Beginning in 2000 AD Prog 2213, out 6 January, we’re kicking off the New Year in fine style with a brand-new Judge Dredd adventure written by Michael Carroll – Desperadlands.

But the big news is that it features the return of Will Simpson to 2000 AD with his first interior artwork in the Prog since 2001 – and it looks every bit as gorgeous as you’d expect! Look for it inside Prog 2213, out right now!

We were going to chat to Michael and Will together about the strip, but Will sent over so many wonderful images means we’ve already shown you Will’s artwork (right here) and now we’ve got the chance to speak to writer Michael Carroll.

Desperadlands brings us back to the land of crime and lawlessness that is Ciudad Barranquilla, Banana City, the South American Mega-City where the Judges are more corrupt than the gangs. Dredd’s been here before on Simpson’s watch, with the lawman going undercover in the Banana City storyline. This time, Dredd is here in full uniform, investigating a mystery with connections to the Justice Department. I could tell you more, but let’s leave that to Michael Carroll…

Okay Mike, in 2000 AD Prog 2213 we have the beginning of a new Judge Dredd series, Desperadlands. And it’s a bit special as it’s the first time we’ve seen a certain Mr William Simpson on the inside of the Prog since June 2001, nearly two decades ago!

So, what can you tell us about what to expect from Desperadlands?

Michael Carroll: It’s a four-part adventure that takes Dredd back to South America. Initially, we discussed the idea of a direct sequel to the Banana City storyline from 2000 AD prog 623, in which Dredd tracks rogue MC1 Judge Barry Kurten to Ciudad Barranquilla, where he’s joined that city’s corrupt Justice Department. Problem with that is that time passes in Dredd’s world at the same rate it does for us… and that was thirty-one years ago.

So instead Desperadlands is a new tale mostly set on the far outskirts of the region governed by Ciudad Barranquilla rather than in the heart of the city itself. It also brings Dredd back into contact with former Judge Doya Meekins. I introduced her in the very first Dredd strip I ever wrote, Blood Culture (However, that wasn’t my first published Dredd: that was Salvage which appeared in Prog 1715… exactly ten years before the first episode of Desperadlands appears.)

In the first episode Dredd and Meekins are called in when a body is found in the middle of a field in South America, and evidence reveals a connection with Syan Hegedos, a former MC1 Judge who’s on the Department of Justice’s most-wanted list for reasons that are revealed in the second episode – so I won’t spoil them here!

We’re in the lawless world of Ciudad Barranquilla here, so many opportunities to compare and contrast the world of MC-1 and BC. And again, Mike, you do seem to enjoy exploring the entire world of Dredd.

MC: I do! Every writer and artist who’s worked on the strip has contributed to a very rich tapestry of fascinating sandboxes full of gardens of earthly (and sometimes unearthly) delights. In fact, it’s such a rich and inventive tapestry that very often great ideas have been introduced to serve a specific story, and then afterwards mostly – if not completely – ignored. Aside from Banana City itself, Desperadlands also explores another of those very striking elements that’s rarely been revisited even though it’s potentially hugely rewarding, story-wise.

What’s so appealing about taking Dredd out of familiar surroundings?

MC: If you want to show the heart of a character you have to strip away all their trappings, peel them back to the very core (which is something that I actually did literally in a one-off tale called The Carousel a few years ago).

I’ve often felt that Dredd is at his best when he doesn’t have his support network backing him up, when he doesn’t have hundreds of other Judges and the considerable resources of the Department of Justice at his beck and call. So one easy way to accomplish that is to take him out of the city. Plus there’s that well-populated sandbox just sitting there… why would we confine ourselves to just the tiny corner represented by Mega-City One when we’ve so much more room for adventure out there?

That applies not just to physical locations, but to characters and social situations, too, and it’s one of the things I love about the world of Judge Dredd: it’s big enough and varied enough that we don’t have to restrict ourselves to a “Crime/Perp/Monster of the Week” formula… and even if we do choose to follow that sort of path, the very nature of the Judge Dredd strip means that our weekly crime or perp or monster is going to be very different to that of any other comic.

Do you have any big plans for this one, or is it a nice Dredd gets out of MC-1 adventure?

MC: Well, time will tell, but fingers crossed it’ll be a bit of both! As it stands, this one is loosely connected to some of the tales I’ve already written – it’s another chapter in Doya Meekins’ story, for example – plus of course it also glances back in the direction of the Banana City storyline… but we’ve been careful to make sure that new readers don’t need to have read those ones. That’s something that’s always at the back of my mind: don’t scare away the new readers! Every episode of every story should leave brand-new readers thinking, “OK, I didn’t quite get all of what’s just happened in this story, but I like it enough to read more.”

We’ve also planted a couple of tiny story-seeds in Desperadlands that with a bit of luck will get a chance to grow into something big and fruitful down the road. I certainly hope so! Working with Will Simpson has been fantastic. I first met him back in the late 1980s – around the time Banana City was published – when he was a guest at an event in Dublin run by the Irish Science Fiction Association, and I was hugely inspired by his dedication as well as his skills. I’ve wanted to work with him ever since. So… that’s a pretty hefty career-goal ticked for me!

And finally, what can we expect you in the future?

MC: I’ve got another Judge Dredd two-parter on the way, plus a few things that too early in development to talk about right now. There’s also Dreadnoughts currently running in the Judge Dredd Megazine, and I’ve delivered the second series. The second Proteus Vex series, The Shadow Chancellor, is currently in the prog, plus there are two new Regened stories coming soon that I’m pretty excited about: Action Pact and Mayflies. I delivered my third Judges novel six months ago, so that should be along soon, too, plus I’m still the series’ editor, which has often been a huge amount of work… but always very rewarding!

Thank you to Mike for talking to us and giving us this look inside just a little of what to expect from Desperadlands. I think you can agree, just from the art up here, that we’re all in agreement with Mike that it’s a great thing to see Will Simpson back in the Prog, but it’s also great to bring in 2021 with Mike back writing Dredd!

You can get hold of Desperadlands Part One in 2000 AD Prog 2213, out on 6 January and available from the 2000 AD web shop.

Now, for a little bonus, a little look back at some of Simpson’s previous Judge Dredd work… first from Banana City in Progs 623-625.