INTERVIEW: James Peaty and Warren Pleece on Diamond Dogs
The 2000 AD blog talks to the creative team behind Diamond Dogs, the new Dreddworld series starting in the Judge Dredd Megazine
5 days ago
Judge Dredd Megazine #409 is out now with the debut of a brand new series - Diamond Dogs!
Written by Skip Tracer’s James Peaty and drawn by Warren Pleece, artist on Dandridge and Second City Blues, the series is set in the underbelly of Brit-Cit and focuses on Nia, a Brit-Cit girl who’s part of the Diamond Dogs, a street gang with ideas of expansion.
Nia's caught up in more trouble than she knows how to get out of in a world that's part-Clockwork Orange and part-Quadrophenia with a touch of old skool hip hop and New Romantic Blitz kid chic!
Richard Bruton caught up with Peaty and Pleece to talk about the latest Dreddworld series for their Megazine...
Diamond Dogs begins in the Judge Dredd Megazine #409 - can you give us some idea of what to expect from the strip?
James Peaty: Diamond Dogs is the story of Nia Jones, a young woman living in the Nu East End of Brit-Cit. But Nia's no ordinary citizen. She’s got a dangerous double life as both member of a street gang, the titular Diamond Dogs, and also as an informer for an undercover street Judge. When we meet Nia she's been in this situation for a couple of years and she's at something of a crossroads. With the Diamond Dogs rising up the criminal food chain and her handler, Judge Magellan, pressing her for even more information, Nia can't see a way out of her predicament. That is until an old friend reappears out of the blue with a possible way for Nia to escape Brit-Cit forever. Unlike my series for the Prog, Skip Tracer, I'd say Diamond Dogs is less of an action adventure strip and more of a character led thriller, which seems in keeping with The Megazine.
So, is it that classic idea of a youngster who’s found her way into crime and then finds herself beholden to the cops? Is that the sort of vibe we’ll be seeing in Diamond Dogs?
JP: Actually, it’s the other way round.She’s running with the gang because of her connection to the Judges. Why is that the case? Well, you’ll have to read the story and find out.
I’m assuming that the title, Diamond Dogs, refers to the Bowie song? Are you both fans?
JP: Yeah, I’m a fan. Who isn’t?
WP: Maybe not a fan in the true sense... an admirer, definitely. You can’t underestimate his importance to modern music.
Is it something that has any more connotations for the strip than just being a very cool name for the street gang?
JP: Well, it IS a cool name. Let’s not pretend otherwise! It’s why Bowie went for it himself. But yeah, the connotations do go deeper than that. The Diamond Dogs album (and the track itself), sort of fuse Bowie’s Orwell/1984 obsession with his love of A Clockwork Orange and that was very much at the front of my thinking when I was putting the series together. The influence of the Kubrick film on both Bowie and the early punk era always feels of a piece with the birth of 2000 AD, so in my head Brit-Cit is very much a part of that. There’s a lot of London pop, punk and post-punk culture peppered throughout the series. And I’m from London –specifically East London – so that all filters in too.
How would you describe the character of Nia in the strip? Is she going to be joining the growing group of wonderful female characters of 2000 AD?
JP: Well, one would hope she joins that group! That’d be great. How would I describe Nia? I’d say she’s clever, tough, honourable, but also desperate. She’s very much trapped as the strip opens. How she tries to change those circumstances forms the spine of this initial story.
When it came to Skip Tracer, the world was yours to develop and create, alongside Paul Marshall. But, here with Diamond Dogs, you're working within not just an existing world but an existing city. How does this affect the way you write/design a new series?
JP: It’s different from Skip Tracer as you’re dealing with a pre-existing world that builds upon our world. It’s easier than Skip Tracer in a sense as that’s set in outer space hundreds of years in the future, so you have a blank piece of paper and have to define the rules of that world yourself. With this you don’t have to do that, but at the same time you have to be consistent with what’s come before and yet still try to be surprising. They’re both tricky to be honest. World building is probably the most important part of science fiction and fantasy storytelling as the world defines both character and story. So the world absolutely affects the way you approach the story. A Diamond Dogs story is different to a Skip Tracer story, which is different to a Nemesis story or a Sinister Dexter story. All of them grow from the world.
