Debuting last year in 2000 AD Prog 2130 (cover below by Neil Googe) as part of a one-shot ‘Regened’ all-ages takeover, Full Tilt Boogie returned to the pages of the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic this month in a new ongoing serial in Prog 2185. Written by Alex de Campi, illustrated by Eduardo Ocana and lettered by Simon Bowland, the strip follows the misadventures of teen bounty hunter Tee, her grandmother and her cat aboard the spaceship Full Tilt Boogie it mixes close character interplay with sprawling space opera.
We caught up with Alex de Campi this week to talk stellar war, social commentary and the importance of stone fruit rankings…
ANDY OLIVER: How would you describe the premise of Full Tilt Boogie in just a couple of succinct sentences?
ALEX DE CAMPI: A teenage bounty hunter (and her grandma, and her cat) accidentally restarts a millenia-old galactic war. Meanwhile, the elite teenage super sentai team tasked with killing the girl begin to suspect that mmmaybe they aren’t the good guys.
AO: Full Tilt Boogie first appeared in one of 2000 AD’s ‘Regened’ progs aimed at an all-ages audience. How difficult was it to write what was effectively a pilot for a series in that issue given that you had to introduce readers to the concept and allow them to invest in the characters in just ten pages, and yet still present something that worked as a standalone story?
DE CAMPI: Every time I think about doing a 10-page standalone for 2000 AD or a 5–page serial, I become paralyzed with terror that I won’t be able to do it, but then somehow I sit down and just… do. I had a lot of Full Tilt Boogie written already, though, and more outlined, so finding a way into it that would focus on Tee and bring in Horus and the Black Dog wasn’t that difficult. I just had to be okay with leaving a lot of things unexplained, but I think that worked well for the story as a pilot — people could tell there was a great big universe out there and they wanted to know more about it.
AO: You set up a huge amount in a short space in that original episode. How many of those threads will you be immediately picking up on in this initial arc? And how has the pacing of the story shifted in serial format?
DE CAMPI: Oh, we set up a huge amount more in the first episode of the new series, and that’s only 6 pages, of which two are a double-page spread of a planet exploding. There’s a LOT packed into every episode. Very soon we get into new characters and new worlds — it’s very much an ensemble piece. The first episode steps back and hints at some of the background that underpins the story, including part of the history of the Black Dog, and I felt that was important. It also opens the serial in a very big, trad sci-fi way. I could say I cleverly intended this to win over 2000 AD readers who may otherwise shy away from something branded all-ages, but in fact I just really like giant space battles, Ed is really good at drawing them, and in order for the story to work later on, we had to blow some shit up. I would say I love the sound of breaking glass, but alas, in space nobody can hear you explode.
The biggest struggle for me with the 5-6 page format was to not overpack it, and to try to have a splash or spread once every episode to let the story breathe, and let it be big. Sci-fi, you have to leave that space so people can soak in the environments. You have to leave room for the wow factor.
AO: Full Tilt Boogie as a phrase, of course, has existing pop cultural connotations. In what ways does that title tie into the themes and feel of the comic?
DE CAMPI: My titles are always kind of random. Other than being Janis Joplin’s last band, Full Tilt Boogie was the name of a friend’s boat when I used to race Etchells dayboats in Hong Kong and it always struck me as an exceedingly good boat name, and thus spaceship name. And it reflects the feel of the series — fast, fun, a little irreverent.
AO: The strip is certainly one of contrasts – sprawling and dark space opera juxtaposed with a quirky ensemble cast and their lighter interactions. How much of a challenge has it been working within the confines of an all-ages storytelling remit?
DE CAMPI: Look, I’m an all-time master of obeying the letter but not the spirit of the law. We changed the bears to robots in the pilot so they could be disembowelled. I didn’t have to do much to adjust it, also because I’m a character writer so most of the real violence I bring is emotional. If you can write a really strong emotional beat into a fight scene, the scene doesn’t have to be physically ultra-violent to feel harsh. Also, tonally, Full Tilt Boogie owes a lot more to sci-fi manga classics like Ghost in the Shell (with its footnotes and chibis) or Fullmetal Alchemist than it does to American comics. The emotional/character focus, and the quiet/humour moments, are much more prevalent in things like Japanese comics or even BD like The Incal or The Airtight Garage. I love the cohabitation of the epic and the mundane.
AO: The best sci-fi always has an element of relatable social commentary within it which, of course, is something of a 2000 AD tradition. What contemporary parallels will readers see in Tee’s lifestyle and in the wider social structures of her world?
DE CAMPI: Tee is 100% a participant in a gig economy where she can barely get ahead and people in power keep taking advantage of her and not paying her. She has family she’s responsible for, too, something which I feel is a very real experience that a lot of science fiction skips over for ease of plotting. The Luxine Knights are theoretically comfortable in their privilege but some of them start to realize that they are being used in order to promote a certain narrative of conquest, and while some completely buy into this, others start questioning what the powers that be are telling them. There’s a lot. Oh also, Full Tilt Boogie is also completely Team Mango, everyone in this book knows that mangoes are the best fruit on earth. This is very important.
AO: Can you tell us about what your collaborator, artist Eduardo Ocana, has brought to the world of Full Tilt Boogie?
DE CAMPI: Ed and I first worked together on a Humanoïdes book over a decade ago. Our editor (who I’m also still friends with) matched us up and we stayed friends ever since. We’ve wanted to do another book together for ages. He’s so good. He has such a unique design sense — his future looks like nobody else’s, but it looks like it should exist. And he can handle all sorts of characters and expressions, which is really important for my work. The book wouldn’t be nearly as good with anyone else drawing it. And he’s just a nice person, too. I’m really pleased he could have his 2000 AD debut with me.
AO: How far ahead have you planned for Full Tilt Boogie? Do you envision it as a multi-book epic or is it more finite in scope?
DE CAMPI: Oh, I could write at least another three ten-episode runs of Full Tilt Boogie. It’s a big universe out there.
AO: And finally, outside of Full Tilt Boogie, what else are you working on at the moment both within the comics arena and outside of it?
DE CAMPI: Oh shit, how long do you have? MADI, my big sci-fi graphic novel with director Duncan Jones; Reversal, my YA fantasy OGN that serializes on my Patreon; action/thriller Bad Karma on Panel Syndicate; I have an Image horror one-shot with Erica Henderson coming out in October, called Dracula, Motherf**ker; my debut novel The Scottish Boy came out in the UK in late May; and I’ve got another unannounced book this year. I’m insanely busy.
You can order recent 2000 AD issues featuring Full Tilt Boogie from the 2000 AD online store here in either digital or print format.