NYCC: Wagner Returns to "Judge Dredd," Smith To Do "Year One" Series

Art from IDW's "Judge Dredd" by Nelson Daniel (L) and Paul Gulacy

The Judge Dredd panel at New York Comic Con packed one of the larger panel rooms in the Javits Center with fans who seemed to know "Judge Dredd" better than any of the other comics that run in the British weekly "2000 AD," but who were happy to hear the creators talk about their new and old work -- and to salute each one with a rousing cheer.

Several major announcements were made in the course of the panel: "2000 AD" editor Matt Smith will be writing a "Judge Dredd: Year One" miniseries for IDW Publishing, and writer John Wagner, who created Judge Dredd along with artist Carlos Ezquerra, will return as the writer of the "Judge Dredd" series in 2013. Wagner's last Dredd work was the "Day of Chaos" story.

Three more series will also be making their comeback in the pages of "2000 AD": Ian Edginton's "Stickleback," with art by D'israeli (Matt Brooker), and "Ampney Crucis Investigates," with art by Simon Davis, and Al Ewing's "Zombo," with at by Henry Flint.

Writer Andy Diggle started things off with a page from "Lenny Zero: Zero Seven." "Hands up -- who's read 'Lenny Zero' before?" Diggle asked the crowd. Only a few hands went up. "He's an ex Wally Squad [undercover division] judge who went bad, and now he's doing capers in Mega-City One, trying to rip off a million credits from the Justice Department," Diggle explained.

Diggle then showed off a page from his creator-owned comic book "Snapshot," which Image Comics just announced it will publish as a four-issue miniseries. Written by Diggle and drawn by Jock, is currently running in black and white in the pages of "Judge Dredd Megazine." "It will be finished as soon as I write the last episode, which I think I am having to do on the flight home," Diggle said. Clem Robins is the letterer, and the Image edition of the series will be colored by Lee Loughridge; all four worked together on the Vertigo series "The Losers." "It's not really a typical '2000 AD' thing, it's non-sci-fi, it's a straight thriller," said Diggle, "but Tharg's representative on earth, Matt Smith, kindly offered us a slot in the 'Megazine' for it." (Tharg is the space alien who purportedly is the real editor of "2000 AD.")

At this point, the panel was interrupted by an audible cheer from the next panel room, and Diggle took the opportunity to lead the crowd in a counter-cheer. This worked so well that the creators encouraged rousing cheers for every presentation.

When things settled down a bit, Edginton took the mic to talk about his new steampunk series "Brass Sun," which debuted in Prog (issue) #1800 of "2000 AD." "Basically, this revolves around a life-sized clockwork solar system where the sun is starting to wind down and the exterior worlds are icing over," Edginton explained. "There's a young girl called Wren who is tasked to find the mythical key to restart the solar system." Edginton described "Brass Sun" as "a big story," which will have several arcs, alternately illustrated by INJ Culbard and D'Israeli.

Edginton described "Ampney Crucis Investigates" thusly: "A Lord Peter Wimsey, Agatha Christie, meets son of the old Lovecraft kind of thing. It's a gentleman adventurer who is trapped in an alternate universe, an alternate England, where he finds he's a kind of secret agent for the government and he has to get back to his own world, but he also has to unravel some of the mysteries there."

The writer then showed a page from "Stickleback" that was actually a spoiler: "In the last series of 'Stickleback,' our eponymous hero/villain fell to his death, but it looks like we've got a bit of a giveaway there where he's very much alive," Edginton said. "So don't look."

Writer Al Ewing took the floor again to talk about "Zombo," showcasing a page from the first volume. "So there's Zombo doing a kind of psychedelic battle, it looks like disco dancing but he's really doing a psychedelic battle with the Death Shadow," he explained. "And it all makes sense if -- can I have a show of hands of who has read the first book?" The audience complied. "Not as many as I'd like," Ewing said. "Anyway, at the minute I'm working on 'Zombo' series 4, which will be available in collection next year, and that's guest starring the Beatles, the severed head of Walt Disney is making a comeback, the president..."

He followed that up with a page from "The Zaucer of Zilk," which is being published in the U.S. by IDW. Ewing said the original idea came from artist Brendan McCarthy, and the pair have been tossing it back and forth for years. "It's about an other dimensional sorcerer who is walking through various worlds and realms in a quest to rescue his greatest fan, but in the process finds out terrible depressing truths and perhaps learns how to grow up a little," he explained.

Ewing was a bit vaguer about "The Cold Deck," which launched the week of NYCC, but did say, "This is the huge mega epic I have been working on with Henry [Flint]. It will blow you out of the water. It will surprise you in ways you might not imagine. It will have you in your brain like some sort of octopus."

