Sunday, February 04, 2007

28 Days of 2000 AD #4.1: Colin Wyatt speaks

Colin Wyatt was one of the early editorial team members on 2000 AD. He worked as art assistant and art editor on the weekly in the late 1970s when the comic was frequently at odds with its publisher and management. I sought Colin out when I was researching and writing THRILL-POWER OVERLOAD and he offered a fresh perspective on those tumultuous times. I'm not sure he'd ever been interviewed before about his time on 2000 AD, so it made for an interesting conversation via email.


I joined IPC in 1957,(It was then The Amalgamated Press) and worked for the nursery group there (Jack and Jill, Playhour etc.) for 18 years. I'll have to digress a little here to explain things so I'm sorry if it gets rather boring! The Company had taken on the Disney franchise sometime in the 60's , I think, and in 1972 I began doing a lot of Disney work for them on a freelance basis and sort of became the in-house Disney artist, doing the free gift inserts and a lot of comic and annual work. In this capacity I became well acquainted with John Sanders. (Being a lowly art assistant this normally wouldn't have happened!!)

He called me to his office one day and told me that the nursery group was going to be disbanded and gave me the opportunity to choose in advance a comic or magazine I'd like to work on, rather than get put on whatever was available when the time came. I had always been interested in science fiction and so mentioned 2000AD. Unfortunately there were no positions vacant at that time, so for a year I floated and became a sort of trouble-shooter. I worked with Doug Church and he and I would be called in to revamp any comics whose circulations were dropping, and things of that nature.

Frankly, after a year I was bored out of my brains, and I went back to John Sanders and asked if there was something else I could do. Then, after temporarily working on Vulcan, I joined Action. I'm sure you know about all the controversy involving that comic! They were quite exciting times. especially for me, having come from the nursery comics with characters like Teddy and Cuddly and Harold Hare!!

I remember on one occasion, during some censorship problem or other, we were called down to John Sanders office, and because of my nursery group and Disney work he tut tutted me and said 'I'm surprised at you Colin!' As if I personally had any control over the editorial content! Anyway, after quite a long spell on Action, John called me to his office and told me a vacancy was coming up on 2000AD. (It must have been because Jan Shepherd was moving on.) Action was on it's last legs anyway and so I jumped at the chance.

I’ve been told you started work as an art assistant on the comic early in 1978, as Prog 50 was going to press. Jan Shepherd had left 2000 AD to work on the launch of Starlord, and Kevin O’Neill was made art editor of 2000 AD. How accurate is this?

If you were told I joined the comic in early 1978 then it must be right I suppose. I have no real idea. What I do remember is that the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visited Kings Reach in 1977, and the duke actually visited the 2000AD office. I remember seeing a photo in IPC News of him talking to Kevin O'Neill. I seem to remember that being not too long before I joined the office so I have always thought it was later in 1977. But I am only guessing!

However, I think Jan Shepherd was still working on the comic when I joined, so she would have still been art editor. Kevin would have just slipped into that role once she had left. That's certainly how it happened to me when Kevin left. There was no official announcement. You just got on with the job. I can't be more specific than that I'm afraid.

Who else was on the editorial team when you joined? Nick Landau and Kevin O’Neill have been said they felt the comic was off the leash while Kelvin Gosnell was busy launching Starlord? What do you recall most about the summer of 78?

Nick Landau was there, of course, and I remember Kelvin Gosnell being around although he was busy with the Starlord launch. There was Kevin O'Neill, and as I've said, I'm pretty sure Jan Shepherd was there too, although she could have been there working on Starlord I suppose. I also think Roy Preston was there as well, but unfortunately because my time in the office was relatively short with people coming and going at different times, the events and people have the habit of merging somewhat! I do apologise. An additional member in the office was dear old Tom Frame who used a desk there to do his balloon lettering although he wasn't a member of the staff.

The comic got into trouble for including copyright characters like the Jolly Green Giant in the Dredd story The Cursed Earth. What do you remember of this controversy?

Having read your questions, I realise that a lot of things went on without me being aware of them, and I have absolutely no recollections of some of the events you mention. I can only think that being involved with Action and its problems made me just put my head down and get on with whatever I was told to do. Also, I imagine that major editorial decisions and problems were probably discussed and decided at special meetings and not in the office.

I do remember the Jolly Green Giant controversy, and the trouble it caused. I can't say if there was a definite policy about these things but I think sometimes it was just decided to take a chance and hope to get away with it. But don't quote me as I don't really know. I remember an occasion, it must have been on Action, when they wanted to show a football crowd singing 'You'll Never Walk Alone'. It was decided to ring a music publisher to find out who held the rights and what it might cost to reproduce just that line. It would have cost an arm and a leg so the idea was scrapped (I think!) I remember we said , if we hadn't have asked, would we have got away with it if we'd just gone ahead and done it.

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