Lawgiver: A Celebration of Dredd
Good day Citizens! I’m back to describe another fantastic patrol for our Judges. ‘What’s this?’ I hear you cry, ‘Another article on folk dressing up as Judges so soon after the other? What the Drokk is going on?!’ Yes, startling as this is, it’s entirely necessary to get my thoughts of this event down in writing as soon as possible, while it remains so vividly splashed across my cerebral cortex.
I’m talking of course about Lawgiver: A Celebration of Dredd, which took place on 05/05/14, Bank Holiday Monday, in Birmingham. Organised by the good folk of Rule32, and pushed forward relentlessly by the small, driven, but perfectly formed Su Haddrell, and ably assisted by the extremely competent Andy Palmer and Markus Hunt, this event was designed to be your one-stop shop for everything Judge Dredd related.
Including writers and artists of Dredd, the Judge Minty team, independent comic vendors, original art, tombolas, ‘chin-offs’, miniature games, and goodness knows what else planned, Lawgiver should have been on the ‘to do’ list for any respectable fan.
David Court, involved in the organising, had this to say:
‘I’ve been to a lot of conventions and the vast majority of them are little more than cynical money making exercises and just an excuse to get as many punters with as many disparate interests as possible into a room, keep them there and get them spending money. What Su and Markus and the awesome folks of Rule32 did though was something very special – they got a whole bunch of dedicated people with as much genuine love for the subject as they did, and with that momentum and a lot of hard work they achieved something quite remarkable.’
Leading up to it everyone involved did a massive publicity campaign all over social media, and taking flyers, designed by the awesome Andy Palmer, to their respective comic shops. I personally hit three shops in Cardiff, and I know other flyers went up in Birmingham, Coventry, London, and even as far north as Aberdeen!
Judge Lemmy has this to say about the preparation:
‘This was, for me, months in the making after being asked to be one of the official Sector House 001 Judges to work the event by David Court. Then I was added to the organisers group by Su Hadrell. The one who made it happen!
I knew that Pal (Shaolin Monkey) was the other Judge added by David at about the same time as me. I knew I was going to be in excellent company, after our epic patrol at the 2013 LFCC.
I like to call the three of us ‘The Hounds Of Justice’, because I am rather sad at that type of thing, and as time went on three more Judges were added to the team. John Burdis, Richard Thomson (aka Judge Spike) and ‘the bouncing puppy’ Paul Labelle. Paul is one of the most enthusiastic and cheerful people you could ever hope to meet.’
The day prior to the event was a chance to meet up with the Dredd Screening Drinking Club (DSDC), formed after the showing of Dredd a couple of months prior in Birmingham. Mick Ramsey and his friends were very welcoming of Dave Court, Lemmy and I, and we were later joined by Lee Fields and Nicklas Åberg.
Dave Court sums this up:
‘It wasn’t just the day itself that was special but the build up to it as well – it would have been rude not to have indulged in a few pints of synthihol with the Dredd Screening Drinking Club the night before, for instance – And ultimate kudos for the dedication of Sweden’s very own Kiefer Sutherland lookalike Judge Åberg for not only travelling so far, but having the energy for a drink with us as well.’
Nicklas adds: ‘I had a warm welcome the day before with the DSDC gang, had a great time!’
By the time Lee and Nicklas turned up we were already pretty steaming. Nothing demonstrates a level of drunkenness more than a man inclined to whip his shirt off for a group photo.
Judge Lemmy added ‘I will admit to feeling a wee bit nervous of this, but kept it to myself, as this for me was uncharted water. But within thirty seconds of getting to the bar and introducing ourselves, those nerves quickly disappeared. The company of Mick Ramsey and co was second to none and David, Dave and myself were made very welcome to the fold. As the evening went on an old friend showed up in the form of Lee Fields. Whenever we are in the same room…. we go into ‘Billy Connelly’ mode, which is two Scotsmen doing bad impressions of The Big Yin.’
It wasn’t long before we were all gurning for the camera, especially three Calhab Judges – Judge Jings, Judge Crivvens and Judge Helpma’boab:
Judge Court rounded Lemmy and I up early, and we were actually out of the pub and back home by 10pm. He knew it was going to be a long day, and I’m so glad he made sure we got a good night of sleep.
We were at the venue the following morning at about 9.30am, helping prep for the doors opening at 11am. There was a palpable air of excitement, best described by Judge Lemmy:
‘Lawgiver! The day had finally arrived and we were super charged up for this from the moment we awoke at 7am. When we arrived at the venue, just after 9am, you could not help but get caught up in the excitement of it all. There was such anticipation of what we were about to do, and the doors had not even opened to the public!’
Getting there so early gave me a chance to reconnoitre, and plan for the patrol ahead. As I was wandering around getting my bearings, I stumbled across John Wagner, who had just arrived. I barely had a chance to shake his hand and welcome him before I was being whisked off to another area.
