Dreddcon:3 – The Report
By Alan Donald
Now I was going to write a long and insightful piece on Dreddcon but I’m afraid time has gotten away from me. If I get the time to review all of the stuff I recorded at the talks and I find loads of interesting stuff I’ll post up a special article.
What the hell am I on about? Who am I?
Ok, Hello, my name is Alan Donald and I’m the writer of All The Rage, SBC’s Rumour, News and Opinion column. Dreddcon is a special convention organised by Rebellion, the owners of 2000AD and the Megazine, in the UK. This is a big deal for a few reasons: a) Along with Kev Sutherland’s Bristol Festival it is the only real convention of its type in the UK b) How many other comicbook companies organise their own festivals? Could you see DC-con, for example c) People in the UK rarely get a chance to meet the talent behind comics d) The UK (and 2000AD) have produced some of the best writers and artists in comics today and e) ‘Cause I got in free and feel I should do some promo work for them.
After a stupidly early start my wife and I arrived at the convention hall about 5 mins late. It didn’t matter as one of the organisers was stuck in traffic and several of the creators were sleeping off hangovers from the night before. We were all let in about 30 - 40 mins late but being fans it didn’t matter.
Dreddcon isn’t like many other comicbook festivals. The Bristol festival (the official UK con) tries to be all-inclusive and inviting. Dreddcon is kind of a thank you to the fans who have stuck with 2000AD over the years. This really is an event for the hard core. That said the event itself was great fun and the opportunity it gave comicbook fans to meet some fantastic internationally renowned creators would have appealed to any comic fan.
Once we got inside my wife and I helped out where we could. This mainly consisted of running round after creators, nudging Kev Sutherland when it was time to make announcements and basically doing what everyone asked of us.
Throughout the whole day both myself and the gentleman from Tripwire (who are 10 years old by the way. CONGRATULATIONS) kept an eye out for anyone from Vertigo over to poach talent but I’m afraid we didn’t spot a thing. Maybe next year.
The main hall was small by any standard. Rebellion had a table selling some fantastic merchandise. I’d recommend the sweat shirts and hats to anyone. Also on sale were the sadly underrated and overproduced 2000AD figures, the latest 2000AD and Megazine, skateboards and graphic novel reprints of early 2000AD’s.
Aside from Rebellion there was also a stand from Titan who were promoting their wares, Big Finish who produce the Judge Dredd audio adventures, a couple of gaming companies, a few art and comic dealers and, of course, the artists and writers who were doing free signings and sketches for all comers.
Off the main hall there were two events rooms. In one we had a presentation from the Big Finish people on the making of the audio adventures, movie makeovers as people were transformed into Tharg using big screen techniques, a grilling for the 2000AD editor and The Crazy World of Fraser Irving. Unfortunately I missed all of that.
In the other event room there were the talks. My wife and I helped out in a small way to try and make these run relatively smoothly but pretty much they were Mr. Sutherland’s baby. I’ll hand you over to his description:
“The New Droids panel featured Si Spurrier, Boo Cook, Rob Williams, Adrian Bamforth, PJ Holden, Steve Roberts and webmaster Wakefield Carter and raised (and answered) the inevitable questions such as "how do you get into 2000AD", and "which character would you most like to do?" .
A straw poll of panel and audience suggested that the most missed series from 2000AD are Harry Twenty On The High Rock, The VCs, Invasion, Robo Hunter, Mach One, Alan Moore's Future Shocks, short strips of one or two pages (e.g. Sooner Or Later, Captain Klep, short Future Shocks), and epic series of six months length (e.g. Apocalypse War, Judge Child, Strontium Dog & his dad etc.)”
Other things that were talked about were Dave Bishop (i.e. they were all rejected by him then Andy Diggle hired them), Spawn (the mere mention of which got a boo from the audience) and the 2000AD website. It turns out that after repeated attempts at an official site 2000AD gave up and asked fans to make submissions, Wakefield Carter did so and now his is the official (and really quite groovy) site.
Back to Mr. Sutherland:
“The Established Droids panel featured Fraser Irving, Siku, Andy Diggle, Peter Doherty, Steve Yeowell, Mike Collins, Mike Carey, Simon Fraser and Simon Davis and provoked heated discussion about the merits of computer games over comics, as well as unveiling exciting projects from all the creators, soon to be seen in 2000 and the Megazine.”
Basically Siku felt that comic talent would be well used in the games industry. It was his belief that rather than competing with games creators should embrace them and tell stories through the media.
Andy Diggle also revealed why he felt that ex-2000AD creators do well in the States, it was his belief that because each story is only 5-8 pages long in 2000AD creators get used to getting to the point and payoff quickly. His view was that 2000AD creators make very tight story tellers.
Back to Kev:
“The Mega City or Brit Cit panel examined the difference between US and UK comics publishing, with Alan Barnes, Andy Diggle, Matt Smith, Chris Weston and Greg Staples. Topics covered included Todd MacFarlane and what he owns, why Panini bought Marvel, how Royalties work, and how much more some comic companies pay than others. A recording and transcript of this panel might have given libel lawyers months of work.”
