Next in Prog 2012 is a new thrill - Grey Area:

Grey Area is the latest thrill from writer Dan Abnett. Illustrated by Karl Richardson, this SF thriller is a what-happens-long-after-first-contact tale set in America, where the challenge of living in an interstellar community doesn’t exactly work out all Star Trek…

And with just DAYS to go till Prog 2012 hits newsstands this Wednesday and, as we continue our 12 Days of Thargmas,’s Ed Kaye talked to Dan Abnett and Karl Richardson about their forthcoming thrill!

2000 AD: Grey Area is a brand new Thrill, what sort of story is it, and what can fans expect?

Dan: It’s a tough, action-based procedural about the immigration officers who patrol Earth’s borders, and - in particular - police the Grey Area, which is a purpose built city where all extraterrestrial visitors are obliged to live while their entry visas are processed. It’s a classic 2000 AD strip - action, aliens, big ideas, strong characters, a little humour and a splash of satire.

2000 AD: Karl, what approach did you take to drawing this new story?

Karl: I’d already got quite a few drawings and sketches for an idea I’d proposed to Dan earlier. Although my original idea was more military orientated, I had a good starting point and it didn’t take too much tweaking for the uniforms, and some of the aliens, to fit the new storyline. I actually toyed with the idea of radically changing my style, or even just painting it digitally, like I do for most of the covers I do, but I soon came to my senses.

2000 AD: What was your favourite thing to write or illustrate on this story?

Dan: Earth protects its borders very tightly because of a disastrous first contact incident a few years back, when aliens with benign intentions accidentally infected part of the human race with a nano-virus simply by setting foot on the planet. Those affected by the virus are known as The Gifted, and they are the subject of extreme prejudice. One of our team - Kymn - is a Greeted. The nanites in his blood mean that his brain is rewired to instantly speak and understand other languages… he’s really vital to the team, but most humans try to avoid him.

Karl: It probably sounds a bit of a cop out answer, but when you get the chance to design and draw characters for a new story it’s all pretty much fun. Any aliens are always cool to draw, and until this point I hadn’t really had the opportunity to draw any for 2000 AD, so I was looking forward to it. Amongst the human characters, I probably enjoyed drawing Captain Janzen the most - he’s a grizzled man mountain, “seen it, done it” archetype.


Sithu Aye - Pale Blue Dot

More from Invent The Universe.

The Prog 2012 thrill focus rolls on with Sinister Dexter:

Yes earthlets, we continue our traipse through the tinsel for the 12 Days of Thargmas with another glimpse into the Santa’s sack that is Prog 2012.’s Ed Kaye today talks to writer Dan Abnett and artist Anthony Williams about their festive Sinister Dexter tale for the Christmas prog.

2000 AD: We recently found out that while Ray & Finny had destroyed the portal to the alternate universe Downlode, it was too late to save their own reality. What is their reaction to his revelation?

Dan: They’re out to hunt down the doppelgangers who have invaded Downlode’s reality… it’s basically an act of bloody revenge in a dying universe, but there is still a chance they can save everything.

2000 AD: Due to the presence of otherworldly doppelgängers, Ray & Finny’s world has begun to fall apart at the seams? How have you tried to reflect this visually?

Anthony: Way back when the dopple Philly O ‘Fish was brought from his world I used a different colour palette with very muted colours which worked in a way I thought was effective. It may be interesting to explore the possibilities of the degradation of Ray and Finny’s world by playing with page layouts and inking styles. Hmmm, you’ve got me thinking now. Mind you, the Christmas story is relentless and jumps from location to location at a break neck speed, which offered loads of opportunities to play with the colours and lighting.

2000 AD: What was your favourite thing to write or illustrate on this story?

Dan: The story builds up to a pay-off 10-pager in Prog 2012, which has got some awesome ‘Christmas Presents’ in it for 2K fans :)

Anthony: I can honestly say this is the most fun I’ve had illustrating Ray and Finny. Dan is always a great writer to draw for, but this ten pager is an artist’s dream from my point of view. I really wish I could talk about the stuff I got to draw but it would be impossible not to stray into spoiler territory. The highlight for me is page 6. I never thought I’d get to draw that!

