1995 and a Waterworld mystery

waterworldA friend at work lent me a copy of Arrow’s recent release of Waterworld on Blu-ray, as I’d confessed to never having seen the film before, odd as that may sound, but, you know, some films slip us by. Well, back home Claire told me we had indeed seen it before, but I insisted I hadn’t. I mean, I honestly could not remember any of it, other than maybe the odd scene that I stumbled upon when it was aired on tv over the years (for awhile, it seemed to aired all the time on various cable stations etc, and even then I never sat down to watch it).

So Claire went off to find proof- and returned with her diary from 1995, which indeed confirmed that we had indeed seen it, at a Showcase Cinema on August 22nd, 1995. Which I honestly cannot remember, at all. Can a film be that bad, that forgettable, that it just fades entirely from memory? It still baffled me, as I could not remember it at all- indeed, it felt all a little bit scary. Is this how it begins, losing your mind?

Strangest of all, Claire had a list in the back of her diary of all the films we had seen that year at the cinema- 34 of them. Yeah, that’s right, 34 of them. I don’t think I see that many films at the cinema in a decade now. My only excuse, we were courting back then, before we got married and settled down to domesticity and the joys of home cinema. But 34 films? Crikey. While my eyes water at the state my wallet must have been in back then, here’s the list, just for curiosity sake: When  A Man Loves A Woman, Timecop, Stargate, Nostradamus, Shallow Grave, Natural Born Killers, Interview With The Vampire, Leon, The Shawshank Redemption, Little Women, 101 Dalmatians, Nobody’s Fool, Outbeak, Legends of the Fall, Apollo 13, In the Mouth of Madness, Don Juan de Marco, Judge Dredd, Braveheart, Waterworld, First Knight, Congo, Batman Forever, Species, Die Hard With A Vengeance, Delores Claiborne, While You Were Sleeping, Pocahontas, Mortal Kombat, Haunted, Jade, Crimson Tide, A Walk in the Clouds, Babe.

Well, there’s a few there I can barely remember either. There’s a few I would like to forget but can’t.

As for Waterworld, well, we watched it Saturday night, and other than one or two scenes, such as the dive down to the submerged ruins (which I swore I recalled from stumbling onto a tv showing, to be honest) it absolutely failed to ring any bells memory-wise. It was like I was absolutely watching it for the first time. It was utterly bizarre. Unless Claire had gone to see it with some other fella I must have just wiped that film from my memory completely in some kind of post-traumatic shock. Well, yeah, it was a pretty forgettable film, so that would be part of it- that, and nearly 24 years.

The time to lock me away in a padded room is when I forget I ever saw Blade Runner, obviously.


Carlos Ezquerra

carlosdreddJust a short post to note my sadness at the recent news of the passing of Spanish artist Carlos Ezquerra, whose remarkable work was a big part of my teenage years reading the British comic 2000AD.  Most famous for being the co-creator (with John Wagner) of Judge Dredd, Carlos did so much other great stuff too- notably Strontium Dog for sister comic Starlord and strips based on The Stainless Steel Rat books, as well as war strips for weekly comic Battle.

For myself, I’ll just say this- one my fondest memories from my youth is of reading the Judge Dredd epic The Apocalypse War week by week in 2000AD and sharing the weekly twists and turns with my mate Andy. A little bit like water-cooler television for us, we’d  each week marvel at the epic events and discuss what we’d read like people do over stuff like Game of Thrones now. Incredibly fast, Ezquerra somehow managed to single-handedly provide the art for an entire saga that stretched over six months. Several years ago I bought the Apocalypse saga collected in a handsome IDW hardback edition and re-reading it was such a great experience, it proved easily as good as I remembered it. Ezquerra’s storytelling was cinematic and peerless.


Carlos was some kind of genius and as others have wisely noted in comments over the past few days, easily deserves to be considered one of the very greats of comicbook artists, like Kirby and Eisner before him. Yeah, another one gone.


As I write this, 35 years ago.

Half a lifetime ago I guess. I was sixteen.

