It’s been 35 years since they obliterated East-Meg One and brought The Apocalypse War to an end – but what’s happened to the members of Judge Dredd’s Apocalypse Squad?

John Wagner is set to return to the pages of 2000 AD with a brand new Judge Dredd thriller – War Buds – that hits shelves in 2000 AD Prog 2045 on 23 August.

Dredd is called in over the fate of ex-Med-Judge Charlie Costa, one of the Judges in his squad that took over a Sov missile silo during The Apocalypse War and wiped East-Meg One from the face of the Earth. Over three decades later, Dredd’s actions have continued to haunt Mega-City One, but what has been the effect on those who helped Dredd kill a billion people?

Providing his first ever art for 2000 AD is Dan Cornwell – a relative newcomer to comics but Wagner and Alan Grant’s collaborator on the football-meets-sci-fi comic Rok Of The Reds. Richard Bruton talked to Dan about his first work for the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic and working with the mighty Wagner…

This is your first time working for 2000 AD – as a relatively new artist, how excited are you for this?

It’s incredibly surreal if I’m honest. The nearer it comes the more excited I get as you can imagine. Until I see it in print and in my sweaty palm I still won’t believe it’s for real. 

How did this Dredd strip come about? It’s slightly unusual for an artist to be dropped straight onto the flagship character, the more usual route being a Future Shock or similar.

Tell me about it! I’d be stoked if I had been given a Future Shock. To be honest that’s kind of what I expected. John Wagner was emailing me in regards to some of the Rok of the Reds pages I had sent him and he mentioned that he thought I was capable of drawing in the Prog. Obviously I was thrilled but didn’t really think much more about it at the time. A couple of days later he mailed me simply with “you’re on a Dredd!”

Apparently Matt Smith had seen Rok and he and John agreed that I should draw a Dredd for 2000 AD. I couldn’t believe it.

What does getting to draw Dredd mean for you?

Everything. Getting to draw Rok was an unbelievable experience. A huge challenge too. Something many aspiring artists would dream of, working with Wagner and Grant. Including me. But Dredd has always been the dream. He’s the one character I would draw every other day since I was very young. I never thought I would one day draw him for real. For 2000 AD

Can you give us a quick idea of what to expect from War Buds?

Not entirely sure how much I can divulge without giving spoilers or angering Tharg. It’s a five-part story that unites Dredd with some colleagues from a certain war. Safe to say it’s a rollercoaster as you’d expect from John Wagner.

What are your experiences with 2000 AD?

Well, I’ve been reading 2000 AD since around 1988. I was a paperboy and I had the habit of reading everything I was delivering. One day I read a copy of 2000 AD and I blew my tiny young mind. I think it was Bisley’s Slaine that done it. I couldn’t believe you could get art of that calibre in a comic. How wrong was I? I was hooked from that point. 

Some of my favourite stories are Necropolis, America, The Horned God, Khronicles of Khaos, Inferno, Swimming in Blood, Sky Chariots, Total War…. can’t list them all, the list is endless. 

It’s not your first comics work though, as you’ve self-published before, had work in the 2000 AD fanzines Dogbreath and Futurequake. Can you tell us a little about your history?

Well I’ve always wanted to draw comics. My first published work I believe was in Futurequake. I’ve had a few in there along with a couple of stories in Dogbreath. Can’t thank those guys enough. Futurequake gives aspiring writers and artists a platform to show their work. I can’t recommend them enough to anyone wanting a chance to showcase their work. Brilliant comics. I’ve also had work published in 100% Biodegradable. Again, these guys are awesome for anyone interested in working in comics. British small press is where loads of professionals get the start they need.

I remember looking at a strip of yours once upon a time in that Dogbreath issue and noting how you seemed influenced by the great Steve Parkhouse. Was I right about that?

I can see where you’re coming from. It’s not intentional I assure you. I have seen loads of his amazing work. I guess we just have/had similar styles. His is much better obviously. 

And whilst we’re on the subject, what other influences do you have?

2000 AD. Almost anyone who’s been in it. As I was growing up I was always influenced by different artist at different times. Never quite achieving anything like the quality of whoever I was admiring at the time. Artist such as Kev Walker, Greg Staples, Colin MacNeil, Jim Murray when I wanted to do painted art. Then as I turned to pen and ink it was Brian Bolland, Mick McMahon, Trevor Hairsine, Carlos Ezquerra, Henry Flint, Frank Quitley and many more. Also US artists such as Capullo, McFarlane, Sean Murphy. I can’t leave out European artists like Ladronn, Moebius. I also adore Juanjo Guarnido’s work on Blacksad. Safe to say many artists have influenced me. I’ve not achieved anything like these guys though. I think Frank Quitley has taken it to another level now.

The book that really brought you to the attention of many comic fans was Rok Of The Reds, the football comic with a difference written by Alan Grant and John Wagner and published by Black Hearted Press. What was it like to suddenly be catapulted into working with two genuine comics legends?

Dizzying. I mean come on! I’m a bus driver. To suddenly be working with two of the biggest names in British comics, all comics, is ridiculous. And to help develop a new, stand alone character is an opportunity of a lifetime.

How did Rok Of The Reds come about?

John Facebook messaged me when I was driving a bus. He just asked if I “liked football and could I draw it?” Straight to the point. I thought it was a joke obviously. I said yes. He then emailed me with the details and asked if I’d be interested in drawing it. Well I wasn’t going to say no to him. Whether I could draw football or not. I’d make sure I could.

Were you pleased with the end result of your first major work?

Oh yeah. It was bloody hard work but one hell of a ride – 130ish pages on top of a day job was always going to be a challenge but I’m very proud of the books we created. It’s a wonderful story and I hope my art does it justice. That for the fans to answer I guess. But we are very, very proud. 

Any plans for another series of Rok of the Reds? 

There are talks ongoing. John wants the second series to be better than the first. He’s got his work cut out that’s for sure. It’ll happen I believe. One day.

Finally, what’s coming up for you in the near, or not so near future? 

I’ve got another Dredd story. Not sure when it’ll appear though. I think it all depends on what the reaction the readers of War Buds have. It could be the first and last time I appear the Mighty Prog. I hope that’s not the case. My fate is in their hands. Oh and Tharg’s. Of course. I won’t go away though. I’ve worked to damn hard. 

Judge Dredd: War Buds begins its five part tale in 2000 AD Prog 2045, hitting the shelves on 23rd August in the UK.