While IDW Publishing previously announced they would be launching a brand new “Judge Dredd” ongoing series at their WonderCon panel this past March, they kept the creative team on the book a closely guarded secret. Announced today at Comic-Con International in San Diego, IDW revealed writer Duane Swierczynski and artist Nelson Daniel would be tackling “Judge Dredd” when Mega-City One’s top cop arrives in November. Swierczynski spoke with CBR News about bringing 2000 AD’s iconic British character, created by John Wagner, Pat Mills and Carlos Ezquerra in 1977, to American audiences.
Although Dredd, the futuristic “judge, jury and executioner” of Mega-City One, is known primarily for appearing in the pages of anthology series “2000 AD,” Swierczynski first encountered the character in an unexpected place. “I discovered Judge Dredd at the tender age of 15 through a somewhat unlikely source: a bootleg Commodore 64 game where you move Dredd through a digital Mega-City One and pretty much shoot everything in sight,” Swierczynski explained. “Jonesing for more, I realized that Dredd was a UK import, and super-tough to find here in the U.S. Add yet another frustration to my nerdy teenaged life.”
Swierczynski became a Dredd fan for life, and he cited John Wagner and Alan Grant’s “Judgment on Gotham,” the 1991 Judge Dredd/Batman crossover with art by Simon Bisley, as both his first story and still his favorite. “Somehow, seeing these butting heads — literally — helped define both characters for me in a new and cool way,” the writer said. For the new series, Swierczynski looked back over the whole range of Dredd stories. “I’ve been going back and reading the earliest Dredd stories and seeing what I missed — namely, a lot of giddy, high-octane mayhem,” he continued. “I mean that in the best possible way. This has been a huge inspiration.”
And what will Swierczynski’s Dredd be like? “I’d like IDW’s Dredd to feel like a transgressive sci-fi black comedy police procedural — like ‘Law & Order,’ if, say, Jerry Orbach were a violent inflexible fascist,” Swierczynski told CBR News. “Someone who readers can’t help but root for, since he’s up against overwhelming odds in a city gone insane.”
Swierczynski sees IDW’s new series as a chance to explore the boundaries of the crime story. “The possibilities are exciting as hell, especially when you factor in future tech,” he said. “I’m finding inspiration in the lawless Dillinger days of the early 1930s, when emerging technology inspired both cops and bandits to elevate their games. When the bandits started using race cars for getaways, the cops responded with faster pursuit vehicles; shotguns were met with machine guns; organized criminal gangs were met with wiretapping and most-wanted lists. With ‘Dredd,’ I’m asking myself: what kind of games will cops (that is, judges) and robbers be playing 100 years in the future?”
The location of the stories is just as important to Swierczynski as the time period. “In my own crime novels I try to make the setting (be it Philly, Los Angeles or wherever) another character,” he said. “My goal is to do the same here, and try to make an impossibly huge city with 800 million residents seem like a living, breathing (and bleeding) place. There is a symbiotic relationship; Mega-City One would tear itself apart without Dredd, and Dredd couldn’t exist in any other place but Mega-City One.”
IDW’s Dredd stories will take place in the judge’s past, “covering untold tales from the earlier days of Dredd’s career,” Swierczynski said. “Though rest assured, this ain’t Li’l Joe Dredd. He’s no rookie; he’s been serving up justice on the mean streets of Mega-City One for quite some time.” Swierczynski teased the appearance of Judge Anderson in the second issue, with other familiar characters to come. And although the stories are set in the past, they won’t be beholden to existing continuity, at least “not slavishly,” according to the writer. “But I’m also not going out of my way to contradict — or, egads, ‘reboot’ — anything, either.”
Artist Nelson Daniel, whose work can currently be seen in IDW’s “The Cape: 1969,” is taking on the art duties for the series, and Swierczynski sees him as a perfect fit. “When [IDW Chief Creative Officer] Chris Ryall sent me an early sketch of his Dredd, I drokkin’ loved it,” Swierczynski said. “It’s still early in the process, but I’m a huge fan of Nelson’s work from ‘The Cape,’ and can’t wait to see what he does with the mayhem of Mega-City One.”
Swierczynski will also be writing back-up stories in each issue, drawn by artists including Paul Gulacy and Jim Starlin. “I’m particularly excited about those, because it’s a chance to tell a self-contained crime story from the POV of various Mega-City One perps and creeps,” he said. “There will be connections between the main story and these backups, but not in an obvious way.”
With the new “Dredd” movie starring Karl Urban set to be released September 21, Swierczynski hopes for a lot of interest in the character by the time his book hits stands. “Hopefully it results in millions of newly minted fans rushing comic shops and demanding anything with Dredd’s ruggedly handsome chin (what? it is!) on the cover,” he said. “And hopefully this American Dredd will be somewhere in the stacks.”
What will make that American Dredd stand out from all the other Dredd stories that have come before? “I think it takes a dirty Yank to slash away at the foul, black, hopelessly damaged heart of the American Dream,” Swierczynski said. “And folks, I’m that dirty Yank.”
“Judge Dredd” #1 from IDW by Duane Swierczynski and Nelson Daniel is on sale in November.