No 2000 AD Sci-Fi Special would be complete without a look in from ol’ Joe Dredd, and this year’s special is no exception. Richard Bruton sat down to talk with writer and artist, Emma Beeby and Babs Tarr, about Dredd and what makes this Sci-Fi Special truly special…

Can you give us a quick, non-spoilery idea of what to expect from your Judge Dredd strip in the Sci-Fi Special?

Emma Beeby: It’s called ‘The Feels’ and is about a weaponised empathy drug. I don’t think I’ll give away more than that…

Emma, this is hardly something new for you and I imagine the “first woman to write Dredd” tag is a tiresome thing. But your work on Dredd has been praised far and wide, what is it about working on Dredd that you find so interesting?

EB: It’s a strange honour to be the first, and I think that putting a spotlight on a female creator helps get things like this issue to happen. I didn’t ever set out to write Dredd, and honestly I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did. Dredd is really fun to write. He walks the line between hero and villain, comedy and horror. There’s something both disturbing and reassuring about getting into his head.

What do you think it is about Dredd that stands the test of time?

EB: There’s so many ways you can go in a Dredd story – Dredd interrogating everyone in a lift to find out who farted, to hunting serial killers, to world war, to over the top horror like the Dark Judges. The universe accommodates all of that, and he can navigate it all without it ever feeling out of character.

But as that trailblazer, both working solo and with that cheery chappy, Gordon Rennie, what does this Sci-Fi Special mean to you?

EB: I’m so excited to see this special, I can’t wait to see all these fantastic creators’ takes on these characters, not least Babs drawing Dredd – I love her Batgirl SO much. I remember I felt quite intimidated, being a woman writing such a legendary and masculine character, among all these male creators, but I was made welcome. It’s a great community of creators and fans and it feels like home to me now.

The history of Dredd has always been a mixture of longer form tales and shorts. Having been responsible for both, what is it that really makes a short Dredd, over and done in one issue, work?

EB: Length dictates the complexity of the story, but the rules are the same, and I follow the rules set by John Wagner. He has a list of things that should be in any Dredd story, even the short ones, which I keep to hand. I try to find something that I am excited to explore in the story. For this it was Dredd vs the over-emotional. For shorts, I go for comedy, or things that make him uncomfortable. I can’t help it.

Babs, as a comic artist from the USA, what experience have you had with 2000 AD and old stoney face?

Babs Tarr: The only experience I have with old stony face is this old-school movie with that epic costume and Stallone’s juicy lips under that iconic helmet! Visually it’s just so fun I had to jump at the chance to get to draw him. Especially since I feel that people wouldn’t expect me to, which just makes me wanna prove them wrong!

Were you already a fan and aware of the comic? If so, what strips or creators were your favourites?

BT: Totally new to it! I know my collaborators Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher are big fans and Cameron even did a short story a couple years ago, but that’s the extent of it for me.

Babs, your work on Batgirl, Motor Crush, and various other comics brought a very different look to the page, is this something we’re going to see on this Dredd strip for the Sci-Fi Special?

BT: Since it’s only six pages I might actually experiment in a different style since I never really get to do that on my big ongoing series that I work on. I have all these thick gritty brushes, textures, and halftones I want to explore and Dredd is the perfect excuse to use those!

What are your thoughts about this all-female Sci-Fi Special?

EB: I think it’s a great move by 2000 AD that says all are welcome. As an anthology that has been groundbreaking and diverse in style and story for over 40 years, this seems completely appropriate. It’s going to be an incredible issue.

BT: It’s cool that it creates opportunities. I have an established comic career so I don’t need the exposure, so I took this project on cause it sounded fun. BUT if me being part of it helps shine light on new and existing female creators then I’m happy to be a part of it! My hope for the future is that we don’t need niche things like ‘all-female’ specials to give girls jobs in comics. That goes for every other minority in the industry as well.

Any thoughts on your next work for 2000 AD? Any plans in place already?

EB: Gordon (Rennie) and I have more Survival Geeks stories coming up, there will interdimensional comic-cons, a world of slashers, and maybe some familiar faces returning, too.

BT: None yet! Next arc of Motor Crush (from Image Comics) starts in a month or so, so I’m enjoying my time off and taking on fun things like this!

The 2000 AD Sci-Fi Special is out in the UK on 20 June and out in North America in July. Pre-order a copy now from the 2000 AD webshop…