The Cursed Earth, a vast irradiated stretch of America filled with mutants and monsters, has long been one of the most fascinating and dangerous elements of the "Judge Dredd" mythos in "2000 AD." This July, IDW Publishing debuts The Cursed Earth in detail at last for American readers with "Into the Cursed Earth," an extended saga by writer Duane Swierczynski and artist Nelson Daniel beginning in "Judge Dredd" #9.
Although IDW's re-imagined Dredd-verse has been around less than a year, it's already moved Judge Dredd up a few notches in the consciousness of American readers and even supported a secondary series, "Judge Dredd: Year One" by "2000 AD" editor Matt Smith.
Swierczynski, who is also known for Marvel's "Cable" and IDW's "Godzilla," spoke with Comic Book Resources about "Into the Cursed Earth," and explained what it has in common with the classic "Cursed Earth Saga," revealed what familiar faces we might see along the way, teased the IDW debut of Judge Death and more.
CBR News: Duane, what's the general idea behind "Judge Dredd: Into the Cursed Earth?"
Duane Swierczynski: Dredd is pursuing renegade droids -- the sentient beings behind the whole "Long Fail" plot -- out into the Cursed Earth. He's following the flimsiest of trails, and the wastelands are full of muties who'd like nothing better than to capture, kill, cook, marry, torture, or go drinking with Dredd (depending on the mutie). In many ways I'm basing this on my real experiences traveling through the American South...
Just kidding, South!
How long will your version of this classic epic last?
I'm fixing for a nice long run of chapters. One of the things I love about the Dredd comics are their short installments -- the original "Cursed Earth" saga ran for 25 chapters, seven pages each. Those chapters are fiendishly addictive and crammed with action and ideas and all-out weird mayhem.
While Nelson Daniel and I don't have weekly installments to play around with, we're going to cram three chapters (7 or 8 pages each) into every issue of "Dredd." The first installment of "Into the Cursed Earth" will actually appear as the backup in #8... so don't miss it!
Why tackle "Cursed Earth" now? It must be daunting taking on one of the most beloved Dredd sagas of all time.
Nelson and I have spent eight issues dashing around Mega-City One. We thought it was time to break out into the country for a while.
How much does your "Cursed Earth" saga have in common with the original beyond the title and setting?
What do you mean? We don't have the same title. Our saga is called "Into the Cursed Earth," and the "Into the" makes all the difference in the world!
But seriously, beyond the setting, it's a completely new adventure with some familiar faces but a whole lot of new ones. Freakish ones, especially.
What are your other favorite Dredd epics?
"Judge Death," of course -- is there a more terrifying villain in comics? My first Dredd ever was "Judgment in Gotham," when Batman ended up in MC-1 and butted heads (literally) with Dredd, and that made me want to hang out in MC-1 as much as possible. More recently, I loved the recent stealth crossover "Trifecta." Al Ewing, Si Spurrier and Rob Williams are crazy mad bastards...
Funny you mention Judge Death. How long until readers finally see him show up in IDW's Judge Dredd?
Begging for Death, huh? Easy now. Easssssssssssy --
Will the popular "Judge Dredd" back-up strips continue during "Into the Cursed Earth?"
At the first we'll be taking a break from the backups to give the first bunch of "Cursed Earth" installments more room to mutate, but they'll be back, and most likely catch us up with what's been happening back in Mega-City One.
Can readers look forward to any fast food chains showing up in "Into the Cursed Earth?" (Which were infamously erased from reprints of the original saga due to copyright infringement.)
No, but there's certainly a foodie culture out there in the wastelands of former America -- I mean, it's so prevalent today, you'd have to think it'd survive nuclear holocaust. I think "Dredd" #12 will be one of the few comics with actual recipes in it! I kind of want Dredd to discover a half-insane and inexplicably immortal Anthony Bourdain wandering out somewhere near the Canadian border, feasting on mutated animals.
Actual recipes? Ones we can actually try to make?
Well, sure, but some of the steps may be illegal in some U.S. states. That is to say, every state.
You mentioned an Anthony Bourdain takeoff already, but are there any other overtly satirical elements set to show up?
Absolutely. In the first few chapters you're going to visit what is possible the last amusement park in America and weird dude who runs it, which was inspired by theme park fanatics and Herschell Gordon Lewis' classic "Two thousand maniacs!" There's also some fun had with the subgenre of crime fiction known as "country noir." One of my favorite writers is Daniel Woodrell ("Winter's Bone," "Give us a Kiss"), and wouldn't you know it, Dredd ends up making his way into Woodrell County. Ahem --
How has the fan reaction been to your "Judge Dredd" so far?
Every single fan has loved every single panel. Every caption. Every character design. Every line of dialogue. Every punctuation mark.
Those who didn't? Well, you can visit them you-know-where.
Are there any other "2000 AD" properties you'd like to try writing?
I think Dredd would take such a betrayal personally, don't you?
So you nix the idea of penning other "2000 AD" characters in the near future, but has any thought been given to bringing Johnny Alpha in to the "Dredd" title for an adventure or two?
Much thought has been given to a great many things. But I wouldn't want to spoil anything this early.
What did you think of the new "Dredd" film?
I thought it was fantastic - just the kind of hard "R" action flick I grew up watching. Inventive, mean, violent and funny... what's not to love? There was a small nod to the movie in "Judge Dredd" #5, when our man is visiting the "Urban-Garland Block."
Lastly, do you feel "Judge Dredd" stories are best when they leans more towards drama or comedy?
It's always great when you can hit both with a single hot bullet.
"Judge Dredd" #9 by Duane Swierczynski, Nelson Daniel and Antonio Fuso is out this July from IDW Publishing.