I am delighted to announce that Savage Zenith by Chris Denton (yours truly) and David Frankum is out now.
Indeed, Savage Zenith is the cover strip of Drokk, a new publication of "out there" 2000AD fan strips from the house of Zarjaz. And what a cover! David has really excelled himself this time:
Savage Zenith is a follow-up to Zenith Invasion, which David and I did for Zarjaz a couple of years back. The reaction to the earlier strip was pretty good. In particular, one influential critic was very kind about it, but at the time I was pretty firm in my mind that I wouldn't do a sequel. Not only was I profoundly disinterested in writing a direct continuation - for example, with Maximan sinking the Volgan navy - but I was pretty sure the merging of two profoundly different 2000AD strips would collapse under the weight of further expansion.
However, I really, really love Zenith, and I found it a joy to be writing for that universe. In my head a Zenith-only story was beginning to form. I called it "Tribute Act" and was to feature Zenith and his girlfriend (Patsy Kensit, for some reason) going along to see a Zenith tribute singer, only to be faced with the sudden appearance of a nemesis from his past. The twist would have been that the Zenith tribute singer was actually him from an alternative universe, and that he was able to bail his elder duplicate out of trouble.
For various reasons I wasn't quite satisfied with this outline, and had not written it up, let alone submitted it to anyone. It probably would have stayed in the back of head quite harmlessly, for ever more. Then I saw this:
A truly fantastic pin-up of Zenith and Bill Savage, created by David for the 2000AD advent calendar. Despite the title, Zenith Invasion only features cameo appearances from each of them, and they don't meet, but when I saw that picture I could see immediately what a great pairing it would be. My issues with Tribute Act fell away when I replaced alt-Zenith with Bill in the mix. Indeed I became almost insanely excited when I realised just how well the story could work (most of my ideas are not nearly so good, as anyone who has had to deal with them would testify!)
Naturally, I wasn't prepared to go forward without David back on board, but luckily he liked the script and agreed to return. The Zarjaz editors, Richmond and Dave, then gave us the thumbs up and so David proceeded to create the artwork. This is where things got really good. Now, David had done a fantastic job on Zenith Invasion, but he keeps getting better and better and when the pages started coming in on Savage Zenith my jaw practically dislocated, it dropped so far so fast. He was always professional quality anyway, but this stuff... wow!
Once work was completed, there was something of a delay whilst Dave and Richmond were deciding how to use it. David and I moved on to other projects, including another collaboration, this one for Massacre For Boys (it's a Victor-style true war story with a modern twist, you'll love it!) Then we found out about Drokk, and that Savage Zenith was intended as the cover strip. And what a cover! Oh wait, I said that already. Well, it's worth repeating. There's more info about the cover, including a logo-free version, on David's blog.
So now it's out. I really hope people like it. One thing I noticed in the feedback to the original is that very few Zarjaz readers were intimately familiar with both Invasion and Zenith. I guess this is because they're very different strips from different eras of 2000AD history. Also, of course, Zenith had been hard to get hold of for a while (but thankfully this time around due to the new hardback edition it's more likely people will have read it). I've tried to address this by ensuring that a detailed knowledge of both characters' publication histories is not really required, let alone any familiarity with Zenith Invasion (there are links, but I tried to be subtle about them). With Savage Zenith I focussed very particularly on Zenith and on that part of 2000AD's long lifetime. This Bill Savage never went through the Invasion, nor any of the events of Savage, so whilst I have tried to stay true to his character, there's a lot more leeway in his case.
I would like to thank Richmond Clements and Dave Evans for publishing these strips, and for doing such an amazing job on their incredible roster of comics, the jewels of the British independent scene. I also want to thank my friend Alex Finch who helped me out no end with his incredible research skills. Most of all, I would like to thank David Frankum, who takes my dodgy scripts and turns them into amazing-looking comics!
A final thought. Last time I ruled out a sequel, and then back-tracked. This time I will say that here are no concrete plans for any further instalments. I do have an ambition to write for Peter St John and Ruby Fox and the germ of an idea of how to do this is currently floating around inside my head. I want to largely drop the Savage/Invasion factor but instead introduce another crossover element that if I told you about it, would make your eyes water. I'm not at all sure this will ever happen, but never say never.