Currently running in the pages of Judge Dredd Megazine, Dan Abnett and Phil Winslade’s Lawless moves away from the central block wars and hi-tech warways of MegaCityOne and off into the outer frontier. The series is a black and white western focusing on Colonial Marshall Metta Lawson as she heads into her new district in an attempt to bring the 2000AD law to the outskirts of society.
Not an easy job at the best of times, but as evidenced so far – especially not an easy job for her right now. Far away from the the resources of MegaCityOne, ‘law’ doesn’t mean much for the people of BadRock, where Marshall Lawson sets down as the story begins. Perhaps it’s time for her to try something a little conventional if she wants to bring a bit of stability to the frontier?
With the series starting in issue #350 of Judge Dredd Megazine, it seemed like the perfect time to find out a little more about Marshall Lawson and her new assignment – luckily, writer Dan Abnett was kind enough to offer us a closer look into his ‘Lawless’ world!
Steve: What’s the central premise of Lawless? What can readers expect from the series?
Dan: In a sense, it’s a kind of sequel to Insurrection, because it’s about the ‘colonial marshals’, and it’s set on the world where the final battle of Insurrection took place. But this is much more about the day to day grind of being a colonial marshal judge in a frontier town, a “lawless” place where there are lot of unconventional pressures.
Steve: What were your influences in writing the series? Are you a fan of westerns?
Dan: Very much, so there’s that. It’s a space western. I was obviously influenced by the “colonial’ continuity of the Dredd universe that Colin and I had set up in the books of Insurrection, by Dredd itself, especially John Wagner’s peerless work and superb tone, a little bit by Strontium Dog too, I think.
And, once we’d got Phil on board as artist (an artist I’ve always wanted to work with); by him, his style and his enthusiasm. We have great conversations. We have really gelled with this and both get a kick out of it. It’s a bit of a fave job for both of us.
Steve: Is it difficult to mix an old-style western town with the high-tech world of Judge Dredd? How do you strike a balance between making the place feel rough and lived-in, whilst there are spaceships overhead and people with laser guns?
Dan: Well, they’re out on a limb, with limited resources. There aren’t ‘spaceships overhead’ all the time. It’s about supply, availability and survival. Badrock is a town a long way from anywhere. The theme of tech, its use and its value will recur a lot. And Phil’s beautiful art combines the new and the retro wonderfully.
Steve: The solicitations have suggested that Metta Lawson, the central character, has an unorthodox way of dealing with crime. What does the ‘Lawless’ of the title refer to? Is it in reference to Metta or to the challenges she faces?
Dan: To her… and to the place, and the community and the frontier life. Metta has to solve things in canny ways. She IS the law, but that doesn’t hold as much weight here as it does in the Big Meg. There are other powerful and influential parties in Badrock society.
She’s the law in name, but she’s at risk. She’s going to have to be unorthodox just to stay ahead of the game.
Steve: What’s her take on this new job she’s been given? Does she view this as a punishment?
Dan: It’s hard to say yet. She’s a mystery herself. Flippant, capable, hard to read. She certainly doesn’t hate the job. It’s her duty and she’s proud to uphold it. Eager, in fact. But she knows it won’t be easy.
Steve: How would you place her in context with Dredd, or Anderson? Do you view her as part of a newer generation free from the constraints Dredd places on himself, or is she equally troubled in that same way?
Dan: I think colonial marshals (in my mind at least) are less hard-line and more organic, flexible, adaptable than a street-judge like Dredd. They don’t have the City infrastructure around them to be unbending and totalitarian. They have to be mercurial. I don’t think Dredd would approve of her per se, certainly not as a street judge in the Meg is far too casual, but I think he’d approve of her in context.
I think if Dredd came to Badrock (hey, there’s a story!), he’d end up grudgingly admitting her style fitted the place perfectly. I think Anderson would like her, but Lawson wouldn’t like the things Anderson could read in her…
Steve: How did her design come together? Were there any specific notes you had for how she should look, or was this all Phil Winslade?
Dan: I had basics. Like I said, Phil and I have known each other for a while, and it was great to get on the phone and actually brainstorm ideas about a specific project. The visuals were all him, essentially, though he was excited to be guided (I got him to look at what Colin had done in Insurrection for the meks etc) and also other movie and TV ref I could think of. It worked both ways. He fed me stuff too.
Did I mention I love his work? I love his work.
Steve: How have you found working with him on the story? What does his work bring to the story you’re telling together?
Dan: The visual detail, storytelling and atmosphere are amazing. I think this, with Phil, and my forthcoming BOOM! series Wild’s End with 2000AD stalwart INJ Culbard (“Brass Sun”) are my two favourite things right now, because they both involve working tightly with very talented, imaginative people.
Steve: Are there plans – if she makes it out the story alive, of course – for her to reappear down the line? Would you be interested in telling more stories with her?
Dan: Plans? Of course we have plans. We hope the readers like this and want to see more. Hell, I want to see more. We’re having too many good ideas to stop now…
Many thanks to Dan for his time! ‘Lawless – Welcome to Badrock’ is currently running in Judge Dredd Megazine, and started in issue #350. You can also find his blog here, and he’s over on Twitter here. Wild’s End, mentioned in the interview, begins in September. It’s War of the Worlds meets The Animals of Farthing Wood – and it’s well worth checking out!