INTERVIEW: talking with the dead with John Reppion, Leah Moore & Jimmy Broxton
The creative trio behind Storm Warning: Over My Dead Body discuss the new Judge Dredd Megazine series featuring Brit-Cit Psi Judge Lillian Storm
2 days ago
Welcome to Brit-Cit, where the Justice Department has its very own Psi-Division. One of these Brit-Cit Psi-Judges is Lillian Storm, cursed/blessed with powerful psychic abilities, including being able to talk to the dead.
It tends to make her just a little bit grouchy.
Created by Leah Moore and John Reppion, Storm Warning first appeared in 'The Relic' in Judge Dredd Megazine #361-#366, with artist Tom Foster.
Lillian Storm has now returned with a new adventure beginning in the massive milestone Megazine #400, which is out now.
You can catch up with the first series of Storm Warning in the Brit-Cit Noir collection, available from the 2000 AD shop and Richard Bruton chatted with Leah and John, along with artist Jimmy Broxton, who joins the Moore/Reppion team for this new adventure.
With a new Storm Warning beginning in the Megazine, what can you tell us about the return of Psi-Judge Lillian Storm?
John Reppion: The story is a four-parter called 'Over My Dead Body'. It sees Judge Storm back on her own turf in Brit Cit proper, and in the middle of a little bit of time off in fact. Of course, she’s never really alone… not with her entourage of ghostly orphans to keep her company.
By necessity, the first story, 'The Relic', dropped us into Lillian Storm’s story, as a somewhat grouchy Brit-Cit Psi-Judge on a mission to recover an ancient mystical object. Will this new tale flesh out more of Storm’s origin and background?
JR: Well, we filled in the basics of how she got her powers at the start of 'The Relic' (via the magic of flash back), so we’re hoping that readers have an understanding of her abilities already. If not, they’ll soon pick it up. 'Over My Dead Body' throws up a few more ideas about the practicalities and potential inconveniences which someone who can see and talk to the dead might encounter. Sometimes, day to day, you might prefer not to, you know?
With Storm Warning being set in Brit-Cit, it opens things up, story-wise, in ways a Mega-City One tale doesn’t necessarily allow you. So, is it an attraction of Storm Warning and Brit-Cit that it gives you a little more leeway with storylines?
Leah Moore: Definitely. I think when you are working on characters and in worlds that were created the same time you were born, it’s impossible not to feel a little adrift in the vastness of the continuity. By working in Brit-Cit, we get to play with all the fun Judge stuff, but bring a bit of a weird old England to it. It’s fun to see Storm interacting with a spirit world that is centuries old, and using her Psi powers to solve those mysteries as a judge.
In the first Storm Warning story, 'The Relic', we definitely saw things cropping up with a Lovecraftian horror feel, something both of you are very familiar with. And it seems to me that Brit-Cit, given it’s reputation as the occult centre of the world of Dredd, is a perfect vehicle for these sorts of tales. Is it something we’ll be seeing more of in this new Storm Warning?
JR: If I use the words “Folk Horror” someone is going to sigh and roll their eyes, but the horror and supernatural in Over My Dead Body is a bit more down to earth. It’s about the very British versions of ghostliness and haunting we sometimes take for granted. The weird history buried beneath our paving slabs; the phantoms who tread and re-tread the seemingly silent corridors of our institutions, our schools, and our workplaces day after day after day.
One important change this time round is the artistic contribution of the great Jimmy Broxton, replacing series co-creator Tom Foster. The last time we spoke on the 2000 AD blog you mentioned this new Storm Warning was in preparation with Tom.
JR: The story we mentioned and which we wrote for Tom is actually following on immediately after this one. That’s called 'Green and Pleasant Land'.
How do you think Jimmy’s art has kept the incredible look that Tom brought to that first series, and what does it add?
