by Jarrod Jones. Alex de Campi knows how to spin a yarn better than most, and now she’s finally cutting loose in the pages of 2000 AD.
An example of de Campi’s prowess: Full Tilt Boogie, a sci-fi entry from this year’s Regened edition of 2000 AD where Cadet Dredd stomps about in boots just a bit too big for his wee fascist feet. It was here where we met the character Tee, a bounty collector who scoured the spaceways looking for loot in a starship populated by her grandmother and, naturally, her pet cat. (“Every spaceship needs a cat,” de Campi says. “It’s how you keep the space rats away.”) All-ages appeal, certainly. But de Campi never goes halfway.
Look to the first two pages of “Full Tilt Boogie, Part One”, which dropped weeks ago in 2000 AD prog 2185, and be awed. de Campi knocked out the set-up—fleshing out the backstory of Tee’s universe with a galactic dust-up, rendered in dazzling sequentials by artist Eduardo Ocaña—and then… BOOM.
She blows everything up. Just to get things started. (You can read the full first part of FTB below.)
“I’d like to say it’s because I’m supremely clever and wanted to get around any reticence by loyal 2000 AD readers to try out a ‘kiddie’ story by appealing to them with a very traditional sci-fi opener but that would be a lie—in fact I just like blowing things up,” de Campi says. “It’s a fun thing, trying to create space in these short-short five- or six-page serials for a ‘wow’ moment, just aggressively taking up a lot of one’s very limited page real estate with a splash or a DPS. It feels naughty.”
The ballistics of her written word, guided by a life-long diet of anime and Jean-Pierre Melville (“Look, the only major creator who stans Melville harder than me is John Woo,” she told me back in 2018) launched Full Tilt Boogie to full-on strip status over on 2000 AD. Alex de Campi and Eduardo Ocaña weren’t about to drop a Tharg Babies for Regened; instead they huddled, commiserated, and launched a rousing sci-fi premise with so much promise that Tharg himself had no choice but to drop some cash on a full series just to see how Full Tilt could really boogie.
Alex de Campi was kind enough to speak with DoomRocket about Full Tilt Boogie, working with artist Eduardo Ocaña, and where Tee fits in the 2000 AD pantheon.
1. ‘Full Tilt Boogie’ kicked off its official ‘2000 AD’ debut with a… rather big bang, with the decimation of an entire planet on its second page. As far as first impressions go—for those prog readers who haven’t caught up on the ‘Regened’ editions, especially—this was quite the corker. Was this an intentional declaration of intent? That Alex de Campi and Eduardo Ocaña have taken Tharg by his elfen ears?
Alex de Campi: I’d like to say it’s because I’m supremely clever and wanted to get around any reticence by loyal 2000 AD readers to try out a “kiddie” story by appealing to them with a very traditional sci-fi opener but that would be a lie—in fact I just like blowing things up. That space battle is actually very important for understanding later plot threads too. It wasn’t just for the aesthetics. It’s a fun thing, trying to create space in these short-short five- or six-page serials for a “wow” moment, just aggressively taking up a lot of one’s very limited page real estate with a splash or a DPS. It feels naughty.
2. So, writing an all-ages strip in ‘2000 AD’—what kind of path are you treading when scripting ‘Full Tilt Boogie’? Do you feel you should make the circumstances of this strip as appealing to the broadest readership as possible, factoring in the science fiction elements and the “damn the torpedoes” attitude people expect from the magazine? Or is it a simple matter of writing the best story you can, regardless of the circumstances?
I never think at all about the reader. I’m only trying to please myself. FTB was an ode to the anime space operas I grew up watching, like [Science Ninja Team] Gatchaman and [Space Battleship] Yamato. My attitude is always “damn the torpedos,” 24/7, so perhaps that’s why I feel like I fit in at 2000 AD.
3. Tell us about Tee, the central character of ‘Full Tilt Boogie’. Where do we find Tee at this point in the story?
Tee is a teenager who collects bounties by finding lost or misplaced things across the galaxy, and she is the head of a small family which consists of her grandmother and her cat, who might be an interdimensional parasite but nobody’s really sure. Every spaceship needs a cat; it’s how you keep the space rats away. Tee is a victim of the gig economy like we all are—her expenses are always more than she thinks, people always try to weasel out of paying her, and all she wants to do is fix her ship and then go to the beach. She takes on what should be a well-paid gig to rescue the Luxine prince Ifan from debtor’s prison—but Ifan’s not thrilled to find out this is paid for not by his family, but by a notorious fangirl of his.
Without giving the game away, where do you see Tee in upcoming chapters?
Let’s just say the rescue plan doesn’t go 100%, and Tee crashes her ship on a frozen rock of a remote moon… and accidentally discovers the last remaining warriors of the Anubite Empire who, rather than being the millenia-old evil history says they are, actually seem quite… nice. Everything goes horribly wrong from there.
