Previously on Drokk!: Things aren’t looking good in Mega-City One; the Justice Department is starting to think that Dredd might be getting too old for the job, and that his clone, Kraken — who is probably getting over that brainwashing about killing everyone in MC1 by now, maybe — could possibly be the ideal replacement. Meanwhile, another 2000 AD strip, The Dead Man, has shown a future Dredd having taken the Long Walk, convinced that something very bad has happened to the city in his absence. Could these things be connected…? (Spoiler: Yes.)
0:00:00-0:02:18: With great speed, we introduce ourselves and also what we’re talking about this time around: Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files Vol. 14, which is pretty much all one story for once, with that story being “Necropolis,” AKA my favorite of all the “mega-epic” storylines. Also unusual: the entire case files this time is the work of John Wagner, in terms of writing, with Carlos Ezquerra handling by far the majority of the artwork.
0:02:19-0:16:57: Jeff isn’t as completely onboard with the book as I am, and we start to dig into why, especially because there’s so much that he does like. Is David Foster Wallace to blame? (The first of many literary references this episode.) We also talk about the ways in which this storyline is so unlike Dredd in its focus on continuity, and the way that might have influenced Jeff’s feelings towards it, and compliment the art of Carlos Ezquerra, and not for the last time this episode.
0:16:58-0:32:42: I ask whether or not Dredd’s personal evolution is a little sudden to be believable, given how quickly it seems to have occurred, leading to a discussion about Dredd’s personal assumption of guilt versus Kraken’s, and whether or not the story is also about the repeated failures of the Judges — and MC1 in general — as an institution, and the importance of looking outside of the system for solutions. (Which, in itself, is a pretty big change for Dredd as a person and Judge Dredd as a series.)
0:32:43-0:52:16: If “Necropolis” is an allegory — and, really, any argument that it isn’t feels doomed to failure, considering — then is that the reason Jeff finds the ending so overwhelming? Is there even an ending that Jeff would fully appreciate? It’s unclear, and he’s very concerned about being the Russian judge (in a sporting contest, not the Dredd sense) in seeming to score the effort too harshly, so we may never know. Meanwhile, I wonder about the epilogue stories to be found in Vol. 15, and whether those are the conclusion we miss in this book, and also complain about the time jump midway through this story. I also, as is my wont, suggest that the lack of closure on the idea of Kraken being Dredd’s shadow self isn’t as disappointing as it first appears, because Wagner will return to the idea many, many years later. Ain’t I a stinker?
0:52:17-0:55:02: While “Necropolis” isn’t a story about a virus outbreak — a surprisingly common theme in Dredd, as it turns out, if you think about “The Cursed Earth,” “Block Mania,” “Sin City,” and “Day of Chaos” to name but four examples — that doesn’t mean it’s not a story that’s occasionally uncomfortable to read in our current pandemic reality. We unpack that (very) briefly.
0:55:03-1:47:16: Having made it almost an hour without actually telling everyone what “Necropolis” is about, Jeff and I try to run through a plot synopsis of the storyline, something I foolishly think will be easy… only to continually distract ourselves with all kinds of other matters. Is there a James Ellroy reference to be found in Kraken’s plight? What is the connection between Kraken and Charlie Brown? How great is the return of Chief Judge McGruder, and what does she bring to this storyline and the strip as a whole? Just how important is empathy to this storyline and what and who Judge Dredd will become? How touched were we both about the fact that Dredd can finally forgive Kraken, after everything, and also put himself in Kraken’s oversized boots? And, perhaps most importantly of all, how does that whole “lawgivers will explode if someone else tries to fire them” thing work, anyway, given how this story plays out? Here’s the thing: We don’t really get to the end of the synopsis, entirely, but you can work it out if you’re paying attention. (Look, I said we got distracted.)
