2000 AD Prog 2250 is the latest of our thrill-powered jumping on Progs, out on 22 September, 48-pages with five brand-new series and two one-offs – There’s new supernatural chills with The Diaboliks, the latest incredible sci-fi in the Scarlet Traces saga, the second stunning series of The Out, and the first full series for Regened favourite Pandora Perfect! As for those one-offences, we have Judge Anderson following up the events of the 2000 AD Sci-Fi Special, and Chris Weston giving us a three-page Future Shock. And all that comes with one of the covers of the year, as we welcome back the legend that is Mick McMahon, with an iconic, can only be a McMahon Judge Dredd.

But of course, the whole thing kicks off with everyone’s favourite future lawman, and a bold new story for Judge Dredd by Rob Williams, Arthur Wyatt, and Jake LynchThe Hard Way!

We got chatting with Rob, Arthur, and Jake to find out just how bad things are going to get for Dredd and Accounts Judge Maitland when Judge Dredd: The Hard Way kicks off in 2000 AD Prog 2250!

Rob, Arthur, Jake… The Hard Way sees two storylines potentially coming together, bringing back both Accounts Judge Maitland, memorably seen putting forth a radical solution to all crime in MC-1 in Carry The Nine (2000 AD Progs 2200-2203), and La Reine Rouge, Euro-Cit crime syndicate boss, as recently seen in The Red Queen’s Gambit (Judge Dredd Megazine issues 409-412)

Now, beginning in 2000 AD Prog 2250, the new jumping-on Prog, we have The Hard Way, with the Red Queen gunning for Maitland.

In the Nerve Centre for Prog 2250, all we get for this is ‘Recently, Dredd and Accounts Judge Maitland have been targeting Euro crime-boss La Reine Rouge.’

And it all begins like this…

So, Arthur, Rob, Jake… what’s it all about and what can we expect from this one – more Maitland solving all of MC-1’s problems or will it be more a case of simply trying to stay alive?

ARTHUR WYATT: It’s been a while since Maitland and Dredd talked about MC-1’s problems on the roof of Sector House 34. For Maitland, it’s been nothing but frustration, roadblock after roadblock, so she’s been working a little harder on her hobby of data‑mining Euro-criminals and snitching on them to the relevant authorities. For Dredd… he’s been being Dredd, but he’s always going to come back to that loose end – and Maitland being in Atlantis for trade discussions seems like a nice quiet moment for it.

Of course, for the extremely deadly and highly trained killers sent by the Euro-criminal pissed off at being data‑mined it seems like a convenient quiet moment to catch up with Maitland too, in the violently murder sense of the words “catch up”, only they don’t know Judge Dredd is there.  

MC-1’s problems might not get solved in this one, but they’re not going away on their own either, and events may change the state of play entirely.

ROB WILLIAMS: The Hard Way is basically The Red Queen having had enough of Maitland going after her crime empire, so she hires a ‘fixer’ to go big on the assassination front, by hiring a team of the best mercenary killers around. It’s sort of a reverse Dirty Dozen, inasmuch as we’re introducing a bunch of brand new bad guys who are all coming to kill poor accounts Judge Maitland. The only flaw in their plan is that the attack comes just as Judge Dredd is coming to speak to Maitland to discuss the promise Dredd made her at the end of Carry The Nine. And Dredd being there means that the hired killers ‘have to do this the hard way.’ Hence our title.

JL: More of the latter, more trying to stay alive, with the problems ramping up with each episode. It’s been an absolute joy to do, it’s the sort of story my ten‑year‑old self would have flipped over. That’s not to detract from it whatsoever. Great characters in ridiculously tough situations with the only option being – ahem – the hard way. (I really get to throw Dredd around like a Rag-Doll in this one!)

All that and maybe, just maybe, some more to come!

The call-back to Carry The Nine with Dredd & Maitland in The Hard Way.

How many episodes are we looking at for this one?

AW: Six parts. There’s a couple of Megazine stories that should follow on pretty closely to it as well. 

RW: Six episodes of old-school 2000AD action. I can sort of see this one being drawn by Steve Dillon back in the day, if that means anything. It feels like the type of Dredd tale Steve would do, to me at least.

JL: Yep, six episodes with an extra page thrown in. Tharg must have been livid – ‘Explain yourselves, script droids!?’

It’s always fascinating to see this sort of thing taking place, the bringing together of a couple of storylines like this – was it always a plan, or did things just come together naturally after you wrote together on Carry The Nine?

RW: Arthur and I had a few Twitter DMs back and forth about what we could do next following the tease we left at the end of Carry The Nine – how Maitland wanted to ‘defund the police’ effectively – put more Mega-City One funding into education rather than policing because, essentially, in the current system, the Judges are fighting an endless war against crime they can never win. Arthur has established The Red Queen storyline and her feud against Maitland, so bringing the two stories together this way seemed a fun idea.

AW: Oddly when we were first talking about what became Carry the Nine, this story is very similar to the kind of thing we were thinking about, then Rob suggested a story following on from End of Days and it evolved in the direction it did. So not quite a plan, but coming back to that original story feels very natural, and richer than it would have been now it’s had those elements introduced.

Trouble for Maitland – Assassins doing it The Hard Way!

Yes, you’ve both obviously got a fondness for Accounts Judge Maitland, and Arthur and Jake have been developing the Red Queen storyline for a while now, with the seeds of it planted in Krong Island (Megazine 392-395) and then teased in The Red Prince Diaries (Megazine 404) – so bringing those two strands together here seems perfect. 

But after The Hard Way, will it be a case of you all developing things further?

RW: Arthur’s already doing more with this storyline. I have something I might do coming off this one. And we’ve talked about a follow-up at some point. There are long term plans, put it that way.

