2000AD's "Judge Dredd" has featured plenty of strong, interesting female characters over its 36-year history, so it comes as something of a surprise to realize that Emma Beeby, who co-wrote the "Suicide Watch" story that began in Prog 1826, is the first woman creator to contribute to the title's rich history. Collaborating with veteran Dredd writer Gordon Rennie and artist Paul Davidson on the current arc, she and Rennie also co-wrote the three-part story "Survival Geeks," which ran through Progs 1824-26.
"Suicide Watch" is set shortly after the Days of Chaos, an event which killed over 80% of the population of Mega-City One. A handful of the survivors take refuge in a suicide cult that reveres amnesia, while Judge Hamida, a psi and the first Muslim character to appear in the comic, wrestles with memories of her own. We spoke with Beeby about her inspiration and what she learned when she went from reader to writer of the long-running series.
CBR News: How long have you been reading 2000AD, and what was your introduction to Judge Dredd?
Emma Beeby: Dredd and I came into being around the same time, so I didn't read it from the beginning! And, being a girl, I had a later introduction to comics than most. I tended to rely on other people to buy comics and borrow them rather than brave the "Are you lost?" looks I got in comic shops. Thankfully, that's much better now. I had read a few "2000ADs," but I only really got into it after I played the "Dredd vs Death" PS2 game -- and I might be the only person who really enjoyed it. I got a big pile of Dredd graphic novels after that, and got into other 2000AD things.
When did you start writing for 2000AD, and had you done any comics writing before that?
The first comic I started writing was a manga comic, which may yet see the light of day. That was also the story Gordon and I first worked on together. It was the artist's suggestion that we both work on it. We went along with this, a little skeptically, and discovered we worked well together. So despite that not having happened (yet!), lots of other things have as a result.
How did you get the Judge Dredd gig?
I never really thought I'd write Dredd. Gordon wanted to do another story with [Judge] Hamida, and we were talking about the world of Mega City One, how it would change with more than 80% of the citizens dead, and we ended up coming up with the story in that discussion. We'd already written "Survival Geeks" by that point, so we thought we'd pitch this and see what happened.
We plotted out the story in each episode, not in a detailed way, but with key things that had to happen in each part, and split it into scenes that we each would write, and then swap and edit each other's pages. We both got to write everyone in about equal amounts by the end.
Did you realize at the time that you would be the first woman writer on the story?
It didn't really occur to either of us until after it was commissioned. I was just excited to be writing Dredd because it was Dredd!
Do you think it makes any difference?
I think it makes a difference in hopefully helping to show that it doesn't make a difference. The gender of the writer isn't important; the story is important. I'll aim to write a good story that is true to the characters and their world, and to me as the writer, as I think any writer would. Having a diversity of voices brings a richer world of stories, so it would be nice to see more women writing Dredd, and other traditionally male dominated stories and genres.
Of course, portrayal of women is important to attract women readers and writers. 2000AD, and Dredd stories, have lots of great female characters, who look like women, often fully clothed and everything!Art by Paul Davidson