I first got the go ahead on Zarjaz in November 2004, Andrew Lewis was happy for me to go on using the name so I ran it by 2000AD and it was fine with them too.
I’ve edited anthology comics before so when I put the call out for submissions in early 2005 I had my eyes on the long game. Rather than aim for the early summer Bristol convention and risk some seriously tight deadlines, I made life easier on myself and scheduled issue 1 for the end of the year, around the time of Dreddcon. The submissions started to come in thick and fast and to my relief there was some really high quality work being sent in. The end of the year seemed like a long wait but at least everything was going according to plan. I then got the rarest of editorial treats, some good luck. My old friend Nick Dyer reminded me that he had a six page strip that Andrew Lewis had written for the last Zarjaz but never saw print. Around the same time David Gray, who was already signed on for a Dredd strip being written by Al Ewing, was bugging me to do a Judge Anderson strip. He sent me a pin-up image he had done, which became the cover for the issue, and it propelled me into writing a four page strip that not only sated David’s need for some Anderson action, but also acted as a great introduction to Zarjaz. I knew a short strip like that would take David no time at all so all of a sudden I had 10 pages well before the deadline was due.
It was about this time I started thinking about doing a comic for Bristol, people who had heard I was re-launching had already sent e-mails assuming the first issue would be out in may – who was I to let them down? I figured if I had 16 pages plus a cover that would be a handsome preview issue, but of course I only had 10. I threw the gauntlet down to Zarjaz creators; anyone who could guarantee me the pages by the beginning of May could have the slot. Geoffrey Shane over in the States couldn’t resist the challenge. He was drawing James McKay’s Uranium City Judge strip and reckoned he could hit the deadline. That was 15 pages filled, all I needed was some pin-ups to fill the gaps so I asked a couple of favours. Si Penter has a great Rogue Trooper pin- up on the 2000AD website so I asked if I could use that. Si went one better and drew a brand new Rogue pin-up just for us! Then I asked Ed Traquino, a very busy guy, to knock up a pin-up. Ed went two better and said he’d do a two page strip if he could have the script by next week! And he wanted to do Anderson.
“Anderson’s been done” I said “You can have Hershey”
“Even better” said Ed and disappeared back into his harem.
Now I had no time at all to produce a two page Judge Hershey strip. Which meant it was time to trawl the pubs of Brighton, find Nathan Adler, slap him sober and put a pen in his hand. Say what you like about the old soak - give him a character, a page count and a deadline and he always delivers the goods. With everything in place it just took some long hours on Photoshop to put the book together and then off to the printers. All that was left was for my lovely fiancé and I to fold and staple and lo, a comic was born!