Dredd to Writes

That title is overburdened with puns, and I apologise for that.

So, I was in Enniskillen recently, and was chatting to the guys that put together the 2000AD fanzine Sector 13 – issue 3 out now Dredd fans!

I mentioned that I have an old script that I wrote a while ago, a 12 page Tale from the Black Museum (it’s a fun little idea I think) that I’d pitched to Tharg and he’d rejected it (for sundry reasons, only three them amounted to “this is terrible”). Actually, for funsies here’s the plot:

We open on Henry Dubble down in the black museum’s basement where he’s fishing out giant, Justice Dept 1 issued “Life Candles” (issued by the City to all citizens at birth in the event of one of MC1’s regularly scheduled disasters) and he starts telling the tale of the House Of Mega Wax. A run down waxwork whose business has been destroyed by the city’s new craze of competitive eating. A solitary fat tourist stumbles in, as they’re despairing over their bills. He dies, they panic and hit on the brain wave of converting his body into wax using the plot-convenent alien waxweavils who can eat anything and secrete wax which they use to make a Two Ton Tony Stubbs waxwork. This starts the business with a new plan: invite fatties, kill them, make unbelievable large waxworks attracting more fatties… and create the greatest House Of MegaWax ever seen. All is going great, when, on a visit from the Mega City Obese Orphanage and Family Free Fatties Association, they take the fattest orphan off to the side intending to do him in, but the plan is ruined when the fattie unzips and reveals he is, in fact, Judge Dredd and two other judges in a large fat suit. They fight, Dredd wins. Henry Dubble closes the story by revealing what happened to all that wax and the waxworks: they remain in constant use creating the Life Candles, nothing goes unused in Mega City 1.

I think Matt’s biggest problem was there’s almost certainly a touch of old fashioned silliness about it.

The chaps at Sector 13 liked the idea, and said they could print it, but it would need to be split in half. Now, tbh, I’m not keen on splitting a stupid one off in half, it doesn’t have the weight (no pun intended) and I’ve worked on fanzines before and I know the time delay between issues can run to several months, killing any possibility of a story carrying momentum.

So I mulled it over on the drive up from Enniskillen and thought I could write up a different script that is shorter, and I came up with something that I thought would be fun. I wrote it up in a blitz and sent it off to a few readers who’ve come back with a collection of notes.

This, in itself, has been instructive – getting good notes from several sources has sort of had my head turning – it’s impossible to implement every note (and some of the core ones are actually contradictory) so I’ve got to figure out how to rewrite it while keeping my own voice in it.

It’s also taught me, next time, be more selective, one good reader at a time, maybe.

On the plus side, the notes I got were more additive than anything nothing critical of my writing so much as suggesting elements of the plot that could do with being altered one way or another (one key element in particular had notes suggesting I do thing A, and notes suggesting I do the mutally exclusive thing B)

Once done, I’ll send it to Matt. I’m not terribly convinced he’ll pick it up (I mean there are so many good dredd writers) but if he doesn’t I may end up writing / drawing it for myself since it’s got some fun visuals going on in it.

I still have to do Couch to 80k week 8, the proper writing week, but my aim all along was to write some comics and this is a proper comic script, so I’m happy about that.

Free Comic Book Day 2000AD Regened

I love 2000ad, I’ve always loved 2000AD. While I’m pretty sure I was reading it from prog 1 in 1977 (age 7), my earliest distinct memories of the strip proper start around 1980 (age 10) and the Judge Child Saga, and building Justice-1 out of computer punch cards with my uncle.

In my memory that Punch Card justice-1 was a perfect replica of the space ship, including a Bike bay with tiny paper card based figures of Judges Dredd and Hershy ready to head off on their Lawmasters dispensing justice to the alien and weird.

Pretty sure it was bobbins though, but my point is: 2000AD runs deep.

Getting to draw Dredd was my single ambition for a long long time, though ambition is wrong, it felt like having an ambition to be the first man on the moon – yeah, sure, someone did it, but it could never be you.

Now, of course, I’ve kids on my own. I still read 2000AD and it’s grown up with me – content shifting from goofy childlike dream states to more sombre, serious, adult contemplative stories about mortality (and knob jokes) – like most, I lost touch with it in the early 90s, regained it and am off and on again reader depending on what’s in it and whether I have time. I tried to get my oldest son interested, but it was never his thing. My youngest on the other hand – well, he’s an avid reader, he loves to draw and we’ve subscribed him to the beano. But 2000AD. Well… 2000ad is a smidge too adult for him (a rather large smidge). But, free comic book day bought 2000AD regened.

Now, I’m on record as saying lots of time that I’d love 2000AD to go younger – things I’ve suggested in the past include: shifting the megazine to a younger readership (the meg was always supposed to be the adult version of 2000ad, allowing them both to have a distinct voice, well, let’s accept 2000AD readers will never change, but Meg readers can be broadened? right? that’s my theory) if not that then, you know, selecting reprint material that skews younger and bundling it in to a reprint comic that’s packaged in a way that you can give it away to nephews, neices, sons, daughters, etc or, and this is the real stretch, just launch a cool all ages comic, talk to the guys doing zarjaz and turn that in to a professional publication with kid friendly fare.

Anyway, none of those things are likely to happen, but that said, I was taken aback that, this year, 2000AD decided to to create a younger reader title for free comic book day – and it’s a fun little package. Presented by Jako-Jargo, Tharg’s nephew – it boasts a CADET Strip (great Neil Googe artwork), a Strontium Dog (basically Johnny Alpha gets his licence) an insane-only-from-the-mind-of-Henry-Flint Board Game called Chet Jetstream (a sort of choose-your-own-snakes-and-ladders) a neat little future shcok Humancraft (pretty sure this should be an ongoing series, somehow) and a DR and Quich hijack free comic book day (plus an insanely detailed Intestenauts advert).

Now, I’m glad I enjoyed this, but that’s hardly the point. The point is… what will a typical 9 year old make of it, and for that, I have to ask Thomas… and he says:

“I liked it. No wait. I loved it. It was my favourite thing at Free Comic Day. I like Cadet Dredd Or Humancraft Or DR & Quinch or Chet Jetstream or wait.. that’s all of them. All of them”

So, what next?

Well, he liked Cadet Dredd so I gave him my Dredd book 1 to read, he read the first story and enjoyed it (it’s a bit of a massive book though, so I’m rationing it). I also selected ONE future shock from the Big Book of Alan Moore future shocks (specifically the story about the werewolves in space). Tom loves Goosebumps and I knew he’d enjoyed the twist, and he really really did.

I have no idea what 2000AD’s plans are beyond this, whether this was a clever ploy to get adults to start shoving older material into their kids sweaty hands (after all, you can no buy a fantastic amount of 2000AD reprint material) or whether it’s some under the radar skunkworks test to see if there’s a market for the material.

In either case, it’s good and Tom and I got a lot out of it, I hope 2000AD see there’s a value in an ongoing book like this, Tom certainly loved the anthology format and even though he found a lot of it unfamiliar (he called it “Docter Quinch” before I corrected him) he’s a quick study.

Anyway, well done tharg and all your little editor droids. Here’s to what’s next.