Director’s Commentary : Zaucer of Zilk

Published On March 22, 2012 | By Joe Gordon | Comics

As we noted earlier on the blog, just this week venerable Thrill Power merchants 2000 AD launched a brand new and intriguing looking new series from the delightfully deranged minds of Al Ewing and Brendan McCarthy which we have been looking forward to for some time, Zaucer of Zilk. The first episode is in this week’s Prog and I am delighted to tell you that Al and Bren have made time in their workload to talk us through a guest Commentary post on the new series:

Beware! Spoilers abound beyond this point!

Just over a year ago, Brendan sent me an email regarding a possible new series for 2000AD. We’d worked together before on a couple of Dredds, where he’d come up with the plots and I’d done the scripts, and while my stuff was a bit ‘wordy’ – I have a habit of erring on the side of dense, ‘old-school’ verbiage, which isn’t always the right way to go – he obviously liked the way I extrapolated on his ideas enough to bring me in. This time, he was after – I quote – “a new, wacky, totally surreal “Sooner or Later/Hewligan’s Haircut’ type of strip called THE ZAUCER OF ZILK… It will mix the surrealism of 60’s Dr Strange with a ‘Lord of The Rings’ imaginative scope. And with a bit of The Mighty Boosh in there too.”

And attached to the email were these sketches…

Well, obviously, I jumped at the chance. A couple of days later Brendan gave me a phone call in which he gave me the seeds of the plot, including what became these very pages – in fact, the plot for this first episode is pretty much unchanged from his original idea. After that, I was working more to a basic skeleton, mostly extrapolating from Brendan’s sketches but occasionally dropping in my own ideas – like Charognae, the nightmarish spectre of age and decay who’ll be haunting the Zaucer soon enough. Once I had the plot sorted, it went into a back-and-forth process of emails to get any impurities and things that didn’t quite work smelted out of it, and then we moved onto the scripts, which went through a similar to-and-fro process to get them exactly right before they were sent off to Tharg for approval.

Anyway, before I give anything else away, here’s page one:

Rain’s a big part of this. Errol Raine was the figure who caught my imagination first out of all the characters (apart from the Zaucer, of course, sir) and with his four lightnings and four puddles it’s easy to see why. He rains in error. Forgive him.

Raine is the Zaucer’s opposite number – where the big Z is all pop and dash and dazzle and fame and fortune, Raine is wet weather and cold nights, sour luck and ill wind. He came to represent all the bad things in life – depression, despair and failure, the rain that gets in no matter how you try to keep it out. If it’s raining in the strip, you know that Errol Raine’s close by in his exquisite misery, waiting to make things worse.

Our first look at the Zaucer to be. At the time, I was getting into Joe Orton – it didn’t make it into the final product so much, but Peter McEnery’s performance as the young Mister Sloane was in the back of my mind during the back-and-forths with Brendan, and when I came to write the scripts. If you’ve ever seen the film, you’ll know how McEnery’s arrogant sexuality almost drips off the screen, and I tried to trap a portion of that in the Zaucer. I did have to tone down the arrogance a little at first – he was a bit too Sloanish to be sympathetic – but pretty soon we found the proper level.

Meanwhile, in the puddle, strange reflections. More on that as we have it.

I like the creepiness of these pages – Raine’s really quite Satanic here, offering his temptations. One bite and your soul is gone… who knows what terrible things Raine’s sinister magic could do to a human body if let out of its bottle? And who’s to say we won’t see the full foulness of it for ourselves in just a few short weeks? I couldn’t possibly comment.

The ‘sweet hearts’ were Brendan’s idea, another bit of detail relayed during that original phone call. It makes for some great imagery – the one glowing packet in that dreary monotone shop. Nobody does pop and pzazz quite like Brendan, but there’s a qlippothic other side to that in that nobody does murk and drear and awfulness quite like him as well, something I tried to exploit where possible. The Zaucer Of Zilk ended up going quite deep into those contrasts – as a wiser man than I once said, it’s a yin-yang kinda thing-thang…

More creepiness as Raine passes by like a ghost ship in the night. Four lightnings, four puddles.

Meanwhile, more fun with the Sweet Hearts. Are there some mystery messages being conveyed there? Hints of the future to come? I’ve said too much.

And at the turn of the page, we burst out of this rainy prologue…

And get into the real story. Crissymouth and Spantalex form the Zaucer’s entourage – one a rough chum from his days in the orphanage, the other a hovering presence sent by his betters to teach him the joys of etiquette. But you’ll be seeing more of them as the series goes on. Meanwhile, this is the Zaucer as he truly is – can you believe that in an early draft I wanted him naked in this panel? That would have probably been too much of a good thing.

And on that note, we’ll leave it for a while. Hopefully this commentary will have whetted your appetite enough that you pick up a physical or digital copy – 2000 AD is, for now, the only place where this scrotnig saga will be available. I’ll be back in a few weeks with a look at some… fancy pants.

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About The Author

Joe Gordon

Joe Gordon is ForbiddenPlanet.co.uk’s chief blogger, which he set up in 2005. Previously, he was professional bookseller for over 12 years as well as a lifelong reader and reviewer, especially of comics and science fiction works.

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