Trans women are Wonder Women. End of story.
— Lynda Carter 🎃 (@RealLyndaCarter) October 19, 2021
Previously on Drokk!: With co-creator John Wagner now seemingly fully installed as the primary — indeed, seemingly the sole, Dredd writer once again, the strip seems to be once again finding its feet even as it appears to be quietly trying to reinvent itself…
0:00:00-0:02:51: After one of my favorite cold opens in Drokk! history, we introduce the volume we’re reading this time around — Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files Vol. 29, covering material from 1998 and 1999, by Wagner, a small army of artists, and the surprise return of Alan Grant, who writes two stories herein — before getting down to business. Jeff also makes a great choice in naming the block this time around, too.
0:02:52-0:14:54: Jeff feels as if a way in to talking about this volume is to compare the returning Alan Grant to John Wagner, and so we talk about their differing approaches to Dredd, and the world of Judge Dredd the comic strip; according to Mr. Lester, Grant is “shaggy” in a way that Wagner isn’t, whereas I think that he’s just sillier — or, really, that Wagner plays his own silliness more straight. “He knows where he wants to hit his marks,” Jeff points out, but is that it? Is Wagner just a more assured, successful writer?
0:14:55-0:58:57: Because it’s us, we then go into the most frustrating portion of the entire book: “Worst of Frendz,” which is somehow even more disappointing than that title would suggest. Is it the “weird flex,” as I put it, of the threesome scene between two unnamed, unclothed women and the cyborg villain Nero Narcos, who has a checks notes telescopic penis? Is it the sub-Mark Millar dialogue? Is it the genuinely appalling artwork? Sure! All of the above and more. In theory, the story is a lead in to “The Scorpion Dance,” which is arguably the heart of this volume — one that I enjoyed and Jeff did not, and there’s a lot of back and forth about the reasons between the two opinions: I enjoyed the art, Jeff thought it was too crowded; I enjoyed the DeMarco arc, and Jeff thinks it’s a sign that neither Dredd nor John Wagner care about her as an individual; I like Judge Edgar as an antagonist, Jeff thinks she’s a sign that Wagner might be a misognynist, and so on. Jeff’s feeling that the storyline doesn’t go far enough is, arguably, somewhere that I think he’s on firmer ground, even if it’s a feeling I didn’t share because I’ve read further stories, but let’s just be happy that we can agree that “Worst of Frendz” is, by any stretch of the imagination, bad.
0:58:58-1:10:35: Fearful that we’re just spending an episode talking about what we don’t like, I ask Jeff about his favorite stories from the volume, and then share some of mine. We talk all-too-briefly about “Mega-City Way of Death,” which is genuinely great and should have been discussed more, as well as “Dreams of Glory” and a handful of other good stuff, before we somehow end up back on the topic of the slow burn of the Narcos plot and where it’s leading next volume. Look, apparently, we were in a circular frame of mind when we recorded this.
1:10:36-1:20:04: Jeff asks about two particular stories — “Wounded Heart” and “Christmas Angel,” both of which are sequels to earlier (more successful) Dredd stories — and I admit my disappointment in both, particularly the former, which I fully believe exists purely so Wagner can both meet his deadline requirements and use the pun that ends the strip. I also share my disappointment in “Simp City,” another strip that returns to old material trying to find something new to say, only to fail, and Jeff talks about how he initially believed better things were in the offing… only to quickly realize his mistake.
1:20:05-1:30:00: As we both agree that this volume, despite its shortcomings, is Drokk, not Dross, I suggest that the material from the Judge Dredd Magazine is stronger than its contemporary 2000 AD material, which Jeff takes issue with — we talk about that for a little while, before talking about favorite stories from the volume: Mine is “The Contract,” Jeff’s is “Mega-City Way of Death.” (Our least favorites are “Grud’s Big Day,” and “Worst of Frendz,” for the curious.)
1:30:01-end: As we close out the episode, I ask Jeff what he’s expecting from the next volume before teasing what’s actually coming up in the next volume. If that was my attempt at a surprise, though, he’s got me beat, by scheduling future recording sessions without me knowing, as you’ll hear me discover on air — and then we’re talking about Patreon and Twitter before skedaddling altogether. As always, thank you for reading and listening; we’ll be back in a month for a Dredd crossover with a difference.