JR: It’s a bit of a rare treat to see a character you’ve created drawn by a different artist – to see the subtle (or not so subtle) changes they make to the original and their world. Tom did a fantastic job of creating Judge Storm and expressing her (not exactly friendly) personality, but it’s also great to see how Jimmy has interpreted the character. No one who enjoyed 'The Relic' is going to be disappointed, trust me.
Jimmy, your last work for 2000 AD was Hope with Guy Adams, where you were working with a combination of tight noir realism and fantastical magical effects and layouts. Are you working differently on Storm Warning?
Jimmy Broxton: To a certain degree yes, but mainly on a technical level as SW is in colour, which means a lot of storytelling aspects can be handled chromatically. My art these days is very impressionistic, details are often merely suggested, hinted at almost, the reader’s eyes fills in the gaps and take up the slack, which I hope brings them into the story, this is of course a completely different approach to the one that Tom takes, which is technically dazzling and incredibly precise, but I think it’s a testament to how strong the characters and the world of Storm really are that two such contrasting visions can follow one another.
How did you approach creating the visuals for Storm Warning?
JB: I wanted to up the ante on this run, focussing even more on design and consistency of character, facially and in terms of body language. Science Fiction demands quite a bit of world building, I was very keen to make my version of Brit-Cit as convincing as possible, I had great fun designing vehicles and buildings and wild costumes etc, also, it’s Britain, so it’s always raining, there are puddles everywhere, which affords wonderful opportunities to play with light and reflections. I tried to imagine Bladerunner as if it were filmed in the East End.
And how does the collaboration between yourself and the Moore/Reppion team work?
JB: Their scripts are fairly tight, very clear, so no need to ask for any clarification etc. This helps me a great deal, allowing me to basically do my own thing visually, Leah and John’s scripts include precise directions for panel shape and arrangement, typically I ignore them! I tell the story exactly as written, but I often add panels, move things around, change the viewpoints and so forth. All this is in the service of the story, in comics art, that is by far the most important thing. I rarely do layouts, instead I create scenes in individual panel form, then I compose them together at the end, adjusting, crafting, basically editing the page, balancing the blacks, negative space and so on , making sure the most important aspects of the story are to the fore.
Finally, Leah, I’m sure I speak for everyone at 2000 AD and all comic fans out there when I say how glad it is to see you getting better after the rather traumatic events of earlier this year. Hopefully your recovery is well under way now and you’re beginning to feel a lot better?
LM: Thank you so much. Yes I am feeling much better, and it could have been much, much worse. For some reason, I suffered a Subdural Haematoma and yet came out of it without a profound loss of capacity, either mental or physical. I am a bit slower and creakier than I was, and it sometimes takes me a while to find the right word, or a name (please remind me if I look panicked at cons!) but otherwise I am completely me. The loss of my wonderful sister-in-law Dawn on the day of my brain injury was so cruel, and I cannot overstate my admiration for how John and his family coped with it on top of all the chaos and worry caused by my hospital stay. I’m so glad I’m still here to see it all. Hug your loved ones. Mend your differences. Life is precious and unbelievably short.
One thing to come from that horrible time is a renewed sense of the generous and kind nature of comic fans. How did it feel to be of the receiving end of so many small acts of kindness from so many?
LM: Oh, it was incredible. I’ve never felt anything like it. The outpouring of support from our friends and colleagues and readers has been a huge part of my recovery. How can you not feel better with so much care and love and good wishes sent your way? Andrew O’Neill’s Just Giving campaign raised a truly humbling amount of money. An amount that has meant we could take the summer holidays easy and enjoy some precious family time, and that means we can ease back into work without having to go full pelt right off the bat. I can’t believe how lucky I have been, that my injury is healing so well, and that we have been allowed these weeks to adjust to it. I thank everyone from the bottom of my heart. Comics people are 100% the best people. I’m going to start work again as soon as the kids go back to school and I can’t wait to get stuck in. Whatever brain I have left, I promise you I’m going to be making comics with it!
Storm Warning: Over My Dead Body continues in Judge Dredd Megazine #401 - out on Wenesdsay 17th October!