1:47:17-2:07:16: You can tell how well we work, given that I try and start us talking about things about the story that we like, and Jeff immediately brings up the suggested racism in the story. Perhaps that’s because it’s hard to pick specific favorite moments out of this extended narrative, though both of us try: Jeff goes for Kraken’s corruption dream and how headfucky things get for him in regards to Kraken’s deprogramming and reprogramming, while I get very excited about the slow oncoming dread of the first eleven chapters of “Necropolis” proper. Also! Are you surprised just how dark a story about a city overcome with dark forces actually gets? I was! And Jeff prefers “The Apocalypse War” to “Necropolis,” but everyone’s allowed to be wrong sometimes.
2:07:17-2:13:53: I’m in two minds about where to go next, so I literally ask Jeff — which leads to the decision that we’re covering Judge Dredd: The Restricted Files Vol. 2 next month — and then we start talking about the short term future of Dredd the strip as the Case Files move into the 1990s. I’m not excited, but Jeff remains optimistic that the Garth Ennis stories are better than everyone says they are.
2:13:54-end: Eventually, we wrap things up by telling you about the Tumblr, really-not-as-dead-as-it-seems Instagram, Twitter and Patreon accounts and wishing you all good health and smart choices in these trying times. As always, thank you for listening and reading along. Next month: We return to the Wagner/Grant era for stories from specials and annuals! So that’ll be a little bit brighter and less pessimistic, I hope.
These are the US unemployment claims in their historical context pic.twitter.com/NJAqPl9BVg
— How Things Work (@ThingsWork) April 3, 2020
0:01-1:04:41: Greetings! And right from the get-go, we’re off and running as Graeme poses a “hypothetical’ question involving, oh, I don’t know, a P.R. person for a major company in an industry that is facing systemwide disruption that threatens to be cataclysmic. And from there, we dive right into the P.R. release that came out from DC mere hours before we recorded, and from there try to track the rapidly changing status quo for the direct market that includes things like the only comics distributor in the marketplace shutting down, smaller publishers putting their publications on hold, Free Comic Book Day becoming Free Comic Book May becoming Free Comic Book Nothing For Now, and much more. Ready for nearly an hour of analysis, fretting, and “game theory”? (Don’t worry, at no point do we say that.)
1:04:41-1:13:28: Okay, and here is part two of the podcast, and we’re talking about what we’re reading: we start off by talking about the tremendousness that is the current run of The Immortal Hulk. I’m sure you’re not sleeping on this book, but if you are: don’t.
1:13:28-1:18:39: The final volume (28!) of S and M by Mio Murao was finally released on Comixology, and Jeff talks about the final volume, the reading challenges, and the friends we made along the way (and by “friends,” we mean “depraved sex acts that happen as dramatic beats in the midst of a thriller melodrama). It hung around too long, but Jeff would be lying if he said he didn’t appreciate it as its “height.”
1:18:39-1:24:41: Much easier to praise is the first volume of Blissful Land by Ichimon Izumi, a story about a 13 year old doctor’s apprentice in 18th century Tibet surprised with an arranged bride-to-be. Don’t let our digression about horny Dr. Strange stories distract you from a heartwarming, low-stakes manga.
1:24:41-1:32:28: Jeff also read the first three issues of Undiscovered Country, which turns into a jumping off point about reading comics that are perfectly fine that don’t get revisited under normal circumstances. Will that change now that circumstances are pretty god-damn far from normal? It’s a good segue to the things Graeme has been reading starting with the early issues of Legionnaires, featuring some early work by Chris Sprouse. Other relaxing “perfectly fine” old comics Graeme’s been reading on DC Universe and Marvel Unlimited and Jeff mentions being mid-readthrough of the trade of DC’s Wanted: The World’s Most Dangerous Super-Villains (currently available on Hoopla, and popping up weekly on DC Universe).
