2000 AD News: Who’s Headed For A Long Walk?

by Richard Bruton

(+++WARNING: HUGE SPOILERS AHEAD +++)

The pages of 2000 AD #2175 were notable in the weekly press review copy in having one strip completely censored by the Justice Department. Well, now it’s time to lift the lid on just what’s going on and which long-time character makes a surprise return…

But first, this was the clue advert we showed you last week…

So obviously… HUGE SPOILERS here for the identity of the strip.

But damn, it’s good…

2000 AD have a stellar track record of delivering surprises to their readers, eschewing the usual comic company track of spoilering a big story well in advance. The greatest example of that was with the events of Trifecta, where 2000 AD ran the entire thing through the comic without giving anyone a clue as to what was going on until the very last minute, letting everyone get the surprise at the same time. No spoilers, no leaks, just a great story. And then there was the recent shock death of Chief Judge Hershey in the Guatemala storyline, another story twist that 2000 AD could have thrown out to the press to get coverage but didn’t.

And that’s why they ran the press review copies of Prog 2175 with the final strip missing, just so the surprise would come to readers on release day – 1 April.

Last Chance – Spoilers under the censored page…

Ok then, here we go.

The strip is HERSHEY: DISEASE, featuring the surprise return former Chief Judge Hershey, written by Rob Williams with art by Simon Fraser. It all kicked off in 2000 AD Prog 2175 and continues with the cover feature on Prog 2176.

Death is the longest walk – but for Judge Barbara Hershey, it’s only the first step!

The last we saw of Hershey was in the shocking events of John Wagner and Colin MacNeil’s Guatemala (in 2000 AD Progs 2150-2157) when we bid what we thought was a fond farewell when a microbial virus forced Hershey to resign her position as Chief Judge of Mega-City One and then apparently took her life.

But all was not as it seemed and now she’s on a revenge mission taking her well beyond MC-1 as she uses the cover of her faked funeral to head out into the world and right the wrongs committed by Judge Smiley!

You can find a preview of the first few pages from Hershey: Disease below, as well as the first look at the cover to Prog 2176!

2000 AD Prog 2175 is out on 1 April 2020 and is available in print from some newsagents and comic book stores, as well as digitally from 2000 AD’s webshop and apps.

The story so far…

Judge Barbara Hershey has been around since her creation in 1980 by John Wagner and Brian Bolland. Capable, respected, dedicated, Hershey soon rose through the ranks to eventually become Chief Judge.

Her relationship with Dredd had always been tense, a mutual respect there certainly but also a tension in the methods adopted, made moreso with Day of Chaos and the necessary changes Hershey had to implement.

Things came to a head with Trifecta and its follow-up, The Small House – the revelation of a huge clandestine operation at the heart of Justice Department run by Judge Smiley first tested Dredd and Hershey’s relationship to its limits before seemingly breaking it, leading to this stunning moment…

And then came Guatemala, when the unthinkable happened and Hershey stepped down as Chief Judge, succumbing, so it seemed, to a microbial infection and choosing the time of her death. That was another one of those magnificent John Wagner moments, dropping something so staggering, so huge, into a Dredd tale, without fanfare or prior warning. There was barely time to say goodbye…

But then, after that ‘death’, new Chief Judge Logan was seen talking to an anonymous voice by radio – the identity of that voice remained unknown … until now!

Editor of 2000 AD, Matt Smith, had this to say:

When Hershey stood down as Chief Judge, Rob came to me with the idea of a solo series, with her repairing Smiley’s legacy in the wake of The Small House storyline. John said he had no plans for Hershey, and was happy for us to use her as we saw fit. When John wrote the first episode of Guatemala, he came up with a cover story that would take Hershey out of the game, with no one but Logan, Dredd and a select few others knowing the truth – and Rob worked his scripts in tandem with that. Hershey is still dying – she’s taking medication to stave off whatever microbe she’s been infected with – but she’s going out with the intention of righting wrongs that were done on her watch. Rob and Si’s series is a redemptive, violent, propulsive new arc for Hershey, with lots more surprises still in store.

And as for the co-creator of Judge Hershey, John Wagner, he says this about the new series: “When discussing the new series with Matt Smith and how it might fit in with Guatemala, I suggested Hershey’s death could just be a subterfuge – I had no plans for Hershey and am happy to see others take her in new directions, so there’s a little clue in Guatemala, that I don’t think anyone spotted, that things were not as they seemed! And who doesn’t love a good old story of revenge?

And the writer of the new Hershey series, Rob Williams, with his thoughts on this new epic:

The idea for the series came off the back of The Small House. I felt the “I no longer recognise your authority” line had been building for years, and was organic and justified, but it also didn’t really let Hershey tell her side of things. I felt we’d undersold her a bit. And even in the scene that followed it that John wrote, when Hershey and Dredd meet on their bikes – that we play on in Hershey episode one – that was still written from Dredd’s point of view. I felt, after how long she’d been in the strip, she deserved a version that told her side of the story. A Long Walk for someone who’s deserved a journey that isn’t just going into The Cursed Earth. A Long Walk for someone burnt out and dying, who is asking herself the question – my life’s run its purpose. So, what’s left? Can she find that?

Simon and I have worked together a bunch of times and he’s a good friend. I thought he’d be great for this. He said he wanted to draw her looking her age. Which was tonally exactly the themes of the story needed.

John agreeing we could tell this story, and to fit it in around Hershey’s ‘death’ in his story was important. Ultimately, she’s his character. Boorman’s Point Blank was one of the big inspirations behind this series. A revenge thriller, with Hershey as this unstoppable, grim force. There’s a school of reading Point Blank as how Lee Marvin’s character dies in the opening scene, and everything that follows is his fantasy just before he dies. Maybe this is Hershey’s fantasy just as she dies. Or maybe not…”

Finally, series artist Simon Fraser: “The planning process was, and I’m paraphrasing, “Hey Si , you want to do a hard as nails revenge thriller, kind of like Point Blank , but with Judge Hershey?” My reply, also paraphrasing, was ” Yes!” or maybe “**** Yes!”, which is my usual response when Rob suggests things.

“I was looking for a story to stretch my new digital drawing tools. Lots of world building , which I love, but not much dialog … which I also love. I’m also very happy to be drawing a lady of advancing years being very angry and violent.

“Hershey has been the good and dutiful public servant for a long time, she’s taken a lot of crap, stoically and responsibly, now let’s see how she chooses to close her account! I know that people get upset because we’re bringing a character ‘back from the dead’, but I think we’re giving an amazing woman the ending she deserves.

Now, those first few pages of Hershey:

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