I remember, walking with a group of friends (most of whom I have not seen in decades- in that pre-social media era freindships had a habit of splintering off forever,  lives spinning off like shattered shards of glass). We were walking to another’s house on the other side of our council estate, to play Dungeons and Dragons (we were RPG-junkies for a few years back then). I remember walking down a street as we made our way across, talking about Blade Runner, thinking about the film’s year of 2019. Worked out how many years ahead it was, how old I would be in that year. A time so long-distant to a sixteen-year-old! 2019 was some incredibly far-off shore, a distant alien landmark, way past that other notable year, 2001, that figured so highly in our geek estimations.

It’s odd to consider that Kubrick’s special year was such a landmark to my generation and those before us-  2001: A Space Odyssey! Those very words were exciting, powerful, they carried some kind of arcane meaning. People now, kids, likely look back on it as just any other date, just another old movie. For us it was something bigger than us, something evocative of a space-faring future ambition. We had visions of returning to the moon, going to Mars. Even in 1982 it all seemed a matter of when, not if.

In hindsight, we were pretty stupid. But 1982, 35 years ago, it was another world.

1982 was a year for other worlds. Dungeons and Dragons, Traveller, Runequest, Gamma World. Well, I could go on and on about those RPG days. Back when the acronym TSR meant so much, Gary Gygax was some kind of genius, and Games Workshop was a gateway to incredible places- each of us of our group would pick a game system and create adventures we would later gather to play.  I ran a campaign titled Shadow World using the AD&D rules that went on for years. I still have books and folders of work I wrote for it, up in my loft- it was such a passion of mine that took so much time it’s hard to fathom now. I should have been out fooling around with girls but instead was inside my room dreaming up dark dungeons and evil sorcerers. Well, either that or reading or painting.

I read so much back then- Arthur C Clarke, Ray Bradbury, Robert E Howard…

1982, Arthur C Clarke was still alive and writing, as was Ray Bradbury. Frank Frazetta was still alive. John Buscema and Gil Kane and Gene Colan and so many others I grew up with were still working in comics. I was reading 2000 AD in those days, the comic still in its prime. 1982 was the year they ran the 26-issue Apocalypse War saga in the Judge Dredd strip. Each week after reading each installment I was trading comments with my mate Andy in the halls of our secondary school. Block Mania, East Meg One, War Marshall Kazan, Stubb guns, 400 million dead... it was some glorious soap opera, a comicstrip punk-Charles Dickens that unfolded each week, and we would marvel and moan at the various turns of fate as the saga progressed.

I remember the threat of global nuclear armageddon was very real, so that Apocalypse War storyline seemed very pertinent. We actually went to war that year, an old-fashioned war: Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands and we sent an armada to those small islands thousands of miles away that no-one had even heard of. I remember the daily updates on the news.

1982 was a very good year for films. Its why this blog has its name, for one thing.

Blade Runner, ET, Poltergeist, Star Trek: Wrath of Khan, The Thing, Mad Max 2, Conan.People often refer to it as the ‘summer of 1982’ and of course it was if you were American, but in other countries that incredible summer of genre films was spread out across the year, as releases were not so immediately global then. Wrath of Khan was here in July, The Thing in August (what madness was that?), Blade Runner and Poltergeist in September, Tron in October, and finally E.T. not until December when likely everyone had already seen it on pirate VHS. Video piracy-  how I first saw The Thing and Conan and Mad Max 2 (and The Exorcist, too, that Autumn).

I could never get my head around being able to watch films on-demand at the press of a switch. Even today it seems a bit weird, a bit like sorcery. In 1982 of course it was a slice of the future, but always over someone else’s house; at home we couldn’t afford a VHS machine until we rented one in late 1983.  Those dark Autumn nights of 1982 when we gathered over a freinds house when his parents were out and watched those VHS copies, they linger in my head forever, so intense it almost seems like yesterday. I giggled like some kind of idiot on first watching The Thing (it just seemed so extreme, in hindsight it was probably nervous laughter, not funny ‘ha-ha’ laughter, but I hadn’t seen Dawn of the Dead at that point). I detested Conan for not really being honest to the Howard books (though I made peace with it soon enough on subsequent viewings) and I remember being gobsmacked by the wild kinetics of Mad Max 2.

