As hard as it may be to believe, there was a time when the legendary Judge Dredd was just a rookie, his chiseled, war-beaten chin still a soft lump of bone and flesh. In March, IDW Publishing recruits "2000 AD" Editor-in-Chief Matt Smith to explore Dredd's early days in "Judge Dredd: Year One."
The first Judge Dredd miniseries from IDW created exclusively for the US market, "Year One" features the version of the character seen in Duane Swierczynski's "Judge Dredd" ongoing series. Dredd's past has rarely been explored -- the most prominent example being John Wagner's epic "Origins" storyline for "2000 AD" -- making Smith's mini something of a landmark for the character.
Comic Book Resources spoke with Smith to get the low-down on what readers can expect from his and artist Simon Coleby's "Judge Dredd: Year One." Smith explained how "Year One" evolved from an e-book story he had originally written for the UK market, hinted at an expanding partnership between IDW and 2000 AD, confirmed an appearance by the Dark Judges in IDW continuity and more.
CBR News: Matt, what's old stoney-face going up against in "Judge Dredd: Year One?"
Matt Smith: It kicks off with juveniles in Mega-City One suddenly manifesting psychic abilities. Dredd teams up with Psi-Division for the first time to investigate -- very much outside his comfort zone -- and it seems that an entity is crossing the psychic plane, causing the manifestations. Just what that entity is and what it has in store for the city you'll have to find out.
Will long-time fans of the "2000 AD" Judge Dredd get to see any familiar faces get their IDW debut in "Year One?"
There'll be Chief Judge Clarence Goodman, but other than that it'll be mainly new characters.
"Year One" was originally going to be an adaptation of your Judge Dredd e-novella "Judge Dredd: Year One: City Fathers." What made you decide to scrap that approach and develop a completely new story instead?
I felt that there'd be more incentive for Dredd fans to pick up an all-new series rather than an adaptation of an existing story, which had already been available to read as an e-novella for several months. IDW were open to any new ideas, so I went with something completely different.
Does the "Year One" comic book tie-in with the e-novella at all?
No, not really. In fact, it's quite different in scope. The novel was more of a street-level, regular case for Dredd, whereas this deals more with the ramifications of the Atomic War, which happened ten years previously and nuked most of Dredd's world.
Will any of the events of "Year One" ripple out to the main IDW "Judge Dredd" series?
One thing editor Chris Ryall suggested was that the villain be somebody who could later return to plague Dredd. So I've been conscious of creating a nemesis that we might not have seen the last of.
The "2000 AD" Judge Dredd and IDW Judge Dredd are, for continuity's sake at least, completely different characters. Were there any specific differences that informed how you wrote the IDW version?
No, I just wrote Dredd how he sounds in my head. The difference between the "2000 AD" and IDW versions is only who's writing the strip, and they bring their own voice to bear. My take on Dredd is quite taciturn, a bit morose, a little more impulsive as an eighteen year old, and quite the stickler.
The "2000 AD" Dredd has "Origins," based during the early years of the character, but other than that, Dredd's past has a lot of holes in it. Could IDW's "Year One" concept ever be adapted for the "2000 AD" version of the character's past?
No, I think this will be solely IDW's version of Dredd's past. In "2000 AD," it would be up to John Wagner to decide if he wants to show more of a younger Dredd, though I think he probably feels he covered that ground in "Origins." But Rebellion may well be publishing more "Year One" e-novels, as the first one was quite popular.
Have you heard any feedback from Judge Dredd co-creator John Wagner on the IDW version of the character or your own original e-novella?
I believe Chris Ryall sent John a PDF of the first issue, to which he gave the thumbs up. He hasn't commented on my novel -- but I imagine he hasn't read it.
Switching hats for a minute, you're also the editor in chief of UK anthology "2000 AD," Judge Dredd's birthplace and main home. Are there any other "2000 AD" properties you'd like to see get IDW versions in the future?
You'll have to watch this space. We're talking to IDW at the moment about them publishing other "2000 AD" characters.
Which classic "2000 AD" Dredd characters would you most like to see brought to the IDW version of the character? As great as new characters are, a lot of fans would love to see a visit from characters like the Dark Judges or P.J. Maybe sooner rather than later!
The Dark Judges will definitely be making an appearance in the IDW book -- when, though, I can't say.
Chopper would be another good one to make the transition.
Conversely, IDW has a ton of its own licensed and non-licensed properties. Are there any of them you'd like to see appear in "2000 AD" one day?
One thing that makes "2000 AD" unique is that it publishes original stories, rather than strips that have been licensed from a TV show or film. I'd like to keep it that way, keep its universes uninfluenced by outside properties, since that's what makes "2000 AD" what it is.
Having said that, a Dredd/"Mars Attacks!" crossover would be great fun!
Your writing efforts have been few and far between over the years, but if "Year One" meets your personal goals for success, could we see you writing more comics down the line?
If it goes down well, then sure. I don't think I could take on an ongoing monthly series while I've still got the day job, as that would possibly kill me. But I'm happy to contribute to miniseries if my services are required!
"Judge Dredd: Year One" by Matt Smith with art by Simon Coleby hits shelves on March 27th from IDW Publishing.