Anyway, downstairs was a small area for traders, and tables set up for the visiting artists and writers to meet, greet, sign and sketch. Upstairs was split into two rooms. The smaller was a changing area for Judges, a play area for the board games, and a place to chill out and eat. The largest room was designated the ‘Grand Hall of Justice’. At one end it had an area for the tombola, the Judge Minty/Planet Replicas ‘You Be the Judge’ uniforms and display, and finally a very large seated area facing the stage, where the panels were being held. The panel area was dressed up very well with soft coloured lights, and several displays of Judge Minty and Dredd behind the speaker’s seats.
After some moving of tables and chairs, prepping snacks, laying out prizes for the tombola, setting up vendor stands, displaying wares, and getting kitted out in our uniforms, it was time to open the doors. A number of Judges (myself included) stepped outside to get the punters into an orderly queue. As usual, our uniforms and demeanour meant they were a little cowed at first (thanks to Mick for that expression – a new one for me!) but they soon warmed to us barking orders at them.
The initial turnout was good, with a queue stretching up the street, and as the morning wore on, pretty soon the Grand Hall of Justice began to fill up. Before long it was time for Su Haddrell to address the citizens, discussing the agenda for the day, and describing what was available to everyone in each room. When she finished, a stern Judge Burdis stepped forward from behind her and barked a reminder that the special guests were here for their benefit, and they should take advantage of this fact by asking them lots of questions during each panel. There’s no doubt the attendees heard and understood!
The itinerary was as follows:
However, it got a little switched around due to a few technical difficulties, as some guests had problems with trains. As a result, the Judge Minty Panel was swapped with the ‘How to draw a panel’ panel. Other technical difficulties included one of our compères, Steve, not being able to print the questions for each off the night before. He had a contingency plan – save them all to his iPhone, and read them from there. However, only five minutes before one the panels he realised he had saved the Minty questions twice, instead of a set of questions for each. However, he took a deep breath, dived on stage and winged it. You never would have guessed, and he got the panel going very well with consummate professionalism.
Lemmy and I were asked to announce the Minty panel, as he describes here:
‘I must say sorry to Judge Pal who tried to get everyone’s attention to announce that the Minty panel was about to start. As no one seemed to notice him when he politely asked for attention….ol’ Judge Lemmy stepped in to handle crowd control. “ATTENTION” I shouted as loud as I could. I noticed a couple of the guests and public jump outta their skin!
I turned to let Pal carry on with the announcement but he seemed happy to let me continue with my own loudmouth, Scottish charm.’
All of the panels were interesting and entertaining, aided by compères Steve Hargett and Peter A. Allison. John Wagner’s dry sense of humour was very much appreciated by the audience, as was Michael Carroll’s. During the Minty panel Michael took great pains to point out Steve Greens and Steven Sterlaccini and crew worked incredibly hard – all he had to do was sit in the comfort of his own home and bang out a script, while everyone else trudged around in wet Welsh valleys doing the filming. Edmund Dehn was a great speaker, and talked us through what scenes he did (the talky bits) and which he didn’t (the Judge Burdis Commando Forces jumping, rolling, falling bits).
The artists were fascinating too. David Roach and Nick Percival discussed their many influences and favourite artists. Peter Doherty took us through the many interpretations of Dredd, and what each artist seems to have brought to the character. I particularly remember their discussion about how big the helmet should be, and how much they liked Brendan McCarthy’s take on it.
Thanks to Burdis’s threat of judicial retribution, the audience asked many questions in each panel. I was very glad to see these went right up against the clock. Despite there being a few empty seats at each, as other people explored the other areas, there was no end of interest from those seated and listening.
After one of John Wagner’s panels, he disappeared off to the pub with Judge Burdis, Nicklas Åberg and Michael Carroll. Tony Richards (many of the photos here are his) thought this would be a great photo opportunity, so invited me along in the hopes of getting some unique shots. The first one was a crime blitz on the Craven Arms:
Tony worked his magic with the camera, and one picture in particular stands out. As you can imagine, three Judges (Åberg, Burdis and Pal) surrounding two writers (Wagner and Carroll) created quite a stir in the pub. You can see why from this photo:
I was about to go back down to the venue with Tony, but John Wagner asked if I’d like a pint. I readily accepted, and the four of us discussed a variety of things, such as our Scottish accents, the merits of the Planet Replica and 2012 uniforms, and even a discussion on avoiding disputes on social media. For a Dredd fan all the way from Sweden, this was a highlight for Nicklas. He said:
‘Listening and meeting with the creators, very interesting stuff to listen to – going to the pub with Judges Pal and Burdis, and John Wagner and Michael Carrol – an amazing experience! They are all such nice people.’
For me this was a perfect opportunity to ask them if they’d be up for a very brief spot of filming too. Both John and Michael were happy to do so once their pints were sunk, and I present the results below.
First of all, Nicklas filmed Burdis and I ‘arresting’ Michael Carroll. We named this clip ‘Squirm II’, after Michael’s excellent Dredd in a recent 2000AD. Here, Michael is rescued by his creation:
<insert film clip – squirm II>
Then Burdis got behind the camera, leaving Judge Åberg and I to deal with John Wagner – I think the alcohol must have suddenly gone to his head!