Backtrack a few months to Easter, 1982, and Tron: I remember playing an RPG over a freinds house and we paused to watch Disneytime on his portable telly. Imagine five or six of us enthralled when they showed a clip of Tron: it was the Lightcycle chase, and this little portable b&w television was suddenly a window into the future. Hell, I was still playing videogames on my Atari VCS and they were nothing like the cgi being thrown around in Tron. We had seen nothing quite like it, it was like something that arrived out of nowhere.

It was like that back then. Films did seem to come from nowhere. I remember every month going into the city to the specialist bookshops, reading all the latest movie news in the latest issues of Starlog, Fantastic Films, Starburst, Cinefantastique, Cinefex. Marvelling at the latest pictures, reading the latest previews/reviews/interviews. There was no internet, films were spoiled less and information harder to come by. Trailers were rarely seen (not available at a whim as they are now).

When I saw Blade Runner that September, I had never seen a single scene beforehand, hardly any pictures. I do remember a film-music programme on the radio on which I heard the sequence of Deckard meeting Tyrell- that was my only experience of that film beforehand. I wonder if that was why the film had such an impact on me back then? Nowadays we see so much, learn so much, before we even see a film. It steals the surprise somehow. It’s so hard to avoid these days.

Back in 1982, films kept their surprises.



Scarlett goes Cyberpunk

shell22017.19: Ghost In The Shell (2017) – Cinema

I must confess to having experienced a horrible feeling of detachment while watching this live-action adaptation of Ghost In The Shell.  It was strange, frustrating; I prefer films to have some emotional connection, here I always felt like an outside witness of proceedings rather than a participant. Visually, it was everything I could have hoped. Its quite astonishing how photo-realistic some of this imagery is nowadays;  something like Mega City One from Judge Dredd with the obvious inevitable nods to Blade Runner‘s LA 2019, only turbocharged to some other level…

As someone who grew up on the bluescreen effects of early ILM, this stuff never ceases to amaze me. I’ll never grow out of slack-jawed wonder at what can be done. I dare say the current generation of filmgoers just take it all for granted, it’s all over the place now, even on tv to some degree, but I still remember locked-down camera moves, mattes painted on glass, miniatures given away by depth of field problems… Some of the imagery in this Ghost In The Shell is quite utterly breathtaking.

And yet, never did I ever really care about what was happening, never did I feel enthused by what I was seeing. There is clearly something wrong. The effects, the art direction, the cast, everything works so well, and yet it’s all undermined, perhaps by the script or the direction, both of which are perhaps a little too faithful/respectful of the original anime. I know some people criticized Zack Snyder’s Watchmen film because it followed the graphic novel original too closely. To be fair, this Ghost In The Shell does, refreshingly, veer from the original in its story although it follows the visual beats of it sometimes too closely, some sequences/images struck almost verbatim from the anime.  Is this last point part of the problem, seeing some visuals that just, jarringly, keep pulling me out of it, reminding me of the original, enforcing that detached viewpoint?

shell2Maybe its just that, as the original anime dripped its influences into so much other stuff afterwards (in just the same way as Blade Runner did a decade or so earlier), we’ve just seen too much of this stuff before- the neon dystopian landscapes, for instance. Its like this film is a victim of how great the original was, and how it spawned so much stuff after. I wonder if Blade Runner 2049 might suffer the same fate? Its a little like how John Carter seemed to mimic stuff from all those films –Star Wars, Avatar etc- that themselves had been inspired by the original John Carter books.

