One of the featured stories that kicked off in Prog 1924 as part of 2000AD’s latest jumping-on point was Judge Dredd: Enceladus from writer Rob Williams and artist Henry Flint.
With Dredd being taken back into the world of Titan, and all manner of positive feedback about the story so far (including from our very own Prog Review-bot Sam), we were fortunate enough to be able to sit down with Williams to have a chat about the storyline and about Dredd as a character.
Here’s how the conversation went;
Big Comic Page: Enceladus is a direct continuation of last year’s Titan storyline. What can you tell us about it?’
Rob Williams: At the end of Titan the Judge inmates escaped the prison on one of Saturn’s moons and went off to start a colony of their own. Dredd, and Justice Department, lost and Dredd was brutalised in the process, both physically and mentally. Enceladus is about repercussions and revenge. We see what happens to Aimee Nixon and the new Enceladus colony, and how Dredd deals with his desire for revenge, which isn’t something a Judge should be feeling. Dredd’s the law, but if that slips, what’s left?
BCP: Dredd was tortured by Aimee Nixon in Titan, but not just physically. She put him through the wringer and tried to goad him into taking revenge and becoming a mass murderer. He’s not over that is he?
RW: No, he’s not. Titan was about Dredd. really. The idea that he’s a man, and not just an icon or a ‘titan’. It was trying to get below the surface. Playing with the idea that he hides behind all manner of self-justifications just as we all do. He does want revenge on Aimee, but that’s different from actually acting on it. Similarly, if Aimee can get him to do something outside the law, she wins, far more that killing him with a bullet. That would bring Dredd down, and without Dredd, what would the Judicial system be?
BCP: As Dredd ages in real time, the idea of his mortality comes more and more into play. You seem to be confronting that again with these stories?
RW: Yes, I do find that makes the character a lot more interesting. He’s no robot. It’d be pretty boring writing him as a robot. Plus the fact that he’s a fascist. A robot fascist is pretty irredeemable. But a man, an ageing, conflicted man, trying to stand for something in a messed up world. That’s interesting to write. Dredd’s age, how jaded he is, how the lines blur… I enjoy writing that. It allows us to get under his skin, create real character drama, hopefully. If he’s Superman, where’s the stakes?
BCP: The story opened with Judge Sam and Judge Dawkins, both of whom seemed very young and idealistic. Was this a deliberate decision to play off Dredd’s age and cynicism? They felt like the anti-Dredd!
RW: Yes, Judge Sam’s idealism is there for a reason. He truly believes in the Justice Department. Who wouldn’t believe in justice in a broken world? But he’s not been tested the way Dredd has, yet. There’s a Billy Bragg line that comes to mind with Sam: “Virtue never tested is no virtue at all.” Sam will have a part to play. The other Judge with him is called Judge Dawkins for a reason too…
BCP: Henry Flint’s doing some of the finest art of his career on this. What does he bring to the project?
RW: Henry’s insanely good. In terms of sci-fi settings like Saturn death moons, Mega City One. he’s incredible at depicting these things. But he’s also just a wonderful storyteller. The nuances of the physical; performances of the ‘actors’, the bringing a sense of drama to panels. He can do all that so well. And he’s colouring himself here, which is why I suspect it may be the best work of his career.
BCP: Each of the three episodes so far has had an iconic money shot of Dredd in semi-silhouette, which just adds to the feeling of gravitas in this story, like it’s examining Dredd as both the myth and the man beneath the surface. Is there anything in that?
RW: That’s the visual distinction between the icon and the man. But there’s more than that. In #2 I think the script asked for him to appear in the war room in silhouette (as though he were a ghost, watching). I was looking for that sense of him being a presence, but almost one that is moving on from this world. Trying to convey that he’s on the edge here, not part of the world of the other Judges. I like the idea of reality blurring when you go to these extreme emotional states.
BCP: The former Titan prisoners are all bent Judges, but they don’t seem to see themselves as the villains of this piece. Even taking their violent acts into account, there’s a depth to them. They don’t feel like your usual Dredd villains. Is this deliberate?
RW: Everyone sees themself as the hero in their own story, even if they’ve been responsible for crimes. There’s an argument to be made that if you make people live these repressed lives – no love, no feelings, no sex etc – it’s asking the impossible of them. It’s forcing them to break. Because people are human, are fallible. That’s certainly how Nixon feels. Her war is because she feels that she’s a product of Justice Department and she wants to show them that their system is flawed and has blood on its hands. Of course, you could equally make a case for the fact that she’s just making excuses to hide her own weakness. Self-justifications are everywhere in this story.
BCP: How long is Enceladus going to be? It feels like the start of an epic.
RW: I’m not saying, sorry. For reasons that’ll become clear. I want to keep people guessing with this one.
BCP: The story launched as part of another jumping-on point for 2000 AD. What do you think makes Dredd so new- reader friendly?
RW: Well, you could argue that, after 35+ years of history, he’s really not. But the setup of this future city where crime has gone wild and a few good Judges try and keep order and protect the citizzens – that’s very strong. You can tell any number of good stories in that world.
BCP: Where do you see the future of Dredd?
RW: Let’s see if he makes it out of Enceladus first, then we’ll talk.
BCP: What else can we look forward to from you in the coming months?
RW: In June I’m launching a new MARTIAN MANHUNTER series with Eddy Barrows from DC Comics. That’s a lot of fun to write and isn’t the Martian Manhunter book you might expect. DOCTOR WHO is continuing from Titan Comics. That’s me and a bunch of 2000AD alumni working together – Al Ewing, Simon Fraser, Boo Cook, Warren Pleece. I have a DR SIN story in the 2000AD free comic book day issue, with Luca Pizarri. That’s a fun bit of horror comedy. And I’m working on a series that hasn’t been announced yet for a major US publisher. More on that when I’m allowed to speak about it.
The Writer of this piece was: Jules Boyle
Jules tweets from @Captain_Howdy