Previously on Drokk!: We’re firmly in what commenter Jared so suitably termed “the Golden Rut” of Dredd, where everything is technically going well with the strip in both its 2000 AD and Judge Dredd Megazine incarnations, and yet, it’s feeling increasingly difficult to say anything about it. If only, say, Garth Ennis would return as writer or something…
0:00:00-0:03:51: Welcome, dear friends, to the 2001-2002 revival that is Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files Vol. 34, which reprints material from 2000 AD Progs 1250-1275, and Judge Dredd Megazine Vol. 4 #1-6. Jeff tries to pick a fight about the dates of the material, but I’m having none of it, for once. Don’t worry; I’ll have a lot of it soon enough.
0:03:52-0:24:48: We dive into things relatively quickly, talking about the 10-part “Helter Skelter,” which marked Garth Ennis’ return to Dredd after almost a decade, during which time he’s become the toast of the American comics industry, thanks to the success of Preacher. We talk about how the story relies entirely Ennis’ fanboyishness about Dredd, which overwhelms the skills (and detachment) he’s displaying elsewhere in his career at this time, the many ways in which it fails as a piece of writing and whether that’s down to laziness or Ennis’ unwavering fanboy nature concerning Dredd, and the fact that the serial features that rarest of things: disappointing Carlos Ezquerra art. There is, at least, an explanation for that, which we also get into.
0:24:49-0:42:29: I attempt to segue from “Helter Skelter” into better stories but get in my own way by mentioning the contributions made by writer Alan Grant to this volume, which include the shockingly bad stoner comedy “Leaves of Grass” — guess what? Even when stoned, Judge Dredd is the law! — which Jeff, nonetheless, feels has a lot more potential than I do. (He also liked “Helter Skelter,” so perhaps this is the episode where Jeff is the good cop to my bad cop, for once.) (Wait, is that every episode?) I also talk about “Terrorist!” — yes, it actually has an exclamation point in the title — which comes from a well-intentioned place, but feels as if it betrays some deep-set prejudices in the minds of its creators. That gets us onto a brief discussion of whether or not it reflects a post-9/11 sensitivity, as well as whether the Robbie Morrison-written “Born Under A Bad Sign” does the same, albeit from a different direction. Also! When did The Wire start? That important question, answered!
0:42:50-0:53:25: Surprisingly, we only spend 10 minutes on my favorite story in the volume, which is one that Jeff likes a lot, as well: “Bad Manners.” We discuss the ways in which it underscores the failure of the system, and succeeds at criticizing the Justice System of Dredd as a strip in a way that something like “The Runner” from last episode stumbled through. In a strip where ACAB is an unstated understanding, this is a story where the subtext pushes through to become the text.
0:53:26-1:13:26: What starts as an attempt to talk about how the newcomer writers deal with Dredd in this volume — Robbie Morrison disappoints, while Gordon Rennie does surprisingly well, with a couple of his efforts reading like Wagner in places — ends up being an appreciation of what the artists are up to this volume, courtesy of singing Frazer Irving’s praises on his one-off “Asylum.” Under particular discussion are Cam Kennedy and Colin MacNeil, both of whom get the chance to shine in Wagner-written stories. Kennedy is responsible for a few stories this time around, but it’s “The Bazooka,” a Fatties story that he draws for Wagner in the Megazine that really shows off his gift for cartooning and physical comedy, while MacNeil handles “On The Chief Judge’s Service,” which is by far superior to last volume’s “The Chief Judge’s Man” in large part because of some very smart choices on MacNeil’s part. Also having their praises sung: Cliff Robinson, who Jeff compares to Chris Weston…!
1:13:27-1:22:53: We talk a little about the context surrounding his volume — 2000 AD and related titles being bought by new publisher Rebellion, and Andy Diggle taking over as editor — as well as whether we’re ending the Golden Rut this time around. Also, Jeff brings up the “bonus story” in this volume, which leads to more Cam Kennedy appreciation.
1:22:53-1:29:25: What are Jeff’s favorite stories in the book? (I’d already mentioned mine earlier, when talking about “The Bazooka.”) And is this volume Drokk or Dross? Spoilers: we both think it’s a strong Drokk, especially considering the running order of the book — the fact that “Bad Manners” is essentially the end of the book — there are another couple of shorts that follow, including a particularly disappointing Alan Grant story, but still — means that the reader is still thinking about it by the time they’ve finished, which helps considerably.
1:29:26-end: As we head towards the end of the episode, we look forward to Case Files 35 next month, and I discover that Americans apparently didn’t know what a helter skelter was, which kind of blows my mind. (We also mention the Twitter and the Patreon, because that’s what we do.) As with every single one of these, thanks for reading and listening; it’s very much appreciated.
