From that point on I began to coordinate the Nerve Centre page, writing the "Thargnotes" (as we called Tharg's editorial messages) in an unbroken run for the next six years. The record still stands. Of course that wasn't all I did. Among my other duties were writing the tag lines for each episode in the comic, compiling the letters pages and subbing scripts on arrival, before lettering and final proofing.
In addition, I was required to trawl through the unsolicited submissions, reading scripts sent in by aspiring writers, searching for some spark of talent that might be fanned into a flame to give 2000AD its next hot scripter.
Sadly, the reality of it was that I read an awful lot of awful scripts. But the process wasn't a complete waste of time. This process did find us a few writers who developed into very competent contributors to the magazine.
It should also be borne in mind that just about every later script-writer on 2000AD started out as a writer of Future Shocks, including John Smith, Pete Milligan, Grant Morrison and, of course, er, me.
The thinking was that if a writer could tell a story in four or five pages, then they should be able to sustain a run over four or more weeks.
Not all aspiring contributors to 2000AD were happy to submit to this regime. The classic mistake made by those who sought to join the long list of Tharg's script droids was to submit a script for a ten-part story that included every character who'd ever appeared in 2000AD. The second-most common mistake was to send us a script for a graphic novel, adding helpfully that we could "just cut it up into twenty chapters". These were always returned to send with a firm but polite "No thanks."
Even more incredibly, it wasn't just beginners that couldn't get their heads around the whole "Future Shocks as an apprenticeship" idea. Several individuals - who have gone on to make names for themselves in the US marketplace - submitted multi-part story outlines and were indignant when I suggested they take a whack at a Future Shock first. An embarrassing (for them, not for me) "Don't you know who I am?" type exchange followed, but my response was always, "If brilliant (and previously published) writers like Grant Morrison and John Smith were happy to start with Future Shocks, you should be too."