2000AD 1700 interview #7 – John Wagner

This week sees the release of 2000AD issue (or “prog” to the faithful) 1700.
As with previous issue 100’s this is down as a jumping on prog so every story is a part one, suitable for new readers looking to give 2000AD a try. To make the most of this I’ve nabbed a few quick Q&A’s with some of prog 1700′s contributors.

Last, but by no means least, we have the creator of Judge Dredd himself, Mr John Wagner

Issue 1700 kicks off your latest Dredd arc, “The Skinning Room”. What can you tell us about this? Is there any background info a new reader would need to jump into this story?

Jumping on should not be a problem as long as you have some idea who Dredd is and what the city’s about.   Pointless to tell you any more – not that I would – as it’s only five parts and will practically be over by the time you read this.

This new arc sees Dredd taking a seat on the Council of Five which is a significant step for the character. As he has aged significantly over his published life is this a move towards an eventual retirement from the streets?

Who knows what will happen?   Certainly not I (though I doubt Rebellion would countenance Dredd being separated from the streets for good).

Also, what prompted you to take this unusual step of allowing him to grow older when most comic characters are perpetual 35 year olds?

It never occurred to me to do anything else.   Mind you, back in the beginning I had no idea the strip would run this long.   Still, up till now the ageing hasn’t been a problem and it has allowed for some fairly natural character development, so I look on it as a plus.

Dredd has remained incredibly popular for over 30 years despite the fact that he isn’t necessarily the most likeable character ever committed to paper. Why do you think people enjoy Dredd and his world so much?

So many reasons.  First and foremost, I guess, because he and his world are so extreme.  Dredd’s both hero and villain, that’s a powerful combination.   And the nature of Mega-City One and the way the strip has been set up allows for the telling of many different kinds of stories, an infinite variety of plots and styles.   Things never need get in a rut.

Anyone working though the Dredd case files (and if you aren’t you should be) might be surprised to see lots of the early stuff is down as being written by T.B. Grover.  Can you enlighten us a bit on who he is?

TB is one of my many pen names.  When Alan Grant joined me we wrote together under that name too, among others.  At first the pseudonyms were just for fun.   Later, when for a brief period we were writing most of the comic, we used a variety of names at the request of management.  It was interesting coming up with them, trying to make them as dull as possible – Rick Clark and his brother Ron, Dave Spence, F. Martin Candor etc.

You left us with a HELL of a cliffhanger at the end of your last Strontium Dog arc. Can you give any indication when this story thread will be picked up again?

I would have been writing the continuation now had not Carlos had medical problems.   As things stand I can’t say – he has to get well enough to draw again for a start, then he has a five part (non-Stront) series to draw before he can tackle it, so it could be some time.   It’s an unfortunate way to leave things.  I wanted to give readers (and myself) a break, some time to speculate on the outcome, but never intended it to be this long.

Just on the subject of Strontium Dog can I ask… what did Feral ever do to you? His death was brutal! Not even Judges who dare to have facial hair get it that bad.

Ah, Feral, poor guy.  It just happened like that.   I tried to intercede but the gods decreed it should be that way.  He will be remembered.

I have to put my hand up and admit to having a soft spot for the Stallone Dredd movie, though to use a Batman analogy it’s slightly more Adam West than Christian Bale. What was your take on it when it was released and has that changed at all with time?

I have only seen it once, at a cinema at Lakeside.   My abiding memory was watching the credits roll by.  By the time Carlos’s name and mine came up, in type so small you had to strain your eyes to read it, my children and I were the only ones left in the cinema.   It was a calculated insult by people who didn’t deserve to be let loose on the character.   As for the film – wrong plot, poor editing, some good CGI, bad decision to remove the helmet.

What can you tell us about the new Dredd movie in the works? Have you been involved on any level?

I’ve been a kind of advisor/consultant since fairly early on.   The script, I believe, has been posted on the web so anyone is free to look it up and judge for themselves, though personally, had I not read it already, I’d prefer to wait and let the finished movie come as a complete surprise.   I can tell you that the DNA team is putting a lot of time and effort into making the storyline as true to Dredd as they can and it will be a huge improvement on version 1.   It will also be in 3-D.   Not sure what difference this will make, how much more difficult it will be to film, but it seems to be the way things are going.

This one is purely selfish, so apologies. Your run on Detective comics with Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle is what got me back into comics after drifting away slightly as a kid. While I doubt a return of the three of you to this title would ever happen, do you know if this run will ever be collected at all?

Doubt it, though it would be nice to see.   I was only truly involved for the first five or so, after that the writing was almost entirely down to Alan, who did a superb job, I thought.

Lastly can you let us know what else you have lined up and where people can go to check out more of your work?

Apart from an idea I’m toying with for the US, I’m not up to much at all.  At the moment I’m having a month off, something I’ve been promising myself for a long time.  So far it’s been pretty good – so good in fact that I may take another month off after this one – visit Carlos in Spain, cut up that pile of logs, get ready for winter.
Don’t know where anyone can check out my work apart from Amazon and suchlike, and of course Rebellion’s own shop.   And keep reading your Progs, of course.   Support your friendly green alien.

Thanks for taking time out to answer these questions.

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2 comments

  1. dredhead /

    I think John should write the Dark Judges: The Final Conflict. He’s suggested he’s not interested in such a story but it would be a nice swan song for the fearsome foursome (try saying that when drunk). 🙂

    Go on John, please write it. Fans would love it read it. 🙂

    Regards,

    P J Maybe’s lawyer

  2. Richard McAuliffe /

    I should REALLY use this as a chance to plug the Zarjaz Dark Judges special being launched at Birmingham this year

    http://thequaequamblog.blogspot.com/2010/08/1st-peep-zarjaz-special-dark-judges.html

    But as Im the writer on that it would be INCREDIBLY tacky to do so… so I wont

    cough

    😉

    But yeah. Would be nice to see him take them back to their horrific roots.

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