1:32:28-1:47:38: Jeff and Edi have been fighting the Covid Blues by watching more movies than usual and, hey, why not give you a quick rundown on those? Discussed: Contagion, Knives Out, Robocop, Avenue 5, Judge Dredd contagion comics, Robocop being a Judge Dredd film, and more.
1:47:38-2:01:36: In the least surprising turn of events ever, Graeme has been rereading Justice League: The Detroit Era. What may be surprising is the incredibly candid way Graeme “recommends” these issues. Also discussed: licensed comics not on the streaming services; licensed comics that *are* on the streaming services; Gerard Jones reprints; the After Truth documentary on HBO; the Danny Kaye Show; Breeders and Dev, both on Hulu; and more.
2:01:36-2:12:16: Graeme: “Are you also going nuts in this time of social distancing, Jeff?” Jeff: [gif of T-1000 melting] Good thing to come out of this conversation? A renewed desire to rewatch The Prisoner! (Streaming on Amazon Prime, apparently…)
2:12:16-2:18:37: In conclusion, we’re doing fine. However, Jeff mentions the sympathy (or, as he puts it, “pity and awe”) he has for Graeme who has to monitor the news for his job. Graeme talks a little bit about that, the process, and the wear and tear on his psyche.
2:18:37-end: 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: Another episode!
Previously on Drokk!: The Wagner/Grant era is over, and now things are in a very strange holding pattern as the strip tries to work out just what it’s going to be, and what things are going to be like, moving forward. We’ve already seen some hints — and, this episode, we get the biggest hint yet, and it’s not even in the Judge Dredd strip.
0:00:00-0:03:23: After a brief pre-credits public service for those in the U.S. with Amazon Prime — really, Future Shock is a fun film — we get things started by introducing the two books we’re covering in this episode: Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files Vol. 13 and The Dead Man, a non-Dredd strip that’s actually about Judge Dredd after all. You’ll see.
0:03:24-0:21:06: There’s no getting around it, and we don’t even try; Case Files Vol. 13 isn’t great. Jeff has some feelings about why that is, and they revolve around the idea that, now no longer a writing duo, John Wagner and Alan Grant are both suffering from the split. We talk about the difference between their styles, and also pick apart a couple of stories in particular where Grant — by far our least favorite of the two — feels like he’s dropping the ball on what we’re expecting from the strip at this point.
0:21:07-0:43:45: Wagner, meanwhile, has his share of misfires — we’ll get there very soon — but the strongest stories in this collection come from him, and we talk about a couple of them for a bit: “Banana City” and “In The Bath,” the latter of which might be the favorite story of both of us in this book. (For once, we didn’t actually talk about that during the episode.) We discuss Wagner’s strengths as comparative to Grant’s, before touching on some of the failures he offers up in this collection, including something to utterly devoid of a point that Jeff even came up with head canon as to why it exists. (We’re looking at you, “An Elm Street Nightmare.”)
0:43:46-1:05:15: Have you ever thought there were parallels between this era of Judge Dredd and the Star Wars prequels? I hadn’t, until Jeff makes a pretty convincing case on two different occasions, relating to two different stories in this collection — which were published a decade before Episode I reached theaters. Also under discussion: My love for the Cadet Kraken storyline, whether or not John Wagner is writing about the “nature versus nurture” argument and, if so, what side of the argument he’s on, and how “Young Giant” is really all about Judge Dredd and Judge Kraken, really. Oh, and “Letter to Judge Dredd,” a one-off that makes it clear that John Wagner is out to break the strip entirely.
1:05:16-1:15:02: For all that we didn’t love the book, we’re still willing to accept that there’s good stuff to be found, especially in its second half — even if Jeff and I don’t see eye-to-eye on the return of Italian stereotype Maria in the three-part “Cardboard City,” which Jeff compares unfavorably to the work of Robert Kanigher. Really, that’s just mean.
1:15:03-1:15:38: As we say goodbye to the volume, we ask whether it’s Drokk or Dross, and the answer isn’t particularly good, sadly. (It’s also not surprising, considering that we’d just talked shit about the book for an hour.)
