Fanbase Press Interviews Emma Beeby on Her New ‘Judge Anderson’ Comic with 2000AD

The following is an interview with writer Emma Beeby (The Alienist; Doctor Who), the first woman to write stories for Judges' Dredd and Anderson on multiple comic book arcs. Beeby's story, “Anderson: Psi Division: The Candidate,” in 2000 AD Prog 1994 pairs her with artist Nick Dyer, colorist Richard Elson, and letterer Ellie De Ville.

 


 

Michele Brittany, Fanbase Press Editorials Manager: As a reader of Judge Dredd and Judge Anderson stories in the many comic book and Judge Dredd Megazine formats, I want to say congratulations on being the first woman to write in the Judge Dredd universe, multiple times. What led to your first project with 2000AD, and did you feel a great weight on your shoulders, or did you feel you were a trailblazer?

Emma Beeby: I always loved 2000AD, and knew I would want to write for it, but I didn’t know what, certainly not Dredd, that wasn’t something I’d considered at all. Gordon (Rennie) and I had been trying to find a home for Survival Geeks for a while. It was as a kids' comic, but that wasn’t really working. We adult-ed it up a bit and soon it just felt like it would fit with 2000AD. Tharg accepted it on the basis of doing a triller to test it out. We got lots of requests for more, so we went from there. In terms of Dredd, Gordon and I had been discussing the imminent Chaos Day storyline and the impact it would have on the stories in MC-1 with so many dead, and as two writers in the pub are likely to do, we came up with a story idea, without really intending to. So, we pitched it. It wasn’t a plan at all!

In terms of weight of the world or trailblazing the path for women, honestly, I felt neither of those. I felt nervous, as a writer does on a new project with a new (to me) character to try to write. I was well into writing the Dredd story when it was pointed out to me that I was the first woman to write him. At that point I was a little shocked that it had taken 36 years, but pleased I had that honour. I worried after that if my work wasn’t well received, it would be seen as a problem that stemmed from me being a woman, but that didn’t happen. I was just accepted as a script droid. I am lucky to get to write for such a great comic. I hope more women do as well and my visibility as a female creator can help that. But I’m not trying to represent all womankind here. I’m just trying to write a good story, like any other writer.

MB: In an interview a couple of years ago, you described your creative style as “rad” or unconventional, rather than “trad” (traditional). Can you discuss what makes your Judge Anderson story, “The Candidate,”  in Judge Dredd Megazine rad?

EB: I think I said that about my Doctor Who stories? I love the more rad, timey-wimey, weird, and personal stories in that universe. In terms of Anderson, I think I’m actually being a bit of both - trad, in that I wanted to show her doing more things in the city, more process-y, day-to-day things that PSI-Judges do and that she does exceptionally well. Like how PSI Judges communicate, how does a telepath communicate with someone who knows her intentions, like Flowers does. I find all that fascinating. And we don’t see that very often. I love that Anderson has this legacy of off-world and expansive stories, but that’s not what I want to do with her stories. I want to see her take on the city. So, for Anderson, I suppose that’s rad.

MB: Given this is an election year in the US and the candidates for the presidential race run the gamut of political experience, I don't suppose it is coincidence that your story centers around an election. Is Smart at least partly representative of Hillary Clinton?  

EB: Nope, sorry! In NO WAY way is she representative of Hillary Clinton, beyond being a high-profile female politician. I pitched this story way back, before ‘Mutineers’ came out. So, that wasn’t even in my mind. There’s a passing reference to Trump, but it’s a passing jibe and no more than that. This is not a story about the US election. I wanted to create a character who could have an interesting dialogue with Anderson and play to her internal conflicts about the job she does and the world she lives in.

MB: “The Candidate” follows Judge Anderson as she and rookie Flowers use their psi powers to protect mayoral candidate Carol Smart. Smart seems to set herself up as a target, challenging the Citizen's Army to “get on with it” while at the same time claiming there's corruption in the Justice Department. Anderson and Smart are fascinating women. Can you tell us more about what they represent, and do you think that Judge Andersons' PSI powers add a complexity that the male characters lack?

EB: I quite deliberately have a lot of women in senior positions in this story, even ones we encounter briefly. It’s a universe where you can do that, where it’s already part of the norm, so it was a nice change for me, but there’s not really more reason for it than that! In terms of Smart, I wanted her to be someone Anderson could relate to. Smart is also an older woman, she sees the problems in the city and wants to offer a solution, and it’s not the usual justice department love-in.

Flowers is a different type of character who wanted to be a street judge but got transferred to PSI Academy, when he discovered his near unbeatable fighting was being aided by PSI powers he didn’t even know he had. In Mutineers he’s learning to accept those powers, and in this story he’s learning to apply them and learning more about how the department operates, and finding it a little shocking in a way Anderson no longer does. I don’t think it’s a female thing. I think PSI powers give you a very different view of people and power. I imagine they could be overwhelming and make someone cynical to the point of maniacal without training. Women are more commonly shown to be PSIs and that’s another reason I made Flowers male. He’s a tough, physical type and his powers help with that but also allow him to see a little deeper. Street judges have a more straightforward time.

MB: There does seem to be an ever-present amount of machismo via the male Judges in the story. Do you think this is inherent of Mega-City?  

EB: Yes, and the Justice Department. That’s the world. It’s authoritarian and extreme and it, therefore, creates and needs those types to enforce it to stay that way. It’s typically depicted as macho and, therefore, male, but it is, in fact, a world where you see a lot of women enforcing the law as well, and obviously a female chief judge in Hershey. I don’t think there’s institutional sexism in that way, though there’s a lot of discrimination in the MC-1 world against mutants and so on. It’s just not a particularly nice place to live, for anyone.

MB: Judge Anderson has an established history in the comics and now on film, portrayed by Olivia Thirlby. In what ways have you furthered her as a character? What story would you like to write next for her if the opportunity is presented to you?

EB: The things I like about her stem from her long history and experience. She knows herself and has accepted this role, almost heart and soul, despite her misgivings about the department from earlier in her career. She’s got a great depth as a result. I am interested in seeing her put all that into her work in the city. Also I like seeing her as a teacher, to Flowers and others. I think I’ll know how I’ve furthered her as a character once I’ve written her a bit more, which I hope to do!

MB: If you could create a new pivotal character for Judge Dredd, tell us about her or him. And what would their origin story be?

EB: I don’t know that I’ll be writing more Dredd any time soon. I enjoy writing him, but I’m more interested in Anderson right now and the PSI Division side of things! If I think up an awesome character for Dredd, I’ll be sure to pitch him/her in a story!

MB: What project(s) do you have coming up that we can look for, and where can we follow you on social media?

EB: Gordon (Rennie) and I are working on a bunch of things together at the moment. We’re about to start working on a new series of The Alienist. Our run on Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor, is coming to a close, but we are hoping there will be more. We’re also writing a horror film, which is pretty exciting.

I recently completed the DC Talent Development scheme and should have something appearing in the not-too-distant future following that, but can’t really say more just now!

You can find me on Twitter (@emmabeeby), so do say hello.

MB: Thank you very much for your time, Emma. I sincerely appreciate it and wish you much success!

EB: Thanks! It was fun to talk Anderson and hope to chat more again in the future.

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