Previously on Drokk!: The unlikely combination of Judge Dredd and the Alien franchise produced a particularly strong epic, while relative newcomer Gordon Rennie staked a claim as the best non-John Wagner writer the character has seen since the earliest days of Alan Grant. Things are looking up!
0:00:00-0:06:51: In addition to Jeff’s unexpected a cappella version of the theme music, we introduce ourselves and the book we’re talking about this episode: Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files Vol. 37, which collects material from 2003. That’s right; we’re within two decades of publication now, shockingly. I start complaining about the volume early, setting the tone for what’s to follow.
0:06:52-0:25:01: We slide quickly into talking about “The Trial of Orlok,” a two-part story that manages to simultaneously underwhelm and overwhelm the reader in wrapping up the long-running plot about the Sov-City super spy and his attempt to get revenge on Dredd for the events of the Apocalypse War. Why does this story fail to offer anything new, and why are there so many panels and speech balloons per page? Is Wagner trying to echo his earlier trial of Dredd storyline with this one? Is Cam Kennedy the wrong artist for this story, and relatedly, am I the sumo wrestler of Cam Kennedy fans? (It’ll make sense when you listen, I promise. Well, more sense.) And, most importantly, why does this storyline feel like such a waste of everyone’s time, and Orlok’s potential?
0:25:02-0:51:23: I was similarly disappointed with “The Satanist,” but in discussing it with Jeff, I admit that I find myself pretty much turned around to a large degree. Its a Hammer Horror pastiche to some degree, and Jeff’s love of that and explanation as to why some of the shortcomings are actually, if not intentional, then at least in keeping with the source material genuinely helped me enjoy the story more. Also discussed: Dredd’s complicated relationship with his niece, and his similarly complicated relationship with his family in general; Dredd as comics’ greatest asexual, and what that means for his placement in a horror leaning heavily into noir tropes; Jeff’s description of Dredd’s uniform as “old man PJs”; and much, much more!
0:51:24-1:14:09: “There’s no sizzle on this steak!” is what Jeff has to say about “Revenge of the Chief Judge’s Man,” a storyline that he actually likes quite a bit — in no small part because of John Burns’ art, which we surprisingly don’t talk about much at all. (It’s really good.) Instead, we focus on Jeff’s love of what he himself calls “First Blood shit,” as well as an unexpected LMD twist with a great punchline at the end, the sudden switch into unstoppable superpowers mode for the eponymous Chief Judge’s Man, and the ways in which none of the fine ingredients for this particular story end up coming together entirely successfully. Come for the analysis, stay for Jeff’s great booing of me when he doesn’t agree with what I’m saying. (Honestly, I think the booing is really funny.) Actually, no; stay for Jeff talking about John Wagner’s narration and how successful it is, because he’s entirely right on that front.
1:14:10-1:36:15: Just an episode after we sang Gordon Rennie’s praises for being very Wagner-esque, we return to find his work in this volume lacking — but is that because of the page length on the Dredd strips in this particular era, and what that does to the comedy material? We also talk about the Megazine material from this volume in general, which includes a story actually called “Phartz,” one of shockingly two stories in this book about deadly forces that have uses for their victims’ anuses. (Unsurprisingly, “Inside Job,” the other of those two, also comes under discussion.) Plus! I don’t like Robbie Morrison’s sole contribution to the volume, “Hard Days Night,” and we briefly talk about how important I find artwork to Dredd shorts, and Dredd as a strip in general, all of which leads into…
1:36:16-1:56:04: Garth Ennis had one last Dredd story in him after all, and it’s… not very good..? It does, however, feature amazing art from John Higgins, and we spend some time singing his praises, deservedly. Otherwise, we talk about the strange continuity mistake at the center of this story — something that gets Jeff referring to it as an Elseworlds — and the metaphors and real world politics that might lie underneath what is otherwise a pretty bigoted and gross story. (Really, commenters, Jeff and I would both genuinely love to know if you’re seeing what we are with this one.)
1:56:05-end: We wrap things up by asking Drokk or Dross, and at least one of us can’t make up our minds. (It’s me; Jeff thinks it’s Drokk.) Jeff’s favorite stories are “The Satanist” or “Monkey on my Back,” despite the bigotry at its core because that John Higgins art is so good; mine is, after I change my mind at the last minute, “Holding On,” a slight but amusing comedy short. “Bato Loco” is Jeff’s least favorite story, but I opt for “See Zammy Run,” and I make Jeff sad by teasing the return of Siku in the next volume. (I couldn’t help myself.) As always, we mention the Twitter and the Patreon, and as always, I’m very grateful for those who read and listened along with us this month.
