“He is still an unbending instrument of the law” 2000AD script droid Matt Smith discusses Dredd’s early days in IDW Publishing’s Judge Dredd: Year One

JUDGE_DREDD_YEARONE_01_CovSUBIt’s been a fantastic week for all things Dredd. Not only have we seen a whole collection of classic titles released for Kindle and Nook, but last week IDW Publishing launched the brilliant Judge Dredd: Year One, (read our review of it here). We wanted to find out more about how this awesome prequel came about and so who better to ask about it than long time Tharg lackey and Year One script droid Matt Smith, who shared some of Dredd’s most revealing early secrets before being carted off to an Iso Cube.

What have been the particular challenges of creating Year One? Were there any parts of the Dredd back story that were restrictive and have you tweaked any of them to help make things more logical?

MS: The main challenge is always writing Dredd himself, getting the voice right. He’s notoriously difficult to get the balance right for – not too much of a bastard that he becomes one-note, not too chummy otherwise you move away from the character. As ever, the shadow of John Wagner – who manages that balance effortlessly – hangs over your shoulder as you write it. And Dredd being an eighteen year old – as he is in Year One – is not that much different than he is as forty year old: still an unbending instrument of the law, still the stickler. But you try to add some character wrinkles, give him a sense of who he was straight out of the Academy.

No back stories have been tweaked, I’ve fitted it in with established continuity.

How do you keep track of a 30+ year history and make sure you don’t introduce any anomalies? 

MS:  By writing a story that doesn’t immerse itself in continuity. Events such as the Atomic War get mentioned, or the use of established characters such as Chief Judge Goodman, but for the most part this Year One story is about Dredd, rather than a history lesson about Mega-City One.

How will Judge Dredd: Year One tie into the existing continuity? Is there a 2000AD continuity and an IDW continuity or is it all combined?

MS: They’re pretty much the same, though maybe the best way to look at them is two timelines running parallel to each other. IDW’s Dredd stories are set in 2100, so thirty-five years earlier than the ones being published in 2000AD. That makes for a slightly younger Dredd, as well as giving them the opportunity to deal with story elements such as the Dark Judges, which have already happened in 2000AD.

I’ve tried to make Year One consistent with what we know about MC-1 in 2080.

Has the success of the recent movie helped Dredd’s popularity and has that affected how you approach new titles like this?

MS: Yes, there’s been a big surge in interest in Dredd and in Dredd titles off the back of the movie, so hopefully elements that people like about the film – the relentlessness, the viscerality – will be apparent in the comics, and I’ve been conscious when writing Year One of giving the readers fast-moving action scenes.

With any kind of prequel there is always a temptation to foreshadow the future and include sneaky references to future events or characters, are you going to be doing that with Judge Dredd: Year One?

MS: Yes, there’s one sneaky reference in issue 2, which is fairly oblique, but those who’ve read a fair bit of Dredd should pick up.

Have you created any new characters for Judge Dredd: Year One or have you dusted off any long forgotten characters to slot into the timeline? And will any of them being appearing in the current continuity?

MS: The only other established character who makes an appearance is the aforementioned Goodman. Dredd’s clone brother Rico makes a very brief appearance in issue 4. As for the new characters, do any of them survive? You’ll have to wait and see.