INTERVIEW Judge Dredd Megazine

Writer Arthur Wyatt discusses his “Streets Of Dan Francisco” strip set in the world of Judge Dredd and set to appear this week in Megazine issue 335

Out this Wednesday, the Judge Dredd Megazine features a new story featuring Judge Dan Francisco. Originally created by John Wagner and Rufus Dayglo, Francisco presented a reality show in which he tackled crime live on air. Becoming Chief Judge, his tenure was cut short by the events of Chaos Day, and he resigned. Now, he returns to the streets, haunted by guilt… It’s illustrated by Paul Marshall and written by Seattle-based Arthur Wyatt, more famous for penning many 2000 AD Future Shocks. We caught up with him to ask about entering the Judge Dredd universe:

SFX: How do you find writing for the Judge Dredd universe?
Arthur Wyatt:
It feels surprisingly natural! I guess that comes from having grown up reading 2000 AD and Judge Dredd – there’s defiantly things that feel “right” for Mega-City One and Dredd that are part of its character that has built up over time. The citizens will always have some new craze, Dredd will always be sternly disapproving, there will always be criminals with odd anachronistic ’70s punk fashions.

SFX: How is Dan Francisco different to Dredd?
Wyatt:
He’s not as grim – nobody matches Dredd for grimness, of course. And Dan’s a bit of a showman. He was introduced as a media figure, a Judge with his own COPS-style TV show, and so even if it’s just him and a camera drone he’s going to be compulsively giving an explanation of what he’s doing and why, on a mission to inform and guide the citizens of Mega City One.

But he’s been through a lot. He reached the rank of Chief Judge through the machinations of others and while he held that office a terrible disaster occurred that destroyed most of the city, something that he felt responsible for, rightly or wrongly. So now he’s stepped down and he’s back to his old life as a TV Judge – but can he really do that? The city has changed, he has changed, everything is different now, and pretending that he can put the pieces back together isn’t going to work.

So maybe not as grim as Dredd, but not entirely un-grim.

SFX: Will there be moping?
Wyatt:
There may be a tiny amount of moping. But fear not! The Judge Dredd Megazine is an action adventure comic , and all episodes of Dan Francisco will have enough of both that he barely has time to mope.

SFX: How do you feel about following in the footsteps of John Wagner?
Wyatt:
It’s a little daunting, especially as this story directly continues on from “Day Of Chaos”, which has established itself as one of the all time great Dredd mega-epics up there with “The Cursed Earth” and “The Apocalypse War”.

Of course I’m not alone in that challenge – other writers have been picking up the post-”Day Of Chaos” story of Mega-City One, most notably Mike Carrol whose done a great job of showing a city shattered by disaster, and the epic “Trifecta” storyline by Al Ewing, Simon Spurrier and Rob Williams. Hopefully “The Streets Of Dan Francisco” will live up to those as well.

I did already wrote a Dredd story, “Inversion”, which was set after “Day Of Chaos”, but it wasn’t tied in so directly. And while it featured Dredd, who is a character foremost associated with John Wagner plenty of other people had a crack at him – with “Streets” I’m picking up the story of a character no-one else has written and directly following the story Wagner has told with him, from his creation in the one off “The Streets Of Dan Francisco” (I stole the title), through his rise to Chief Judge in “Tour Of Duty” (an epic that almost matches “Day Of Chaos”) to his resignation after the city was near destroyed on his watch. It’s amazing to have an opportunity to do something like that but it is a little scary.

SFX: Has writing so many Future Shocks helped writing longer stories?
Wyatt:
2000 AD‘s one-off stories, the Future Shocks and Terror Tales and more exotic variants like Past Imperfects and Time Twisters have been a great traditional proving ground for writers. It’s only four or five pages, but you need to tell a complete story in those stories, something that stands up on its own and not just as a build up to a twist ending. In a way their shortness is quite deceptive when it comes to how hard they are to pull off – you need to compress the hell out of everything, to borrow a phrase of Andy Diggle’s they have to be shot glass of rocket fuel.

In a way going from that to longer stories is easier, as a little more page count gives you room to breathe and tell stories in less compressed ways, in other ways it can be quite tricky to shake off the habits you’ve learned from doing a lot of them – I think my first few attempts at longer works tried to cram too much in and had pacing problems as a result. And of course you’re building to a twist ending, you’re telling an ongoing story, one that you hope will keep people coming back to it.

And while going from the Future Shocks and other one offs to longer can be seen as a bit of a graduation I really want to keep doing them, as it’s a form I love along with all short fiction. Ideally I’d love to do one of each of them. Time Twisters seem to have come back into fashion so getting one of those under my belt would be a matter of coming up with a good new time travel story with a fresh twist, persuading The Mighty Tharg that there is need for a new Walter’s Robo-Tale or Pulp Sci-Fi would be trickier. I suspect a new Dragon Tale would be right out.

SFX: What are you working on next?
Wyatt:
A very exciting project, with one of my favourite artists! Unfortunately I can’t say more than that yet.

SFX: Thanks Arthur!

Look out for The Judge Dredd Megazine #335 in print and online this Wednesday. Find out more at www.2000adonline.com.