Previously on Drokk!: While I usually use this space to talk about where we are in terms of the larger Judge Dredd mythology, there’s only one way to properly discuss what’s come before this episode: I have talked up the Judge Dredd/Aliens: Incubus crossover for a lot of episodes, and now it’s finally here. Get ready.
0:00:00-0:02:37: Welcome, dear friends, to the podcast that is closer to the end than you might think. (Wait until the end of the episode for more information on that.) This time around, we’re reading Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files Vol. 36, collecting material from 2000 AD and The Judge Dredd Megazine from late 2002 and early 2003; we speed through the introduction before I mention Siku, which quickly leads us to…
0:02:38-0:18:11: For once, we start with a discussion about the visuals of Dredd in this era, starting with a brief discussion about the many weaknesses (and, thankfully, some strengths) of Siku, a much-derided artist in earlier episodes who returns for a one-off in this volume. More derision is delivered on this go-around to Ian Gibson, an artist previously lauded by Jeff, who might just be out of sync with what we’re looking for my this point, as well as the solid-but-uninteresting Paul Marshall; we also talk about color choices in this volume — and, indirectly, media choices, in terms of computer coloring versus paints — but perhaps the most important thing mentioned in this section is this: Mick McMahon’s Dredd now has lips.
0:18:12-0:31:02: Moving swiftly on, Jeff and I enjoyed a particularly rare moment of the two of us independently having the same reaction to something in a Case Files; namely — Gordon Rennie has, seemingly without notice, turned into quite an impressive understudy for John Wagner. Both of us read some of his contributions to this volume — most notably, “After Hours,” although Jeff’s also a fan of his “Give Me Liberty” — and thought it was actually Wagner’s work, albeit “John Wagner on a bad day”… something that we genuinely both mean as a compliment, as we try to unpack here. What makes Rennie’s Dredd suddenly feel so authentic? What does writing a good Wagner Dredd mean? We try to answer both questions, and arguably succeed to some extent.
0:31:03-0:47:10: What starts as a brief discussion about Jim Baikie’s art in this volume quickly becomes a potted history of Baikie’s career, and then, on an entirely different note, both of us expressing our disappointment in “Rotten Manners,” the final installment in the “Bad Manners” trilogy about a corrupt Judge that, impressively, manages to do almost everything wrong that the first story did right: it’s too broad, too clean, and far too confident that the system will succeed. It would leave a particularly unpleasant taste in our collective mouth, if it wasn’t for…
0:47:11-1:19:37: Perhaps surprisingly — well, I was surprised, at least — Jeff turns out to have dug Incubus, the Dredd/Aliens crossover, as much as I hoped he would, with a couple of caveats relating to his overall suspicion of the Alien franchise and narrative problems therein. Nonetheless, this isn’t just a great Alien(s) comic, it’s a great Dredd story too, and we talk about why that’s the case, the things that make the story work so well as both, and the ways in which the two different properties provide something that fits so well with the other. Also! We sing Henry Flint’s praises a lot, and still it’s arguably not enough. Really, this is just great comics right here. (And Jeff brings up the videogame BroForce, because of course he does.)
1:19:38-1:27:37: It sounds as if we’re about to wrap things up by mentioning whether the volume is Drokk or Dross, but no! Instead, we have a diversion about “Out of the Undercity,” another story in the book that tenuously connects to Incubus, and then we talk some more about the Judge Death connections and references to the Aliens franchise in general. What else do you expect, if not our getting in our own ways as we’re talking?
1:27:38-end: Now, we finally get to wrapping things up by talking about our favorite stories that aren’t an Aliens crossover in the volume — “Zoom Time” being mine, and “Give Me Liberty” being Jeff’s — as well as the overall leap in quality of this volume, and briefly looking ahead to what’s coming up before mentioning the Twitter and Patreon, and enjoying Jeff’s ever-evolving voice of Dredd outro. One thing we didn’t talk about but should have: we’ll be back in two weeks for a new Wait, What?, so enjoy next week off, Whatnauts.
Previously on Drokk!: Let’s all embrace the fact that we’re finally past the last Garth Ennis material we’ll be reading on this series of podcasts, and instead into a brand new era of Dredd, where things seem to be… working out quite well, actually, with John Wagner sharing writing duties alongside the new guard of Robbie Morrison and Gordon Rennie, as well as the return of the old guard of Alan Grant. I wonder how that’s going to work out this time around…
0:00:00-0:01:58: With great speed, we get into the fact that we’re covering Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files Vol. 35, featuring material from 2002’s 2000 AD Progs 1276 through 1301, and Judge Dredd Megazine Vols. 4 #7 through 13, by a lot of different creators, including Alan Grant, which brings us to…
0:01:59-0:09:06: How bad are Alan Grant’s stories in this volume? Enough to get me starting the episode by complaining about his first two entries in the book, although my particular complaint that he’s trying to get some recurring threats going is deflected by Jeff pointing out quite appropriately that Gordon Rennie also seems to be trying something similar in his first story in the book. Could this be an editorially-led decision, and if so, are we properly entering the era of so-called “modern Dredd”?
