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Scenes of chaos: Ben Willsher interviewed
Scenes of chaos: Ben Willsher interviewed
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"Dredd artist talks about working on explosive new mega-story"
Pandemonium will soon reign in Mega-City One now that the Day of Chaos is upon us - the second episode of the latest Judge Dredd epic blasts onto newsstands today in Prog 1744, courtesy of the lawman’s legendary co-creator, John Wagner.

British artist Ben Willsher is drawing the opening chapter of this new mega-story, entitled ‘Nadia’, which will shake Dredd’s world to its core.
2000Adonline.com’s Ed Kaye caught up with Ben to talk Dredd, working with Wagner and his reaction to the opening chapter’s conclusion!

2000 AD: What can you tell us about ‘Day of Chaos’, or rather, what can you tell us that won’t get you a Rigellian Hotshot from Tharg the Mighty?

BW: While Dredd is cracking mutie hating skulls, a beautiful foreign woman arrives in the Big Meg; but for one young pre-cog, this is a signal of impending doom.

2000 AD: Would you say that ‘Day of Chaos’ feels like an accessible story for new Dredd readers, and a good jumping-on point?

BW: Absolutely, you get a great feel of who Dredd is, what makes him tick, his duties and how handy he is with a daystick. Despite being the eponymous hero, Dredd is almost the secondary character to the real star of the strip, which is Mega-City One itself. Dredd is the linchpin to the big crazy world of the Big Meg and its even crazier citizens. And in my unbiased opinion just looking at the scripts, I think this is truly going to be a classic, so there’s no better jumping on point than ‘Day of Chaos’.

2000 AD: How many episodes of the story are you illustrating? And who are you handing off to once your part is done?

BW: I’m drawing eight episodes and then I hand over to someone called Henry Flint. Not heard of him myself, but I’m told he’s alright if you like that sort of thing… No seriously, the man is a genius, and I cannot wait to see what he comes up with on the second chapter of the story. My art bridges both his and the AMAZING Colin MacNeil’s work. What was a real treat is that we all had to liaise as we end up drawing different elements from each other’s stories. So there were lots of e-mails floating about with sketches of mo-pads and coffins.

2000 AD: What is it like working with a legendary 2000 AD creator like John Wagner?

BW: I tell you what it’s like… It’s like a rookie being teamed up with Dredd. The man has such a great legacy and you can see why when you get one of his scripts - he’s the best as what he does, and they’re always a joy to work on as he gives you so much to work with in every panel.

2000 AD: How do John’s scripts work? Is he very specific on how he wants each page laid out, and how each frame should look, or does he leave that up to you?

BW: Only once has he given me a specific panel grid to work to, but apart from that I’m pretty much left to my own devices. John’s scripts are really artist friendly as he really knows the beat and pace of comics. His descriptions are punchy, but concise; so you are never left in any doubt what is going on, or what is the main focus of the action. They read more like screenplays, and they’re the best action/drama movies you’ll see in a long time.

2000 AD: Is there anything you would like to leave fans with - perhaps a favourite thing to draw from the story, something to whet their appetites for the upcoming issues?

BW: Well, when I first read part seven of ‘Nadia’ and got to the last page, I audibly gasped. I have NEVER done that with a script before. I couldn’t believe what I’d just read, and couldn’t believe I get to draw this - a truly jaw dropping moment. This will be my favourite thing to draw, and I just wish I could tell you what it was, but don’t want to spoil the surprise.

Catch Ben’s artwork on the latest episode of the explosive new Dredd mega-story ‘Day of Chaos – Nadia,’ for sale from TODAY in all good UK newsagents and the US and Canada as part of the ‘July 2011’ pack from Diamond Distribution, available in August.

Michael Molcher

Wednesday 27th July 2011