Artist Simon Fraser showed off the cover of Volume 11 of "Nikolai Dante," "the last volume and the final word on 15 years of work on my part," he said. Since the audience didn't seem to be familiar with the story, Fraser gave a brief introduction: "Nikolai Dante is a swashbuckling hero from the far, far future, the year 2666, where he is alternately working for and against the czar, and for his own family and against his family, and in the meantime trying to get as drunk and screw as many women as he possibly can. He'd rather be sleeping with people and drinking than doing anything else, but he ends up leading a revolution, which is not his idea and his mom's on his case all the time." The artists for the story have included Henry Flint, John Burns, and "The Walking Dead" artist Charlie Adlard.

Diggle congratulated Fraser on completing the story. "It's not the kind of thing you see very often in comics generally, and especially in '2000 AD,' that huge epic story that really does live up to the term epic. And it's got a conclusion. It's a full body of work. It's not just random adventures strung together."

Next up was writer Si Spurrier who spoke about "The Simping Detective," which is the story of undercover cop Jack Point navigating the streets of Mega-City One, currently running in the "Megazine" but bound for "2000 AD" in the near future. "He's very Raymond Chandler, it's very noir," Spurrier said, "the twist being that because Mega-City One is a frothing melting pot of lunatics and crazies, the only way you can be undercover in Mega-City One is to dress like a twat, so he is a clown. He is a trenchcoat-wearing, Raymond Chandler private eye who has a big red nose." The audience responded to "The Simping Detective" with three cheers.

Then it was time to talk about the recent Judge Dredd movie adaptaion, "Dredd 3D." Ewing described it as taking place in "almost a paleo future, the future of the '70s, and the whole of the Dredd film to me seemed very infused with a kind of '70s culture."

Diggle compared it with the 1995 "Judge Dredd" film that starred Sylvester Stallone: "I first saw the Stallone version in '95, and I really liked the first ten minutes of it, where you see like the Cursed Earth wall and Mega-City One, and they even used the original Judge Dredd logo from the comics, and I'm like, 'Yeah, it's Mega-City One, and as soon as Dredd turns up and opens his mouth, the whole film goes pfft. The new version is like that in reverse, because the first ten minutes, I'm watching it like 'That's cool, but it doesn't look like Mega-City One to me, and then as soon as Dredd turns up, it's 'Yeah, that is Dredd.' It's a nice inversion."

Rebellion graphic novel editor Keith Richardson ran through some upcoming U.S. releases, starting with "Tharg's Creepy Chronicles," an anthology that includes writer Gordon Rennie and artist Frazer Irving's "Storming Heaven." "That was the first job I did with '2000 AD' where I was really loose with the color," Irving recalled. "Because Andy [Diggle] was the editor at that time, he basically left most of the artists alone to do whatever the hell they wanted, which I think was a really good introduction to becoming a professional, because we were always worried that if the editor didn't like what you were drawing you would have to conform and do a house style. But Andy, either out of sheer apathy or overwork, or not even understanding the premise, basically left me and Gordon to do whatever the hell we wanted, and Gordon's instruction to me was to make it as psychedelic as possible, to make people's retinas hurt."

Critic Douglas Wolk, the only American on the panel, took the mic to talk about the American "Judge Dredd" comic IDW is launching in November, written by Duane Swierczynski. Nelson Daniel will illustrate the lead story, and there will be a number of backups featuring different artists including Paul Gulacy and Brendan McCarthy. "It is a uniquely American take on Dredd," Wolk said. "It is very, very faithful to the British source material but it is also very distinctly American -- These are stories set relatively early in the history of Dredd as we know them; I believe the first story happens in the year 2100, so not the beginning of Dredd's career but the beginning of what we know about Dredd's career."

Rebellion publishing manager Ben Smith then dropped some big news. "Matt Smith who, working under Tharg, is the editor of '2000 AD,' currently has an e-novella called 'Judge Dredd Year One: City Fathers,' which is doing extraordinarily well as an e-book," Smith said. "[IDW editor-in-chief] Chris Ryall saw that, loved it, so Matt Smith is actually writing a' Judge Dredd: Year One' comic miniseries for IDW that is going to be made next year." The artist for the four-part series has not been determined, but Greg Staples will draw the covers.

"There is an incredible amount of momentum with Judge Dredd at the moment," Smith said. "It's not just the movie, it's additional comics, the e-books -- the wheel is turning very, very fast."

Smith wound up the panel with one more piece of news: Creator John Wagner is returning to "Judge Dredd" in 2013, his first work on the strip since the "Day of Chaos" storyline. Wagner will also write a story about the Dark Judges, called "Dark Justice," with art by Greg Staples, which will run alongside the regular "Judge Dredd" comic.

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Tags: idw publishing, andy diggle, al ewing, simon spurrier, judge dredd, ian edginton, carlos ezquerra, 2000 ad, john wagner, matt smith, simon fraser, dark justice, greg staples, brass sun, stickleback, the zaucer of zilk, nycc2012, nikolai dante, the simping detective, judge dredd year one, ampney crucis investigates, zombo, lenny zero, the cold deck, storming heaven

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