Previously on Drokk!: After the Garth Ennis years and a tease of a Mark Millar era — not to mention an increasing reliance on formula, rendering the series surprisingly stale — Dredd co-creator John Wagner has returned to guide the character in both 2000 AD and Judge Dredd Magazine, which should be a good thing, right…? Right…?
0:00:00-0:06:33: This time around, we’re talking about Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files Vol. 22, which collects material from 1993 and 1994, and sees Wagner firmly re-established as the primary writer of the strip (although others, including Peter Hogan and the recently departed Si Spencer, show up as well). I talk about the reasons I like the book, although Jeff isn’t convinced by either my arguments or Wagner’s attempts to break with the conventions of the strip. Is this the second schism volume in a row?
0:06:34-0:25:23: It only makes sense that we tackle the low point of the volume immediately, so we deal with “Crusade,” a Grant Morrison/Mark Millar serial that massively outstays its welcome, even with art by Mick Austin. We talk about the unexpected Pat Mills influence (especially Nemesis the Warlock), and about Mark Millar’s faith and how that plays into his writing (or doesn’t, as the case may be). We also talk about bad design choices, and the ways in which something can be “not boring,” but that doesn’t necessarily make it interesting, either. Suffice to say: we didn’t like “Crusade” at all.
0:25:24-0:38:55: We move on to “Escape from Kurt Russell,” a John Wagner/Paul Marshall short that has some interesting choices in terms of tone — we discuss whether or not the denouement is a pisstake, a joke, or just a strange idea — and perhaps a coded message to Frank Miller of all people. Perhaps more importantly, it’s also a story from 1994 that previews the plot of 2012’s Dredd movie, which neither of us expected at all, although Jeff points out in passing that there’s also a Mister Miracle Kirby influence at play that I didn’t see at all.
0:38:56-0:59:19: A quick spin through the majority of the other stories in the volume sees us talk about the fact that so much of this book is just… fine, which is far from a selling point. Under some discussion is the self-conscious darkness of the Magazine material from this era, the oddness that is the Bill Clinton cameo in one episode, and my theory about the real reason why John Wagner returned to Dredd — and what that might mean about the “Candidates”/“Voting Day” storyline that opens this collection.
0:59:20-1:41:52: The meat of the episode is exactly what Jeff thought it would be: “The Exterminator,” a ten-episode story that entirely drops the Dredd formula in favor of… a Terminator pastiche, of all things. I love it, but Jeff is less sure, and we talk about why, as well as Jeff’s ambitious theory about what the story is actually about. Also discussed: Wagner’s awareness of racial themes and police complicity in oppressive status quos; whether or not John Wagner is purposefully trolling the makers and cast of the 1995 Judge Dredd movie with this story; editorial oversight and overreach; the parallels this serial has not only with Terminator, but also Alien; Wagner’s interest in time travel and the ways in which it could have been used more appropriately, or at least interestingly, in this particular story, and far, far more. It’s definitely Wagner trying something different with the strip, but is that enough to make it a worthwhile excursion?
1:41:53-1:47:38: So, is this book Drokk or Dross? Both of us go for the former option, although Jeff finds it a more perilous proposition than I do. We don’t do the traditional mentioning of our favorite stories from the volume, but I’d already plumped for “The Exterminator,” and Jeff elsewhere describes it as Wagner’s potential masterpiece, so… let’s just say that’s his choice, too. (He also talks about his love for “Crash Diner,” a Wagner/Cyril Julien short from the Magazine, so perhaps that’s his choice.) Also discussed: a brief mention of what we’ll be reading next episode, which includes a return of Bill Clinton of all people…
1:47:39-1:51:54: Jeff suddenly realizes that we didn’t really talk about the art in this volume as much as usual, and singles out some terrible Ashley Wood, work, some great Dean Ormston and Dermot Power work, and John Burns and Emilio Frejo’s art from “The Exterminator.” There’s also a Garth Ennis slam, just because.
1:51:55-end: We wrap things up the way we always do, by mentioning the Tumblr and Instagram that I haven’t updated in forever — I’ll change that soon, I swear — as well as our Twitter and Patreon accounts, and Jeff sings us out beautifully. We’ll be back in a month, when we’ll have to deal with checks notes new Pat Mills and Garth Ennis Dredd…? As always, thank you for listening and reading along.