Previously on Drokk!: As co-creator John Wagner once again takes sole control of Mega-City One, writing the series for both 2000 AD and the Judge Dredd Magazine, a new calm settles on the future lawman’s world. A calm called, “these comics are just… good, aren’t they…?”
0:00:00-0:04:40: After a cold open that accidentally foreshadows the episode to follow, we introduce the book we’re discussing this episode — Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files Vol. 28, which contains material from 2000 AD Progs 1084-1099, and 1101-1110, and Magazine Vol. 3 #2 39 through 45, all from 1998 — and I manage to get John Wagner’s name wrong after 31 episodes. “Alan Wagner,” indeed. What was I thinking? Also discussed: that we’re in a “comfort food” era of Dredd, where the high quality comes with a familiarity that’s hard to ignore. (Or, for that matter, define.)
0:04:41-0:14:15: We dive into the longest story in the book, “Beyond the Call of Duty,” which is a quasi-sequel to “The Pit,” the mega-epic from a few volumes back that Jeff and I loved a lot. That’s less true here, and we talk about the reasons why: how the story underwhelms in terms of emotional arc, and hurts one of the two main characters in the process, Jeff’s comparison to the work of Joe Esterhaus (and who saw that coming?), and the unexpected debt Ed Piskor’s Red Room owes this storyline, whether he knows it or not. Galen Demarco deserves better, dammit.
0:14:16-0:25:04: This is a really good looking book, and we talk about the art a little bit, singling out Alex Ronald, Trevor Hairsine and John Burns as standout artists — Siku, too, is a standout, but not for good reasons; we go into depth with the ways in which his work isn’t hitting the mark. In addition to my love for Ronald’s “Handbangers” story, Jeff also points out one of the reasons why this volume feels particularly strong in terms of visuals: the artists are, for the most part, getting stories that work with their strengths.
0:25:05-0:49:44: Following on from the previous episode, we talk about the return of “Judge Dad,” AKA the idea that, under Wagner, Dredd will occasionally be the voice of moral authority in a way that arguably steps outside the confines of the strip as it’s previously existed. This means touching on both “A Death in the Family” and “Sex, Lies, and Vidslugs,” two Magazine stories that see Wagner’s anger feed into his satire, with Jeff putting forward the idea that the serious stories are jokes, and the joke stories are serious, this time around; we also talk about two comedy shorts, “Vidspex” and “No More Jimmy Deans,” that feel as if Wagner is reaching for something larger than the story unfolding on the page. Also under discussion: Is Dredd soap opera, or something else? And is Wagner trying to address that very question in the stories collected in this book?
0:49:45-1:07:58: Jeff suggests that Dredd is “flatter” in this book, and we talk about that idea — and the idea that it’s actually difficult to talk about this book because, while the majority of it is very good stuff, it’s also good in such a way that we’ve seen before, and that makes it difficult to have new insight about. It really is a comfort food collection, and we go back and forth about what that really means, and if we should be concerned that there’s no particular innovation in this volume. (Short answer: Not really, because Wagner’s shown himself to recover from this kind of lull before, and also, these lulls are so damn enjoyable.)
1:07:59-1:19:13: What are our favorite stories in this volume? For me, “Headbangers,” for Jeff, “Sleaze”; our least favorite story, as it turns out, is the same: “The Bouncy Brats Heist,” although Jeff leaves space for “Vidspex,” a story so utterly undermined by its artist at a time when the artist/story pairing has been unusually strong. Also, is this Drokk or Dross? The answer… won’t surprise you at all, honestly.
1:19:14-end: We look ahead to the next couple of volumes, before closing out the episode as we always do — mentioning our Instagram, Twitter and Patreon accounts. Next time: more Wagner, but with an unexpected return of Alan Grant, of all people. Be here in a month, dear Whatnauts, and until then, thanks as ever for reading and listening.
Previously on Drokk!: 20 years after his creation, Judge Dredd continues to patrol the streets of Mega-City One in a way that readers are comfortable with — the ultra violence, the dark humor, and the social satire wrapped up in sci-fi trappings. But as the strip heads into its third decade, series co-creator John Wagner dares to ask: what if things go slightly awry…?