JL: I really hope so. Art came up with the Red Queen very early on, back when I started. I think she’s a great character and a proper monster and I would love to do more.

AW: By the end of this story i think we will have poked some tigers that won’t easily become unpoked, and what happens as a result is really a question that deserves an answer. The Megazine stories I mentioned should wrap up some of the Red Prince plot strands, but there’s going to be an awful lot left for me and Rob to explore. 

Ooooh – poking tigers that won’t become unpoked! That promises plenty for the future!

Just one of the motley crew of assassins gunning for Maitland
According to his Twitter – it’s Rob Williams’ ‘new favourite Sentientoid’

Now, Rob & Arthur – just how does the writing collaboration work here? 

AW: Usually from enthusiastic chat to batting an outline back and forth (and getting that all‑important Tharg approval) to splitting it up into episodes. When the actual script is being written we tend to alternate who does the first draft of an episode and who does an editing pass – this is pretty much how I worked with Alex De Campi on the movie Dredd scripts as well, so it seems pretty robust as a method. Episode one was a bit different as we had a lot of character introductions and we split the panels for those up pretty evenly.  

RW: We fight. Sometimes with gloves, other times with serrated blades, until one bleeds too heavily, then the victor is decided.

Or we sort of break the plot via chatting back and fore, and then we split the scripts up 50/50 for a first draft, and the other gets to come in and do an edit. That’s pretty much how all my co-writing projects works, really.

It’s good to have a second voice sometimes. There’s one beat in The Hard Way where I wrote Dredd solving a problem one way. Arthur replied saying he didn’t buy it, so I went back, scratched head, came up with another solution to the problem, and that solution is probably my favourite moment in the whole story now. And that wouldn’t exist were it not for having a second writer pushing you to up your game a bit.

I think Arthur writes good Dredd and he knows his onions, both in terms of writing structure and Dredd’s world and the voice of the strip. I mean, Arthur’s clearly a long-term Dredd reader, so he keeps his stories grounded in the canon. We’ve co-written two Dredd stories now and I’ve really enjoyed both experiences. It’s been really healthily collaborative. No one throwing toys out of pram or flipping tables. Pushing each other to make it better – that’s exactly how co-writing should work.

Right then, so it’s all lovely and happy from Arthur’s point of view… but which one of Rob’s takes do we believe? The fighting with gloves and blades or the chatting and niceties? Hmmm, reader… we’ll leave it up to you!

Some of Jake Lynch’s art from future episodes of The Hard Way

Obviously, Arthur’s had history with Jake before now, and I think it’s obvious that he’s a major talent, establishing himself over the last however many years as one of the new breed of artists, ready and able to continue the long history of excellence we’ve had on Dredd.

So, from a writer’s perspective – how good is he and what do you both think of what he brings to the story?

JL: (*acts nonchalantly but secretively attentive and worried*)

RW: Jake? Well, it’s the first time I’ve worked with him and it was great. I think you can see bits of Henry Flint, a hint of Jock, the odd McMahon, and a Cam Kennedy influence on the page. He draws a very good Dredd. Jake feels like a contender in the next generation of great Dredd artists stakes. And like I said above, The Hard Way feels like the type of Dredd tale that Steve Dillon would’ve drawn back in the day. A sort of Cry of The Werewolf or Wreckers vibe to it, and Jake fitted with that.

Roughs and inks – more great Jake Lynch art from future episodes of The Hard Way

And Jake – you having lots of fun here? With the cast of colourful characters on display, there’s certainly plenty of scope to go wild visually!

JL: It’s been a blast. Right from the start, I’ve loved working on Arthur’s scripts, and to combine that with working with Rob, someone I’ve admired for many years, has been a bit of an ambition and treat.  They inspire imagination and I hope that we can do some more soon!

More Jake Lynch Dredd from The Hard Way – look at the McMahon boots!

Jake, we always seem to mention Mick McMahon when I talk to you, as there’s so much that’s great in your work, the angularity, the perspective, the boots! And there’s so much of the great McMahon stylings in there. And of course, this Prog, you get to introduce The Hard Way underneath the return of the great man (and the Mk I Lawgiver) to the cover of 2000 AD. 

JL: I think I always reply to that with, that’s an amazing compliment for me, maybe less so for Mr. McMahon!  I’m still very much developing, and he perfectly embodies how that should always stay the case.

The guy’s amazing and always brings an arresting image and this one is no exception. I grew up on his work and he is still schooling us all!  I’m proud as hell to have a strip the other side of this cover and can’t wait to get my grubby little paws on it.

And yeah, The Mk II Lawgiver is sort of brutal, but the Mk I is a classic.  It has a Luger sensibility which perfectly matches with Dredd.

RW: Mick’s a genius, simple as that. I think his art on The Vampire Effect from the ’82 Annual may well be the definitive Judge Dredd art.

Speaking of which… Magnificent McMahon art from The Vampire Effect

RW: And nearly 40 years on we get the cover he’s just provided for Prog 2250. You look at every choice he’s made on that cover and it’s sort of the opposite of boring. It feels like the energy, the angles, the body position, the enhanced aspects, they’re all prodding your brain. Thrill power, pure and undiluted!

AW: Oh yes, I’m a BIG fan of McMahon sneaking the Mk I Lawgiver onto the cover – it’s a classic for a reason.

Oh yes, the wonder that is a Mick McMahon cover… and here’s just a little bit of the delights you’ll get to see when he shows us the making of said cover in the Covers Uncovered feature!

Thank you to Rob, Arthur, and Jake for taking the time to chat – you can catch part one of Judge Dredd: The Hard Way in 2000 AD Prog 2250 – out on 22 September from all good newsagents and comic book stores, as well as the 2000 AD webshop and app.