There have been many mixed, and some hostile, reviews of this new incarnation of Ghost In The Shell. Lets be clear here- this is not a bad movie. It could, in all truth, be much, much worse. While it may not be wholly faithful to the original, neither does it butcher it out of all recognition. No character acts totally out of character (it’s certainly no Judge Dredd with its main character not wearing his helmet for a whole bloody movie) and it isn’t some cheap disrespectful cash-in that looks awful. Fans of the original anime have little reason to yell foul at anything this film does. The nonsense surrounding Johansson’s casting as the Major is irritating, really. If nothing else, the film correctly demonstrates the globalisation of the world, the breaking down of territorial barriers and the homogenisation of society that its technologies reinforce and encourage. The Major is a shell, a construct, designed to reflect that, and I never felt the Major to be particularly asian in the anime anyway. She isn’t even human, really; rather something in between, and whether that is more or less than human is up to the viewer to decide, and maybe the point of the whole enterprise. Johansson is fine in the role, she looks like the Major and if she lacks the confidence and command of the character in the anime, that’s a reflection of the film’s semi-origin plot. She isn’t yet the Major of the anime.This one has a little more baggage. But the film is fine. It isn’t some stupid actionfest with plot-holes by the truckload. It could have been. It could have been awful.

Of course, it also could have been great, and it clearly isn’t. Otherwise I would have felt some kind of emotional attachment, some sense of involvement in it. An obvious subtext within the film is what it means to be human, about dehumanisation in an increasingly technological world, so maybe its fitting that it feels so cold.  The biggest problem is an inability to really empathise with Scarlett Johansson’s Major because, well, she’s fairly cold and one-dimensional, a ghost in a mechanical shell, just beginning to discover her true humanity as she uncovers the mystery of her past. She’s a construct, a Pinocchio becoming a girl, but this is a film Pinocchio without the emotion of, say, Spielberg’s A.I., which is a good thing here, surely. It must be remembered too that the original anime was hardly a feelgood film either.


The film seems to be struggling at the box-office. Having seen it, it is clear that this isn’t too surprising. Its a cold, dark film that is dense on visuals and plot and maybe too close to the niche anime original to reach a mainstream popular audience. I’m sure it will have considerable success over time (the Ghost In The Shell franchise has long legs) and is sure to be a success on video. Its one of those films that can no doubt be poured over for all the visual details, and perhaps its cool detachment will thaw over time. After all, was part of my problem simply from watching a film based on another film that I’m all too familiar with? I like both Ghost In The Shell films, and the tv series spin-off, and its a likely a lot of baggage to take into the cinema with me (God knows how I’ll fare with the Blade Runner sequel).

I enjoyed this film and would like to see a sequel that could perhaps be improved by moving away from its almost superhero-origin plot. Alas, it suffers as many of these films do by being a little distracted with setting-up a possible franchise rather than concentrate on making just one singular film. The most irritating thing about this film for me was simply the ending- its another one of those teases, having set things up, establishing the characters and their world, for other adventures, other crimes to solve, bad guys to bring to justice, cyber terrorists to thwart. When films end like trailers for some other movie, well, thats trouble in my book.

Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD (2014)


2016.30: Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD (TV, Film Four)

Now this is brilliant. It’s a documentary about the creation and history of the great British sci-fi anthology comic 2000AD. Basically a talking heads piece in which the comics editors and the creators of the strips reminisce about the making of the comic and its ensuing history, full of entertaining commentary and sometimes acidic rants (God bless you, Pat Mills, I owe you my childhood). With a punk-rock, anti-establishment attitude fostered in the dark dismal mid-seventies and Thatcher’s Britain,  the comic was an incredible culture shock for impressionable young kids like me and incredibly exciting. It certainly lived up to its reputation as The Galaxy’s Greatest Comic.

I read the comic from its very first issue up to, oh, the late-eighties, so it was a real joy to see the heroes of my childhood- and yes, these guys were my heroes. Not the strips themselves, it was the  guys in the little credit-box that were my heroes. Guys like Pat Mills and John Wagner and Kevin O’Neill and Brian Bolland and Dave Gibbons and Carlos Ezquerra (bless him, I cannot understand a word of what Carlos says in his segments). To see them all now as middle-aged men looking back at those heady days of being young firebrands ripping apart the rulebook of British comics is fantastic. There’s a few notable absentees, like Ian Gibson, and yes I guess no-one would expect Alan Moore to show his face, and sadly he doesn’t. That man Moore is a genius who really should give his fans the Halo Jones saga we’ve been waiting for, but I’m afraid he’s not interested, so Neil Gaiman’s tease about Moore once telling him all the untold Halo Jones stories he had planned was almost painful to watch. Its just one of the many fascinating highlights.

