One one occasion, back when I was but a small boy, my mother allowed me to take some pocket money and hit up the newsagent’s at the Big Shops and get me a comic book.
By age 8, I was already a firm, and lifelong, fan of a number of comic book characters: Iron Man, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Green Lantern, The Flash (yeah, the last 10 years have been pretty frigging good…). Suicide Squad, Doom Patrol, Swamp Thing, and Batman lay in my future. Etrigan, the Defenders, Guardians of the Galaxy (the originals, damn it), the Uncanny X-Men: all still to come. Sandman, Hellblazer, The Crow, Shade the Changing Man: many years hence.
And then there was the pulpy, multi-coloured, wild and woolly piece of British insanity I picked out and took home with me. Ye Gods. I’d never seen anything like it. Lurid, helter-skelter madness oozing out of every page. I was smitten. I was entranced. I was in another world.
My Mum read three pages, and threw it in the bin.
2000AD. Oh, what a joy. What a frabjous, incendiary, utterly British slice of lunacy. I’ve been a lover ever since.
To whit: Judge Dredd. The signature character. Not necessarily the best, but the most 2000AD of all the characters presented over the many years of the comics’ run. To date, there have been 2 filmic treatments: a ludicrous, and rightly derided, Sylvester Stallone thudder in 1995, that manages to include all the necessary ingredients and get them all hopelessly wrong; and a 2012 starrer for the chronically-limited Karl Urban that was long on the ultra-violence, and short on everything else that makes the character special.
Which makes the fan film Judge Minty all the more extraordinary. Fan films are a special kind of rabbit hole: produced with all the love and care in the world, many of them are victims of the lack of resources, knowledge, and (at times) talent that reinforce all the negative stereotypes that abound when we see the words “fan production”.
Not this. It has a few moments where the ambition outstrips the production, but it is a superb Judge story, and far better than the two mega-budget films that proceed it. It’s superb.
And if that’s not enough, the same production team has just released a new film. Search/Destroy features one of my all time favourite characters, and worlds: Johnny Alpha, the Strontium Dog. I’ve been waiting for an SD movie for as long as I waited for all the Marvel and DC films and TV that are currently overwhelming the Universe. If there is to be a new wave of comic book movies, let the Judge Minty crew lead the way. I want more.
I’m in love.