Over the years, we’ve had so many tales from Mega-City One, but Brit-Cit is a (relatively) unknown/unrealised part of the world. Most recently we’ve seen Tom Palmer and James Broxton’s version of Brit-Cit in Storm Warning, where the scenery was definitely more down at heel and old fashioned than that of MC-1. How do you see your take on Brit-Cit? What makes it different and interesting?
Warren Pleece: I’ve played up a '70s brutalist feel for the background architecture in the Nu East End, just occasionally glimpsing a slightly shinier Brit-Cit, faded in the background.
JP: I think Jimmy and Tom’s work on Storm Warning has been great, but this is a very different strip to that series. We’re trying to portray a slightly more grounded version of Brit Cit than perhaps those strips have attempted.
James, when you say this Brit Cit will be a little more grounded – is it that Diamond Dogs is set more from the level of the cits on the ground, with the Judges looking down from on high?
JP: That’s right. In fact, the Judges barely feature in the story. They’re glimpsed and Judge Magellan (Nia’s handler) is an important character, but this is primarily a story about the citizens of Brit-Cit – and specifically the Nu East End - trying to survive and live their lives in the shadow of the Judges.
Warren, it’s been a while since you’ve graced the pages of the Prog. Am I right in thinking Dandridge was the last time?
So, what is it that brings you back?
WP: Working with James again; we worked on a 13th Doctor episode for Titan’s Doctor Who series and that was a lot of fun. Also, any chance to work on something new and different for 2000 AD or the Megazine. It’s the first time I’ve drawn something in the Dreddverse, so that’s a big factor too.
When it comes to something like this, working in the lesser known environs of Brit-Cit and with a completely new set of characters, how have you gone about the design process for both Nia, the Diamond Dogs, and Brit-Cit itself, as I’d imagine the city plays a role here just as it does over in Dredd?
WP: James gave me a lot of pointers towards '60s, '70s and '80s UK pop culture for the gangs, everything from A Clockwork Orange, Quadrophenia, old skool hip hop and a touch of New Romantic Blitz kid chic for Nia’s gang.
What sort of design cues are you working from when it comes to your Brit-Cit?
WP: I’ve taken a little license as the story is mostly set in the Nu East End, a forgotten armpit of the main city, so I’ve made it look neglected and knackered, almost bombed out, next to the slightly less knackered, more futuristic backdrop of Brit-Cit proper. Think '60s and '70s brutalist living gone way past its sell by date.
I’m assuming it’s in colour and also assuming you’re colouring your own work? In which case, can you take us through a little of your process of constructing the strip?
WP: I still draw in the old school traditional way, pencils, lightboxed inks on Bristol board, then scanned in and coloured in Photoshop. I’m looking to change the way I work in the future with some new personal stuff; just wanting to change the process a little, shake it up and try out some new/ old things. Too many screens these days!
You’ve worked together before on Doctor Who, so how does the collaboration work with you, and has it been any different on Diamond Dogs?
WP: James’ scripts have everything there, really. He’s also one of those writers who is always happy to follow up stuff and make suggestions for character design etc which makes my job a lot easier and enjoyable.
Is Diamond Dogs something that you’ve planned as a finite series, or is there possibility, should Tharg deem it so, to continue the story past this first series?
JP: We’ve not talked about a second series yet, although there’s certainly the possibility for more. I’ve certainly enjoyed writing the series a hell of a lot and I do have some ideas about where we could take it next. But whether we do any more…well, ultimately that’s down to Tharg! What it has done is given me an appetite to do a bit more in Dredd’s world. I’d definitely love to have a crack at the Big Guy eventually. If Tharg’ll let me!
Diamond Dogs begins in Judge Dredd Megazine #409, which is out now!