BCP Interview – Emma Beeby talks Judge Anderson!

Click for the full-size cover.

Click for the full-size Megazine 359 cover.

When it was revealed recently, courtesy of the fine folks at Women Write About Comics, that Emma Beeby – the first woman ever to write for Judge Dredd – was also set to  become the first woman to write for Judge Anderson, we knew that we simply had to find out more.

So, with the first installment of her two-part story going on sale today in Judge Dredd Megazine 359, I was fortunate enough to be able to sit down and have a chat with Emma about the news.

Here’s how the conversation went;

Big Comic Page: So you’re the new writer on Anderson! How did it come about? Alan Grant has had the character on lockdown for decades now.

Emma Beeby: I’d had it in my mind for a while that I’d like to write her, but I always thought it was not so much a long shot as a crazy idea. But the idea wouldn’t go away. Anyway, I wanted to get a bit more established in 2000AD before even thinking about asking. So when I finally plucked up the courage I had no idea what to expect. It was RIDICULOUSLY exciting to be offered this two-part slot.

BCP: What’s your history with Anderson? Have you had your eye on writing her for a while?

EB: I wish I could remember exactly which was the first Anderson story I read, but it was the last part of a story – a big action finale – but I do remember how struck I was by her. She was totally self-sufficient, respected, tough but also so self-aware. Her PSI powers give her insight into others, but she turns that insight on herself and her world just as much. So yes, that made her stand out for me and the desire to write her was almost instant!

BCP: What attracts you to the character?

EB: She’s pretty unique in the world of female-fronted comics, particularly at this point in her history. She’s in her 50’s! I try to imagine pitching a comic series with a female lead that age, or any age above 22, and it’s hard to imagine it happening many places other than 2000AD. It’s one of the things I like most about her – she has a long history and that adds to her depth.

She’s not a love interest, or a super-sexualised pin-up. She’s had her moments being seen in ‘sexy’ costume, but that’s not the main thing she’s known for. So much discussion of female comic characters is about their costumes, or changes to their costumes, than anything they actually do. It’s great to be liberated from all that from the outset with Anderson.

BCP: You’ve previously written Dredd with Gordon Rennie, but this one will be a solo effort. Any particular reason for that?

EB: Gordon and I work together on stories we come up with together or think can benefit from developing together, but both of us like to do our own things as well. So I’ve done solo Dredd stories, but Anderson is something I really want to write myself.

BCP: What can you tell us a little bit about the story?

EB: It picks up after Anderson decides to get out of the City for a while and heads to the Mutie Townships. PSI Cadet Flowers has a vision of one of the towns under attack from massive creatures from the Cursed Earth (and Judges just letting it happen).

BCP: Psi-Cadet Flowers sounds an interesting new character?

EB: Yeah, I am already very fond of him. I wanted to create a slightly different kind of PSI and he’s definitely not a usual PSI type. All he wanted was to be a street Judge. I imagine Dredd is his personal hero, but it turned out his impressive fighting abilities were due to PSI powers he didn’t even know he had. So he doesn’t really fit in among the PSIs and is trying to find his feet.

BCP: Do you have plans for future Anderson stories?

EB: If Tharg is benevolent, I do have a story I hope to develop for a follow-up…

BCP: How did you first come about writing Dredd? Was that an ambition of yours?

EB: I always enjoyed Dredd, particularly the Wagner comedy stories, but I never had any immediate ambition to write him. He wasn’t a character who when I read him immediately sparked ideas for me, or didn’t until Day of Chaos, at least. Gordon and I saw the impact of the massive change to the City as a result – on the Judges in particular – and we really wanted to write a story about that. It was a challenge for me to take on this character, so though Gordon offered to lead on Dredd scenes I wouldn’t let him! I wanted to throw myself in and walk around in his head. I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected, so I really only started wanting to write him after I already had.

BCP: How different is it writing Dredd and Anderson?

EB: Massively! Anderson is a more relatable character than Dredd is. She’s also changed over time, which Dredd doesn’t really do. Dredd reflects the world he’s in, but Anderson also reflects on that world. They have a balance. The approach to them, for me at least, is different because of those things.

BCP: If someone had never read any Anderson stories before, what would you recommend? And what are your personal favourites?

EB: I really love that Grant brings a lot of mythology into his stories, I am a bit of a mythology nut. I guess Shamballa is the main one. The art on that is so beautiful as well, plus there’s a lot of depth in what we see of Anderson. I’d probably say that is an important story to read early on.

BCP: There’s been a lot of talk about you being the first female writer of Dredd and now Anderson. Would you rather be just known as the writer regardless of gender, or is it important to acknowledge that a woman has finally got the job?

EB: I think it’s important in as much as it shows it’s possible and I hope plays its part in helping more female creators into working in these titles, genres and comics in general. I have had that brought home to me by speaking at Comic Cons, and it was young women who approached me afterwards, saying they’d never thought about it before but now they are asking for advice and excited to start thinking about entering this world they love. I do think there is power in ‘if you can see it, you can be it.’ I was a writer who never thought of working in comics, though I read and loved them, until I met a female comics artist and she suggested it. It seemed so obvious, but somehow it had never occurred to me before.

I have had a hugely positive experience on these titles, I have had lovely feedback from readers and other creators, which has been great, because it is sometimes uncomfortable to be pointed to as different in any way. The feedback has reassured me that readers see me as a writer first. For me it’s about the stories and the characters.

BCP: What can we look forward to seeing from you in the coming months?

EB: Gordon and I have a story in the 2000AD summer special – I won’t spoil the surprise as to what it is! We are currently writing a series of The Alienist which first featured as a one off in last year’s winter special, so I’m excited to see that get its own slot. We’re also working on a sequel to our graphic novel Robbie Burns: Witch Hunter. In terms of solo work, I have been writing for the amazing Swords of Sorrow series from Dynamite comics, with Gail Simone and Leah Moore and loads of other talented ladies, doing a massive crossover event of characters like Red Sonja, Dejah Thoris and Vampirella. It’s hugely ambitious and really fun. I have a story coming out in late summer as part of that, but the series starts in May and should not be missed!

JULESAV The Writer of this piece was: Jules Boyle
Jules tweets from @Captain_Howdy

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