One of the more offbeat announcements made during the recently concluded Comic-Con International in San Diego has to be “2000 AD” publisher Rebellion’s announcement that it is officially endorsing the unofficial, fan-run “Dredd” sequel campaign, “Make a DREDD Sequel.” “Dredd,” based on British future-cop Judge Dredd and starring Karl Urban, debuted in theatres last year to near-universal acclaim, but vastly underperformed at the box office, pulling in only $35 million world-wide against a $50 million budget. The film found an audience on home video, however, and has grown into one of last year’s biggest cult hits.
CBR News stopped by the “2000 AD” booth in San Diego and spoke with PR coordinator Michael Molcher about the campaign, and Molcher revealed how exactly “2000 AD” plans to support it, his honest hopes for a sequel and how he would have marketed “Dredd” differently.
CBR News: Mike, how’s San Diego treating you so far?
Michael Molcher: Very good, thank you. People are really enthusiastic about our stuff this year; we had an insane preview night. We literally couldn’t get books on the table fast enough. What’s really nice is that there’s been a clear “Dredd” movie bounce. People have seen it and want to know more about the character, so they’re picking up loads of books and walking away really happy.
Has anyone specifically said, “I loved the movie and now I want the comics!” or anything to that effect?
Yup, quite a lot! We’ve got the Comic-Con exclusive “Dredd” movie sequel poster, which has drawn a lot of those types in. Loads of people have seen the movie, loved it and asked us, ‘Where do I start?’
“Dredd” has experienced a slow burn, increasing in popularity after performing very poorly at the box office. Are you seeing a bigger fan reaction to the movie now than maybe you did at New York Comic Con in October, right after the film’s release?
It has changed — a lot. Obviously, a lot of people in New York had heard about the movie, but they hadn’t seen it. Now, it’s people who have actually seen the movie and are coming to discover the comic. What’s great about the movie is that it’s exactly the same “Judge Dredd” you see in the comics, Karl absolutely nailed it. So people are realizing that if they want to see more of the “Dredd” movie, they can find it in the books.
So let’s talk about the elephant in the room: What are the chances of a “Dredd” sequel actually happening?
We would love to see a sequel, but at the end of the day, the US box office was a disappointment. You can’t change that. It’s up to [“Dredd” producers] DNA Films to move forward or not. We’re just happy such a key British character got a second bite of the cherry and we got the absolute best Judge Dredd film we could have imagined.
I haven’t met anybody who’s said, “That was a rubbish film!” We got a kick-ass movie! They nailed Dredd! It’s a testament to the vision of [“Judge Dredd” co-creators] John [Wagner] and Carlos [Ezquerra’s] vision from 36 years ago. When the filmmakers got that vision right, it just worked.
Are you any more optimistic about a sequel now than in October or November of last year? People were a bit deflated about the sequel prospects, initially.
Well, that’s to be expected because people hoped, and we hoped, it would be the biggest movie ever! We had a perfect movie. How many comics can say they got a perfect movie? “The Avengers” was great, but they’re not the same characters you might find in the comics in terms of how they’re portrayed.
In terms of how the film has helped us financially, our print orders through Diamond are up over 90% since the film came out. That can only be down to the movie, and maybe us promoting ourselves a bit better. It’s only good news for “2000 AD.”
So what’s the fan run sequel campaign that “2000 AD” is endorsing, “Make a DREDD Sequel?”
Not long after the film came out, this fan-run campaign started up. It’s got over 20,000 likes on Facebook now. We’ve watched it and it put us in a bit of a difficult position. Do we step in and try to help out or what? So we’ve decided to officially endorse it as “2000 AD.” We can’t guarantee it’s going to succeed, but we want to say to the fans that your support is appreciated. There’s a massive following for the film, now, who have never read the comic. Perhaps there’s an opportunity for us to help spread the word about the movie and the comic, and down the line it might make a difference to getting a sequel.
What do “Dredd” screenwriter Alex Garland and DNA Films think? I assume you had to run it by them before endorsing it, right?
Well, not really. We’re not speaking on behalf of DNA Films. We are just saying that we, as a comic book, are behind this campaign because we would love to see a sequel.
At the end of the day, Alex and Andrew [MacDonald, producer] and Karl are Judge Dredd fans. They don’t want to see it fail and they’ve made the best movie we could hope for. Karl has said he hopes to return to the role. Hopefully, we’ll create enough interest with people with big wallets.
As “2000 AD” publisher Rebellion’s marketing and PR guy, I assume you know a thing or two about marketing and PR. Why do you think that the marketing for “Dredd” failed so spectacularly? What would you have done differently?
I think there’s lots of factors at play. Basically, the Stallone movie is one of those movies that’s always on repeat on television, so it came to be seen as a camp ’90s classic. It became a bit of an albatross around our necks. An entire generation grew up thinking that Judge Dredd was Stallone. People couldn’t get over it. They couldn’t understand why it was being remade, which of course it wasn’t.
There was also some resistance at that point to geek movies, which had flooded the market that year. Another factor might have been cynicism around movies that debuted at Comic-Con. Because I know when we had the debut last year with Karl and Olivia [Thirlby] there, people were going mental! Real enthusiasm. They loved it. All the reviews that came out afterwards said it was a high-octane, straight-forward, simple movie with really great performances. But people have been burned in the past by Comic-Con buzz. They don’t trust it as much anymore. Also, it was a big college football weekend in America the weekend it opened.
How would I have done it differently? I probably would have had more trailers. For entirely selfish reasons I would have stressed the authentic comic book origin. There’s a thing in geek culture where people don’t like when movies stray from the comic. But this movie was exactly like the comic. I would have stressed that. The TV spots in America came a bit too late, too. I would have stretched them out a bit more.
You’re saying the fan campaign is great, you endorse it, you want it to succeed, and that’s all nice, but how specifically will you be supporting it?
You’ll be seeing adverts appearing in both “2000 AD” and the “Judge Dredd Megazine,” as well as lots of coverage on our Facebook and Twitter pages. That way people might take an extra look at it who ordinarily might not check out fan run campaigns. We’ve got some other things up our sleeve that we can’t really reveal at the moment, but they’ll make it worthwhile to support the campaign. Most importantly, we just want to spread the word. People have seen the movie, they enjoy it, they want a sequel but they don’t know how to help. Now they do.
Check out “Make a DREDD Sequel” on Facebook, and “2000 AD” weekly from Rebellion.