Previously on Drokk!: Mega-City One has been invaded by Dune Sharks — something that seemed a little out of the blue in the last volume of the Case Files, but will have big repercussions this time out. Meanwhile, John Wagner has settled firmly back into being lead writer on 2000 AD’s Dredd, but the Magazine’s revolving line-up of writers is continuing to struggle in finding the right tone…
0:00:00-0:02:31: This time out, we’re talking about Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files Vol. 26, which covers material from 1997 — namely, 2000 AD Progs 1029-1052, and Judge Dredd Magazine Vol. 3 #s 19 through 33. As we say right from the start, it’s another uneven volume, but that’s not necessarily as bad as it sounds, as we get to soon enough…
0:02:32-0:48:08: Almost immediately, we start talking about the extended storyline that takes up the majority of the 2000 AD episodes, in which Dredd, Demarco and a bunch of cadets go hunting for the origins of the Dune Sharks from the last volume; it’s a storyline that changes the way I look at Dredd as an extended comic strip, and maybe not in a manner that’s necessarily logical; Jeff doesn’t quite agree with my viewpoint, and we talk about that, as well as about the extended storyline as a whole, and what it owes to previous Dredd stories — in particular, “The Judge Child Quest,” “The Cursed Earth,” and “Wilderlands.” (Another unexpected echo that we discuss briefly? 1960s Star Trek.)
We also talk about the ways in which this extended story fails, whether it’s in the unexpected plot hole lampshades seemingly needlessly by a revelation in the story’s climactic arc — one that makes things “practically Chris Claremont-esque,” according to Jeff — or the meandering nature of each individual serial inside the larger story… something not exactly helped by some unfortunate art choices. (Who knew nuclear apocalypse could be so underwhelming?) As we talk about art, I explain my love of Henry Flint, which is likely going to be a recurring theme now that he’s shown up as a semi-regular on the strip. All this and Jeff’s food analogy for reading this book!
0:48:09-1:11:35: It’s not all hunting after Dune Sharks, though; there are a handful of other 2000 AD stories in this volume, and we go through them quickly: “Mad City” is a trifle, but distinguished by a strange Chris Evans (no, not the Marvel actor, this one) connection and some lovely art from Greg Staples, whom we both enjoy; “The Big Hit” is Mark Millar, and therefore terrible; “Lonesome Dave” manages to transcend the pun at the heart of the title thanks to some great John Burns art; and “He Came From Outer Space” has a great opener but otherwise disappoints. We also talk about the value of Dredd that’s just fine (Wagner’s “phoning it is… better than when some of the new guys are trying to bust their ass,” as Jeff puts it), as well as the effect that every episode of Drokk! has on me — and why Jeff should start reading the Case Files a little earlier each month.
1:11:36-1:22:15: If 2000 AD’s Dredd is in reasonably strong shape, the same can’t really be said for the Magazine; as we rush through the majority of the stories there, we sound admittedly pretty dismissive, but I’d argue that we’re being entirely fair. Could the problem be the Meg itself, we ask?
1:22:16-1:52:10: Understandably, we spend a lot of time talking about “Fetish,” the second-longest arc in the book, and the major contribution from the Magazine, as John Smith and Siku team up to create something that’s part-impressive, and part-racist mess. Despite the problems with Siku’s atmospheric-but-lacking-clarity paintings and John Smith’s lyrical-but-“Simba-City”-what-the-fuck-is-that writing — if you think that’s bad, wait until you hear us discuss the closing caption — there are things to appreciate in this near-Mega-epic, not least of which the appearance of Devlin Waugh, who steals the show despite not actually accomplishing anything on a plot level. It’s Jeff’s introduction to the character, and we talk about that briefly, as well as a short discussion about double page spreads and whether or not the (many!) in this storyline are successful.
1:52:11-end: It’s time for that question again: Drokk or Dross? We both plump for the former, and choose our favorite stories — Jeff goes for “Fetish,” and I kind of hedge my bets between “Lonesome Dave,” “Dance of the Spider Queen,” and “Trail of the Man-Eaters,” but what do you expect from someone who was also convinced we’d been recording for 30 minutes or so longer than we actually had? (In my defense, there were technical issues that threw me off.) While talking about our least favorite stories, we also ask a question that I think had been circling all episode: Is 1990s Judge Dredd the most racist yet, and if so, why?
After that, it’s time to wrap things up, look ahead to the next episode, and tell everyone about our Twitter, Instragram — even though I got the URL wrong; it’s waitwhatpod, not waitwhatpodcast — and Patreon. As always, thank you for listening and reading!
Previously on Drokk!: John Wagner seems to have returned to greatness, judging by the first half of “The Pit,” a massive storyline that places Dredd in charge of the worst Sector House in Mega-City One, pushing him — and the Dredd strip as a whole — into new areas.
