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Home ¦ Features ¦ Gordon Rennie Interview Part 1

Gordon Rennie - A 2000 AD Review Interview
4th June 04

2000 AD - Gordon Rennie interview
The cloned Kazan, Dredd's new nemesis
Interview by Richmond Clements

Gordon Rennie has worked his way up the ranks to become one of the top creators working for 2000AD. The past two years have not only seen him create one of the best debuts for a new strip with Caballistics Inc, but have also seen him emerge as the heir apparent to John Wagner's throne as chief Dredd writer in waiting.

We caught up with Mr Rennie to ask about Dredd, Caballistics, Rogue and more...

First of all, what made you want to write comic for a living, and can you make a living doing it?

It seemed a better idea than working for a living. I've been doing it for thirteen years now, so, yes, I guess you can make a living from it. Not a bad one too, sometimes. Don't believe all the nonsense you hear from embittered failures about how you can't make a living from working for 2000AD.

What are the biggest differences between writing comic scripts, and writing novels? And which do you prefer?

With novels, it's just you and the reader. You don't have an artist to interpret the action, descriptions etc for you and make it seem real to the reader. It's just down to you and your writing ability. I know some comic writers who, frankly, can barely string a properly written sentence together, and who positively shit themselves at the idea of writing prose, where they don't have the pretty pictures to fall back on.

Which do I prefer? Well, the novel stuff takes me forever, and, on a strictly time-to-money earned equation, the comics stuff is much more worth my while. So I guess I prefer writing comics. I still keep on doing the novels, though, since they give me the chance to do stuff I couldn't do in comics.

My Rogue Trooper novel - plug, plug - has got lots of background stuff about Rogue, the GIs, Nu Earth, the war, Norts and Southers etc that couldn't credibly be put into a comic strip. I tried to do the same thing with the Dredd vs Death novel - throw in lots of extra detail about Mega-City One and the Justice Department. Go read it - it's not just yer average dumb computer game novelization, honest!

2000 AD - Gordon Rennie interview
Metro Dredd

Do you find writing the Metro strip, telling the tale in five short bursts, any more of a challenge than writing a normal length tale?

I've only done eight of them, but they're pretty good fun. Dredd Lite, really, very much emphasising all the mad, quirky stuff of future-life in a place like Mega City-One. They're useful for doing more simplistic, fun ideas that maybe wouldn't stand up as 6-page stories in the prog. I also did some stories for the Dredd Daily Star strip in its latter days, but they were a lot different - continuous 42-part stories that ran for 7 weeks each, so you could tell a much more involved story there.

Yes, you're right, though. As with writing anything short, quite often the challenge isn't what to put in it, but what to leave out and how to do what you want to do with the story in the limited space available. Writing 5-page Future Shocks or a 6-page Dredd story definitely teaches you something about economy of story-telling.

2000 AD - Gordon Rennie interview
Dredd meets the Queen
Can you ever see John Wagner retiring from Dredd?

Of course I can. I think John's on record as saying he'll go before Dredd does. He's been writing Dredd, with only a few minor interludes, for the last 27 years. Do you think he wants to keep on doing it for another 27 years? I know I wouldn't. Despite what some of the readers seem to think, Dredd isn't the be-and-end-all of John's life, and nor should he be. George Lucas once said something like "I may have created Star Wars, but doesn't mean I go to bed wearing Star Wars pyjamas." I think that's how John quite rightly sees Dredd.

What do you think is the secret of writing a good Dredd tale?

I dunno. 'Try not to make it crap', would seem to be a good point to remember. For a supposedly one-note character, Dredd doesn't half prove to be difficult for a lot of otherwise good writers to get right. He's not a total fascist violent bastard, and he's not a tough-cop-with-a-secret heart-of-gold either. Dredd's an iceberg, and there is the vague shape of a human personality buried in there somewhere, but it's more complex than a lot of people seem to realise. My favourite 'human' Dredd stories aren't the easy-write schmaltz ones. They're the ones where he's forced to interact socially with ordinary people - instead of shooting or arresting them - and usually fails miserably in the process. The story where he has to give a speech at the funeral of PJ Maybe's uncle, or the one where he goes to visit an injured Judge in hospital, and the two of them sit there in this horribly awkward silence, tells you more about Dredd's personality than any number of stories about rescuing crack babies and weeping children.

Being a miserable Scottish git seems to help too. Well, that, and actually having a genuine love for the character and his world.

2000 AD - Gordon Rennie interview
Dredd visits Planet Gary

You've gotten rave reviews for Gulag, your first stab at a large multi-part Dredd tale. Has this whetted your appetite for a larger epic, and will we be seeing more of Kazan in the near future?

Yes, the Kazan clone will be back, athough I don't really know how or when. He might sneakily change targets and go after someone else, though, in a 'sins of the father are visited upon the next generation' kind of deal. Hopefully, I will be doing more longer Dredd stories, and I've certainly got some ideas. I also want to go back to some of the things I've introduced into the strip, like the regulars of the bar Dredd went to in the After Hours one-off. I'm doing a story called 'Missing In action', about one of those characters, and then I've got an idea for a story called 'Return to Planet Gary' about the bar itself.

Go to part 2

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Original content (c) 2002 Gavin Hanly (contact 2000AD Review).