1:15:39-1:26:20: Things improve considerably as we turn to The Dead Man, which both of us adored. It’s a Dredd strip in secret, and we talk about the ways in which it succeeds even beyond the last-minute-reveal: How much we love Wagner’s writing (under a pseudonym) and John Ridgeway’s atmospheric artwork, and the ways in which it isn’t a Dredd strip, even though it really is.
1:26:21-1:41:59: The strange thing about The Dead Man is that Wagner is telling the end of a character arc at exactly the same time as he’s telling the start of it, and we talk about what that means, as well as the ways in which this is the kind of formal trickery that can only be done in a comic like 2000 AD, for numerous reasons. Also discussed: Whether Dredd, once reborn, is an arrogant asshole and whether Yassa ends up paying the price for Dredd’s sins in a way that intentionally underscores Dredd’s responsibility.
1:42:00-1:53:47: I revisit the experience of reading The Dead Man in 2000 AD as a kid, and how the surprise felt at the time — unlike Jeff, I really did go into it cold — while also sharing a spoiler for Zenith: Phase III that I… maybe should have given a spoiler warning out for, even though it came out 30 years ago…?
1:53:48-1:57:15: Drokk or Dross, once again, and it’s a lot more favorable than Case Files Vol. 13, thankfully.
1:57:16-2:09:12: For once, Jeff actually read ahead of what we’re talking about, and we talk about just why that is, and then talk about what does lie ahead, and how it connects up the various threads that Wagner has been stringing along for a couple of Case Files volumes by this point, and also pretty much destroys Mega-City One even though we as readers today know that the strip continues for another three decades after that point. Cognitive dissonance, ahoy…!
2:09:13-end: And so we return to the end of things, as we talk about the Tumblr, Instagram and Twitter of things, not to mention the Patreon; we also touch for the briefest of seconds on how strange things are in the world right now, because — well, have you seen the news? Still, things really could be worse, which is kind of what next month’s episode is going to be all about…
Previously on Drokk!: The mega-epic “Oz” changed Judge Dredd forever by bringing about an end to the John Wagner/Alan Grant writing partnership on the strip, and setting up a brave new world where Dredd really dislikes a guy called Jug Mackenzie. I mean, that last bit at least feels very realistic.
0:00:00-0:02:16: After what might be the best cold open any episode of Drokk! has seen or will ever see — I’m not going to explain the context, for fear of ruining it — we quickly introduce ourselves and the fact that we’re talking about Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files Vol. 12, which features material from 2000 AD progs 571-618, from 1988 and 1989.
0:02:17-0:25:07: It’s a strange volume, and that makes for a strange episode, to be honest; we start by talking about the ways in which the stories in this episode aren’t what we might have expected, judging by the evolution of the strip, which includes Jeff calling this volume Will Elder instead of Will Eisner; I bring up what I see as John Wagner’s new direction for the series, debuting in this volume — with Dredd getting older and starting to have doubts in himself, if not the entire system — and we get to talking about whether or not that feels out of character, before talking about the difference between John Wagner’s stories and Alan Grant’s stories, as seen here.
0:25:08-0:31:19: Is there a theme of writing about mental illness in this volume? We talk about the possibility, as well as couching the discussion in the fact that it would be mental illness as viewed through the same lens as the way the strip at this point deals with race — which is to say, very clumsily and embarrassingly indeed.
0:31:20-0:43:09: Returning to the subject of the disappointment of the volume as a whole — Jeff describes it as “an exercise in delayed gratification,” which is fitting — there’s a suggestion that one running theme is that of chaos, which shows itself both in the narratives themselves and the ways in which Wagner and Grant structure the series. We talk about their individual approaches to writing, and suggest that Wagner is the more ambitious, and darker, writer at least on the evidence of this volume, and touch on the evolution that is demonstrated in this mostly stationary book.
