We love Judge Dredd at The Werd, and Rob and Joe recently sat down to mull over what lies ahead for The Lawman of the Future…
Rob – So, I had a thought about the Judge Dredd comic. I wonder if it’s started building up to it’s eventual end?
The comic’s been moving forward in real time ever since it started, and Judge Dredd himself is now well into his seventies, something they now regularly mention in the series is how he’s getting old, can he still cut it on the streets? etc. Even though things in that world can get pretty crazy at times, I’m not sure they have it in them to do a universe-resetting reboot the way Marvel or DC might. So yeah, Dredd has to retire or die, and do it soon. What do you reckon?
Joe – I guess it’s first important to consider if Dredd is as important to the success of 2000 AD as our love for him makes us feel? Is he a crutch that they’ve been resting on for a long time? Because it could be suicide for the company, to kill Dredd off, regardless of the quality of said tale, if he is indeed the reason for interest in their weekly mags.
R – Well, yes. That’s part of why this issue perplexes me, because 2000 AD clearly depends heavily on Judge Dredd, it’s the only series to always appear in the comic each week, and it’s the only thing they’ve ever managed to get into the movies, or the zeitgeist, even a little. And yet, with the way they’ve approached the story since the beginning, they’ve kind of painted themselves into a corner now, where Dredd is clearly ancient, and yet still goes out as and busts heads every day.
The end of the main Judge Dredd story doesn’t mean they can’t still explore that world I suppose, there’s enough spin offs and other stories set in universe, that things could carry on.
J – The weekly Progs and Megazine are certainly built around Dredd for sure, which definitely adds to the difficulty they’d have in killing off their main hero.
The good thing about the universe they’ve created, with regards to characters that inhabit Megacities, is that there is a vast collection of characters that could potentially be focused on in a more robust way if Dredd exits (Drexit). Judge Anderson being a likely candidate. But as you say, Dredd is really the only character that has ever broken through to a mainstream audience. But then, is it a mainstream audience that buys the progs? And thus gives 2000 AD its main source of income? 2000 AD has always seemed a bit more of an artefact of counterculture.
R – It’s possible that the progs would hold their audience, there might even be an uptick in readership if they made a big thing out of killing of or retiring Judge Dredd, at least for a while. Another consideration is that John Wagner, the main writer, is a similar age to Dredd himself, How long is he going to want to keep the series going? And it’s been proven before that things don’t work as well when he hands it over to other lead writers.
What I’m wondering is, in story terms, rather than business terms, what might happen to cap off the main Judge Dredd series?
J – Well, throwing the obvious crush of the business side of the decision by the wayside, story-wise, they need to be as ballsy as they’ve always been and kill Dredd.
America (and therefore, a large consumer of this sort of media) has this awful fascination with keeping its heroes alive at the end of films, games, comics etc, And I think it would be beautiful if the creators of Dredd (us brits) give him the opportunity to go out meaningfully. I have a few ideas how this could go down, as I’m sure you do. I haven’t thought of any cogent way of him being able to carry on, because it really makes no sense to me, for him to do so.
R – The only way a judge ends his career is he dies, or takes the long walk. Dredd’s already taken the walk once (The Dead Man) and then a massive disaster (Necropolis) happened and the city called him back to save them. It’s not in his character to retire. You’re right, it just wouldn’t make sense, he has to die.
I have a notion of that the end will involve the whole judge system coming to a head, the democracy vs judges plot has been bubbling away for much of the series run, (America – the critics choice for best Judge Dredd story ever – is a story about pro-democracy protesters being brutally fucked up by Dredd) and as time has gone on Dredd has become sporadically more sympathetic to democracy, usually right before some other mass tragedy, which underlines why the Judges are needed. Might the end of the story be some great sacrifice of his, in order to help shape a new utopian world? One that he would have no place in anyway, as he’s really a monster when you look at how he operates. Or is this too sunny an ending for Dredd?
J – Well, he must be fighting for some kind of peaceful end right? Otherwise what’s the point of any of it?
See, I’ve missed out on a few of those stories, but I do agree with you, in that he should be the gateway to a new way of life. Be it through a sacrifice, or him going rogue and destroying the Big Meg itself because he recognises the inherent corruption a place like that breeds.
The other notion I had, was if there was a way that Dredd’s mind was turned into some kind of sentient AI, and he lives on even after his body has decayed into nothing, as the protector of the Big Meg.
R – They’d put him in one of those Mechanismo Robo-Judges!
I reckon, more likely than that, is that he’ll die as we’ve said, and hand over to a successor, not one that’s like him, but a new breed of leader, I have someone in mind, and that’s Judge Beeny.
She’s the child of America, the pro-democracy protester and main character of the story we mentioned, but was enrolled with justice department as a kid, so she’s got her feet in both camps, and has stated a wish to reform JD from the inside. So she’s a reformer, a decent human being, but also has the respect and admiration of Dredd. She could well be the future, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Wagner has been planning something like that for a while, he sows seeds for stories years in advance.
J – That sounds good, if a bit too contrived, if I’m honest. Maybe I’m jaded by all of the “Soft-Reboots” that are happening these days, all of the “passing of the torch” narratives that are necessary – to an extent – to prolong the life of a franchise. But I’d hope that with Dredd, there is a sad, but definite end. The notion that perhaps no one could, or should, fill his boots. Because there’s only one person like Dredd, and it’s Dredd.
R – Oh I’m not suggesting it carry on after that, but that Beeny might have a prominent role in creating this new world you know? It should definitely end with Dredd’s passing.
J – So not like Christopher Nolan’s awkward Robin shoehorn in the The Dark Knight Rises (2012)?
R – Not at all no.
J – Thing is, if they do it, and see that it was a mistake, they can always retcon, reboot or whatever. And they’ve still got their current Dredd run over at IDW. Which is still in it’s infancy really, especially compared to mainline Dredd stuff.
R – They can always take the Hellboy treatment by telling the main story, then going back and filling in stuff within the existing timeline, like the Hellboy and the BPRD stuff. I guess the IDW Dredd series is kind of doing that. Plus the comic sequels to the 2012 movie.
J – And they’re still blitzing through their back catalogue of Dredd and other characters on those compendiums, the Case Files and PSI Files. So maybe the financial aspect of things won’t be too much of an issue.
R – If it has a really stonking ending, the whole canon could be strengthened as a result. Making an epic arc for readers to engage with. I’m excited for it to happen.
J – And as we’ve probably said before, we’re suckers for a complete story arc.
You can read Judge Dredd in 2000 AD, released every Wednesday, and the Monthly Judge Dredd Megazine. Also check out Joe’s review of the recent Dredd epic, Titan, here.