A little bit Hamilton, a little bit Chuck-D, a lot weird… it’s time for the start of Judge Dredd: The Musical in 2000 AD Prog 2259 – out now! Sensitive Klegg returns to put on a musical based on the life of his hero – Joseph Dredd.
It’s full-on ridiculousness set to music, brought to you by the great Dredd team of Rob Williams and Chris Weston…
So, a while ago, we saw the Thrills of the Future ad for Judge Dredd: The Musical…
Sensitive Klegg on the mic, one rapper seemingly scared out of his wits. Although, given the ginger goatee maybe he deserved it? This one looks like it’s going to be a LOT of fun! So, guys, what can you tell us?
ROB WILLIAMS: Judge Dredd: the Musical is a three-part – well, four-part, really, we have a longer final part thanks to the grace of Tharg The Mighty – storyline that is the career comeback of Sensitive Klegg.
He’s back in Mega_City One, he’s lost his royalties from his hugely successful tenure as a rapper in Sino-City. They loved him because he looked like a dragon and he rapped. So now he’s going to create his magnum opus. A hip-hop musical, not a million miles away from a Hamilton. And it’s about the life of his hero: Judge Dredd.
CHRIS WESTON: After Rob and I finished Dredd: Control we both agreed that our next Dredd strip should be a bit more humorous. Control was pretty grim in tone and imagery so it felt like a good idea to lean into more comedic material. Some of the best and most memorable episodes of Judge Dredd have been laugh-out-loud funny, especially during Grant & Wagner’s run, and Dredd: The Musical was a deliberate throwback to those.
Yes, we’ve had plenty of musical-themed strips in both the Prog and the Judge Dredd Megazine over the years, but it seems to me that things have escalated a little with Dan Abnett and Phil Winslade’s 50th installment of their Dredd-world frontier series, Lawless, in the Megazine issue 424. They not only did the whole thing in song but also employed an entire team to bring Lawless the Musical into existence as a musical work as well. (Read more on that here.)
So… are we going to be seeing you pulling in your own team of musical greats to assist?
RW: I think there’s a great history of musicals in Dredd and 2000 AD, which is probably vaguely Alan Grant-related. It feels that way. I’m thinking of The Last American too. I wrote a song and dance number into my creator-owned comic with D’israeli from a few years back, Ordinary, and the musical number from The Last American was a bit of an influence. It feels like it works in the madness of MC1, certainly. We were thinking of what would annoy Judge Dredd more than anything else on Earth – and a hip-hop musical performed by Sensitive Klegg would be high up there.
And will you be (as I believe the hip kids say) laying down a few tracks off the back of this?
CW: I genuinely had plans to record one of the songs from “Dredd:The Musical” with my son, to promote the story. I even hoped to make a short and primitively-animated video to go with it. Fortunately, for everyone concerned, Hollywood and fate intervened and I was dragged off to work on The Continental, the John Wick spin-off TV show, which didn’t leave me enough to create my potentially Grammy-nominated Klegg rap anthem. I wasn’t entirely sure what a Klegg’s voice would sound like, anyway.
Well, I suppose we can forgive you this one time Chris – especially as you’re busy on what looks like it might be a damn fine TV show.
RW: I’ve just remembered seeing a video of Chris Weston rapping onstage to a rabid crowd at a French comic convention. I don’t know if footage of that still exists. But I didn’t dream it.
CW: That clip is now available to buy as an exclusive NFT, for those interested.
One of the better uses for an NFT right there!
Although it has to be said, Chris, you missed a trick not pulling in Anthrax and using their connections with Public Enemy to get some top talent on the musical version!
After all, you did recently do a rather fabulous Judge Dredd strip based on the I Am The Law track from Anthrax on the recent Anthrax graphic novel from Z2 Comics!
CW: I don’t know why it never crossed my mind to ask Anthrax to lay down a dirty death-metal backtrack behind Klegg’s vocal rhapsodies. It all seems like a horribly missed opportunity. Damn you, John Wick!
Now, we’ve had musical references littered through the history of 2000 AD for many years, and there’s a huge number of fans of 2000 AD out there in music…Human League, Motorhead, Portishead, Anthrax… etc, etc. – have those fed into this new Judge Dredd: The Musical?
RW: Not really. There’s a certain Ice T and Public Enemy influence in Klegg‘s last two albums: Judge Kisser and Fear Of A Klegg Planet. There’s a bit of a Hamilton influence in the musical too. I will say this though, pitching a story featuring a Judge Dredd Musical is one thing, but writing the lyrics for the songs is way more challenging than I thought. It is extremely silly though. It made me laugh a lot.
Well, you’ve no-one to blame but yerself for that one, Rob!