Previously on Drokk!: If there was one thing we learned from the last episode, it’s that Jeff and I are more responsive to the Dredds we’re reading right now when they’re building something towards the larger continuity, rather than the one-off comedy strips that we’ve been reading for more than 30 volumes at this point. So what happens when we hit a volume that’s almost all one-off strips…?
0:00:00-0:02:33: So here we are, reading Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files Vol. 33, reprinting and collecting material from 2001’s 2000 AD and Judge Dredd Megazine; in short order, we introduce ourselves, the book, and I make a Block reference that is really just obscure and dumb in how it relates to this volume. I should be ashamed.
0:02:34-0:06:22: One of the things that’s notable about this volume — one of the few things; we spend time here talking about that this is another volume that is just fine,” even if that actually means “of high quality, but unremarkable in that because so many of these volumes are of such high quality” — is that it sees Gordon Rennie and Robbie Morrison installed as the new back-up writers to John Wagner, and it’s a good thing as both get Dredd in a way that we’ve not seen other writers manage before. In fact, two of Jeff’s favorite stories in the volume — “Relentless” and “Hell Bent” — are Morrison’s; my favorites are “The Runner,” “The Chief Judge’s Man,” “Bodies of Evidence,” and “Lawcon,” with Jeff sharing some admiration for the latter, as well.
0:06:23-0:20:24: We talk about what does and doesn’t work about “The Chief Judge’s Man,” and actually tend to agree on most of it, even though I rate it far more highly than Jeff due to a complete critical blindspot with regards to nostalgia around Will Simpson’s artwork. (I should have added in the podcast, but didn’t: this blindspot is a late onset thing, and only really exists with his Dredd work. I still dislike both his Hellblazer and Rogue Trooper work, oddly enough.) Nonetheless: we like the paranoia, we like the antagonist, but Jeff thinks that it’s just a little too on the nose and obvious, especially with the name of one particular character. He’s probably right! We also talk about “Relentless,” which has the opposite problem to “Chief Judge’s Man,” in that the art ends up elevating the writing, with Colin Wilson drawing the shit out of what, to me at least, is a relatively run-of-the-mill Cursed Earth adventure. (That said, it’s “run of the mill” to a Wagner degree, which is pretty fucking amazing for a neophyte Dredd writer like Robbie Morrison.) Also under very brief discussion, “The Moby,” a one-off story notable mostly because it’s an example of Jeff’s beloved trope of “Dredd versus an out of control vehicle.”
0:20:25-0:40:07: “The Runner” is one of my favorite stories in this volume by far, but Jeff is not convinced because of the fact that it breaks a fourth wall too far by nature of featuring a Black man shot by police. We go back and forth about what works and doesn’t work for each of us in this one-off — I can’t get over that last line, but Jeff makes a particularly interesting argument in favor of it, surprisingly — and why it might feel out of place surrounded by comedy strips and not expanded outwards. (Jeff also mentions two changes he thinks would have made the strip better, at least one of which I think is entirely there in the comic itself.) Also: Duncan Fegredo’s a really good artist, everyone.
0:40:08-0:51:46: We run through another couple of my favorite stories: “Bodies of Evidence,” a ridiculous romp that distinguishes itself through Cam Kennedy artwork and some great character names — Ivana Freebie is an all-time classic, let’s be honest — and “Lawcon,” which answers that question on everyone’s lips: “What if John Carpenter’s The Thing, but Judge Dredd?” If that doesn’t sound like a good time to you — even with the art of Richard Elson, which could best be described as “too pedestrian for Dredd, but not bad per se.” (He’s done some other work for 2000 AD that I actually like a bunch; his stuff here isn’t particularly great, though.)
0:51:47-1:19:11: We return to a subject we’ve touched on a bunch in recent episodes… namely, how difficult it is to find something new to say about work that is good, but itself not really saying anything new. Is the problem us, or the comics? (I think it’s the former, Jeff seems to believe otherwise.) It’s not just navel gazing, though; Jeff has a theory about the lack of psychological depth in the supporting characters of Dredd as written by John Wagner, and we also talk about whether “Foot Patrol” or “Kicking the Habit” is the worst story in the volume. Spoilers: it all comes down to art in the end, at least for Jeff. Siku might be an evocative painter, but he’s really not big (or good, for that matter) on narrative work. Meanwhile, I’m still struggling with Wagner actually naming a character “Judge Hitler,” because what the ever-living fuck. All this, and Jeff making a casino metaphor about the tightness of slots that I’m still not entirely sure I understand.
1:19:12-end: We’ve already gone through favorite stories and least favorite stories, so there’s only one last thing to get up to: Drokk or Dross? After sorting that question out, it’s time to wrap things up, mention the Twitter and the Patreon, and look to the future with hopeful hearts and a dream that we’re going to get some more continuity heavy material. (If nothing else, there is a sequel to “The Chief Judge’s Man” with art by Colin MacNeil.) As always, thank you for listening and reading.