0:00:00-0:01:55: It’s time for a relatively speedy introduction, in which we inform you that we’re covering Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files Vol. 25 this time around, featuring a lot of 2000 AD and a tiny bit of Judge Dredd Magazine material from 1996 and 1997. It’s… a mixed bag, as we make a point of saying.
0:01:56-0:20:51: Part of the reason that it’s such an uneven volume is the fact that the Megazine material — which is only four stories — is quite so bad. In particular, we go after Marc Wignore’s work, especially the story “One Breath,” which leads us onto a discussion of what kind of 1990s influence is at play in such a narrative disaster. This takes us into a discussion of the artwork we didn’t like in the book — including Jason Brashill, Paul Peart, and Tom Carney’s chin-phobic turn in 2000 AD. Also under discussion: “Control,” and why why neither of us believe that Judge Dredd would stand by, frustrated, in the circumstances that story places him in.
0:20:52-0:32:58: Turning our attention to the 2000 AD material, Jeff confesses which story is “repellent” to him — yes, he uses that word, and yes, he explains why — before we talk about just how great the final half of “The Pit” is, and explain the reason we’re talking about stories from this volume out of order. (Short version: It starts well and then trails off, and we didn’t want to have an episode that ended on such a downer.) That said, at least there’s “The Pack,” which features something Jeff is scared off, and something else that I love. (Spoilers: It’s Henry Flint’s artwork.)
0:32:59-0:48:44: We disagree strongly about “Darkside,” the 2000 AD storyline from John Smith; I’m unconvinced by what I see as an extended exercise in nostalgia and a lot of near-Morrisonian cliches, but Jeff has a grand theory as to why those flaws are sidestepped to create a meta-commentary on the state of fandom and popular culture that is a quarter century ahead of its time. (I remain unconvinced, I admit.) The rare schism when it comes to Dredd!
0:48:45-1:09:16: We double back to a couple of our favorite stories from this volume: “The Pack,” where the lure of flying sharks that eat people and cause shit proves to be irresistible, and “The Pit,” where Wagner seems to be pushing Dredd as a character and as a strip, in interesting directions. Those directions, and what they ultimately become in the future of the strip, are discussed — get ready for the comparison between Wolverine and “Judge Dad” — as is the fact that what feels like an evolutionary step comes to a sudden halt, only to be replaced by a series of episodes that feel almost retrogressive in comparison. Whatever happened to the Judge of Tomorrow?
1:09:17-1:23:24: “Dead Reckoning,” the serial that immediately follows “The Pit,” is a rare misfire for John Wagner in this era. A large part of that, if you’re Jeff and I, is that it’s a story that centers around Judge Death, who is a particularly dull villain that has arguably run out of steam, especially in this era. Jeff is similarly unimpressed with “Death of a Legend,” the one-off that closes out the McGruder storyline once and for all, but I’m more of a fan — in part, as Jeff puts it, because I’m far more sentimental about these kinds of things because I’m Scottish. (Look, he’s not wrong, he even calls me out correctly for loving the many John Lewis Christmas ads!) One of the reasons Jeff doesn’t feel as favorably about it is that he’s less convinced that McGruder is a fully-formed character, making emotional connection and sentiment particularly unearned. He might not be wrong, to be honest.
1:23:25-1:37:29: As we near the end of the episode, it’s time for that very special question: Drokk or Dross? We both come down on the side of Drokk, and have the same choices for our favorite stories in the collection: “The Pit” — and, really, the “Unjudicial Liasons” episodes therein — for our favorite Wagner-written, “The Pack” as a runner-up, and “Darkside” for the best non-Wagner story. Yes, even though I wasn’t really a fan; it’s still better than all of the Magazine material.
1:37:30-end: We wrap things up by briefly looking ahead to the next volume — more air sharks! — and offering the traditional mentions of Instagram, Twitter, and Patreon. As always, thank you for listening and reading; we, and Mega-City One, appreciate it greatly.
First and foremost: RIP, John Paul Leon. Graeme and I recorded this episode before learning of his passing, but I edited after. By every account, he was a great person, but he was also an extraordinary talent that worked on the high watermarks of his generation, a brilliant and tremendous artist. And now he’s also gone far too soon. Again, Rest in Peace and in Power.
Previously on Drokk!: If there’s one thing that we’ve learned in the last couple of episodes of Drokk!, it’s that the 1990s was a strange time for Judge Dredd as a strip, but that things seemed to be on the upswing the more involved co-creator John Wagner got. If we learned two things, it’s that Wagner had a strange fascination with Bill Clinton, but go and listen to last month’s episode for more on that.