And I have that recording...but I’ll destroy it before I’d let any of those involved get in trouble.
This was (as they all were) a very interesting talk for the fans but much would be lost in a write up. One thing that came up was the answer to the question “why return to 2000AD if the US pays so much more?” The answer comes down not just to freedom but to knowing where you stand. Many of the creators said they loved working in the US but they couldn’t get a clear idea of who was boss, who to talk to etc. Each editor had editors above them and so on. At 2000AD you have Tharg, and that’s it.
A few of the creators tried to quash once and for all the idea that the Americans don’t get sarcasm, irony or black humour. How come then, they said, are we doing so well over there?
Creator rights came up as an issue. The whole story I broke about Zenith came up again although nothing new was said. Turns out Fleetway tried to sort out the legalities of a lot of the creators rights a while back. That’s why Judge Dredd always has the tag line “Created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra” (a tagline Dez Skinn from Comics International, for one, refuses to acknowledge). We heard the story about how the enormous and scary John Wagner once burst into a Fleetway executive’s office with a huge bag of Judge Dredd related merchandise. Apparently he poured the lot onto the guys desk, stared him in the eye and said “Aym no gettin’ a fookin’ penny for anyo’ this crap...what’re u gonna dae aboot it!” whilst stabbing the guy in the chest with his finger. Whether it’s true or not is another thing but Mr. Wagner was far too scary for me to ask.
The creators were asked if they had ever gotten any hostility in the States, any ‘coming over here and taking our jobs’. Only once it turns out and it was Chris Weston who suffered it. Apparently at a con in the States he was cornered by a fan who berated him for all the atrocities that the British Empire had been responsible for. Mr. Weston said he kept quiet and took it. Many fans were outraged and started to list everything the US had ever done wrong from the genocide of the Native Americans up to the modern day.
Along with the talk of page rates and royalties we discovered that every issue of 2000AD is a jigsaw puzzle. It has a budget and they reach it by mixing and matching talent, i.e. John Wagner and Alan Grant in one issue might mean a lot of the rest has to be entry level talent.
Finally back to Kev again:
“Finally THARG'S PITCH FEST was the best yet, being the third annual such event. 10 would-be 2000AD authors were given 2 minutes on stage to pitch an idea for a Future Shock, short story, character or series, and all were of a very high standard.
The Top Five, voted for by the audience, were:
5 - MEG TALES by Misha Begley (age 13) - 'What If..?' stories in the Dredd Universe”
Misha Begley was actually nearly 13 and perhaps the most knowledgeable fan there, putting creators to shame with his knowledge. It even got to the point that when Misha came up to present his idea Kev declared him ‘the future 2000AD Editor’. Very cool kid that gave one hope for the future of the industry.
“3rd equal - THE GREY CABAL by Natalie Sandles - The elderly become the ruling elite but have to visit other worlds and steal their sperm, when they arrive on Earth they are 'greys'
3rd equal - YOU COULD BE A WINNER by Alan Donald - Readers Digest junk mail is in fact an invitation by aliens to great riches, and a test of human intelligence. With a twist in the tale.
2nd - SPERM COUNT by Paul Glasswell - Easily the biggest laughter raiser. A hilarious and unpublishable tale of the anal rape of a future Queen Victoria by a miniaturised Donald Pleasance. To quote Matt Smith "I'll be buggered if we publish that"
1st - YURI GAGARIN by Arthur Wyatt - A Past Imperfect story revisiting the Russian cosmonaut's 1961 encounter with cosmic rays. I hate to spoil the ending, as this story will inevitably appear in 2000AD, so just cast your mind back to the cosmonauts who went into space before Yuri, and expect a twist in the tail.”
Yes that was me in joint third. I’ll be submitting a full script in the new year. The pitch fest is bloody terrifying in many ways: 1) You’re in front of an audience 2) You’re taken apart by a panel of professionals 3) Hey, hey...you find out what they think but then it’s over to the faceless audience to vote...that’s scary too. All in all though it was great and very entertaining.
Throughout the day the 2000AD and Megazine Editors were looking at art portfolios and Matt “Tharg” Smith was also the very unfortunate victim of a nasty grilling by so called fans.
After it was all over with we helped to pack everything away and then piled over to the pub (not exactly the ‘exclusive’ after show party but there you go). A great evening was had by all.
Before I go I promised Gordon Rennie that I’d quote him: “Todd McFarlane is an ARSE!”, his words not mine (though I don’t necessarily disagree with him).
Hardly how it would be done in the States and absolutely tiny compared to the big Bristol festival but all the same a very intimate, reasonably well attended and all in all great fun event that I would recommend to any comicbook fan.
Splundig Vur Thrigg, as Tharg would say.
Oh, one last thing. Find out more about the up coming British Comicbook Festival at:
and please visit Wakefield Carter’s official 2000AD website at:
I’ve been, and remain, Alan Donald
Alan Donald - Signing off, creep.
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