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Judge Dredd deserves another Sylvester Stallone-less movie

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The legendary British sci-fi comic magazine 2000 AD has fostered such talents as Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, and Grant Morrison. It’s an impressive history that David Bishop and Karl Stock chronicle in their newly-updated book Thrill-Power Overload.

“Almost any British comics creator of the last 40 years has at some point in their career worked at 2000 AD,” Bishop says in Episode 267 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “And most of them got their start at 2000 AD, or it was one of the first or second jobs they had.”

The best-known character to emerge from the magazine is Judge Dredd, a fascist dystopian antihero. Unfortunately in America the character is best known from the execrable 1995 Sylvester Stallone vehicle Judge Dredd, which turned the character into something of a punch line.

“It would be like if Batman & Robin was the first Batman film to come out, with the nipples and the AmEx card,” Bishop says. “If that had been the first Batman movie, I think we wouldn’t be watching Batman movies.”

Dredd got another chance in 2012 with the release of Dredd, written by Alex Garland and starring Karl Urban. Garland and Urban are both longtime fans of the comic, and together they produced a smart, engaging action movie that treats the material with respect. “It’s just a great film,” Bishop says. “It absolutely captures the essence of Dredd.”

Unfortunately Dredd underperformed in North America, a fact Bishop attributes to poor marketing and the unfortunate legacy of the earlier film. Dredd fans have been clamouring for a sequel, but at the moment the best hope for more Dredd seems to be a recently announced TV project, one that will hopefully involve Urban.

“I have no direct knowledge of this,” Bishop says, “but I would be very surprised if they’re not having conversations with Karl Urban to get him to come back and make cameo appearances in the TV show when it finally comes to pass.”

Listen to the complete interview with David Bishop in Episode 267 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy, and check out some highlights from the discussion below.

David Bishop on the influence of 2000 AD :

“On the DVD or Blu-ray special features, they actually show you one of the early designs for RoboCop, and it’s the spitting image of Judge Dredd, it really is, and some of the RoboCop dialogue could be lifted straight out of Dredd’s mouth. … And you see it in other places. I remember in the ’90s I would go into videogame development studios. I went into Sony, and they were taking me on a tour around the office to talk about the potential of adapting 2000 AD strips into games, and I sort of wandered into the wrong room, and the entire room was plastered with Rogue Trooper images—Rogue Trooper is a future soldier character from 2000 AD—and I went, ‘Oh, I didn’t know you had the rights to Rogue Trooper,’ and they went, ‘Um, we don’t.’ So I’m like, ‘Oh, it’s like that, is it?’”

David Bishop on the 1995 Judge Dredd movie:

“This was going to be the boost that would push Judge Dredd’s sales right back up and make it a huge hit. [Judge Dredd writer] Alan Grant was forever telling us about the effect of the first Tim Burton Batman movie in 1989—’the summer of the Bat’—and how Batman monthly sales went from 40,000 to 600,000 overnight and stayed there. And with 2000 AD, the Judge Dredd film with Sylvester Stallone came out and sales went up 20,000 copies for, I think, three weeks. And within a month the sales were actually below where they were before the Stallone film came out. It actually had a negative impact on sales. The cover always used to say ‘2000 AD featuring Judge Dredd,’ but we ended up taking his name off the cover, because it was kind of box office poison for a while.”

David Bishop on Thrill-Power Overload:

“It really is a completely unfiltered history of 2000 AD, so there’s strong language at times, I think it would be fair to say. It doesn’t pull any punches. There are moments in the story where I would have five different people who had five different memories of a particular moment or incident, and five different explanations for why something happened. And in the end there was no single right version of the history, so when necessary I would just put ‘Pat Mills says this, John Wagner says this, John Sanders—who was the managing editor—he says this, Kevin O’Neill—who was the art editor—he says this, you decide what you think is the correct version of this history.’ Because there is no one version of history, of course, everybody has their own memory, their own interpretation. So it was an attempt to try to synthesise that into a narrative that presents, as much as it ever can be, the true history of 2000 AD.”

Want to hear more? Listen to the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast.

This story originally appeared on WIRED.com


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