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Williams Explains Why He Sentenced Judge Dredd to “Enceladus”

by  in Comic News Comment
Williams Explains Why He Sentenced Judge Dredd to “Enceladus”

This week sees Rob Williams and Henry Flint returning to the rubble of Titan, as they follow up on last year’s epic storyline with “Enceladus: New Life.” When we last visited the prison colony, Judge Dredd had suffered a major injury that prevented him from stopping over 500 of the criminal ex-judges held there from escaping and moving to a new base on Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons.

As a result, the moon holds some pretty rough memories for the Judge, and ones which come hurtling to the forefront of his mind in the new storyline. As the consequences of “Titan” continue to reverberate through “2000AD,” CBR News spoke with Williams about his plans for the story, and how they’ll affect Judge Dredd. Is time starting to run out for the Law enforcer?

CBR News: Titan holds some pretty unpleasant memories for Judge Dredd thanks to last year’s “Titan” storyline. Why did you want to send him back now?

Rob Williams: Well, I don’t want to give away too much, but this story is more repercussions of “Titan” coming for Dredd, rather than sending him back off into space again. Part of the reason for doing the sequel is how we left things at the end of “Titan.” Over 500 convict ex-Judges were heading off to the Saturn moon of Enceladus to set up their own colony. What happened to them and their leader, Aimee Nixon?

Their leaving Titan was a major blow to Justice Department’s authority, and Nixon really emasculated Dredd. Tortured him physically and mentally. Came closer to breaking Dredd’s spirit than we’ve seen before. There had to be repercussions, for the Judges, and for Dredd on a personal level.

And working with Henry Flint is a joy. Henry’s work has this amazing energy and anarchic imagination. He’s our modern classic Dredd artist. It’s a treat having Henry detail your scripts, so working together again on space-based Dredd had obvious appeal.

Henry’s a rare talent. His imagination, energy, the idiosyncratic edge he brings. He draws this wonderfully iconic, angular Dredd. And he’s amazing at sci-fi settings. Ice moons, space missiles. He creates his own “world.” Oh, and he’s colouring himself here, and has done a stellar job. The pages really pop. I don’t think I’d have written a sequel without his being involved.

The last time Dredd went to Titan, he suffered a pretty serious injury — a fracture, it sounded like. What are his thoughts on returning to Titan now, would you say?

I wanted to try and get to the man below the surface. He’s no robot. He is the law, yes, but he makes that choice, and obviously there’s layers and layers of justifications there, as there are for all of us in all our choices. Aimee’s torturing him was really putting Dredd on the psychiatrist’s couch. Trying to break the Judge, bring out the man, and get Dredd to want revenge and commit an act of mass murder.

And that’s where he is with “Enceladus.” Revenge and anger and being traumatized — those things aren’t the law. And if Dredd ever breaks from the law, then what’s left? Violence, brutality, without the tether of justice. He’s feeling things here he doesn’t want to admit. And if he does give in to the desire for pure revenge, then he’ll be destroyed. There’s big stakes for Dredd in this story.

Just the name “Titan” conjures up some pretty interesting mythological history. The Titans were the second pantheon of Greek Gods, who were overthrown by the more familiar gods like Zeus, Poseidon etc. Is that a concept you were interested in folding into your story here and before, or is the name just a coincidence?

The title of the first story was as much about Dredd as it was the Saturn moon. He’s really this godlike figure for Justice Department and 2000AD’s readers. An icon. Trying to chip away at that and reveal the man is obviously pretty interesting for a writer. John Wagner, Dredd’s co-creator, has written him to have this glacial emotional progress. He feels things. Just… slowly. I wanted to try and put him in a position that shows his complexity, to a degree.

But yes, Titan, the Saturn moon, has always had a prison in Dredd’s world where they sent the corrupt Judges, so that was a neat bit of double meaning. The prisoners broke out last time, and Dredd led a team of space marines to try and shut the revolt down. It didn’t go well and a lot of the Judge convicts have gone off to build their own new colony on the ice moon of Enceladus. This is their story as much as Dredd’s.

The title of your new storyline is “Enceladus: New Life.” Enceladus was one of the vanquished Greek Titans, but also the name of one of Saturn’s Moons — and one which has shown most sign of alien life. Why choose this as the name for your story? Does it have a deeper meaning for you?

It’s a bit of a happy bit of serendipity. Enceladus, the moon, seemed a good setting for this new colony for the escaped convicts because it’s relatively near the moon of Titan and it’s an ice planet, so shades of Russian gulag prison stories. But the science aspect fitted too — that there’s an ocean below the surface that may contain life.

That fitted thematically, with what we’re trying to do with Dredd — get an idea of what’s beneath that cold exterior. And Enceladus has volcanos that shoot deadly huge shards of ice down onto the surface. That’s a fun death planet conceit. We can get a few people running for their lives as their friends get bloodily obliterated by an ice moon volcano.

That sounds like fun, unless you’re one of the ones doing the running.
The last few months particularly, 2000AD has started seriously looking at the idea that one day Dredd will die. Is Titan’s ominous return another sign that the times might be starting to catch up with him?

He’s aging, and has done since 2000AD started. So he’s creaking a bit, both physically and mentally. That’s something that’s interesting to explore and I’ve written about that in stories like “Titan” and “The Man Comes Around,” with RM Guera. Omens of Dredd’s death creeping in.

Mind you, as Matt Smith, 2000AD’s editor has said, even though he’s probably near 80 now, this is the future, and he has so much cybernetics in his body and medical science has advanced to such an extent that it’s probably the equivalent of his being 50 for us. But, he’s at the age now where his stories do have that weight of, say, Batman in “The Dark Knight Returns.” There’s a certain gravitas that comes with his age. A weight to the stories.

The Prog starts with two younger Judges, Dawkins and Sam, who seem more idealist and open than either Dredd or Giant. Did you deliberately want to invite the comparison between these two generations of enforcement?

Nicely noticed. Judge Sam is there because of his youthful idealism. He’s completely at the opposite end of the life experience to Dredd, but he’s not been through what Dredd has. He’s not paid a price for his beliefs yet. That’s going to come into play. How can you hold beliefs unless they’ve been tested?

We’ve seen a lot of newer recruits recently within 2000AD — how do you think the next generation approach crime and law-enforcement within Mega-City One?

It’s amazing that the Justice Department system keeps rolling, considering what they’ve been though, Chaos Day being the most recent atrocity, where I think Mega City One lost around 45 million to plague. And the city’s pure insanity, its constant violence, makes being a new Judge a terrifying prospect. But you can see the appeal. Order or chaos? Without that badge, what’s a citizen’s purpose?

Plus, you get a cool bike and uniform.

Within the story, what sends Dredd back to Titan now? What can readers expect from this new storyline?

A mystery — a troop carrier returns from Enceladus, but who, exactly, is onboard? That’s going to be a head scratcher for Dredd. You’ll see what happened to the escaped Titan convicts in their new colony, and the fate of Aimee Nixon. There’s a few surprising guest stars from Dredd’s past along the way and bloody revenge, too. There may be bloody revenge.

And extreme violence.

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