Tharg is filling our stockings with festive treats and here is the cover to Prog 2012 - the end-of-year special designed to fill the gap while Tharg has the droids broken down for annual sandblasting and it also serves as a jumping-on point for new readers, as all the new stories next year start here - there has never been a better time for getting thrillpowered. So what’s in it?

On sale for three weeks from 14 December, this Earth-shattering Thrill-powered compendium of awesomeness is the perfect antidote to your anodyne Yule or the horror of another slab of mother’s Christmas cake.

What awaits you in this momentous publication? Observe:
GREY AREA: MEET AND GREET by Dan Abnett & Karl Richardson
ABSALOM: SICK LEAVE by Gordon Rennie & Tiernen Trevallion
SINISTER DEXTER: NOW AND AGAIN by Dan Abnett & Anthony Williams
AQUILA: PROLOGUE by Gordon Rennie & Leigh Gallagher

And all capped by this gorgeous cover from Greg Staples! Truly, with this festive treat Tharg shows that he is indeed Mighty and Benevolent!

Also in Prog 2012 is Absalom:

We’re ploughing on through the 12 Days of Thargmas and, with Prog 2012 now available in UK stores and in North America in a fortnight,’s Ed Kaye talks to writer Gordon Rennie and artist Tiernan Trevallion about their follow-up to this year’s hit series, Absalom…

2000 AD: What can we expect from ‘Sick Leave’, and does it connect with the last story, ‘Noblesse Oblige?’

Gordon: It’s pretty much a stand-alone, concentrating on some of Harry’s underlings working a case without him, and also showing us a bit more about Harry and his terminal illness.

2000 AD: Absalom is a series very rich in supernatural elements. Tiernen, is this the type of story which you feel most comfortable drawing? And how do you approach illustrating an episode?

Tiernen: Well, I suppose I do, yes. Add a few robots and Teutonic warrior women and we’re home. On starting an episode of Absalom I usually trawl through it to find all the reference I’ll need. Often there are location specific scenes, usually some artistic licence is required. With this one I used a location in Peckham, It’s a famous (or infamous) estate that’s turned up in a film or two. Then I’ll scribble out any new characters or creatures, and sometimes Gordon has a very specific idea about what he wants, so there’s a bit of back and forth there.

2000 AD: What was your favourite thing to write or illustrate on this story?

Gordon: Probably the scenes with Harry having a matey drink with… a certain someone/something, and where we get to hear more about his past, and all the old famous ex-coppers who he learned his trade from. Some people will hopefully enjoy trying to spot the old British horror films and ‘70s TV cop series where Harry’s one-time mentors all come from.

Tiernen: Favourite bit in this story was adding the ‘wildlife’ to the scenery… not saying nuffink else.

Another thrill from Prog 2012 is one of the highlights of a thrill-packed issue, Judge Dredd:

Christmas has come early for you, earthlets, as Prog 2012 hits newsstands in the UK. 100 pulsing pages of seizure-inducing Thrill-power crowned with a glorious Judge Dredd tale by writer Al Ewing and 2000 AD legend John Higgins. Inspired by the choose-your-own-adventure books of the 1980s, this tale leads the reader through a moral maze, a sticky situation that requires all of their skill to negotiate.

For our next instalment in the 12 Days of Thargmas,’s Ed Kaye talked to Ewing and Higgins about this labyrinthine tale…

2000 AD: What does Christmas hold in store for Judge Dredd and the Citizens of Mega-City One?

Al: Well, I’m doing two Christmas stories this year, and they’re both set on Christmas Eve, so it’s going to be quite a busy one for Dredd. I don’t want to spoil either story too much, but in the Prog, we’ve got a Choose Your Own Christmas Adventure in which YOU play the role of an unfortunate citizen. In the Judge Dredd Megazine, which is later that same evening, Dredd gets involved with Judge Pal, who’s being hunted down by Santa Claus. You’ll have to read the issues in question to see how all that comes about.