4. Where does Tee fit in the vast roster of iconic ‘2000 AD’ characters? Or does she break the mold?
2000 AD has always had a strong roster of independent, very human and relatable female characters, from Judge Andersen through Halo Jones. And there’s a bit of Durham Red’s (not human, not relatable, but god she can wear a pair of fishnets) sci-fi epic feel to FTB. So I think Tee feels quite natural within the framework of 2000 AD. The Prog is what really brought me back into comics in my 20s, so a lot of my reference for modern graphic sci-fi is 2000 AD, or manga. So I didn’t have to stretch myself to fit into the mold, so to speak. The only real difference to previous 2000 AD heroines is that Tee is black, but if anyone has a problem with that they’re welcome to put down the strip, start walking west, and not stop until they get in the sea.
5. How do you like working within the parameters of a serialized ‘2000 AD’ strip? How does it alter your overall approach to plotting?
It terrified me at first. It still terrifies me. It doesn’t help that I’m friends with Rob Williams, who is really the current master of this format with his Judge Dredd work. In terms of overall approach, even in a longform narrative (eg, my usual graphic novel format) you’re really trying for a “wow” moment or an “oh shit” moment every 4-6 pages anyway to keep readers turning the page. So cutting things up into 5-6 page segments isn’t ultimately that hard, but you do have to remember that every episode is a new episode to someone so you do have to step back a bit and regularly re-clarify what’s going on. And you have to leave room for expansion, for giving people a splash or DPS [double page spread] each episode to let the world breathe, and let them enjoy it. I still feel I’m learning this format. (You’re never done learning, as a writer.) It’s hard, and I want to do it more. I love a formal challenge.
6. Let’s talk about your collaboration with Eduardo Ocaña. In terms of narrative pacing, how are you structuring your scripts for Eduardo? Does he take the reins in some storytelling respects?
Ed and I have known each other forever and I know how good he is. I send him full scripts—he’d done a lot of the character and environment design already—and he just gets on with it. He changes what he wants, which is fine. I work with him pretty much the same way I work with all my collaborators, which is writing a really detailed script and then telling them they’re free to ignore it and do whatever they feel like. I’ve communicated what I think the story needs, he knows what the plot and emotional beats are, and if he can think of a better way he just does it. But I’m really blessed to have Ed as a collaborator for this—his sci-fi world design and his instantly relatable, charming characters are a major part of this series’ appeal, and Simon Bowland is doing a fantastic job lettering it, too. I usually letter my own work but he’s so good I am completely relaxed about handing the reins over to him.
7. Between the full-on upgrade of ‘Full Tilt Boogie’ as an official ‘2000 AD’ prog presence to your wildly successful ‘Madi’ Kickstarter with Duncan Jones, you’ve made quite an impactful foray into British creative spheres. Is this where you thought you’d be in terms of your comics writing career at this point in your life? What do ‘Madi’ and ‘Full Tilt Boogie’ mean for you, creatively and professionally?
Well, I am a British citizen and I lived in the UK and in British Hong Kong (as was) for 15 years. Tharg’s door was always open to me, I just… never walked through it until a couple years ago. Amusingly both my debut prose novel (The Scottish Boy) and my second novel (Heartbreak Incorporated) have been picked up by British publishers too. Madi (with Duncan Jones) will be published by a US publisher, Z2, though it has a lot of British talent on it. I think one of the reasons Duncan and I worked so well on Madi is he wanted a lot of British 2000 AD creators involved and I knew all of them; I started out in comics with them drinking in the basement of the Phoenix Theatre in Soho. So again, I’m blessed being Anglo-American and having strong publishing bases in two countries.
I don’t think a huge amount about it, though I will say you can’t overstate just how good 2000 AD is towards female talent. I’ve gotten to do things there right off the bat I’d never be able to do in American mainstream comics. To paraphrase Neko Case, 2000 AD doesn’t treat me as a woman in comics, it treats me as a writer in comics, and that’s fucking magic. I’m also writing a Vietnam war story, BRAVO, BLACK LION! In the upcoming BATTLE annual with Glenn Fabry drawing, which I’m so, so thrilled about.
8. As a bonafide ‘2000 AD’ scripter, if you can [or even want to; totally understand if you don’t], please share what your ultimate ‘Future Shock’ might look like.
Look, secret confession time: I never had to write a Future Shock. They terrify me! They’re so hard. So, kids, you can either write a great Future Shock/Terror Tale, or you can be a 10-year industry veteran. I took the scenic route and do not regret it one bit.
‘Full Tilt Boogie’ is currently blasting through the pages of ‘2000 AD’. Part 4 hits UK shops on August 4.
Read Part One of ‘Full Tilt Boogie’ below, courtesy of ‘2000 AD’!
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