0:00:00-0:04:29: After a month off for a surprise Baxter Building revival, we’re back and talking about Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files Vol. 27, a book that both Jeff and I found surprisingly solid and enjoyable. (It covers material from 1997 and 1998, with strips from 2000 AD Prog’s 1053-1083, and Judge Dredd Magazine Vol. 3 #s 34 through 38.) Of course, this being us, we immediately go off topic and Jeff talks briefly about both Adam Driver musical Annette and Fleabag. We are who we are, I guess.
0:04:30-0:23:49: We didn’t get too off-topic, however, and soon find ourselves talking about the possibility that this volume is too steeped in Dredd mythology to be new reader friendly — which might be ironic, considering both that it includes a crossover with Predator, but also that it begins with a retread of a story we’ve seen at least twice before, but done in such a way that it loses the charm and humor that it’s previously displayed. Does “Holiday Special” introduce what Jeff calls “Wagner as scold,” and if so, what does that mean moving forward?
0:23:50-0:51:37: For a volume that we both enjoyed so much, we spend a long time talking about the material that didn’t work for us, especially when it comes to our discussion of “In The Year 2120,” which was almost doomed to failure from the start by nature of being an epilogue to “The Judge Child Quest” and “City of the Damned,” two mega-epics that neither of us remember particularly fondly. Unfortunately, that bad start is compounded by execution that fails to make the most of the story’s central conceit, whether it’s John Wagner failing to sell the idea or artist Jason Brashill being, honestly, too experimental with his layouts and designs for what the story really needs. As proof, we compare it to a far more successful spin on roughly the same idea in the same volume, “Spooks” — although, as Jeff suggests, even that story has some problems of its own, leading to a discussion about whether or not Wagner is failing to nail the right tone people expect from a Judge Dredd comic. (Yes, John Wagner, the guy who created the strip and defined our expectations of it.)
0:51:38-1:15:20: Returning to the idea of Wagner as scold, does this volume mark an increasing blurring of the line between Dredd and Wagner, at least in terms of whether or not the character can be an immoral bastard? Two stories raise that possibility in different ways: “Spawney,” which I enjoyed far more than Jeff — despite a final page reveal that arguably undercuts everything that came before — and ‘Ojay,” a story that is little more than the most thinly veiled primal scream from Wagner about the then-contemporary O.J. Simpson verdict. We talk about both, and the ways in which Wagner arguably fails his creation in different ways with the two. (We also talk about Alex Ronald’s art on the latter story, and one particularly strange artistic decision that, to be honest, I’d still like to see some explanation for.)
1:15:21-1:18:24: In an attempt to keep things moving, we very briefly talk about the other stories in the volume that aren’t disappointing. Despite the fact that we rush through this, I promise: There’s lot of very good material in this particular volume. Really!
1:18:25-1:40:11: Why talk about good stuff when you can talk about a car wreck, though? And so, we arrive at Predator vs. Judge Dredd, which is… not very good at all. It’s a story that doesn’t serve either property well, with the most generic take on both Dredd and the Predator showing up in a story that utterly underwhelms and features some odd narrative decisions, whether it’s having a descendent of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character from the original movie show up, or giving the Predator an ending that makes Jeff so mad, he cites Broforce as a preferable alternative. It’s such a poor showing all round that we make a brief digression into whether or not all Dredd intracompany crossovers are a bad idea for Rico’s more popular brother. (They’re not; the first Batman/Dredd and the later Dredd/Aliens are both great.)
1:40:12-end: We wrap things up by revealing whether this volume is Drokk or Dross — it’s Drokk, honest — and name our favorite stories. (Me: “Bo Peeper,” or the multi-part “Missing,” Jeff’s is “Mrs. Gunderson’s Little Adventure,” and we very briefly talk about both here.) We also look forward to the deluge of John Wagner awaiting us in the next few volumes, Jeff realizes just how he’d finish his dream Dredd story, and we plug the Twitter, Instragram and Patreon, as we always do when we’re bringing things to a close. As always, thanks for reading and listening; next time, I swear, we’ll try to talk more about the good stuff.
— Douglas Park (@DocMcBruce) August 10, 2021