Extremely hard to execute. Pure, masterly clockwork precision and a lot more complex than “seamed” shots or steadicam-to-crane “relay” shots. Baffling, virtuoso- but one of so, so many shots that make the camera “dance” with each musical number. https://t.co/rjzdit0Mak
— Guillermo del Toro (@RealGDT) February 26, 2022
Hey there, Whatnauts!
A bit of bonus content to wrap up your month with—join us as we play another round of “My Four Manga,” or as Graeme referred to it the other week: “Who’s a bigger pervert, Jeff or the people who make manga?”
this is a super-short 18 minute episode and sadly it took longer to try and get the rss feed to load than it did to record it, so I’m just going to leave it here for your enjoyment and get on with my weekend before this eats up wayyyyy too much of my life.
We hope you enjoy it, however! And we hope you join us next week for another full-length episode of Wait, What?
Previously on Drokk!: When we last checked in with Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files, we were surprisingly disappointed with the ways in which it felt… underwhelming and, at times, lesser than the history of the strip, perhaps? We put much of that down to the presence of Alan Grant in the writing credits, so what should we make of Vol. 32, which is predominantly the work of one John Wagner…?
Unusual Audio Note: Try as I might, I couldn’t get rid of a strange Doppler effect at times when I’m talking; it comes and goes seemingly without rhyme or reason, and isn’t present just on my audio track at all, but Jeff’s. I outright muted his audio in places, but it still shows up in places. Sorry; I hope it’s not too distracting.
0:00:00-0:03:01: A speedy introduction lets the listener know two very important things. Firstly, that we’re covering Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files Vol. 32, which covers material from 2000 AD and Judge Dredd Magazine in 2000 and 2001, and secondly, that I’ve just had a chocolate bar before we started recording. Spoilers: only one of those facts is actually important to the podcast as a whole.
0:03:02-0:27:11: We get started pretty quickly, by talking about the “Sector House” storyline, and the “Blood Cadets” story that preceded it and set it up, as Jeff asks what my definition of “Mega-Epic” is — does an eight-part story count, especially if it’s by Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra? (No.) Before too long, Jeff is sharing his dislike of Simon Fraser’s art, his enjoyment of the retcon of Rico Dredd and potential reasons for his off-screen villainy, and we talk about what it might mean for John Wagner to finally be telling origin stories for Joe Dredd this far into the strip’s run. (I also mistakenly refer to the strip as having run for 13 years at this point, instead of 23 years; it’s not the only time I make that mistake this episode.) Also! Just how great is Carlos Ezquerra? We’ve already counted some of the ways, but here’s another one: his skill at making Rico look like a younger Dredd, yet still differentiating the two in simple, subtle ways so that it remains very clear who we’re looking at. He’s so good, everyone.
0:27:12-1:05:36: From the sublime to the… less sublime but still enjoyable, I guess? We spend a little more than half an hour talking about a bunch of other stories in the collection, and why we like them so much. The short version is, “John Wagner is very good at what he does.” This, of course, includes discussions on the art that we don’t like in the volume (Pete Doherty, Siku, we’re sorry), including a request for you, dear Whatnauts, to leave comments about whether Simon Fraser or Patrick Goddard’s art is most similar to 1990s Fantastic Four stalwart Paul Ryan. (It’s Goddard.) It also includes commentary on the nature of the Magazine stories, the return of P.J. Maybe, the fact that Alan Grant actually outperformed John Wagner on one particular trope this time around (and Jeff interrupting me to get to my point before I could, in a surprise turnaround on tradition), whether or not one story is a backdoor pilot for a series that never ended up happening, and much, much more. Most importantly, we finally learn what it takes to get Jeff to accept sentimentality in a Dredd story. Who knew dinosaur kids were his one weakness?
1:05:37-1:26:56: Things get meta for a period, as we discuss how difficult it is to talk about Dredd 36 episodes in, especially when a volume is good, but also filled with one-off stories that don’t contribute to larger plots or themes. Are we repeating ourselves when we say, as Jeff literally does here, “Fucking Wagner’s the GOAT”? Also: was Dredd as a property essentially self-sufficient and self-run by this point, because Wagner does so much of the heavy lifting and quality control by himself? Jeff references Thrill Power Overload, and I once again mix up 13 and 23 years, although Jeff does thankfully correct me this time around.
1:26:57-end: We wrap things up by mentioning our favorite stories — “Blood Cadets” and “Sector House” for both of us — and our least favorite (“Ghost in the Machine,” as Jeff rightfully points out, although “Ten Years” came very close for me), before teasing a less certain future for the strip as Wagner begins to withdraw slowly, and then mentioning the Twitters and the Patreon, as is our tradition. (We didn’t say it at this point, but had already established: this volume is Drokk, by the way, rather than Dross.) Be back next month for the worst cover of the entire Case Files series; as Jeff would — and indeed, does — say, “Bazinga!”