Green Meets Mean in Ewing's "Mars Attacks Judge Dredd"

This September, IDW Publishing's Martian muck-ups meet their resident totalitarian future-cop in "Mars Attacks Judge Dredd" by writer Al Ewing and artist John McCrea.

Ewing and McCrea are perhaps the perfect team to handle the planet-spanning series, with Ewing a long-time "Judge Dredd" writer for "2000 AD" and McCrea the regular artist on IDW's ongoing "Mars Attacks" series written by John Layman. Set in the dystopic Mega-City One "Mars Attacks Judge Dredd" stars the IDW continuity version of ol' stoney face.

Ewing spoke with Comic Book Resources about the unexpected crossover, discussing the differences between the IDW and "2000 AD" incarnations of Judge Dredd, the sequel status of his and Brendan McCarthy's hit book "The Zaucer of Zilk," his thoughts on the '90s film versions of both Dredd and "Mars Attacks" and more.

CBR News: Al, what's the gist of "Mars Attacks Judge Dredd?"

Al Ewing: Essentially, it's the little alien scoundrels setting their sights on a full-blown invasion of Mega-City One -- and possibly the entire 22nd-Century Earth. Except this time, because Dredd's world is such a tough, grim future, they're forced to be a little more sneaky about it and do some infiltrating before the invasion proper, by joining forces with the Mega-Mafia. So Dredd has to face both the Martians and the Mob.

How did you get involved with the project?

I was asked, is the short version. Essentially, fans were very excited about the "Mars Attacks Judge Dredd" [variant] cover, and IDW felt a crossover might have legs. And they'd enjoyed my work on the "Zaucer [of Zilk]." Beyond that, really, they asked if I was interested, and I pitched something that worked for IDW and "2000 AD" and everyone else involved. We went from there.

Are you using the "2000 AD" or IDW version of Judge Dredd?

It's the IDW one. I tend to think of it as 'Ultimate Dredd,' which means that I can reach into the toybox and pull out elements that have been used in "2000 AD" and use them a little differently. For instance, in the first issue a lot of the action is set in The Pit, which "2000 AD" readers will remember as a notoriously corrupt sector. And I get to write Don Uggie Apelino, who I remember from the Titan reprints I read as a kid -- along with my own characters like Don Mumbletti, who's too good a joke to lay fallow.

Do you write the IDW Dredd differently from the "2000 AD" version?

Not really. He's younger -- not quite forty, if I've got the dates right -- so he's less beaten down by the world. I started writing him when things were getting increasingly complicated for him -- he'd just allowed mutants into the city -- and he was starting to suffer a lot of personal defeats. So very quickly, I was writing stories about a tired, depressed old man who was keeping himself going through sheer bloody-mindedness. It was still Dredd, but it was the lion in winter -- this is very much the springtime of his life. He's a lot meaner and nastier, as well -- he's not mellowed the way the "2000 AD" version has.

While they might not seem like a match made in heaven, the heavy political and social satire of both "Judge Dredd" and "Mars Attacks" really seem like they could go hand-in-hand. How does your story take advantage of the satirical nature of both strips?

There are plenty of gags to be had, but I'm not sure if any of them come under the heading of political and social satire exactly -- I suppose because that aspect of "Mars Attacks" comes out in the Martians' attacks on our society, and with "Dredd," it's in his treatment of the citizenry. When these two awful nightmares are fighting each other instead of decent people, it's a lot more of a romp. Still, there might be some mileage in the fact that Dredd, when he first encounters the Martians, thinks they're a mutant tribe drafted in for cheap labor.

Are there any other Dredd crossovers would you like to see?

I'd like to see a "Dredd/Marvel" crossover, just for the additional readers as much as anything. I figure he'd cross over nicely with "Captain America," since Dredd's pretty much the antithesis of Cap -- well, maybe not "Ultimate Cap," but he's kind of an asshole. Or "Dredd vs. Dan Dare." I wouldn't mind seeing what Pat Mills would do with a "Nemesis/Superman" crossover, actually. I quite like Supes, though, and I doubt he'd come off well --

What's it been like working with John McCrea on this project?

John's the main "Mars Attacks" guy, and a fantastic artist. I've been wanting to work with him again for ages -- the only time I ever did was on a little thing for the iPhone, an 8-panel comic app from back when we were all still working out how to make digital comics work. This was after "Murderdrome" was rejected, and PJ and I were trying something a bit less violent, so it's a kind of "Beano"-type children's humor strip. It was called Beatnik High -- you can still find it on iTunes, I think, if you have a phone that can do it.

Art by Loston Wallace, colors by Steve Downer

What has the stateside reaction been for your other IDW title, "The Zaucer of Zilk?" 

The Americans absolutely loved it! Which was nice, because it had quite a mixed reception among the "2000 AD" faithful. I think some people didn't see it as the kind of strip "2000 AD" should be doing, which might be why it got such a good reaction when it was presented outside that context. But really, people have said nicer things about it than just about anything I've ever done.When can we expect the next chapter of "The Zaucer of Zilk?"

I have no idea when. Or how. But it's looking likely that it will happen -- I think [Brendan McCarthy and I] are interested in doing another, and some back and forth on that has happened over the electric aether already. So "Zilk" fans can rest easy.
Do you think the "Zilk" sequel will land at "2000 AD," IDW or both?

We have no idea as yet -- it's something "2000 AD" and IDW would work out between them. Obviously, "Zilk" is owned by Rebellion, so that factors in, but the American audience were the ones who were really vocal about it, so I could see a case for going direct to IDW with it. We're at such an early stage of the planning at the moment that it seems kind of jinx-y to comment further, if I'm honest.

Fair enough! What else do you have going on at the moment?

Lots and lots of Marvel stuff, none of which I can really talk about beyond saying that that's who I'm working for. But that's most of it. Meanwhile, I've got more work for "2000 AD" in the pipeline -- "Damnation Station" is back for a second series, with the wonderful Mark Harrison on art duties. Also, I'm plotting a "Dredd" at the moment which should tie up an ongoing plot thread, and there are the usual bits and pieces floating around the periphery. But there's a lot going on.

Finally, here's the big question -- which movie do you prefer: the '95 "Judge Dredd" or the '96 "Mars Attacks?"

"Mars Attacks," easily. '95 "Dredd" is a great movie until Stallone speaks, and then it all just falls apart completely. "Mars Attacks" has its problems, but not on that level, where the entire film is destroyed by the main actor's performance. Rob Schneider positively shines next to Stallone. He's like Hamlet compared with Stallone. It's the worst performance ever committed to celluloid, I firmly believe that.

"Mars Attacks Judge Dredd" #1 by Al Ewing and John McCrea hits shelves this September from IDW Publishing.

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Tags: idw publishing, al ewing, judge dredd, mars attacks, john mccrea, mars attacks judge dredd, the zaucer of zilk

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