INTERVIEW: Cadet Dredd with Matt Smith and Neil Googe

The creators behind this year's FCBD 'Cadet Dredd' story talk about making the lawman of the future suitable for all ages!

7 months ago

This year’s Free Comic Book Day is Saturday May 5th - head to any comic shop and you’ll find readers, old and new, delighting in the free comics on offer. And this year, the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic 2000 AD unleashes a whole new generation of Thrill-Power with the amazingly all-ages 2000 AD REGENED.

REGENED features new stories of some of the most familiar characters from 2000 AD’s history, including Johnny Alpha, the Strontium Dog, and the return of those magnificent malcontents D.R. and Quinch. But, leading off the issue, writer Matt Smith and artist Neil Googe are taking us way back in time, with the adventures of Cadet Dredd.

He might only be wearing the white helmet, but Dredd’s still dishing out justice to raucous Aeroball fans and escaped Velociraptors. (yeah, Velociraptors... everyone loves Velociraptors!). Richard Bruton sat down for a chat with Matt and Neil to talk all things Cadet Dredd...

Cadet Dredd opens REGENED with a story that’s way lighter than previous examples of Judge Dredd as a cadet. There’s comedy here, but there's still that underlying sense that Dredd, even as a cadet, takes thing very seriously and is prepared to do whatever it takes comes through strongly in this episode. How did you approach this new, younger version of Dredd?

Matt Smith: The Cadet Dredd we saw in Origins wasn’t that different to adult Dredd – serious and single-minded. If anything, he’s even more of a stuffed shirt that older Dredd, who’s softened a little bit. So, as with the Dredd Year One series I wrote for IDW, I made Cadet Dredd very keen and by the book, and a stickler for the law.

Neil Googe: As soon as it was mentioned as an idea, my first thought was “how on earth are they going to aim Dredd at a younger audience?” But, as soon as I read the script I thought “that’s exactly how you do it”. Dredd himself feels very similar in nature but his surroundings and the situation felt a little lighter than some of what gets tackled in the usual strip.

The odd thing about Dredd is the fact that on the surface, he really doesn’t feel younger audience friendly, but in actuality his world his perfect for younger audiences, it just depends how you want to treat him. When I think back to reading Dredd as a kid, especially the daily strips, my images of Dredd and his environment are of a more bizarre and fantastical world than some of the grittier or tough stories we see.

We've seen glimpses of Dredd's beginnings as a cadet in the flashbacks shown in the classic Judge Dredd: Origins by Wagner and Ezquerra. If Dredd's "birth" was in 2066, and after serving in 2070's Atomic Wars, his graduation came in 2079, am I right to think this is somewhere very early on in his cadetship?

MS: Yes, this is him in his early teens, before he was mentored by Morphy. The story’s set in 2073, at the World Aeroball Championships.

NG: To be honest, I didn’t know the ins and outs of Dredd's training... but it was my understanding, just from reading this story, we were still somewhere in the early days of his cadetship. It felt like he was still finding his feet in some-ways but had already developed an amount of his confidence, almost over compensating for his Cadet status.

What attitude did you take to bringer possible new readers / younger readers up to speed on Dredd and the world?

MS: Hopefully, it comes across in the dialogue and characters. I didn’t want to info-dump them with what MC-1 and the Judges were. Dredd’s such an easy strip to pick up in terms of what it’s about that I’d like to think this FCBD story is easy to plunge into for new readers.

NG: Artistically I think I wanted Dredd to feel slightly humble under the guidance of another judge, with a genuine curiosity over certain points. So he has a solid respect for all aspects of the law, including other Judges and their opinions. But when left to deal with a situation on his own, we see the DREDD! Even in those early days there was no quarter given, this is the law and how we keep the peace, I don’t care what the extenuating circumstances are.

And Velociraptors? Why haven't there been more in Dredd over the years!?

MS: When it came to writing Dredd for the all-ages issue, I thought what do kids like – and decided upon sport and dinosaurs (coincidentally, it’s also a World Cup year, and a new Jurassic Park movie is out in a few months!). I thought adding raptors to the mix would give it that sense of sci-fi strangeness, and dinos were often a staple of early Dredd, as seen in the Cursed Earth.

NG: I know right? Velociraptors need to be in everything... Some of my favourite story arcs in any media are when something seemingly innocent from a previous story comes back around to bite a character later on. If I get to do more Dredd, I’d love to see those raptors come back in some way.

The whole idea of exploring Dredd's cadet days is full of potential. Any chances we'll be seeing further Cadet Dredd exploits in the future?

MS: I hope so, yes. Neil’s done a fantastic job, and I’d like to work him on something longer featuring young Dredd, if it proves popular.

NG: Oh I really really hope so. I would love to do more work with this character. I enjoy drawing Dredd anyway, but I loved drawing Cadet Dredd.  Even Dredd's rogues gallery would be great... I would love to see a younger Mean Machine and Angel Gang for example, or chopper (even though chopper would be really young at that stage), I also love the kleggs (I’ve always wanted to redesign them) and Satanus... So, if Tharg is listening... please... count me in for more of this.

Neil, you've worked on old man Dredd several times in the past, and most recently you've been the co-creator and artist on Survival Geeks with Emma Beeby and Gordon Rennie. What were your thoughts on designing the youngest Dredd we've seen so far?

NG: He was fun to work on, I was basically given a free run at him so I tried to bring in a slightly more modern look and feel without taking any drastic departures. I reworked the cadet badge a little, basically making it a full badge template but with only half the details. The idea being that when a Cadet graduates they slot the second half of the badge in to the template.

I also played with the idea of removing the wings from their shoulder eagle, as I also found designs of cadets with no eagle. I thought it might be a nice idea that they complete some sort of training to become a cadet, and so get their shoulder wings as a simple of their authority within the law. Then when they complete their cadet training and become a full judge they get the rest of their badge.

How did you adjust your artwork to fit the all-ages REGENED style? Or is it that your style naturally lends itself to the lighter look, something not that far away from the style you used on Survival Geeks?

NG: Ok, here’s the only thing I regret a little about the project, my artwork. Not because I wasn’t pleased with the end result, but as soon as I was asked if I wanted to do it, I got this image in my head of how I saw things. I fancied a simplified version of the Survival Geeks work, think Adventures of Dredd. Sadly once I got started, without really thinking about it, I slipped in to more of what I usually do with Survival Geeks and so the artwork ended up being a lot more detailed than I’d pictured it. I just can’t help myself when it comes to details. Don’t get me wrong, I was still pleased with the outcome, it just wasn’t what I’d imagined. If I get the chance to go at it again (yeah, I know, I’m hinting at Tharg plenty here) I’d refine it a little more. So I’d keep the overall style the same, exaggerated characters, creatures and the like, but make the line work feel a little more... animated, than the over detailed comics I usually go for.

Free Comic Book Day is on 5th May. For more details visit the FCBD site...