EXCLUSIVE: Rob Williams Walks Judge Dredd Into "Closet"

Judge Dredd has gotten himself out a lot of tight spots over the years, but on January 30, the hard-chinned future cop finds himself stuck somewhere he's never been before: the closet. In Rob Williams' "Judge Dredd: Closet," Dredd finds himself investigating a Mega-City One gay fetish club where the fetish is Dredd, himself.

Williams comes fresh off "2000 AD's" critical and sales hit "Trifecta," which he masterminded with co-writers Si Spurrier and Al Ewing. Joining Williams for "Closet" is artist Mike Dowling, best known for penciling "Rex Royd" in Mark Millar's "CLiNT" anthology.

Williams spoke with Comic Book Resources about "Closet," discussing his take on Dredd's sexuality, what you would expect from a first date with Dredd, whether or not he feels the hard line judge makes a good role model and more.

CBR News: Rob, what's the basic story of "Judge Dredd: Closet?"

Rob Williams: It's really about a Mega-City One kid named Taylor who we see between the ages of 16-18. He's gay and trying to come to terms with that. Homosexuality isn't illegal in Dredd's city, but angry, blue-collar men like Taylor's father don't deal well with the idea, especially under his roof.

A brutal act takes place, Taylor's father disappears and suddenly this kid is all alone in a world that seems to be firmly telling him to keep who he is hidden so no one gets hurt. Then he finds himself in a Dredd-themed underground gay club, where everyone dresses either as Dredd or as a perp, Dredd being the ultimate symbol of macho, leather-clad repression in this city. It's kind of a Village People deal turned up to 100 in a Mega-City One style. And then the real Dredd arrives.

Is Dredd aware of the cultural impact he's had on Mega-City One? 
Not only is he unaware of it, he couldn't care less. Dredd is the law. End of story. He's the most famous, feared Judge in Mega-City One but it doesn't play on his mind one iota.

Has Dredd's sexuality ever come up before? Considering the often hyper-sexualized nature of Mega-City One and its citizenry, you'd imagine it would come up much more often than it has.

Dredd may well be gay, straight or bi. But it's all buried beneath layers upon layers (upon layers). There's a man there, like anyone else, he's not a robot. But Dredd's pure repression. Although, can you imagine what would happen if that repression ever fell away, just for an instant? 

Sure, Dredd could be gay. You can't look at the original costume design of leather and chains and not see a fetishistic edge there. But, as I said before, Dredd's feeling are so deeply hidden, he is extremely unlikely to ever let them show. With Dredd, you only ever get subtle glimpses of the man beneath.

What do you think Dredd would look for in a potential partner?

Someone who knows and respects the law and who is able to handle a nightstick in a skilled, brutal manner.

How would a first-date with Dredd go?

Possibly a little stilted, initially. But a bit of dinner, bit of dancing -- who knows where it might lead? I'm an optimist at heart.

Lines not to use on a first date with Dredd:

"I'd like to invite you to a party. There's gonna be drinking and dancing, £%$#ing and fighting."

"Who's coming?"

"Just me and you."

Is Dredd a good role model?

That depends on your perspective. He's a good role model in terms of discipline, respecting the law, being a good citizen, even in terms of altruism. Sure, he's a fascist, but he's devoted his entire life to protecting and serving the citizens, in his own way. He attempts to save lives constantly. He'll go to any lengths to protect his city. He's stood up for mutant rights in the past. 

His constant use of excessive violence and the fact that he may well be one of the world's greatest ever killers though - that's possibly not role model material. Also, you would be unwise to tell your child: "Go! Be free! Enjoy and experience every thing and every emotion this world has to offer -- like Judge Dredd!" This would be an error.

The shaming and alienation of gay teens is a serious issue in today's society. Is it appropriate for issues like these to be discussed in the context of a comic like "Judge Dredd?"

I don't see why not. For me, they make a story far more interesting than just another "Dredd chases and shoots perp" tale. The initial idea with "Closet" came from wondering if gay culture had ever been dealt with in Mega-City One before and would things have changed in Mega-City One. It probably has been shown in "Dredd," but very rarely, and that's pretty amazing for a 35-year-old comic. As long as you stay true to the character throughout -- which I think "Closet" does -- you can deal with all sorts of issues in a story. And if they push people's buttons, fine. I'd rather a story be provocative than just, "and they have a fight." Plus, putting Dredd in a gay club filled with men dressed as him is a pretty funny image. It's worth it for that alone.

"Judge Dredd: Closet" by Rob Williams and Mike Dowling appears in "2000 AD" prog 1817, on sale in the UK and worldwide digitally through the "2000 AD" app on January 30.

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