2000 AD Prog Slog

Monday, June 02, 2008

Prog 506

Once I had fallen in love with 2000 AD I decided that I wanted nothing more than to become a script robot and started to send in the occasional unsolicited Future Shock. Using the sample Judge Dredd script published in the 1981 annual as a guide I banged out my first attempt on the type writer I had got for a Christmas. I can't remember what it was called but in it, two teenagers wander around their local town moaning about how “nothing ever happens ‘round ‘ere” while, unobserved behind them, space ships battle in the sky. Real editor at the time, Steve McManus, sent what I saw as a very encouraging rejection letter. The fact that it was a hand written, personal note not signed as “Tharg” meant a lot.

By my third attempt I was receiving standard rejection letters with scrawled notes down the side. "Poor dialogue, poor plot, poor twist", it said. In this story, the national radio station was being broadcast from loudspeakers on every street corner in the country. The constant witless DJ prattle and promise of music that never came drove one guy to break into the station with the intention of violently shutting up the culprit for good. The twist being that the DJ was on a life support machine, his banter provided by electrodes attached to his barely active brain. Sound familiar? In this prog's Judge Dredd story, They Shoot Deejays Don't You Know, Cuth Hartley is driven mad by the constant DJ prattle that a brain implant he has picks up twenty four hours a day. He breaks into the radio station intending to kill the idiot responsible but, instead, finds Dredd there waiting for him. Poor plot, my arse!

What I think happened is this: One of the editors at the time, whilst working through a backlog of unsolicited scripts, read mine and decided that they didn't like it, in the their haste wrote as their reply "poor dialogue, poor plot, poor twist" and then got on with the job that they were really there to do. At some point after, while in conversation with Wagner and/or Grant on the hunt for inspiration, the editor mentions the idea of being driven mad by the inescapable, relentless DJ chat believing it to have been conjured by his own mind and, from that, they wrote They Shoot Deejays Don't You Know as their own. To me, the similarities between the two stories are so great that it is just as likely that Wagner and Grant had the same idea as it is that they consciously set out to plagiarise it.

These days, many publishers are so nervous about being sued by an aspiring writer that they no longer accept unsolicited submissions. It's this policy that, in part, has contributed to the number of comic writers from other media rather than from the real world which is where stars like Alan Moore and Grant Morrison originate from. It's the difference between making comics because it’s something to do after a day writing gags for Family Guy and because you absolutely have to. I have always understood that the environment within which Wagner and Grant worked and the rate at which they were expected to produce thrills during 1987 required the free exchange of ideas not just between the pair of them but with others as well. If this meant that, occasionally, wannabes like me had their ideas accidentally lifted, then it's a small price to pay. Even if the result in my case was an altered relationship with the comic I loved and a period of doubt over the fertility of two of my favourite script robots.

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  • Your first submission sounds very much like a future shock I remember from somewhere in the 600s: A 2000AD writer can't come up with any ideas for a story all the while distracted by loud noises from outside which he assumes are noisy neighbours but actually there's an epic space battle taking place in his back garden.

    By Blogger horace goes skiing, at 10:48 am  

  • Horace, it rings a bell but i don't recall making a connection between it and my first submission when I read it. Any similarities between that one and mine are definitely a coincidence on this occasion.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 5:48 pm  

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