2000 AD: Will this year’s Christmas story be a humorous one, or will it be more serious in tone?

Al: Usually I find myself doing one of each, but this year they’re both quite funny and goofy. I’ve noticed that I tend to get a bit experimental at Christmas - last year, it was bringing back the rhyming story in the Meg, the year before that it was that whole ‘what was the Dredd story for Christmas 1976’ thing - this year, with the Choose Your Own Adventure, there’s a twist in there that readers will discover as they read through it, which will hopefully prompt them to read through it again…

2000 AD: This story is in a 'choose your own adventure’ style, and therefore the artwork is presented in a non-sequential manner. John, did this present any challenges in terms of storyboarding and page layout?

John: The nice thing about this story by Al was it was actually easier than the regular story breakdowns, as I felt the best way to approach it, because of the “choose your own” concept, [was] that each panel had to be exactly the same shape and position with no visual direction for the reader by the artist. So working within this self imposed restriction made my comic job a little easier.

2000 AD: What was your favourite thing to write or illustrate on this story?

John: I don’t know why, but on this story, I felt it should be a more humorous approach, more cartoony than my usual depiction of Mega-City One. Dredd in particular, I always try and keep him within a form of “realistic” exaggeration, but this time went for the chin and lip big time, it was quite liberating and always fun working on a Ewing script.

Al: Here’s a line: “Do you want to go futsie and kill Judge Dredd? (Go to panel 54.) Or keep trying to talk your way out? (Go to panel 56.)” I think that neatly encapsulates the whole strip.                        

The next thrill from Prog 2012 to be featured is the Dandridge one-off:

Doctor Spartacus Dandridge is a ghost-tracking detective who tops off evil spirits and poltergeists while aided by his stitched-up assistant, Shelley. In the bumper Prog 2012, out on December 14th, we have a touching tale of Dickens-esque devilry from Alec Worley and Jon Davis-Hunt.

For our next episode in The Twelve Days of Thargmas,’s Ed Kaye spoke to the pair over tea and a heart-warming tot of rum…

2000 AD: What can fans expect from ‘A Christmas Ghost Story?’ Does it follow-up on the conclusion of the last Dandridge mini-series?

Alec: It’s a one-off tale that takes place outside the current Dandridge storyline and is hosted by the good doctor in the tradition of Alfred Hitchcock, Rod Serling or the Cryptkeeper. The tale itself is a vintage ghost story set in the Edwardian era of Dandridge’s spookpunk world and it concerns a frightened little boy, his overbearing father and an unwanted Christmas gift.

The story had to be such that it could only have taken place in Dandridge’s world, where technology is powered by ectoplasm and captured ghosts are bought and sold. So you’ll get to see a little more of how that world works. I’m hoping to explore this more in the next series of Dandridge, which I’m aiming to write next year. I’ve already got the opening planned out, in which you’ll find out what that letter contained. Poor Shelley [see prog 1730].

2000 AD: Jon, as well as Dandridge, you also collaborate with Alec Worley on Age of the Wolf. How do you approach these supernatural thrillers differently from how you would approach a more sci-fi oriented story like Tempest or Judge Dredd?

Jon: Working with Alec is great because he’ll tend to do a lot of research for his stories and then send me a whole heap of links to trawl through. One of the great things about Dandridge is the mash-up of the two time periods, the Edwardian era and the 80s, so that provides a lot of inspiration. I tried to litter the last story with as many little Easter eggs as possible. I’d say that is probably the biggest difference, the use of ref. In a sci-fi story, I’ll tend to just make up stuff out of my head, whereas with a supernatural story, they tend to exist in an established time-period so it becomes more about investigating the source for inspiration.

2000 AD: What was your favourite thing to write or illustrate on this story?

Jon: One of my favourite panels to illustrate was the surprise that’s waiting in the Christmas tree! : )

Alec: I love the tradition of the Christmas ghost story, all those BBC adaptations of writers like Dickens and MR James. Since Dandridge is rooted in that era of British supernatural fiction, he seemed like the ideal host for a yuletide story in the Prog. The D-Hunt art-bot has done an awesome job of evoking that combination of cosiness and menace. Tinsel glinting around the fire like watchful eyes, that sort of thing. Jon’s colours are amazingly evocative. He’s done a similarly stunning job on the artwork for the ten-parter we’ve got coming up early next year, Age of the Wolf: She is Legend. Have a zarjaz Christmas, squax, and a gafflebette new year! - WORL*E [script droid no. 5552368]