0:00:00-0:02:41: We’re going back literally 25 years for this month’s episode, with Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files Vol. 24 offering material from a lot of different people dating back to 1995 and 1996 — and offering two different ways in which John Wagner tries to break the formula of the strip in particularly entertaining ways. (Also, the audio on my side is a bit odd this episode, but we’re coming from Verity Lambert Block, in case it’s not too clear.)
0:02:42-0:14:04: As is our tradition, we start off by talking about things that we didn’t particularly like about the volume, as we discuss whether or not the sheer competency of the material on display here — even the weaker stories — make this a surprisingly dull book, with the Judge Dredd Magazine strips in particular feeling disappointing. Is it just me? Jeff seems to like them well enough, after all, although that might be because he’s high when he’s reading…
0:14:05-0:22:27: Earlier than intended, we just naturally fall into talking about “The Pit,” the longest of the stories in this book, and a sneaky soft reboot of the strip, to boot. What TV show is Wagner referencing, if at all? How does it underscore the strangeness at the heart of Dredd as a character? And, really, isn’t it great? (The answer to that last bit, at least, is “yes.”)
0:22:28-0:31:01: With Wagner offering up such strong work in “The Pit,” does that negatively impact everything around it? We talk about the possibility that the other stories aren’t necessarily bad, but simply pale in comparison to what Wagner’s doing. That doesn’t excuse Pat Mills’ contribution to the volume, which seems confusing on the very face of it — sure, “Hammerstein” has a Judge Dredd logo on it, but it’s most definitely not a Judge Dredd story. (Fans of the ABC Warriors, though, might be happy enough to see it.)
0:31:02-0:46:21: We barrel through stories, touching on “The Cal Files,” Wagner’s other significant contribution — and a really good storyline we could have spent more time on — as well as Mark Millar and Steve Yeowell’s beautifully-illustrated-but-trash-really “The Man Who Broke The Law,” the idea of a story being good for a particular creator but otherwise objectively shitty, and what Dan Abnett gets right in his sole contribution to the book that others fail at. Spoilers: it’s not just that he’s telling a Will Eisner Spirit story, despite my obsession with that strip as a model for good Dredd.
0:46:22-0:58:50: We head back into “The Pit” to talk about the way in which it is that rare thing: A Dredd strip that decentralizes Dredd and offers other characters the chance to have lives and relationships that don’t revolve entirely around ol’ stoney face. It is, as Jeff describes it, a serial that is full of “police drama-ness,” which feels surprisingly novel for a comic strip almost two decades into its existence that, in theory, is all about a policeman. Which leads us to talk about…
0:58:51-1:15:26: …the idea that John Wagner uses his two primary stories here to find new things to say about policing, as seen through the prism of Mega-City One, and what it means that Wagner continues to try and evolve the strip even as other writers are still trying to grapple with a formula he established years ago. Also discussed: Is Wagner like Jack Kirby, and if so, in what ways? Is “The Cal Files” the beginning of a reappraisal of an idea seemingly abandoned after “Mechanismo”? Was there a rethink at 2000 AD editorial about the different purposes of 2000 AD and the Magazine, in terms of what each individual series brings to the table that is Dredd?
1:15:27-1:30:17: We back into the “Drokk or Dross question,” as I put it, by talking about whether or not the Magazine material really is worse than the 2000 AD material this time around, and offering up potential reasons why that might be so. (Both of us think it’s Drokk, by the way.) We also talk about the art in this volume, with me calling out both Steve Yeowell and Simon Davis, and offer up our favorite non-John Wagner stories here, before going on to praise Wagner to the heavens for “The Pit” especially, because (for me) it offers something new to Dredd as a series, and (for Jeff) it sees Wagner really approach things from a police procedural point of view, albeit in a skewed manner.
1:30:18-1:39:04: We’re not done, though; Jeff explores his love for the story “Mondo Simp” some more, and we discuss queer coding, and our differing reactions to where this story falls in the John Smith canon. There’s also a Mark Millar podcast idea that Jeff invents that has a name that really shouldn’t be ignored, and I hope someone picks it up and uses it as soon as possible. (And then invites Jeff on to share his feelings on the matter.)
1:39:05-end: We close things down by reaffirming that we love “The Pit,” looking ahead to the next volume, and sharing the traditional mentions of our Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter and Patreon accounts, while also teasing a Geoff Johns discussion in the next Wait, What? that may never happen. This is why you tune in, Whatnauts, and we’re so very glad that you do.
— chris ☔ (@cripuskas) January 24, 2021
i know people hate cgi but christ godzilla vs kong is the movie we invented cgi for
— a pussy licking demon with vanilla flavoured semen (@MECHNOIR) March 31, 2021