Judge Dredd Megazine #444 is out on Wednesday 18 May, with the debut of a brand new Judge Dredd story by Arthur Wyatt and Ian Richardson

This next installment in the ‘Red Queen’ saga draws Judge Dredd and Judge Maitland deep into Euro crime, taking in the classic Dredd-world locations of Krong Island and Atlantis along the way.

The first stop is the underwater city of Atlantis, where Dredd and a multi-national team go after the viral legacy of Quaganon in Q-Topia

We have a new Dredd adventure kicking off in Judge Dredd Megazine 444, Q-Topia – so, first things first… how many episodes for this one?

ARTHUR WYATT: Yes, just the one issue with Ian, and then we have a Jake Lynch two-parter coming up shortly. 

Q-Topia is the latest in the whole Judge Maitland vs The Red Queen extended storyline that you, Arthur, have been unfolding slowly across multiple stories. We’ve seen Maitland discover the secret to cutting crime in the Big Meg in Carry The Nine (Progs 2200-2203) and we’ve seen the whole Red Queen/Red Prince saga in Krong Island (Meg 392-395), Eurozoned (Prog 1912-1917), The Red Prince Diaries (Meg 404), and The Red Queen’s Gambit (Meg 409-412). Last time we had it all come together with the Red Queen getting mighty pissed with Maitland’s continued investigations into the euro crime syndicate. That brought us The Hard Way (Prog 2250-2255) and introduced Qaganon and the electronic chaos it brings.

All of which brings us to Q-Topia, storylines merging, this piece fitting in with that piece, payoffs happening all over the placehell, it also gives us the welcome chance to see Judge Heston – always a pleasure of course!

IAN RICHARDSON: My first time drawing both Maitland & Heston, so that’s been a personal treat! 

AW: I believe after Henry Flint and Jake Lynch that Ian is the third artist to draw him. 

Maitland has a wonderful opener here, the calm confidence as she delivers the news to Lola at Koko Cabana and Heston deals with an attack on her. It’s such an obviously cool moment and kind of epitomises what I reckon is your great love for the character. I’m right aren’t I?

IR: First page and probably my favourite of the whole story, from the point of view of how the art turned out.

AW: We’ll be coming back to her of course, but she’s very much at the height of her powers here, kicking ass and taking names, the full authority of the city behind her. Will it stay that way if she tries to swing that power and influence around and point it inwards rather than outwards? That’s something we’ll have to see. 

And now that you and Rob Williams have made her a star, you’ve got plans for her haven’t you? But are you ever going to convince Tharg to let you do the ultimate Maitland storyline, where she gets to put her plans in place, solves the crime problem and becomes the greatest Chief Judge of them all?

AW: Maybe.

Ooooh, maybe he says!

Arthur, is this all part of what you described in a past interview as ‘There are long term plans, put it that way’? And seeing as Maitland isn’t exactly on the Red Queen’s Christmas card list, maybe you have other, more dangerous plans for Maitland? After all, as Jake Lynch once described her, she’s ‘a real monster’ and not someone to take lightly.

AW: Keen-eyed readers who’ve spotted the title of the story in next month’s Meg might get a clue on if we are going to get a showdown between the queen of accounting and the queen of crime. Debts will be settled, books will be balanced, other metaphors of that nature. 

Yep… Regicide is coming!

One thing that makes her a very different, very dangerous sort of threat, to my thinking at least, is that she’s international, not tied into MC1, with a whole world to operate in and that makes it all the more difficult to lock her down. She’s not the simple enemy Dredd can just put his fist through.

And this is part of a new internationalism we’re reading of in the Meg (and to a limited degree the Prog). There’s you and the Red Queen and then we have Rory McConville doing his extended storyline that started with Project Providence, both of them busy exploring beyond the bounds of the Big Meg.

AW: The Megazine always feels like a good place for that sort of thing. Kind of a tradition. I might try pitching some stories that take some other characters into the wider world and see what happens with that. 

I know we’ve talked a little of this before, but is this something of a way to carve out a Dredd territory? Some way of running a longer tale that sits apart from MC-1 and lets you develop it all at your pace?

AW: It’s been interesting working with Rob, and bouncing ideas off of him, and how that’s meant that a lot of stories can grow off of elements of other stories… so this story obviously follows on from the events of The Hard Way, but Rob has a couple that do too, and then fingers crossed we’ll be co-writing a series of stories that come back to Maitland. 

All the Dredd writers tend to carve out their own little niches, but its fun to see what happens when they collide a little as well. I’d be interested to see more of that in future. 

As for the whole Red Queen and Maitland saga, are we in this for the long haul, something to revisit and revisit as they dance around each other?