WandaVision finale prediction pic.twitter.com/v0s1uzYzfb
— Rusty Shackles – A HAND IN THE GAME OF DEATH (@rusty_shackles) February 7, 2021
Previously on Drokk!: There’s no escaping it; we’re in the mid-1990s now, which is almost certainly the darkest period for Judge Dredd as a property, as the strip in both 2000 AD and the Judge Dredd Megazine feels directionless and at the mercy of an ever-changing creative team. Hopefully the fact that character co-creator John Wagner is returning to prominence can only mean good things, right…?
0:00:00-0:05:17: The cold open makes it somewhat clear: Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files Vol. 21 is a book that is somewhat perplexing, and not entirely that good. We’re still featuring material from 1993 and 1994 at this point, including a crossover between 2000 AD and the Magazine, but as it turns out, even having John Wagner write these things is no guarantee of quality…
0:05-18-0:10:22: We start off by talking about how slight and underwhelming the first third of this book is — collecting 2000 AD strips, predominantly written by Wagner, there’s a retro feel to proceedings, in some cases literally, with two stories that deal with time travel between the future of Mega-City One and the then-present day — a fact that leads us to talk about another time travel story in the collection…
0:10:23-0:27:53: In theory, a John Wagner-written crossover between Judge Dredd and Rogue Trooper could and should be a joy to read, with some inherent drama between the ultimate cop and a soldier who rejects authority to get the job done. In reality, “Casualties of War” is… a mess. We talk about the reasons why that is, why it reads like a mediocre issue of Marvel Team-Up, and why John Higgins didn’t help matters at all.
0:27:54-0:37:52: Sadly, “Casualties of War” is just one of a number of Wagner-written letdowns in Case Files 21, and we discuss various potential reasons why that might be… and why other writers aren’t really able to come up with anything better, either. Is there too much of a recognizable formula after 900 issues? Is Wagner trying to write against that formula but failing to come up with a replacement? Come for a discussion about the ways in which Wagner is unfunny in this volume in a way we’ve Neve seen from him, stay for Jeff’s suggestion that the writer is “becoming more Judge Macgruder than Judge Dredd.”
0:37:53-0:45:50: We wrap up discussion of the pre-crossover part of the volume by identifying that boring Judge Dredd is a worse sin than bad Judge Dredd, naming our favorite stories from the first section of the book (Mine is “A Guide to Mega-Speak,” Jeff’s either “Part Exchange” or “Casualties of War”), and very briefly wondering if boring-but-competent is the ideal format for a corporate character with a long publication history.
0:45:51-1:43:21: And then we get to “Wilderlands,” the crossover that takes up two-thirds of the volume, disappoints us both pretty dramatically, and has different pronunciations from both Jeff and I. (Jeff emphasizes the “wild,” which I kind of love.) We talk about a lot here — this section of the podcast is almost an hour long! — but here are just some of the topics: Is Dredd a coward as written here? How great is this final evolution of Macgruder and Dredd’s relationship, and the standoff that consumes it? How much of a mistake was it to sideline Macgruder for almost the entirety of the crossover? (A lot.) What the hell was going on that Wagner’s sense of the unexpected was so entirely lost by the time “Wilderlands” nears its conclusion? (“It’s as if he takes the lamest, laziest way out” for every plot thread, as Jeff puts it.) The multiple better resolutions we managed to come up with. Jeff calling the crossover “the Bataan Death March version of Gilligan’s Island,” which genuinely sounds more fun than the crossover itself. An incredible Lester metaphor in which Judge Macgruder is a metaphor for civilization ruining the frontier. A seeming continuity glitch that just confuses us pretty badly. Is Judge Macgruder the new Chopper? And so much more. No, really, there’s a lot… and all of it because we were really, very disappointed in what we read.
1:43:22-1:50:37: Jeff wonders if one of the reasons for our disappointment with “Wilderlands” is that we’re missing a counter narrative at play, and then tries to find one. He’s not entirely successful, but as we talk about the treatment of Judge Castillo, the phrase “Merchant Ivory” gets mentioned two times more than I ever would have expected on Drokk!, and we struggle with her place in the wider narrative of the entire book.
1:50:38-1:59:22: So, after almost two hours of complaining about the many failures of Case Files Vol. 21, is it Drokk or Dross? Jeff goes contrarian by saying Drokk, whereas I stick with my guns and go the other way. We both agree that there’s some great stuff in here and some very not great stuff, but beyond that, I think you’re hearing a glass half full/half empty divide forming right in front of your very ears.
1:59:23-end: We wrap things up very quickly by talking about what’s to come — more Grant Morrison and Mark Millar co-written “delights” — and mentioning, as ever, the Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblrs as well as the Patreon that makes this all possible. There’s more John Wagner ahead, as well, so let’s hope things improve before a month from now…! As ever, thanks for reading and listening.
