If you didn’t already know it, Judge Dredd is heading for The Day of Chaos. Starting in 2000AD, prog 1743 on the 29th July, is a mega-series of epic proportions. Ever curious, we were able to get some questions to the legend that is John Wagner, Judge Dredd co-creator and long time 2000AD writer… which was nice. We asked about the mega-series, the new movie and all that kind of junk, but you can pretty much just read it…
Good Comic Books | The Day of Chaos is fast approaching, what can we expect? Apart from there being some sort of chaotic day… Will it be a good place for new readers to cut their teeth on Judge Dredd?
John Wagner | I’d like to think so. It does involve characters regular Dredd readers will be familiar with, but it’s important to make any story accessible to new readers. Not perhaps if you jump on in the middle, but if you’re there from the start. In this the format of Day of Chaos should help – a lot of shorter stories, some of which may seem at first only obliquely connected to the bigger picture – building up to an electrifying and violent conclusion (at least, that’s what my PR guy is saying). A similar structure to Tour of Duty, in fact, though the matter at hand is totally different.
GCB | What exactly constitutes a mega-series? Has there been pressure to write stories that can compete with DC & Marvel ‘events’?
John | Matt Smith (2000AD editor) never pressures me in that way. I’m sure he’s happy to be having another mega-series, if that’s the word, but he didn’t hassle me or get on my back about it, though I could, I suppose, sense an unstated preference from him. And I was pleased to go along, though it took a lot of time and no little agonising to come up with. I’ve done so many short Dredds now that I feel a bit played out on them. A multi-part story makes my task more difficult in some ways, of course. Putting all the pieces together is always testing. That’s what it is, though, a multi-part story. I don’t think I’d call it a mega-series.
GCB | How easy do Dredd story ideas come to you after so many years of writing the character?
John | Like I said, not that easy. Think of an idea and it’s probably been done. It’s best when they just pop into your head – and you have the presence of mind to write them down. I’ve probably forgotten more good ideas than I’ve written.
GCB | Do you ever start a story before realising you’ve done it before?
John | On at least one occasion I wrote the complete story before I realised in all essential details I’d written it before… How I laughed.
GCB | You’ve been an incredibly influential figure in the comics industry for years, what is your view on how the market is changing? What are your thoughts on DC’s big reboot thing?
John | I have no idea what Marvel are up to but from what little I’ve heard about the latest DC stunt I can’t say I’m that enthused. Maybe readers will love it, what do I know? I used to take more of an interest but these days I know nothing about comics.
GCB | How do you feel about the guys working on the new Dredd film? Are they up to it? How does it feel having strangers let loose on a character you created, like… Sylvester Stallone?
John | Alex, the writer, has been determined to keep Dredd true to character. The Mega-City One he portrays is one side of the multi-faceted city we know, a frightening, dystopian view of the future. Stallone I won’t criticise. The first movie wouldn’t have been made if it hadn’t been for him. Many would say that would have been for the best, but – if you exclude the script – there were a lot of good things about it. And at least it has set the stage for next year’s film.
I’ve never felt that possessive about Dredd. So many writers and artists have added detail to the city and the judges that it was no wrench when the movie guys got hold of it. A character like Button Man, that’s different. That’s only ever had my hand on it, mine and Arthur Ranson’s. It feels more personal. But when you sign away film rights there’s not generally a lot you can do about what comes out the other end. All you can do is hope they understand what makes the story tick and get it right. Dreamworks, I’m glad to say, are being very particular about getting the right screenplay.
GCB | What inspires you to tell these stories?
John | Beats working.
GCB | Does Judge Dredd sleep with his armour on?
John | He usually only gets ten minutes in the sleep machine, hardly time to disrobe.
Make sure to check out 2000AD on the 29th July to catch Dredd in the first bit of the mega-series, and keep checking back at Good Comic Books for updates on the Dredd film, which I’m now incredibly excited about…