Running nearly two hours, this thing could have been three hours long and it wouldn’t have bored me at all (indeed, film-makers, I want the three-hour director’s cut!). Its almost like a chat in the pub with the coolest dudes ever. These guys lit up my childhood and later saved Marvel and DC comics when the Americans pulled them across the pond to make Watchmen and so many other strips. That exodus of talent is related in the doc, and the resultant problems on the comic that nearly sank it (it’s no coincidence that I stopped reading the comic during this troubling period). There’s the inevitable discussion of creator rights and some horror stories of what happened to some of the gorgeous original artwork. There’s also a look at the two Judge Dredd movies and the influence of 2000AD strips on films and culture in general. The doc brings things up to the present day with the comic on a surer footing.

Still, it’s those early days that live loud and bright in my memory. Me and my mate Andy to this day can sit together and chat about the old strips we used to love- Robo Hunter, Dredd’s Apocalypse War, Nemesis the Warlock, so many others. Reading that comic back then was like a rite of passage. Sometimes I pick up a current copy in a newsagent and flick through it- it looks interesting but I haven’t bought 2000AD in awhile. I had a spell buying it again a few years ago, but I mostly buy collected editions these days. It doesn’t feel like my old 2000AD to be honest, the early stuff was fairly brutal and raw and yes, mostly black and white on cheap paper. The current comic is on better paper, mostly colour, the strips look slick but it feels… well, I’ll no doubt buy it again in future but it isn’t really the 2000AD of my childhood. That was a long time ago, after all.

But this documentary is fantastic stuff. I honestly think it’d be rewarding even for those unfamiliar with the original comic. There’s really a very human story behind the comic and the times that created it, the sensibilities behind it. 2000AD could only have come out of Britain, and its cultural impact would surprise many who aren’t at all familiar with it. For those of us on whom it had such an impact, hell, this doc is brilliant. These guys are heroes.

Watchmen: Ultimate Cut (2009)

watch12016.19: Watchmen-Ultimate Cut (Blu-ray)

I bought the Theatrical Cut on blu-ray. I bought the Directors Cut on blu-ray. I’ve now bought the Ultimate Cut on blu-ray. I don’t feel ripped-off at all by all this double/triple-dipping.

I think I must like this movie.

Well, to be fair, although I’ve always wanted to see the Ultimate Cut I’ve never been compelled enough to pay the crazy amounts charged on ebay over the years, only buying it now due to it being in a sale on Amazon. However, it is clear that I like, even love, this movie; it remains one of my most enjoyable and surprising experiences at the cinema, certainly in the past few decades. This was a film with a huge weight on it, based on a book that was widely accepted as being unfilmable, and directed by Zack Snyder (Man of Steel surely later indicating how bad Watchmen might have been). It should have been a disaster, but instead I came out of the cinema buzzing like I hadn’t in years; my mate Andy who had also read the graphic novel years before loved it too. Yet we’d just seen arguably the weakest version of the film- the Directors Cut that came out on blu-ray several months later was far superior and answered many of the problems of the theatrical cut.

How much the world needed the Ultimate Cut depends on how much you loved the film, as that Directors Cut is pretty much definitive. The problem that the Ultimate Cut has is two-fold: the sheer length of the thing (three and a half hours of it) and how much the animated Tales of the Black Freighter distracts from the live-action and upsets the pacing. I can’t argue against it- the film is long and yes, some of the cuts to/from animated sequences can be jarring. On the other hand, having the Black Freighter stuff in it makes it feel more complete, and also adds some much-needed coverage of the ‘normal’ characters, the ‘real-world’ two Bernies, that adds some depth and another layer of ‘realty’ to the whole.  As for how long it is- well, better that than to have it cut to ribbons, and time-wary viewers are catered for with the theatrical cut anyway. The Ultimate Cut was clearly made for the films fans and as one of them, I appreciate it; just that it exists is amazing. Its unfortunate that we fans in the UK have to import the damn thing though and, in my case, have had to wait so many years to see it.

