Who is the Red Queen? What connection to Dredd’s past does she have? And how is she planning to extend her criminal empire outside of Euro-City? An attempted takeover on Krong Island, the recent incursion into Mega-City One – all of this feeds into the epic new storyline, The Red Queen’s Gambit, which starts in Judge Dredd Megazine #309 – out this week!

Writer Arthur Wyatt and artist Jake Lynch talked to Richard Bruton all about their new series for the Megazine, a family of villainy, and creating continuity for Dredd…

The set-up for ‘The Red Queen’s Gambit’ has been long in the gestation, With the Red Prince first appearing in Krong Island and, most recently, alongside mommy, the mysterious Red Queen, in ‘The Red Prince Diaries’ in Megazine #404. It seems that you’ve been ramping things up, setting the pieces in place for something bigger… so, can you fill us in on what to expect in the forthcoming series, ‘The Red Queen’s Gambit’?

Arthur Wyatt: All the usual fun and excitement! Space, monkeys, a Dreddworld setting I don’t think we’ve seen since 2002, and lots of explosions! Also there’s some fantastic vehicle design going on from Jake, who introduces a new craft in Justice Department’s collection of diplomatic vessels.

Jake Lynch: It’ll be running to four episodes, but I think there may be some more that comes from it.

We first met The Red Prince in your Krong Island, where you introduced the mysterious young man manipulating all things monkey, before we, finally, met his mother, the equally mysterious Red Queen. That final quote from the Red Prince, alluding to his family history and the scar that made him look more like his father only served to deepen the mystery. Did anyone make the connection between the Red Prince and his father at that point?

JL: Not as far as I’m aware, but I was very pleased when I read the script!

AW: I think a fair few did, probably helped if they’d read some of my previous stories with Jake over in the Prog. I hope anyone who didn’t catch it hasn’t been too annoyed waiting for the follow up to that cliffhanger to tell them who it was, and that people who caught that story in the Nobody Apes the Law trade are intrigued enough to find out – might have come a bit out of the blue for readers of that.

And exactly how does the Red Queen figure into all of this?

AW: One of the benefits of having written flashback set in earlier eras of Dredd is you get to pretend the things you’ve introduced in them have always been there, so here I get to reference my own continuity and say that the Red Queen has been around since at least the days of Dredd’s cursed earth trek, consolidating her grip on the Euro-City criminal underground, riding out the ebbs and flow of history until now, when she’s seeking to consolidate her grip on power by seizing territory outside of Euro City. The attempted coup on Krong Island was just the start.

JL: She’s a callback to a strip that Arthur and I did quite a long time ago in 2000 AD. I’m really glad to see her back (love that hairstyle!). She a really sinister character and I imagine that any offspring of hers couldn’t have turned out any other way – casually cruel and indifferent, she is the boss of her criminal empire and the real puppet-master.

The reveal of the Red Prince’s father is made at the end of Megazine #404, we’ll just call him The Red King… it’s a character you’ve both rather taken on over the last few years, going back into his history and looking at his background. Any more plans to go back through his adventures, and do more of the super-spy type tales?

JL: I’d love to do another series but I’m not sure it would ever happen. Arthur once told me his plans for the next one and it had me chomping at the bit. I’d also like to revisit it as I’m a little more seasoned now and loved the darker tone.

AW: Should Tharg be willing, it’s something I’d totally do more of. Those stories hooking into the opposing side of Dreddworld history were super fun to work on.

Or, is it something that, given he’s meant to be dead, you’re planning on simply continuing through the legacy of Red Queen and Red Prince?

JL: I think Arthur may have another story up his sleeve on that one…

AW: I think there’s quite a bit of mileage there as well. Jake and I seem to be building up quite the cast of characters, and checking in on them again is always a lot of fun.

Arthur, when you talked to 2000 AD about the ‘Krong Island’ story, you mentioned how you should really look at doing your “own big space epic sometime or something, since I’ve done a lot of noodling around in the Dredd world” – I have to ask, is The Red Queen’s Gambit, The Red Prince, and the familial connection the big epic you were thinking of?

AW: Well, right now I’m working on more Intestinauts with Simon Parr, so you could say my big thing outside of Judge Dredd is intestinal parasites! I’ve also been scheming with PJ Holden to do a big project at some point – will this be the year that drops? Maybe so.

As for the The Red Queen stories, I think Red Queen’s Gambit is a nice evolution of Krong Island and Eurozoned, and it’s nice having all the elements set up that you then pull in to tell a bigger story with. The Red Prince even gets in a nice little mention of the villain from The Cube Root of Evil, another story I did with Jake. And of course it’s all happening within Dredd’s world as a whole, with Wagner’s contributions being the central spine of that but we also pull in some characters from other writers – look for a favorite of Al and Rob’s in episode one of Gambit.

Jake, we talked, previously, about influences and you mentioned a huge love of Mike McMahon. I don’t think I’m wrong in saying it’s definitely something we can see in your Dredd (you definitely do a damn fine chin, and some great boots!) There’s an angularity and sense of unusual yet interesting perspective in some of your work that’s great to see, and marks you out as a different looking artist – hopefully that’s something you’d agree with? How has your artwork developed over the years? Has it been a case of slowly growing into a style or was there ever a point where you made a deliberate decision to push your art in a certain direction?

JL: Thank you, that’s a kind way of putting it! I never bother to look, but suspect I’m the Marmite of comic artists!! I think I’m growing into a style. I noticed a change during the first Heston story and I made conscious choice to explore it more. That was a few years ago and I think I’m only just starting to get the hang of it. I like to be instinctive when possible, but appreciate that that can be a rocky road. There is so much in storytelling that I don’t think I’ll EVER stop learning and that’s both exciting and fine by me.

One of the things I admire about McMahon is his changing styles. I’ll never be in his league, but am aware that, how I draw at this moment in time, will not be how I draw in a few years. My motto from when learning to draw was, ‘the best piece is the next piece’. All these years later, I’m pleased to say it still is.