AW: I think things will reach a natural peak eventually, but then there will be reverberations after that. I’m thinking there’s some dangling threads in the next story that will turn out to be very important over time.

IR: From a reader point of view, I’d hope so! From a droid point of view, I’d love a chance to revisit Maitland after a very, very brief dalliance.

Now, speaking of Jake Lynch as we were a moment ago, he’s been the artist on all of the Red Queen tales thus far. But here we have the impressive Ian Richardson coming in and flexing those artistic muscles, along with Gary Caldwell on colours and Annie Parkhouse on letters.

Arthur, have you had the pleasure of seeing Ian’s pages yet?

AW: I’ve seen bits, looks ace, looking forwards to seeing the full thing.

Was it a case of shifting artistic gears with a storyline you thought suited Ian’s style or was it just the old story of the Lynch droid being unavailable? (Of course, this is the joy of 2000 AD and Dredd – SO many incredible artists means that the loss of one results in someone as strong as Ian coming in!)

IR: I’m blushing! Haha

AW: I think it was Proteus Vex shifting schedules around a little. Only so much of Jake’s time to go around.

Ian, your art brings a whole new look to the Red Queen saga, brilliant artwork but completely different in tone – a more muscular, action-based look that perfectly fits in with this first episode. Was that an intention for you or just a case of your style fitting perfectly?

IR: Thanks Richard! A happy accident of circumstance, I guess. Definitely a completely different tone to Jake’s stuff & it’s me just being me, for better or worse. I came on when Arthur’s script was already done, so it was a case of me working from that script & the reference from Rob & Jake’s previous arc of stuff like Atlantis. Plus, hints like the diving suits being somewhat akin to Henry Flint’s Titan suits. Yeah, my Dredd has always been visually more in that Ron Smith/ Staz Johnson vein I think.

You’ve had a 20+ year career with your art now, since starting in 2001. Like many other UK artists, 2000 AD was your start-point, with your first work there being Sinister Dexter. Of course, you’ve spread your wings since then and have a very successful career – but is there something of a homecoming feel to being back in the 2000 AD fold?

IR: 20+ year… feeling old now, haha. Absolutely, spot on! My very first professional gig was Sinister Dexter: Fully Laundromatic (great title)! It is exactly as you describe, a homecoming, that holds a warm place in my stone-cold heart & I’d always want to do more & more. Whenever I get the chance to work on more Prog or Meg stories, I always look forward to it as a chance to do better work than the last time too.

As for creating your pages, what sort of process do you have and what sort of collaboration was there here between you and Arthur?

IR: Pretty much the same process for every piece of work for me, with a couple of small differences particular to 2000 AD. As soon as I get the script I thumbnail every page from start to finish to make sure the whole story works art-wise. For Prog & Meg stories they’re really small & loose preliminary thumbnails as Tharg is exceedingly trusting & I can head straight to the finished art from there without having to submit anything for approval. Loosely penciling pages is next… nothing too heavily finished when I know it’s me who will be doing the final inks anyway. Then it’s done & I try to not overly dwell on the finished page too much if I can, otherwise, I know I’ll want to change 80% of it before I send it out! The life of a never-satisfied creative!

I should probably mention I’m still 99% old school & analogue as an artist too. I still work with pencil, pen & ink on board before scanning to send pages to Tharg. It has its pros & cons but it’s also nice to still have original pages for the Squaxx dek Thargo to enjoy, should the mood take them.

As far as collaborating with Arthur this time, as I mentioned, the script was already complete by the time I got involved, so not so much. I hope that might be different in the future as I love Arthur’s stuff I would jump at the chance to work on something new that’s a little more back & forth.

Finally, what’s coming up for the future for you both?

IR: I really do hope much more for the Meg & Progs. In fact I shall be dropping Tharg a line as soon as I finish answering this! In the meantime, I’m currently in the middle of drawing a Vampire Western for a European anthology with my old collaborator from Noble Causes, Jay Faerber & also knee deep in character design for a new multi-media project that I can say no more than that about. A tease aren’t I?

AW: I’ve just written the most complex script I’ve ever written in my life for about two pages of Intestinauts, and you will absolutely know it when you see it. Once I finish the rest of that story it’ll be more Dredd with Rob, and I’ve a few other things brewing –  I think I owe Jake some stories with a certain monkey for a  start.

And all of that sounds rather tantalising! So, thanks very much to both Arthur and Ian for chatting to us.

Judge Dredd: Q-Topia can be seen in Megazine issue 444, out on 18 May from everywhere you get your Thrill Power from, including right here at the 2000 AD web shop! Look for the stunning Andy Clarke cover!