Given that the Thrills of the Future ad gives off this sort of Hip Hop and Rap vibe, I’m assuming at least one of you is a bit of an old-skool fan?
CW: I must confess, I’m not the biggest hip-hop fan in the universe. I’m more into Prog at the moment, which is an appropriately titled musical genre for a fan of The Galaxy’s Greatest Comic. I do have one Ice-T album, though: Home Invasion, which I really love. Me and the Missus used to play it a lot while we were doing the cooking. We’d be this white, middle-class couple, in our nice kitchen, pausing in our consumption of red wine to rap along with his angry lyrical diatribes (such as Race War and G-style)… and I remember asking my wife: “Do you think this is what Ice-T would have wanted?”
Yes. Absolutely yes. Middle-class rebellion is the new counter-culture!
Chris, seeing as we’re doing music here, how much fun was it to get to take part in that Anthrax book from Z2 Comics? You had 13 incredibly detailed pages there, written by Scott Ian from Anthrax, all inspired by Anthrax’s I Am the Law, one of those great occasions where 2000 AD and Dredd gets to appear outside the pages of the Prog or the Meg.
You also happened to manage to sneak in a possible demise for old Joe in there? How did that one come about – both the storyline and the gig itself?
CW: I have got Grant Morrison to thank for that. Grant has been living a glamorous, celebrity-packed lifestyle in Los Angeles and at some point they crossed paths with Scott Ian. Scott was on the lookout for an artist to draw his Dredd strip, and Grant generously put my name forward.
Yep, it’s always who you know!
CW: Scott then sent me a Marvel-style synopsis, and I converted that into a traditional 2000 AD-style script, with panel breakdowns and place-holder dialogue. I roughed up the whole story and sent it to Scott. He approved it and polished the dialogue and I went straight to finished inks. It all happened quite quickly, by my standards. I poured so much detail into the crowd scenes; fragments of Mick McMahon interviews would drift into my head where he lamented about how drawing Block Mania nearly killed him. I thought, “I know what you mean, Mick, mate.”
Again, just as with Rob bemoaning the musical nightmare he’d written himself into, I think that’s all your own fault Chris – although the result was pretty damn great.
Now, this is but the latest collaboration between the two of you – plans for more down the line at some point?
RW: Oh, It’s always a treat to work with Chris for a number of reasons. His art’s wonderful, of course, but I always enjoy how we knock ideas back and forth. This one came out of a phone conversation and I think Chris said something about how Klegg should write a Judge Dredd musical. But also, the older and grumpier I get, I just enjoy working with friends. Chris and Laurence Campbell and a few others. It’s just fun.
I’m sure we’ll probably do more Dredd at some point. I hope so anyway.
We all hope so too!
Although, of course, Rob might want to keep his cards close to his chest here, after all, Chris does seem to be having a fine time recently writing and drawing his own stuff for the Prog! Most recent of which was that ridiculously funny 3-page Future Shock – The Guardian and the God-child in Prog 2250!
So, Chris – planning on ditching Rob for good?
RW: He’s quite reasonably worked out that he can do this writing stuff himself and get twice the money.
CW: I wish I could say there was some sort of plan or design to my career. I’d probably be a lot richer if there was. I tend to just drift along, never looking further ahead than the story I’m working on. A fortunate side-effect of that is my being available for the odd film job that comes along. Dredd stories, which aren’t a great commitment, time-wise, fit that pattern nicely. So I doubt this will be my last trip to Mega-City One, although I would be happier if Rob and I could cook up something new and creator-owned for ourselves. We keep talking about it, but the timing has never worked out.
Okay gents, as usual, to finish up – what’s coming up next for you both?
RW: For 2000 AD I’m working on a new series of Hershey at the moment. We have a finite end in sight there and a definite story we’re telling. Simon Fraser’s back on art there.
Elsewhere a couple of comic things on a very famous franchise that isn’t announced yet, so I can’t say anything there. And I have a couple of TV projects I’m developing for Production Companies, but again, no announcements just yet.
CW: Nothing concrete yet. I’m just mulling over some offers and ideas, and doing a few private commissions while I make my mind up.
Thank you to both Chris and Rob for taking the time to get a few words down to us – always appreciated.
And you, dear reader, can experience the wonders of Sensitive Klegg’s musical extravaganza in Judge Dredd: The Musical, beginning in 2000 AD Prog 2259, available from all good comic shops and newsagents, as well as the 2000 AD web shop and on subscription – out on 24 November.
You can also grab the Chris Weston Dredd strip in the Anthrax anthology Among The Living from Z2 Comics. Here’s the artist with the book and a couple of pages of the Dredd strip…
And a couple of vids to end with – Anthrax’s I Am The Law and the Anthrax & Public Enemy classic – Bring The Noise – enjoy!