0:43:10-1:06:42: Are Wagner and Grant writing Dredd differently because they see their own longterm prospects as writers differently? We start going into more details about individual stories — “The Sage,” which has amazing Glenn Fabry artwork, as well as “Bat-Mugger” — before distracting ourselves again, as is our wont, with bigger picture stuff, like whether or not there are intentional echoes of earlier material as evolution or simply retreads of greatest hits? Jeff also has a good point about the realistic pace of Dredd’s evolution as a character.
1:06:43-1:18:37: I really like “Bloodline” as a story in this volume, but Jeff’s not convinced, which leads to a discussion about the strip’s attitude towards cloning, Jeff’s attitude towards cloning as a narrative element, Dredd’s complicity in his own commodification, and Dredd’s attitude towards Mega-City One as a whole, and whether or not it’s actually genetic. (It’s a far better story than Jeff’s thinks, I promise.)
1:18:38-1:38:41: What are our top 3 stories in the volume? We each list our choices — “Hitman,” “Bloodline” and either “Full Mental Jacket” or “Twister” for me, while Jeff goes for “Hitman,” the “Night at the Circus” and “Night at the Opera” twofer, and “Crazy Barry, Little Mo” — before talking about “Hitman” some more, especially how much we both love to see Dredd in hospital and how great Jim Baikie’s art is, and then asking whether or not “Crazy Barry, Little Mo” is intended as a sign of just how bad things are in Mega-City One and whether they’re about to get worse. Also discussed: Just how much we dislike the “Coming Soon” teases that have snuck into the strip during this era.
1:38:42-1:53:21: Where does this volume fall in the grand scheme of Dredd to date? Jeff’s not too impressed, and if I’m more kind, it might be because I know what’s lying in wait in the upcoming volumes. We pivot from there to talk about the art in these stories and the European influence on show (to various degrees of obviousness, depending on the individual artists; I see you, Liam Sharp), as well as what Jeff is expecting — or, at least, hoping for — from future volumes, which includes at least one kind of spoiler of what’s to come in the very short term (like, two episodes from now).
1:53:22-end: Before we get there, though, we have to wrap things up with the traditional mentions of our Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram and Patreon, and tell you all that we’ll be back in a month for Complete Case Files Vol. 13. Until then, as always, thank you for reading and listening along.
0:01-17:30: Greetings from Graeme “Horribly Sick” McMillan and Jeff “Mildly Sick” Lester! We are both under the weather, and we apologize in advance if this episode has a few more woozy patches in it than usual. We compare notes about how shitty we’re feeling and why—turns out we’re more sympatico than we thought. Hypochondriacs are invited to skip over this section and our discussion of our ills.
17:30-28:20: Jeff gets a reprieve because Graeme hasn’t been tracking his reading lately—“your savage victory has been postponed for a week or two,” is how he puts it—but he’s still interested to see/hear that list. “Is there sickly news to match our sickly demeanor?” asks Jeff instead. We discuss the announcement of Marvel’s Empyre event, written by Al Ewing and Dan Slott and Valero Schiti. Spinning out from that we talk about Al Ewing’s great cosmic stuff being undone (Galactus Lifebringer), his first issue of Guardians of the Galaxy which Graeme read and enjoyed a lot, and more.
28:20-34:19: One of Jeff’s favorite topics, Marvel Unlimited and what’s being uploaded there, gets brought up in the course of talking about Al’s GotG. In particular: the last couple of weeks have seen very few (and in some cases no) uploads of older books. As MU starts trying to keep up with Marvel’s 100-titles-a-month output, will this be happening more and more? Also discussed: DC Universe’s more measured approach to its weekly upload; and more.