In the years since Watchmen (and isn’t it a little terrifying how long ago 2009 feels already?), Marvel’s series of Superhero films have dominated the box office with much better critical success than Watchmen ever had, and it could be argued that Watchmen has surely been forgotten in the wake of Marvel getting so much so right.

Studios have found that if your superhero film has impressive production values, likeable actors, plenty of action and humour and maybe some romance, then mainstream audiences will lap it up as much as the geeks, and if you can keep it rated PG-13, all the better. You don’t gross over a billion dollars without it appealing to everyone, and that includes foreign audiences with non-western cultures, so keep the plot fairly simple and the spectacle high. Even fairly obscure comic-book characters can have great success (who but the geeks had ever heard of Guardians of the Galaxy?).

So Watchmen was a clear example of how not to do it. It was long, it was dense, it was dark, it was more about character and its complex, conflicted world than good guys versus bad guys with big effects sequences. It was all about its subversive source and being faithful to that. Its box office compared to the Marvel films success speaks volumes. For a R rated movie it did okay; the geeks enjoyed it ( well, most of em) but the mainstream stayed away or were confused by it. Compare this to the similarly R-rated Deadpool, violent, simple and very funny- geeks loved it but more importantly the mainstream lapped it up too. Deadpool, despite also being R-rated and its audience (in theory) limited, has earned over $680 million worldwide so far. Personally I much prefer Watchmen, but I can understand why it didn’t have the success of Deadpool or the other PG-13 Marvel offerings. In anycase, to consider Watchmen as a failure is a mistake anyway- it may not have been a Deadpool, but neither was it a Fantastic Four.

I doubt it will ever get a Blade Runner-like reappraisal, but I think it deserves to. I think Watchmen remains a phenomenal piece of work. Indeed, watching it now I am often amazed at all the details, how so much has been squeezed in (particularly in this Ultimate Cut), how faithful to the original graphic novel it is, how beautifully it is shot and acted. Detractors of the film often fail to appreciate the craft and artistry at work in this film; the sets, the lighting, the costume design. They nailed it. It’s brilliant. It isn’t perfect, but it comes so close.


Some people will argue I’m wrong and that Snyder’s film proves that Watchmen is indeed unfilmable. I think Watchmen is, like Blade Runner, an arthouse movie posing as a mainstream blockbuster. Unfortunately it’s not intimate enough for an arthouse movie or mainstream enough to be a blockbuster. It falls somewhere in between and will always fail to be embraced by critics or public, but I think those who like the film absolutely love it. I will admit it doesn’t get everything right, it’s full of little things that bug me, but I’ll forgive every one of them because of how much the damn thing gets so beautifully, gloriously, brass-balls-I-don’t-believe-they-did-that right. I’m the kind of guy who grew up with comics in the 1970s and enjoyed the critical resurgence in the 1980s and cannot believe they are taken so seriously now and transferred with so much care and attention into these amazing films. I mean, seriously, bad-mouth Watchmen and then see-


Oddly enough, Watchmen isn’t completely forgotten, even though with the release of the Ultimate Cut a few years ago you’d think it was all done. The one good thing about its perceived ‘failure’ is that we didn’t get any talk of sequels or prequels. Even fans of the film would argue against any continuation of the story, and the prequel books that came out awhile ago don’t seem to have satisfied many (although I quite like some of them). Rumours persist though of HBO working on some kind of Watchmen series, something I would ordinarily be excited about did the film not exist, but it does, so,  what’s the point? I can’t believe, in so few years after the film came out, that anybody is interested in rebooting it already; but that’s Hollywood, nothing is sacred I guess. I’m sure the Comedian would appreciate the joke maybe, but it worries me. Surely there are other properties to turn to? Warren Ellis’ Planetary maybe? Or maybe Marshall Law? Can’t they leave Watchmen alone? Well, maybe Dr Manhattan knows…


Cam Kennedy’s Judge Dredd Vol.1

dreddcam“Of all the comic heroes I have drawn, Judge Dredd is definitely my favourite. Who wouldn’t like being paid to disappear into the future where a 7ft character goes around thumping people in post-apocalyptic America. I had a ball sitting in my room in Orkney sketching away while the rain poured down outside.”Cam Kennedy, 2012.