Reminding myself of this issue pic.twitter.com/1UFZhGIeRO
— Rick (@combattlerRickV) January 4, 2021
0:01-11:16: Greetings! Our first holiday gift for you is the title of the Hallmark holiday movie of 2025—Hollywood Hibernation! Who will write the “Uptight woman X down home dude X Xmas spirit” streaming hit? Well….why not you? Also discussed: new computers and new workflows; grim portents for the Indy Mac developer scene, maybe?; and more.
11:16-44:07: Time to change things up! Jeff is very pleased by how much work he put into his Best of 2020 list (ridiculous in a way because it is such a personal list and has so little to actually do with what books actually came *out* in 2020). But knowing the verbal deluge it will bring, he begs Graeme to give his list first. Although I’m linking to Graeme’s Top Ten list over at THR, here it is below with handy Amazon affiliate links in case you feel like getting yourself something nice and making sure we get a small smattering of Bezos-coins at the end of the year:
Don’t Go Without Me by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell;
Superman Smashes the Klan by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru;
Al Ewing’s MultipleMarvelTitles;
John Constantine: Hellblazer by Si Spurrier, Aaron Campbell, and Matias Bergara;
DreadNoughts by Michael Carroll and John Higgins;
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Cartoonist by Adrian Tomine;
A Map to The Sun by Sloane Leong;
The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen;
Lost Soldiers by Aleš Kot and Luca Casalanguida;
and Paul at Home by Michel Rabagliati.
(With a special secret eleventh pick: Seven Secrets by Tom Taylor and Daniele Di Nicuolo)
44:07-1:26:20: Jeff’s turn! And Jeff being Jeff, he talks about the books, why he picked them, what they’re about, when they might’ve come out, picks he’s still on the fence about…you know, all that obnoxious noise:
–Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files, Vols 12-14 and The Dead Man by John Wagner, John Ridgway, Alan Grant, Carlos Ezquerra, and a flotilla of great artists;
–Karate Promby Kyle Starks;
–Gangland Allstars #1-3 by Abhay Khosla, Alfredo Torres, Diego Guerra, George Kambadais, Sean Witzke, and more!
–The Book Tour by Andi Watson;
–Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji by Nobuyuki Fukumoto;
–Blank Canvas: My So-Called Artist’s Journeyby Akiko Higashimura;
–Wotakoi: Love Is Hard for Otaku by Fujita;
–Haikyu!! by Haruichi Furudate;
and Urotsukidoji: Legend of the Overfiend by Toshio Maeda.
Also discussed: “Tentacle Master,” Jeremy Bulloch and Daniel Logan; Runners-up from the Big Two (Immortal Hulk, Jimmy Olsen, Savage Avengers, Shadow of the Batgirl); and more. (Note from Jeff: I think I’m going to post my big list in the comments, maybe?)
1:26:20-1:55:15: Graeme points out that Jeff thought we had a lot to discuss and he wonders…what is on Jeff’s agenda, exactly? Discussed: Jeff’s pick for the best manga adaptation of the year; Infinite Frontier and DC’s coming relaunch (and their five year cycle); Death Metal keeping on Death Metalling; the unspoken rules behind crossovers; and more.
1:55:16-:2:11:48: Graeme would love to see the pitch material for the “5G” and Timeline of the DC Universe story/event/direction DC seems to have mostly abandoned? He’d love it if they published the pitch and the development materials so we can see what might’ve been. And this sounds sort of impossible and crazy until you realize (or until Jeff realizes, after Graeme points it out) that DC has already done such a thing in their recent DC Through the 80s: The End of Eras Vol. 1, which reprints in its entirety Alan Moore’s in/famous Twilight proposal. So you can kind of imagine where that leads us…
2:11:48-end: And so we come to the end of the podcast at the end of the year at the end of….something? I don’t know, it feels like something is ending. Anyway, although we take our time getting there—and along the way you get to hear what Graeme’s favorite filmed version of A Christmas Carol is (as well as a link to Chloe providing the receipts)! and Jeff’s ringing endorsement of the Sidebooks app for reading PDFs (that link is for the Ipad but it also exists for Android and other formats)! —you really should consider this the start of…. closing comments! Look for us on Stitcher!Itunes!Instagram! Twitter together and separately: Graeme and Jeff! Tumblr, and on Patreon where a wonderful group of people make this all possible, including Dominic L. Franco, and Empress Audrey, Queen of the Galaxy, to whom we are especially grateful for her continuing support of this podcast. (Also, don’t forget about Spotify!)
