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John Wagner Promotes Dredd to “Block Judge”

by  in Comic News Comment
John Wagner Promotes Dredd to “Block Judge”

Award-winning British sci-fi anthology “2000 AD” ships its landmark 1900th prog this month, and it’s reunited “Judge Dredd” co-creators John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra to celebrate. “Block War” part one finds Dredd getting his hands dirty as he once again heads down to the streets in an attempt to reestablish order on a single Mega-City Cityblock.

Wagner spoke with CBR News about “Block Judge,” revealing what’s in store for everyone’s favorite stone-chinned future cop as he celebrates the anthology’s longevity. The writer also shared his thoughts on a potential “DREDD 2,” along with his (as well as Dredd’s) take on Scotland’s independence.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: This interview was conducted prior to the Scottish independence referendum vote on September 18, 2014.]

CBR News: John, what’s your “2000 AD” prog 1900 story, “Block Judge,” about?

John Wagner: A Mega-City Cityblock can house up to 100,000 people, virtually a small city in itself. It has its own schools, hospitals, shopping and leisure facilities — in fact, everything a citizen might need, except perhaps some fresh air and a bit of grass. It’s possible to live your entire life without ever leaving the block. The only time you need to leave is when you’re carted off to be recycled. Though Dredd has stood in for another judge in Block Court, he’s never been assigned to look after one. I was interested to explore the unique challenges of being a Block Judge and how Dredd would handle them.

How easy is it for Dredd to slip back into a much smaller role after spending years protecting the entire city in big stories like “Tour of Duty” and other massive adventures?

I’m sure he prefers it, the ordinary day-to-day job of being judge, jury and executioner.

Do you prefer to write the larger scale or more intimate “Dredd” stories?

They both have their appeal, but it’s hard to beat a nicely rounded short.

What’s your working process like with your “Judge Dredd” co-creator Carlos Ezquerra now, over 30 years on from your first “Dredd” story together? Do you have a shorthand together?

The main thing with Carlos is don’t use too many words, he gets fed up translating long descriptions. He also gets fed up when I cram too many pictures on a page or write too much dialogue. Buy we’ve worked together a long time. He knows what I’m like and I know he’s capable of dealing with pretty much anything that’s thrown at him.

What’s it feel like to hit these big milestone anniversaries like prog 1900? Are they still impactful, or is it business as usual?

It’s always pleasing to see, in a time of comic decline, “2000 AD” still alive and kicking. That’s the big thing for me — no particular milestone except its continued survival and popularity.

“Judge Dredd: Day of Chaos” was one of last year’s biggest stories. When’s the next game-changing “Dredd” saga like “Day of Chaos,” “Origins,” or “Tour of Duty” is going to hit “2000 AD?”

I’m still exhausted from the last one, so haven’t begun to think of the next. The big event this year will probably be the return of the Dark Judges in a story called “Dark Justice,” featuring the amazing — simply stunning — art of Greg Staples. Supposed to start in the end-of-year issue, Prog 2015 — not to be missed.

Can you tell us a little bit about “Dark Justice?” Will Death join his brothers Fear, Fire and Mortis in the story?

I’d prefer not to say much about it, though I can confirm all four will make a lengthy and murderous appearance.

Have you been following the various IDW “Dredd” series at all? Would you be interested in writing an IDW series?

Haven’t read much of IDWs new material — seems to be going down well enough. They did ask me a long time ago if I wanted to contribute, but I have trouble just keeping up with my work for “2000 AD,” so I declined. The big collections they do of classic material by Brian Bolland, Carlos and Cam Kennedy are very nice, indeed. They have talked about a similar one featuring my pick of nearly 40 years of “Dredd.” I’d love to do that — give US readers a taste of my particular take on Mega-City One.

What would be some of your picks for your “40 Years of Dredd” book?

“Bury My Knee at Wounded Heart,” “It Pays to Be Mental,” “Death of a Democrat,” “The Midnight Surfer,” “Love Story.”

Rumors have surfaced online recently that a potential “DREDD” film sequel would be based on your “Origins” story. In your opinion, would this make a good basis for the sequel?

“Origins” would work fine, I guess, though I’d prefer to stay in the city. Judge Death and the Dark Judges would be my choice.

What non-Dredd projects have you excited right now?

I’m working on a couple of new stories. One’s a saucy space romp called “Lonesome Truckers in Space.” The other is, of all things, about football (soccer). This harks back to the comics of my youth in which football stories were a regular feature. This one, though, has a very interesting twist.

Switching gears, as someone with Scottish heritage, what’s your stance on Scottish independence?

Living in England I don’t have a vote. Even if I was still in Scotland, I wouldn’t be able to vote because, though I’m half Scottish, I’m still an American citizen. Had I a vote, I would put my X in the independence box. I value our long association with the other UK countries, but despite all the negativity and threats from the No campaign, I believe Scotland would do very well on its own. That said, I’m perfectly willing to accept the democratic will of the people.

What would Dredd say about it?

He wouldn’t stand for it.

“Judge Dredd: Block Judge” starts in “2000 AD” prog 1900, available now in the UK and digitally in the App store, and in North America next month.

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