Henry Flint interview: on 2000 AD’s 35th anniversary

As the legendary comic 2000 AD celebrates its 35th birthday, Andrew caught up with one of its foremost artists, Henry Flint, for a timely chat…

2000 AD is the most cerebral guilty pleasure available to man. Yes, it’s got incisive and clever things to say about life, but it’s also got one-eyed dinosaurs embarking on revenge quests, Gormenghast Moriarty, and superhuman future-Tsars dressed a bit like pirates.

That part of your brain that just processes ‘Like/Dislike’ (essentially the bouncer for your tastes) will surely be satisfied by what it has to offer. Then, after it’s hung out with your synapses for a bit, everyone becomes bezzies and make plans to hang out with each other as often as possible. It’s a canny operation that editor Tharg the Mighty is running.

2000 AD’s been going since 1977, and you may have noticed it is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year. In September (unless things change) the long awaited, probably-quite-good Dredd film comes out. It’s a big ol’ year for what is now the stalwart of the UK comics scene. Looking at this year’s Eagle Award nominees for Favourite British Comic Book (Colour), 2000 AD and its sister-publication Judge Dredd Megazine are both there, as is Strip Magazine (launched in October of 2011) featuring many writers and artists who have worked on 2000 AD, edited by John Freeman (a mainstay of Marvel UK’s output).

Making up the list are Doctor Who Magazine (which Freeman once edited, and whose earliest editions were edited by Dez Skinn, with Mills, Wagner and Gibbons working on the comic), and Clint. Mark Millar is one of many British comic-book creators who came through the ranks at 2000 AD before heading onto bigger things. It’s an integral part of the industry. As writers and artists come and go, so new talent fills the gaps. Henry Flint (Judge Dredd, Shakara, Zombo) is a case in point.

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Den of Geek interviewed him regarding his work for 2000 AD.

How did you start out? What was the first rung on the career ladder for you?

I sent some drawings to White Dwarf magazine back in 89. They were doing a dummy for a new comic which didn’t take off. They kept my name and a few years later I had a story published in Heavy Metal. From that came work for Marvel UK [on the last ever Death’s Head and four issues of Kill Frenzy which never saw print]. 

When they folded I thought that was that, until names were banded about and reached 2000 AD and in 93, they gave me a call. This was when many artists and writers started looking towards the States for work leaving gaps for new UK contributors, so I consider myself very lucky. Basically learning on the job. 

What artists or writers were major influences on you? 

Moebius, Mike McMahon, Kevin O’Neil, Tove Jansson, Aubrey Beardsley, W Heath Robinson, Ken Reid. 

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Have you drawn any images that you wouldn’t expect to find in any other comic?

Shakara was the story for weird images. Robbie Morrison gave me the freedom to run with his script. I like the alien with a dog as a head. Body, legs, tail everything with its hind legs standing on a humanoid’s shoulders. That alien was supposed to be some kind of billionaire Romeo, which worked a treat. Women in the story were being wooed by this thing. It was hilarious.  

Do you occasionally suggest an image that you’d like to draw and have a story built around it?

Some writers have asked me what I’d like to draw. If I said I wanted to draw weird stuff, that’s a bit of a dead end when it comes to writing, so in Zombo Series One I wanted to give an alien jungle a try. Al Ewing turned my bitty pitch into something that worked, giving me plenty of man-eating vegetables to draw. In most cases it’s being inspired by the writer to draw something new, taking a description and adding things that inspire you directly.

Shakara and Zombo versus Captain America and Captain Britain. Who wins?

Shakara and Zombo could easily be written as bad guys, and I guess that means they lose, but I’d secretly love to see Captain Britain being eaten by Zombo and Shakara running over Captain American with his own motorbike. 

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[Den of Geek would like to take a moment from this interview to concur with this sentiment. Captain Britain dies all of the time anyway.]

Are we going to see any returning characters of yours in the next few years? Or are you moving onto new ideas?

There is a possible Zombo Series Four in the not too distant future (Al’s a busy man so fingers crossed). Also I’m writing and drawing my own graphic novel, continuing my One Page Graphic Novels [see Henry’s blog for an example] and have a few other things lined up. Shakara is defiantly finished, although stranger things have happened.

You said in another interview that reading 2000 AD Issue #1 aged seven made you want to work for it. What sort of an impact did issue one of 2000 AD have on the seven-year-old-you?

It was a huge impact. I’ve recently been watching Top Of The Pops 1977 (currently being broadcast on BBC 4 at 7.30pm on Thursdays) and the episodes around 2000 AD’s launch, and the memories the music is evoking are taking me right back. I remember bouncing off the walls with excitement and strangely cutting the comic to pieces with scissors and sticking bits everywhere around the house with Blu-Tack. I even ate a bit of it to see what it tasted like. Perhaps it’s something close to cannibalism, or that thing when you love something so much you just want to destroy it.

Has any recent issue of 2000 AD had a similar impact on you?

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I’ve not wanted to eat any of the recent issues, but must say I’m very excited about 2000 AD at the moment. Zaucer Of Zilk by Brendan McCarthy and Al Ewing; James McKay is drawing some amazing dinosaurs in Flesh and Nikolai Dante is drawing to a conclusion.

Recently it’s as good as it ever has been. 

Henry Flint, thank you very much. Here’s to another 35 years.

Shakara: The Destroyer, Henry Flint’s latest work, is due to be published on the 14th August.

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