Matt Smith Strips 2000AD to the BonesA comics interview article by: Steve Morris
For over a decade now, Matt Smith has been the editor for 2000 AD, the weekly British comic which has brought us characters like Judge Dredd, Aquila, Zombo, The Simping Detective and many more. His term now accounts for around 1/3 of 2000 AD’s existence, as the comic this year celebrates 35 years on the stands. I had a quick chat with him about how he views the comic, how it’s changed, and what we can look forward to in the future…
Steve Morris for Comics Bulletin: You first came to 2000 AD in, well, 2000 AD. How do you feel the magazine has developed over the past decade?
Matt Smith: I like to think it's a stronger, more attractive comic. I think it's introduced a lot of new characters, and a lot of writers and artists have proven themselves.
CB: What do you think represents the essence of 2000 AD? What makes it stand apart?
Smith: A freedom on the part of the creators to tell all manner of stories, in a mix of styles. The anthology nature of 2000 AD is one of its strengths – it embraces a lot under the SF/fantasy/horror banner. Plus I think its irreverence and black humour set it apart from a lot of the more worthy, self-important comics on the stands, and the action element means it should never be dull.
CB: Is this the primary influence regarding which pitches you do or don’t accept for the magazine?
Smith: Yes, it has to have a great idea at its core that grabs you. There has to be action, drama, and a driving narrative.
CB: Do you prefer slower-paced stories, or stories which compress as much as possible into their five or six pages?
Smith: Ideally, I want a story that flies along and takes me with it.
CB: Does the shorter format of the stories force compression, in a way? The creative team have fewer pages, so they have to make sure each one grabs the reader?
Smith: Yes, you have to make each panel count. There's no room for woolliness – strip it to the bones and keep it moving.
CB: How has the market changed over the past few years? With the rise of digital, you can now compete with American comics on the day of release. Has there been a noticeable reaction from America?
Smith: Rising print and distribution costs mean that digital is an increasingly more attractive proposition – plus you can reach a wider audience. We're making inroads into America, and this new potential readership is responding to the ease with which you can now get the prog.
CB: 35 years is a heck of a long time for a magazine to run – is it hard to always find new territory and ideas to cover within the tone and style of the magazine?
Smith: Yeah, you're always conscious of not going over old ground, but the writers and artists are enormously inventive.
CB: During your tenure as editor, 2000 AD has expanded, with the day-and-date digital move and the recent partnership with IDW to publish new Judge Dredd stories in America. What do you see as the next steps for 2000 AD as a company? Perhaps a Walter the Wobot ongoing series?
Smith: Build on the DREDD movie – we're already seeing a huge interest in the character in the lead-up and aftermath of the film – and hopefully see more 2000 AD properties exploited. Expect to see more digital ventures too.
CB: Are there any characters you’d like to see follow the lead of DREDD, and make it to the big screen?
Smith: Plenty. Strontium Dog, Rogue Trooper, ABC Warriors, Slaine, Flesh, Sinister Dexter, Zombo.. you could pick dozens from the last three decades that would make great movies.
CB: New readers must be everywhere nowadays. Now you’ve hooked them, what stories from the back-catalogue do you recommend they try out, to cement them as 2000AD fans?
Smith: The Ballad of Halo Jones; Judge Dredd: America; Nemesis the Warlock Book 1; Strontium Dog: Portrait of a Mutant.