Friday, May 27, 2011

Blog Post #1995: The Year of Living Dreddfully

1995 was quite a year. When it started, I was editing one fortnightly comic [the Judge Dredd Megazine, for teenagers and adults] and prepping to launch another [Judge Dredd: lawman of the Future - you know, for kids]. The Judge Dredd film starring Sylvester Stallone was in post-production, prepping for a global launch that summer.

The movie had the potential to transform Dredd from a cult character [beloved in Britain, parts of the Commonwealth and a few places in the US] into a worldwide sensation. Stallone's career had been on a surge thanks to hits like Cliffhanger and Demolition Man. Director Danny Cannon was a young gun, on the rise. All looked good.

In the offices of 2000AD, the previous editor had been made redundant in November 1994 as part of a company-wide cull. New editorial team John Tomlinson and my old mentor Steve MacManus were publishing a load of less than stellar material left behind, getting the comic into shape for the movie's summer premiere. It was a tricky time.

The Dredd film flopped in America, ranking just below The Goofy Movie for takings that year. It was a big hit in Britain, and did well globally - but the damage was done. The Dredd brand was well and truly sullied, nobody was coming near it again for years. [There's a new Dredd film coming next year, hopefully it can remove the old stink.]

By the end of 1995, I'd been transferred from the peripheral titles to control of the mothership. On December 18 that year, I became editor of 2000AD. This was a dream come true in many ways, the chance to course correct a title I felt had been heading for the rocks for years. A slower car crash than the '95 Dredd film, but still painful.

I leapt in with both boots, dispensing freelancers whose work didn't my vision of the comic with sledgehammer subtlety. My behaviour didn't endear me to lots of people. I was young and full of myself, thought I knew better. Even if I did, I should have treat those freelancers with more care and respect. Sigh. Live and learn.

So 1995 was a transformative year. When it started, anything seemed possible. When it ended, we knew saving 2000AD would have to be a local job. Stallone and the Dredd film hadn't ridden to the comic's rescue. The dull stink left by the movie still taints the character, as shown by the clip above. There was a long, hard slog up ahead.

Somehow, in the midst of all this, I wrote my fourth novel. It proved to be one of my best, most heartfelt books - a Doctor Who tie-in tome called Who Killed Kennedy. The ending is flawed, lots of things that could be done better, but there's a grasp of tone and narrative position I hadn't managed before. I was learning my craft as last.

But being editor of 2000AD is very much a full-time job. I didn't anything else of my own for another five years. 1996-1999 were devoted to the Galaxy's greatest comic, pretty much to the exclusion of everything else. Frankly, those four years are a blur of work, work and more work. You need to have a life too, if you can manage it...

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