Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Reprint This! The Daily Star Judge Dredd strip

Reprint This! is a periodic feature where I talk about some out-of-print comic book gems that are not available in collected form for readers to enjoy. This is hoping to let rights owners know that, yes, readers are out here, and we'd like to buy the things we can't get at this time!

Despite such an enormous variety of books available these days, and genuine efforts to present the material in reasonably-priced, archival volumes, there are still countless fabulous series from the US, Britain and Japan which are overdue for new editions. I've selected several titles which should be on bookshelves, but at this time are not.

One missing gem is the JUDGE DREDD newspaper strip which originally appeared in the pages of The Daily Star. Various teams worked on the series, initially John Wagner, Alan Grant and Ron Smith, and later Ian Gibson. Three samples from the Wagner-Grant-Gibson team are included here. The strip ran for about sixteen years under various teams, concluding in the late 1990s, but it's the first few years of material which is most crying out for a reprint.

Judge Dredd was, of course, created by Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra in 1977 for the pages of Britain's new sci-fi comic anthology 2000 AD, debutting in the second issue. He's a gruff, impartial, impatient policeman-plus who patrols the mean streets of the lunatic future megalopolis of Mega-City One, located on what's today the eastern half of the US. Thirty-one years and 1600 issues later, Dredd is still going strong, with a very nice reprint program going to keep his regular weekly adventures in print. But Dredd has appeared in several other outlets over the years. In 1981, the Daily Star commissioned a weekly episode of the strip. These were produced by Wagner, Grant and Smith and many, but not all of them, were collected in an annual series of five slim Judge Dredd Collections published by Fleetway, and many of these were then recompiled into a hardcover Judge Dredd Mega-Collection in 1990.

After a few years, Dredd was transitioned into a regular Monday-Friday continuity slot, typically telling tales across nine to fifteen weeks. Gibson began alternating with Mike Collins in 1988 before Collins became the regular artist. In time, the strip lost its regular team and a large number of different writers and artists contributed - Andy Diggle, Gordon Rennie, Mark Millar and Carlos Pino all put in time telling stories of Dredd and his world.

The weekly Star Dredd was pretty entertaining, but the daily version is the real treat. Admittedly I'm incredibly biased - even moreso than usual - because it combines two of my favorite things about comics: reading daily strip sequences and Ian Gibson's artwork. Readers never got the idea that Wagner and Grant were just hacking this out while saving their best ideas for 2000 AD. There's a great one that deals with the stupid Mean Machine Angel trying to convince some criminals who have built robot replicas of his dead criminal family that no, really, there never was any lost Angel Gang loot; they really did spend it all. Another features the talking horse from the classic "Black Plague" story getting Dredd's help to deal with some Cursed Earth slavers, and it's all done with that classic tongue-in-cheek and over-the-top mix of black comedy and violent melodrama that nobody does better than John Wagner.

Rebellion has been doing some really wonderful collected editions of 2000 AD series, but the slightly smaller dimensions of these books wouldn't flatter the material as well as something a little larger. Titan Books has, of course, been earning praise for their large-format collections of classic British newspaper strips like James Bond, Jeff Hawke and Modesty Blaise. I suggest that something in that format, with supplemental interviews and background material, as well as a complete "stripography" in the back, would be exactly what the daily Dredd needs. With a decent page count, Rebellion could conceivably reprint all the Wagner and Grant episodes in two books before evaluating whether to continue with the other material. I'm enough of a completist that I'm all in favor of seeing everything, but two's a good starting point. How about it, Rebellion?

Before I leave you this week, I do have a couple of other notes about some reprints my readers might find interesting.

I first heard of Mort Walker and Jerry Dumas's 1960s feature Sam's Strip - a comic strip about comic strips - in Walker's book Backstage at the Strips, a great book which I obtained and read years ago and did not realize was missing from my shelves until a couple of weeks ago when I went looking for it. Anyway, Fantagraphics will have a complete collection of this oddball and charming strip, which ran for less than two years, on your shelves in December. Read more about Sam, and the current fad of prestige reprints, over at Westfield Comics.

Also, had a pretty good suggestion at his Let's Anime blog: the long-running 1970s-80s crazy future ESPer action of Chojin Locke. I'd like to see more of that, too!

And, I probably didn't do Richard Bruton justice when I mentioned The Uncollecteds a couple of months back, but if you enjoy people talking about rare old comics that need new editions, you'll really like this series over at Forbidden Planet's blog, so check that out!

(Originally posted October 21, 2008, 05:43 at hipsterdad's livejournal.)

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