Next week: It’s Christmas! And then look for our first podcast of 2021 in…2021!
Previously on Drokk!: As we’ve reached the early 1990s, we’ve said goodbye to Garth Ennis and hello to the next generation of Judge Dredd writers in 2000 AD — including none other than a very young Mark Millar. Thankfully, over in the Magazine, John Wagner has returned to save us all.
0:00:00-0:03:30: We introduce ourselves and admit our lack of fondness for at least half of the book we’re covering in this episode, Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files Vol. 20, which covers material from 1993 and 1994’s 2000 AD and Judge Dredd: The Megazine issues. It’s… not exactly a high point, at least where the 2000 AD episodes are concerned.
0:03:31-0:07:03: Before we get to just how shockingly, appallingly bad the majority of the 2000 AD episodes are this time around, we talk about the one 2000 AD story in the book that we enjoyed: “Roadkill,” written by John Smith, who has turned out to be a bright spot amongst a dark time for 2000 AD writers.
0:07:04-0:44:12: Why is the 2000 AD material so bad this time around? The answer might be found in Jeff’s description of the book as “the most consistently racist volume” in the series to date, with so many of the 2000 AD stories being racist in a variety of ways, each of them genuinely breathtaking in something published so relatively recently. We talk about that, and also the fact that both of us feel as if the 2000 AD material is skewing younger than it has before, even when 2000 AD was officially a “kids’ comic.” Is that because the stories are more simplistic in format and execution, that they revolve around high concept hooks, or that there’s an absence of the ambiguity and complexity that Wagner and Grant brought to the strip in their heyday? Also under discussion: the ways in which Millar (and Grant Morrison, who co-writes one of the serials in this collection) imagine threats to Dredd, and how flawed their understanding of structure and pacing is when it comes to the longer storylines. And just who Sonny Steelgrave, and why is he terrible?
0:44:13-0:50:00: It’s not just Mark Millar who’s disappointing in the 2000 AD stories in this book, and we talk about whether or not they’re at least more interesting than the Garth Ennis era of Dredd stories. (We differ on this, I think.) “The first half [of this volume] was genuinely excruciating,” Jeff says, and he’s not wrong about that.
0:50:01-1:08:19: All isn’t lost, however, and the Magazine stories in this collection turn out to be pretty uniformly good — with one exception that we talk about briefly — thanks to John Wagner having a really strong period around this time. The first of three truly great Wagner stories in this book, “Bury My Knee At Wounded Heart,” is the first to draw our attention, and it brings us to talk about Dredd’s unusual display of moral cowardice, the wonderful staging of the scene by Peter Doherty, and what it means for Dredd to experience shame for perhaps the first time in the character’s history. We also do a quick rundown of all the Magazine stories in this volume, and Jeff explains why “Do The Wrong Thing” flubs what could have been an important response to the racism as displayed in the 2000 AD stories this time out.
1:08:20-1:25:10: The second great Wagner story is “Giant,” and we talk about the ways in which it stacks up against similar stories in the strip’s past — and there have been a bunch — while also quietly building on them, and displaying a potential shift in the way that Wagner is thinking about not only the way the Justice Department runs, but also the way that it should run, with this story offering a couple of wonderfully subtle criticisms of the status quo to underscore just how unsubtle Dredd has been in recent years.
1:25:11-1:41:08: Perhaps the most amazing, unexpected strip of the entire volume is saved for last, with Wagner and Mick McMahon’s “Howler” being unlike anything else in the history of the Dredd strip, and all the better for it. We talk about the “weird performance art” aspect of it, but really, I should just share images, because that says it all.
1:41:09-end: Is this volume Drokk or Dross? It’s a surprisingly close run thing, but not nearly as close is our choice of favorite Wagner and non-Wagner strips in the volume. From there, we close things up by talking briefly about what’s to come, and then wrapping things up with the traditional mention of our Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter, and Patreon accounts, and that’s it for 2020’s Drokk!s. As ever, thank you for reading and listening along; you’re all the greatest, even when the stories are not.
0:01-23:25: Greetings! Pardon us for sounding so chipper, but Graeme McMillan and Jeff Lester are in a pretty good mood because…they think they have a shot at surviving 2020? Because of Christmas? Because we exchange podcast editing tips? Because Jeff finally gets corrected by Graeme about how to pronounce his name?! Because of SAD? We think it might be because we haven’t spoken in a while and we’re…glad to be talking to each other?? WEIRD.