34:19-50:49: Graeme doesn’t have any more Marvel surprises for Jeff, but he is surprised he’s enjoying Bendis’s “Superman outs himself” storyline in Superman as much as he does, and we talk about why. Is this a chance for Jeff to swoop in and complain about Bendis’s plotting? You betcha! But they also talk about what’s good about Bendis, compare him to another wildly successful writer with an arguably equally lackadaisical approach to ending stories, why Bendis might be a better DC writer than a Marvel writer, the need to get a big story going to justify an investment, and more.
50:49-1:00:26: Graeme has read in collection the first twelve issues of The Green Lantern by Grant Morrison and Liam Sharp, and it is literally his third time through! What has he realized this third time through? “You realize the comics are interesting, and then they go up their own ass *dramatically. It’s not me!” Discussed: how the series was pitched in promotion and whether that’s a feint, a fail, or a swerve; and more.
1:00:26-1:09:06: Speaking of things one should love but do not—Jeff read Venom: The End written by one of his faves, Adam Warren, and drawn by Chamba, with the symbiote becoming the last hope for biolife in the universe. It’s a oneshot that sprawls across all space and time but feels curiously behind the times in a post Powers of X comics landscape. Why does it let Jeff down? And why doesn’t Graeme care? The answers may (but, let’s face it, probably won’t) surprise you! Also discussed: Miles Morales: The End, the secret ingredient that makes “The End” books so zesty, and more.
1:09:06-1:18:24: Jeff might be tapped out, but Graeme has a bunch of stuff he’s read that he wants to talk about. First, he had a chance to read a digital arc of David Roach’s Masters of British Comic Art, which Graeme thought would be profiles of British comic artists, but is in fact a complete history of Brtiish comics featuring hundreds of pages of samples and examples. “It’s fucking amazing,” is Graeme’s summation. Another book recently read and loved by Graeme is Kerry and the Knight of the Forest by the amazingly talented Andi Watson; and Noisemakers: 25 Women Who Raised Their Voices & Changed the World – A Graphic Collection from Kazoo Magazine featuring a powerhouse lineup of cartoonists.
1:18:24-1:22:11: On the less successful side of things? The first volume of Faithless by Brian Azzarello and Maria Llovet, where impressive art by Llovet cannot save the story from Azzarello’s Azzarello-ness. Much more successful is The Runaway Princess by Johan Troïanowski, featuring a great joke/storytelling trick along with terrific art and a ton of charm.
1:22:11-1:38:47: Jeff’s turn! From Hoopla, Jeff’s read Red Sonja, Vol. 1: Scorched Earth by Mark Russell, Mirko Colak, and others, wherein the she-devil with a sword becomes a queen with an impossible war to win; from Amazon, via the powers of pre-ordering high, the surprise arrival of Gambling Apocalypse: Kaiji by Nobuyuki Fukumoto; and on Comixology, two volumes of Ex-Enthusiasts: MotoKare Mania by Yukari Takinami.
1:38:47-1:54:31: “What do you think of The Boys news,” Graeme asks Jeff, and then sensibly follows up with, “Do you know The Boys’ news?” Jeff does, but doesn’t necessarily know what to think or how to feel about it. Also discussed: Russ Braun; later era Garth Ennis; SARA by Ennis and Steve Epting; Goodnight Paradise by Joshua Dysart and Alberto Ponticelli; and much more.
1:54:31-2:09:20: File this under conversational gambits that don’t work: “Hey, Graeme, Bloodshot the movie trailer with Vin Diesel!” But it does lead to us grumpily shit-talking Morbius and Jared Leto; The Joker being nominated for all the Oscars; we take the “two sick people try to cast DC supervillains even as they audibly lose their desire to live” challenge; and more.
2:09:20-2:27:27: Graeme sends us the warning! The two episodes of DC Daily wherein people pitch their DC-based reality show to DC execs have gone live on DC Universe. We will discuss it next episode, so go check it out. (Jeff certainly will!)
2:27:27-end: 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 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: Skip week ,wherein your two hosts will hopefully take some time to recuperate! We’ll see you right around February 9th.