An excellent book has just been released by IDW Publishing – it seems this is another example of the Americans showing us Brits how it should be done, with one of our own greatest properties to boot. It’s a large-format, finely produced hardback collection of classic Judge Dredd stories illustrated by the great Cam Kennedy. Kennedy is my very favourite Dredd artist, and that’s no small praise considering the competition by such greats as Brian Bolland and Mike McMahon or indeed the legendary Carlos Ezquerra (and if those three names mean nothing to you, well, I pity you, really I do).  When I talk about such artists I have to admit I’m pretty much ignorant of anybody doing the Dredd strip these days- I used to read 2000AD back in 1978 through to the mid-nineties (and naturally the Dredd Megazine during that period too), so I guess I could be referred to as a fan of Classic Dredd or Golden-Age Dredd or whatever they call it these days. There are likely great ‘new’ artists illustrating Dredd stories these days but I’m totally ignorant of them. The Dredd of ‘my’ era was back in the days of the Dark Judges, Block Mania, tales like  The Cursed Earth, The Judge Child Quest, The Apocalypse War… oh boy, those epics were something special.

Kennedy’s tenure actually dated a bit later, from 1983 when Dredd had fully matured. With a clean, bold b&w ink style all his own, Kennedy brought a gritty, realistic edge to the strip… as fine as the other Dredd artists were, it was Kennedy’s Mega-City One that seemed the most real to me, the closest to how I thought a movie Dredd might really look. Indeed, most of his strips were like storyboards for a Dredd movie. Dredd looked real, the streets and the hardware looked real, solid. It lived, it breathed. Whenever I picked up the latest issue of 2000AD and found that Cam Kennedy had drawn the issues Dredd strip I knew I was in for something really special. The writers seemed to respond to Kennedy’s artwork with some really special stories though (and creator John Wagner admits as much in his introduction to this book), to the extent that its really not just the astounding artwork that lingers in the memory but the great story-lines and memorable characters too. The Midnight Surfer, Kenny Who?, The Taxidermist.. there are great characters here, great drama, great laughs, and a towering depiction of a huge, no-nonsense Dredd.

dreddcam2So this book is a treasure-trove of memories for me. A fantastic read and a book to return to for many years to come, with some fantastic strips lovingly re-printed here on fine paper at a size somewhat larger than the original 2000AD comic itself. Why on Earth the UK publisher Rebellion couldn’t have done something like this itself is beyond me, as this is a well overdue treatment of the iconic classic strips. This book has the sub-heading ‘Vol.1’ so I hope a collection of later Kennedy work on Dredd will be forthc0ming (I dare say much of that will be new to me). Similar collections of Brian Bolland and Carlos Ezquerra have already been printed but I believe proved problematic. Bolland drew individual episodes during big epic storylines and understandably only those episodes featuring his art were printed in the first collection, proving a frustrating reading experience apparently, and the Ezquerra collection seemed a bit of a hit-and-miss editorial affair, but I think I will get the Ezquerra Vol.2 collection as that reprints the remarkable Apocalypse War in its entirety (Ezquerra was amazingly fast at drawing Dredd, able to complete entire epic storylines on his own).  To be honest though, I’m so impressed by the quality of the Kennedy collection I think I may well go for the earlier Bolland and Ezquerra books myself anyway. This is a great quality way or collecting/preserving classic Dredd.

For newcomers though this Cam Kennedy collection is superior to the others as the stories are all complete and indeed are some of the finest Dredd stories that have been written. Roll on the second volume of Kennedy Dredd art, I can hardly wait.