23:25-39:47: Anyway, remember that “because of Christmas” point just above? Graeme fleshes that out by discussing the Bing Holiday/Fred Astaire classic, Holiday Inn, and giving a list of Christmas movies he watches because, hey, tis the season! I mean…I wish I could explain how we get from a Bing Crosby holiday movie to the Terminator franchise and what we would pick as the least awful of the non-Cameron directed movies, but believe it or not, it’s a buttery-smooth transition! And then Graeme mentions The Thing prequel with Mary Elizabeth Winstead? To Jeff, who is the only person on earth (next to Eve Mavrakis) who is *not* in any way, shape, or form a fan of Mary Elizabeth Winstead? Graeme is full of surprises, that one! [Oh, and that clip above was supposed to the musical number in Holiday Inn that Graeme talks about but I started watching it on YouTube and…no. Just no.]
56:54-1:03:07: From Warners to DC in a single bound! Graeme talks about the recent spate of DC creative team announcements and talks about some of the Future State books he’s read. Discussed: Future State Swamp Thing; Future State Wonder Woman; the free Future State promo mag; and more.
1:03:07-1:08:51: By contrast, Jeff really wants to talk about trying to sell his used bidet on Nextdoor?
1:08:51-1:24:53: From used bidets to The King in Black #1 by Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman? That Graeme McMillan knows how to segue! Join us for some impressively dramatic recapping, featuring a bonus recap of Cates’ Guardians of the Galaxy run.
1:24:53-1:41:21: Jeff wants to talk about some recent comics he’s read, and tries to introduce them by talking about a recent tweet he made. (However, one of Jeff’s better tweets was about a dream he had about the latest novel by Don DeLillo which Graeme mentions but pronounces the name so that it sounds like Dan Didio and hoo boy is Jeff tickled by that mistake until Graeme sets him straight! Hoo. Boy.) But then when that’s cleared up Jeff talks about what he thinks might be one of the best first issues of a superhero comic ever published: The Flash by Mike Baron, Jackson Guice and Larry Mahlstedt. Also discussed: the first two issues of The Grackle; The Badger and Nexus; and more.
1:41:21-2:03:37: Graeme’s been starting to get ready for December and the preparation of his best-of list. In preparation for same, he reread the last year or so of Al Ewing and Joe Bennett’s Immortal Hulk and, to Jeff’s huge surprise, doesn’t think it’s as good as it’s been? Also discussed: some of the other titles being considered for Graeme’s list, including one Graeme thinks is similar to IH he’d rank more highly.
2:03:37-2:16:33: After a bit of talking about Santa and Jesus and their respective comic book appearances, we should easily segue into discussing Grant Morrison’s and Dan Mora’s Klaus, we instead swing over to the first trade of The Green Lantern: Season 2 by G-Mo and Liam Sharp. While nobody has even tried to argue Sharp’s work is anything but the bee’s knees, most have been more and more underwhelmed by Morrison’s side of things as time has gone on to the point where even the writer’s fiercest advocates have dismissed it. But Jeff just read this trade on Hoopla…and he kind of loves it? No spoilers, but let’s just his final characterization of the book gets a good laugh from Graeme which is probably the best any of Jeff’s critical arguments can hope for. Come for Jeff forgetting Mike Friedrich’s name (twice! once right after Graeme tells him!), stay for—you know what, come and stay for that bit because it’s humiliating.
2:16:33-2:23:53: Graeme mentioned on our last episode reading, enjoying, and being deeply amused by Andi Watson’s The Book Tour. On the recommendation, Jeff read it and enjoyed it, but also found it disquietingly nightmarish? As the professionals say: “let’s unpack that.” Also included: one or two other genuinely quick recommendations and reviews from Jeff.
2:23:53-end: Closing comments, after a quick rundown of our recording schedule for the month and some confusion as to what volume of Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files we’re reading for the next Drokk. (Volume 20, everyone. Read Volume 20.) Oh, and Jeff will also be appearing on DCOCD to talk about DC Rebirth, so keep your ears open for that, too.
And then! Look for us on Stitcher!Itunes!Instagram! Twitter together and separately: Graeme and Jeff! Tumblr, and on Patreon where a wonderful group of people make this all possible, including Dominic L. Franco, and Empress Audrey, Queen of the Galaxy, to whom we are especially grateful for her continuing support of this podcast. (Also, don’t forget about Spotify!)
Next week: Drokk!!