With the first issue of this only one day away Al Ewing took time out of his worryingly busy schedule to answer a few questions.
Can you tell us a bit about how Mars Attacks Judge Dredd came together and how you got involved.
Well, my basic understanding is that fan reaction to the cover IDW did was so positive that they decided to do it for real. Anyway, they gave me a shout, and the IDW Dredd universe sounded like a good place to do the kind of Dredd story I haven’t really done recently, just a really fun, crazy romp as opposed to the quite grim, noir-y, Richard Stark-inspired stuff that seems to fit the regular 2000AD Dreddverse at the moment. So I jumped at it.
How familiar with the Mars Attacks universe were you prior to writing this?
I’ve seen the film – not part of the IDW Mars Attacks universe, so that wasn’t that much of a help – and I’ve read the bubblegum cards. And obviously, when I got the gig, I did a bit of research on previous IDW Mars Attacks comics, to see what sort of tone they were after – whether they wanted camp or pulp or a little bit of both.
When writing this story were you told it had to work within any existing continuity, either 2000AD or IDW, or were you allowed to treat it as a totally stand alone story?
It’s technically in the IDW continuity, but if push comes to shove it could easily be treated as a completely stand-alone story, especially as it’s a Mars Attacks story too and obviously that means there needs to be a degree of apocalyptic destruction at the end. It might end up being a ‘What If?’, depending on how much I decide to blow everything up…
John McCrea has been doing amazing work on the ongoing Mars Attacks comics. Were you aware he was your artist when writing this and if so did you tailor the story towards his style at all? Also was it a collaborative process?
I popped a couple of things in with him in mind, but the nice thing about John is that he can draw just about anything, so I felt just as comfortable throwing him a juicy bit of noir to chew on as I did giving him some belly laughs. I was pretty confident throwing just about anything at him, which is kind of the opposite of collaborative in some ways as I’m basically saying “John! Draw this!” But the results have been fantastic, so it’s all worked out nicely. Between us, we’ve created a nice riff on the young, hardman Dredd of our childhoods – I’m reminded strongly of the very early Gibson Dredd, where he had stubble and struck cool hero-cop poses a lot. He’s pretty cool, really. Still a total bastard, of course.
I’d imagine the tone of this will be similar to Zombo, full of OTT violence and dark humour. How have you approached this mini series?
At this point, I can’t write Dredd without at least a bit of noir, so there are the usual sleazy clubs, corruption in the ranks and gangland rivalries – the kind of stuff I’ve been playing around with for a while now. But because the Martians are involved it’s all slightly twisted into slightly goofy territory, so there’s plenty of the kind of dark silliness Zombo fans will know and love.
That said – what Dredd and the Martians have in common is a pulp sensibility. Dredd’s straight out of the hard seventies, Death Race 2000 and Dirty Harry, and the Martians are fresh from the fifties drive-ins, so underneath that layer of goofy there’s another layer of solid punch to the gut. It makes for a fun comic.
As a Welshman and a fan of the movie I have to ask…. will we be seeing a Tom Jones block?
Not in the script, I don’t think, but ask John and there may still be time! Although at this point in the process it will be exploding.
After pairing up the worlds of Judge Dredd and Mars Attacks if you were given free reign to mix in any other comic property with a 2000AD one, which combo would you go for?
Dredd versus Captain America might be fun – I actually have a very soft spot for Cap, although I prefer the old Cap who was essentially a hippie on a motorcycle and spent his free time drawing comics in some kind of bohemian squat situation. I really love the idea of a superhero with a phone hotline so you can just call him when you need help and he’ll turn up in his van and fight Blue Streak. Anyway, these days you probably don’t need to call Cap, he’ll be listening to your phone already…
(Now I think about it, Marvel’s newest and most perfectly pastiched Dredd-a-like is a possible future descendant of Luke Cage, so I might be able to have a quasi-crossover with Mighty Avengers. He could even join the team! Although I think that might be legally ‘a bit cheeky’.)
As well as Mars Attacks coming out this week, next week sees the return of Damnation Station to the prog. Can you give us an idea what to expect there?
Grim stuff, as always! We’re out of the cold war phase and into the hot war – over the years the strip’s been away, Earth’s been getting ready to invade the galaxy next door, and the only person who knows what’s waiting for them over there is Joe Nowhere. Book Two might as well be called ‘the rise and fall of Joe Nowhere’, really.
And as well as all THAT, you also have Mighty Avengers launching this week with Greg Land on art. How are you finding the transition to the world of capes and tights?
Fun! I like superheroes. I honestly think there’s something genuinely worthwhile about them beyond the popcorn and escapism, and it’ll be nice to try and define what that something is. I’ll need to take a break from all that relentless optimism to have a good old root around in the muck with Dredd every so often, mind you.
I’ve read Superior Spider-Man is part of the team and the stand alone of that character always jumps to the top of my read pile when it gets released. Is the Spidey/Doc Ock combo as much fun to write as I’d imagine?
Yes! He’s a massive tosser. It’s great.
Last from me. Do you have any other cool stuff in the works and what is the best way for people to keep up with what you’re working on?
I do have more cool stuff in the works, which will probably be announced soon, or soon-ish. The best way to keep an eye on what I’m doing is to follow me on Twitter at @Al_Ewing or on Tumblr at alewing.tumblr.com – my Twitter feed is mostly hype of one form or another these days, so it’s a good way to get new developments.
And an additional one from Marhoa – “My first Al Ewing story was Choose yr own Xmas, how did he put that together? And: please never leave 2000ad! :-)”
Well, I was up against it for the Xmas story – they’re pretty difficult to write, especially as I felt I had to top the last couple of years – and I had the vague idea of making it a Choose Your Own Adventure, but it didn’t have the hook to it until I realised, in the shower, that I could have the story read both as a CYOA and normally, and doing it that way would give me the entire plot, because the only way that could work is if Dredd didn’t know he was in a CYOA and was just progressing normally, but the perp was jumping around. So from both their points of view, it would seem like something bizarre was going on. And from there it pretty much wrote itself – the Megazine story that year was much harder to make work, and it probably showed.
And no, I’ll never voluntarily leave 2000AD. It’s the Galaxy’s Greatest, after all.
Thanks again to Al for taking the time to answer these and also to Marhoa for sending the additional question.
Preview pic in the Q&A taken from Comic Book Resources 7 page advance look which you can check out in full HERE. Thanks to Dan Hunter for the heads up on that one. One day to go!