0:09:07-0:17:40: In true Wait, What? fashion, we get derailed from our conversation about Judge Dredd to talk about two entirely different 2000 AD moments: first, the 1980s “behind the scenes” strips featuring fictional editor Tharg the Mighty and the relatively fictionalized “creator droids,” which are truly wonderful and deserve to be reprinted as soon as possible, and secondly, the early 1990s reboot of Rogue Trooper, and in particular, the Michael Fleisher-written, Ron Smith-drawn episodes that followed immediately after Dave Gibbons and Will Simpson rebooted the concept. Mistakes were made, and I’m not referred to me for bringing it up in the first place. (Seriously, though, why would editors go for Ron Smith?)
0:17:41-0:43:00: Jeff asks what I thought of the book, so I tell him. Thankfully, we both liked it a lot, and we start going through some of the reasons why, including John Wagner’s unexpectedly nostalgic run of three stories in the middle of the book, starting with “Leaving Rowdy,” a genuine pleasure with some great Carlos Ezquerra art. We talk about Ezquerra, and also about how we feel about Rico, Dredd’s recently-introduced younger clone — how does he compare to Kraken, and what does that say about Dredd himself, as well as where John Wagner’s mind is at when writing these stories, versus when he was leading up to Necropolis? Also! Jeff isn’t down with Dredd’s guilt over the death of Judge Lopez back during The Judge Child Quest, but is it because he also hates men with mustaches?
0:43:01-1:09:34: We work our way through much of the rest of the book in order, unusually, touching on such topics as: Ian Gibson, cheesecake artist or pervert? What is the correct way to draw a zipper on someone’s head? Why are some of these stories longer than they should be? Is Paul Marshall just too dull to make the most of “Escape from Atlantis”? What’s with the Don King reference that just doesn’t pay off, and did Alan Grant get Don King mixed up with Stan Lee somehow? Jeff’s pinball obsession finally pays off! And, of course, the all-important question of, “what subject is just too mean for Judge Dredd, at least according to Graeme and Jeff?” The answer to that last one may genuinely surprise you; to be honest, I think it surprised us as we were discussing it.
1:09:35-1:20:44: All of the last near half-hour leads us to a good place, though, as we get to talk about “Citizen Sump,” the highlight of the entire volume and the best Dredd story we’ve seen in a long time. How good is it? Well, Jeff suggests that he prefers it to Citizen Kane, the obvious (and clear) inspiration for the story, but he’s got good reason to: John Wagner delivers a blinder of a story with an absolutely heartbreaking climax, while John Higgins’ artwork channels Will Eisner’s The Spirit and film noir in ways that go beyond the cliches. It’s just really, really good stuff.
1:20:45-1:46:27: As I put it, from the sublime to the ridiculous, as we end by talking about “Sin City,” the longest story in the volume and the one that Jeff has arguably the most problems with. But is much of what he’s struggling with a bug or a feature? It depends on how willing you are to give John Wagner credit for thematic elements that might be entirely accidental, in practice. (Is he ripping off earlier stories to comment on Las Vegas recycling cultural landmarks? Or is he just ripping off old stories?) We also talk about Kev Walker’s art without my actually getting around to defending it — I really like his art here, I just didn’t say as such on the recording — and there’s a brief mention about the strange case of future echoing that happens here, too.
1:46:28-1:51:19: We’re beginning to close things up, so we talk about our favorite stories in the book — “Citizen Sump” for both of us — our favorite non-Wagner story (both of us plump for “Necrophage,” in which Gordon Rennie’s story is helped significantly by John Burns’ art), and our least favorite stories in the book, too. (Jeff putting “Block Court” on that list is still troubling to me.) In case you can’t tell by now, we also both plump for the Drokk side of Drokk or Dross, as well.
1:51:20-end: The end is near, which means it’s time to finally, properly promise that Dredd/Aliens crossover in the next episode — it’s in Case Files Vol. 36, even though I was convinced it came earlier — before we talk Twitter, Patreon, and I turn out to be entirely correct in suggesting that these show notes were going to be late on Monday. It’s been quite a day, that’s all I can say…! As always, thank you for reading and listening. We’ll be back in a month with some xenomorph action…