesn’t have to be small. At the same time, I understand wanting to stay small.

DE: The dream. I would dearly love to be able to pack up my day job and allow the love, sweat, effort, and dreams of others to fund my life. I spend roughly 20-25 hours a week making comics, real-life allowing and I know that for the effort I expend, I would love to have financial recompense. FQP print sales are stable currently, after a few years where none of the books broke even. However, it means that currently, the non 2000 AD books do not provide free ‘print’ editions to contributors- this is a source of shame personally but I know that the financial knife edge is such that it makes decisions like this essential.

Print runs rarely sell out, and when they do it is currently not financially feasible for me to keep issues in print. We have 15 years of work out there and I do not have the space to keep a comprehensive back catalogue.

Digital sales, via comiXology, (https://www.comixology.co.uk/FutureQuake-Press/comics-publisher/7307-0?ref=c2VhcmNoL2luZGV4L2Rlc2t0b3Avc2xpZGVyTGlzdC9pbXByaW50U2xpZGVy)  comicsy (http://www.comicsy.co.uk/bolt01/)  and now comichaus (https://www.comichaus.com/) are interesting, as they are slowly providing a source of revenue that can be returned to the creators of the comics. I am maintaining a database of sales and revenues that are generated with an eye on actually passing funds back to creators once the funds reach a level where payment would be worthwhile. However, even here I’m yet to see a return for a creator reach more than a couple of pounds. Time will eventually allow for this though.

The cover price of a FQP book is £6.50. For this, you get around 100 pages of content. This is astounding value in my opinion. A 100-page trade from Marvel or DC will cost you in the region of £15 these days. Zarjaz & Dogbreath both run around 40 pages for £3.00, with a full-color wraparound cover by an actual droid. This hasn’t changed for 15 years, despite price rises in printing. We are proud to be able to produce a quality book – it’s not about making money.

JS: Charlton Neo, Warrant, and Indellible are all American companies that are in many ways doing what you are for Charlton Comics, Warren, and Dell Comics.  They are also finding comic greats contributing to their pages and a happy fanbase. In many ways, these publishers and FutureQuake bring back the way comics used to be before comics got too serious in tone and business practice.  Each of the above-mentioned companies has their own way of reaching fans. How do you promote FutureQuake?

DE: FQP promotes by contacting select groups of news sites and bloggers who will provide quick reviews and promote news items. We have our very own blog where I try to keep up with promoting the new issues as they are released as well as cross-posting content from former contributors on books of interest. (https://futurequake.wordpress.com/) We also mail every contributor a digital edition of the book for them to promote on their personal social media platforms. We also try to attend several shows a year, mainly the Thought Bubble convention where we get to meet creators and readers.

OW: We’ve recently set up a FQP FB as well – and Dave is active as himself/Futurequake on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/fqp_bolt/) & Twitter (https://twitter.com/FqQuake). We’ve already had some amazing artists contact us through our new FB page – https://www.facebook.com/FutureQuakePress/

RC: And also, to blow our own trumpet a bit, we have built up a reputation over the years. We have a proven track record of delivering quality books and people know that. It’s always satisfying to have folks come up to our tables and buy their regular copies of the latest issues.

JS: I used to own a Japanese pop culture store and I am a fan of Manga. Manga spans quite an incredible range of genres as well as writing and art content. Is MangaQuake as wide-ranging or do you focus on a specific type of Manga? With MangaQuake you focus on a longer form of storytelling than the 2000 AD-inspired titles?

DE: MangaQuake was a wonderful experiment that for us ran its course. Back when FQP was finding its feet, genre-wise we received a lot of submissions for strips by British Manga creators. We decided that the simplest way to handle these was to give them their title. MangaQuake ran for 7 issues, which are now collated into 2 digital archive editions available from the digital outlets for a mere £1.49gbp each. They are exceptional value, as each of these collections runs for over 300 pages.

JS: This is a curious question from someone like myself, an American. Both 2000 AD and Manga came over as import comics. In my opinion, both were successful as imports and changed American Comics. No doubt American comics had an impact in England. The superhero aspect of American comics wasn’t the only thing that British readers enjoyed.  What other aspects of the American market came through? How do other countries such as Japan take in England? How about Australia? I am also a fan of Australian comics and I have this feeling that there is a synergy between England and Australia.

DE: Due to the wonderful way comics were marketed in the 1980’s, American superhero comics went from appearing in every newsagent across the country to being the province of the specialist store. At the time, as a consumer, this was amazing as all the comics I loved, from around the world were available in one place, but over time this has led to a comics ghetto, where instead of comics being a celebrated mainstream method of entertainment they are seen by many as the province of the ‘nerd’.

Here in the UK there are very few avenues for comics from Australia. I have been lettering a couple of titles that are part of the Australian small press and through that, I have forged links with a shop down there that I am proud to say carries print copies of the FQP books. From the feedback, I’ve had they regularly sell out too, which is great.

OW: Before I read 2000 AD I was addicted to “Marvel Heroes Reborn” which was a British reprint that packaged together three different Marvel comics. Iron Man, Fantastic Four & The Hulk – I used to love having the three different stories in the one issue… then I found 2000 AD… FIVE stories. Much better! I remember being shocked to find out you’d have to buy those same Marvel comics separately.

RC: I’d echo what Dave has said. Back in the old days, comics were considered worthless. So much so that they were used as ballast in container ships from the US. These books then found their way onto the shelves of local newsagents. I remember picking up random issues of Daredevil, Spider-man, and the like. They always ended on a cliffhanger and you rarely found a copy of the next issue. Then when dedicated comic shops came along, these books disappeared from the local shops entirely. Which I think is a shame – where are the new generation of readers going to stumble upon these characters now?

JS: I’ve mentioned EC Comics and Warren above. Those two styles of horror are pretty varied, but there is quite a lot more for variation out there. What are you looking for in Something Wicked?

DE: Something Wicked is the only title that was completely originated by FQP. In a similar situation to that formed MangaQuake, we were getting a lot of horror submissions for a science fiction comic. The logical answer was to give them their own home. I did try to float the idea of the title being ‘HorrorQuake’ but luckily I didn’t get away with that as Something Wicked is a much better title.

OW: …I dunno I quite like HorrorQuake…

JS: What’s coming up for FutureQuake? FutureQuake being a small press isn’t available like Marvel and DC. For those interested, what are the options for people to purchase what you have? How can someone keep in touch with what’s going on with FutureQuake?

DE: The simplest way to pick up the books is through the FQP webshop (https://www.futurequake.co.uk/) the latest issues are all there as well as the available back issues.

Digital readers can visit comiXology, comicsy, and comichaus to devour the digital content in whatever method they prefer.

It is worth noting that Rebellion has asked that Zarjaz & Dogbreath are not for sale digitally. There are stories to be read for free via the blog and Comicsy has digital versions of 2 2000 AD specials – Drokk and Stak! That can be purchased.

Several shops around the country carry FQP titles, most notably Orbital of London.

FQP will be at the third Oldham Comics Day in the north of England in May (https://en-gb.facebook.com/oldhamcomiccon/) along with an appearance at Lawless (http://lawlesscomiccon.co.uk/), where FQP are creating a special edition of Zarjaz to act as the convention booklet. The only other event apart from that this year is the Thought Bubble convention in November. That event should see the launch of both Something Wicked 2019 as well as a new Zarjaz.

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