By Jarrod Jones. After 41 years of thrill-power and zarjaz excitement, 2000 AD is bringing something new to its summer Sci-Fi Special.
There’s a reason to be doubly excited for this year’s edition, too: 2000 AD, who revived its prized Sci-Fi Special just four years ago after an 18-year absence, has lined up an impressive array of female creators, all of whom are prepared to slay within the pages of this ghafflebette annual. Not only will it feature writers such as Alex de Campi and Tillie Walden, not only will it boast the ferocious talents of artists Tula Lotay, Marguerite Sauvage, and so many more — the magazine will be comprised of an exclusive bullpen of female colorists and letterers, as well. It’s a significant moment for 2000 AD, but it’s also an important one for the industry. A symbolic deed done by one of the most stalwart publishers in the galaxy.
And for writer Katy Rex and artist Liana Kangas, working on this summer special is a chance to be immortalized in the annals of industry history — and to seize an opportunity to play with a bionically-enhanced legend, to boot.
As originally envisioned by John Smith and Steve Dillon, Tyranny Rex is a character that has always flouted convention — even in a magazine as wild and eclectic as 2000 AD. The last of her Sauron race, this reptilian humanoid has gone from a genethief swiping up DNA from celebrities and making clones out of them for profit, to — of all the jobs to consider in the cosmos — a space nun. Working with a character with such a multifarious history as Tyranny Rex, Katy & Liana get to have a bit of fun. But they remain very much aware of the larger importance of this issue, of which they’re playing a vital role.
“This issue is monumental in a lot of ways, and I think the biggest and most important thing here is visibility,” Katy tells me. “For this issue, 2000 AD paid attention and specifically selected female creators, and maybe our voices and experiences will inform our stories differently than our male counterparts, but at the end of the day we’re all hoping to just strike a balance and get the best versions of our comics made.”
Katy Rex and Liana Kangas spoke with me about the upcoming Sci-Fi Special from 2000 AD, the momentousness of the occasion, and how awesome Tyranny Rex is and has always been as a character. Borag Thungg to a new era. It’s been a long time coming.
1. This is the first time in 41 years of future shocks, progs, and Judges that ‘2000 AD’ will have an entire issue filled with an all-female crew of creators. Tula Lotay, Alex de Campi, Laura Bailey… and Katy Rex & Liana Kangas. How does it feel to be a part of this moment?
Katy Rex: Personally, I’m torn between being thrilled and terrified. I’m walking in the footsteps of industry legends and working on the same issue as several creators I would say, without exaggeration, that I have idolized. I’m honored and excited to be here, though, and I feel privileged to be a part of such a milestone issue.
Liana Kangas: I’m honored to have something published alongside of a ton of my favorite female comic creators. It’s totally a dream come true for me. Katy is rad, too, I couldn’t have asked for a better collaborative project.
2. Tyranny Rex, the character you’re working on for the project, was a thief who swiped up genetic materials from famous people in order to create clones to sell on the black market. But she’s gone on to all sorts of mayhem. What kind of Tyranny can we expect to see from your contribution?
KR: She’s definitely still in her hacker stage in this story… I don’t want to say more just yet, readers will have to find out for themselves!
LK: I’m hoping current or loyal fans of Tyranny Rex and her universe will find her to be up to her usual antics.
3. As you know, 2000 AD has kicked out righteous new progs every single week for decades, some of which have featured various versions of Tyranny. How did you approach your research when it came time to flesh out Tyranny Rex?
KR: I’m lucky enough to have a good friend who was able to send me all the Tyranny Rex I hadn’t read previously and couldn’t find myself… And now I’m pretty sure I’ve read every story in which she is the star. I think fans will see that her personality is very much consistent with her character historically.
4. Tyranny is often seen interfacing with computers thanks to an implant, which can and often does undergo modification — not to mention other parts of her body, as well. If you moved on to a limited series in ‘2000 AD’, how would you approach this facet to the character?
LK: One of the things I love about Tyranny is that’s she’s such a diverse character, where it could lead to limitless drawing opportunities in any sort of direction.
KR: As someone who is frequently frustrated that I can’t upgrade my own body with cybernetic enhancements and prosthetics, this is something I’ve given a lot of thought to. The possibilities are really endless — I mean, you could hack some body parts to run faster and jump higher, sure, but what if your triple-jointed bionic elbow was also scanning and downloading credit card information from every person you passed?
5. Liana, I was looking at your illustrative work online, and I was struck by how you capture the iconography of your subjects so brilliantly. You’ve taken a crack at mainstream characters such as Hela as seen in ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ to Leslie Hung’s Snotgirl. How are you approaching your work on Tyranny Rex?
LK: Thanks so much! Tyranny Rex was one of my biggest challenges in comics thus far, just because following in Dillon’s footsteps was a little intimidating. I think her personality was easy to connect to so I felt inspired and like it organically fit when I started laying out pages.
6. I also wanted to ask Liana: With the application of color in your work, which I’ve enthusiastically described to a friend as “a neon-blasted Easter celebration”, how will you imbue the character of Tyranny Rex?
LK: I’m pretty sure that’s the best description of my colors work I’ve read thus far. Most of what I’ve seen Tyranny Rex in has been in inks, (other than covers) so I felt like going a little crazy using the era and her background as a Sauron to bring in the colors together with my current palette.
7. Katy, you’ve long been focused on social issues and how they impact comics, and vice versa. You’ve worked for Black Mask Studios, a publisher with their finger very much on the pulse of societal unease. How does a character like Tyranny Rex go about defying today’s social mores?
KR: Tyranny has always been a defiant and non-conforming character. That’s just her being herself. I didn’t put a lot of focus on gender issues in the story itself; I think just existing publicly and visibly is often revolutionary on its own.
8. Another for Katy: Tyranny Rex has been a lot of things over the years — a genethief, an artist, a nun — What did you personally want to accomplish with the character? Is she somebody you’d like to work with again?
KR: I love her energy and versatility. She’s a favorite, for sure — I’d absolutely work with her again. I think she has this amazing confidence, and deservedly so, and I love that she’s not interested in doing what she’s supposed to. She’s a lot of fun.
9. Wait a second… Tyranny Rex… Katy Rex… that couldn’t have been an accident — or could it have?
LK: I wondered this too! Perfect comics conspiracy.
KR: Actually, the first thing I said when I was asking to write her was “maybe this is too on-the-nose, but…”
10. What kind of message do you hope the industry takes from this historic issue?
LK: Having had worked in comic shops before, I definitely hope this summer special is a good way to reach out to expand readership while giving fresh new perspectives on long term characters in a solid expanded universe.
KR: This issue is monumental in a lot of ways, and I think the biggest and most important thing here is visibility. This issue is going to be so great, and that’s not because it’s being created by women or in spite of being created by women. For this issue, 2000 AD paid attention and specifically selected female creators, and maybe our voices and experiences will inform our stories differently than our male counterparts, but at the end of the day we’re all hoping to just strike a balance and get the best versions of our comics made. And I think that’s definitely going to show in the stories within this historic issue.
The ‘2000 AD Summer Special’ hits shops June 19. You can order it here.