<insert film clip – Wagner Stumm>
As Judge Åberg noted: ‘The pacifying of John Wagner with Stumm gas, that was good fun!’
Back at Lawgiver, things were still in full swing. The ‘You be the Judge’ stand was working very well, as folk tried on the Planet Replicas Judge Minty uniform. Everyone was encouraged to have a go, and once people got into the swing of it, Steve Sterlaccini was getting loads of attendees into uniform, and then carefully lit for photographs by Steve Green. Unfortunately for two judges, this meant a special visit from the SJS (Spouse Judicial Squad):
These were of course Tara Court and Victoria Matthews, who had volunteered to look after the special guests. They made sure they were fed and watered, given as much hospitality as possible, and guided them to the right seats at the right time for each panel.
Downstairs, folk were getting sketches from Barry Renshaw, Nick Percival, and Peter Doherty. Also, Owen Watts was showing off his Psychedelic Journal of Time Travel, whilst representing Drokk and Zarjaz. There was also a bit of space for some pictures, where we got this beautiful shot of Judge Slocum carrying Judge Fish, along with Judges MacBeth, Greer, Millington, Frog, Pal, Court and Lemmy. Apologies if I’ve missed anyone!
I also got an opportunity for a great picture with my number one informant on my @Judge_Pal twitter feed – Stephen John Ellis. Good Grud, you won’t believe the illegal things his friends and family get up to! Here he is getting the official Justice Department thumbs up for being Top Nark!
David Roach showed off many a lovely page of art, some for sale, and some not. Most frustratingly of all was a page of Rogue Trooper art by Jose Ortiz from one of my favourite stories. Two teenage Norts survive a battle and decide to cross the enemy zone to give themselves up to the Southers, thus surviving and getting out of the war for the duration. However, they run across Rogue, and…well, you can guess the rest. A touching tale, one of my favourites, and very frustratingly a page David Roach absolutely refused to sell! Aaargh!!
However, I did score some art (my very first!), and for this I owe Judge Burdis an apology. Dale Jackson and Mark Spencer had turned up with a fantastic bunch of books, comics and artwork for sale. Burdis and I had been looking through some of the pages beforehand, and he’d spotted a cracking Red Razors one by Nigel Dobbyn, that included Dredd. He asked for it to be put aside, but when I returned later in the day to see what art was left for sale, I found it in the same pile.
I (wrongly) assumed Burdis had decided not to get it after all, so asked Dale if he could put it to one side for me so I could purchase it later. When I showed it to Burdis at the end of the event he was a bit cross. When I realised what had happened I offered to sell it to him for the same asking price, but he very graciously declined, which I thought was very nice of him. Sorry about that John!
Anyway, here is that awesome page of art, the very first I have ever bought:
Upstairs, the Judge Dredd miniatures game was going down a storm. Ably assisted by staff who knew the rules back to front, a young lad named Vincent Lally was dominating the table. His judicial use of Hi-Ex was seeing off all-comers, and made him the scourge of the game. He also did well later on at the ‘chin-off’, but more on that later. Here he is celebrating his victories with Judge Pal:
As I mentioned earlier, this same room was a changing area for all the Judges. I cannot begin to describe how heartening it was to see them in all their shapes and forms. These included 2012 Judges, a Calhab Judge, a Brit Cit Judge, the Planet Replica Judges, and more besides. I present to you here a variety of pictures which demonstrates the turnout:
Judge Spike with Riot Judge
2012 Judges, with Mitch Greer
A Calhab Judge with Pal and Lemmy
and finally a pic of all the Judges that remained towards the end of the day.
David Court describes perfectly how it feels to see so many in the uniforms and outfits we know and love:
‘It’s a highlight to be able to put new faces to new names as the number of those of us in costume grows – I think Judges surely must outnumber Stormtroopers at conventions now and we have the added advantage that we can shoot straight (and we have heat-seekers for those times we don’t need to shoot straight).’
There’s one particular Judge who needs a special mention – Judge Minty, aka Edmund Dehn. I approached him to see if he would step back into his Minty garb one more time. Both Judge Lemmy and I had narrowly missed appearing beside him in the Judge Minty film, and we realised this may be our only chance to get a picture with him in uniform.
Edmund was very gracious about it, agreeing to do so, but only if the uniform still fitted him. Thankfully, it did!
Inside, the tombola was going down a storm, administered ably by James Rhodes and Steph Summers. The prizes were ridiculously good – progs, graphic novels, art books, and two Planet Replicas badges from ‘Dredd: Underbelly’. It took me eight attempts at £2.50 a go to win one of those beauties!
Throughout the day we had been treated to some excellent Mega-City One style food, prepared and served by Barnaby Weston. My personal favourite was the Hottie with extra Chilli Munce, and some chips on the side. Barnaby was relentless in the kitchen, and then after the event was even kind enough to drive our Chief Judge Wagner home.
Once the Judges were done strutting their stuff, threatening folk with daysticks, Lawgivers, and Lee Field’s rather large shotgun (the Widowmaker – lent to Judge Åberg), it was time for the ‘chin-off’. The grand prize was a beautiful print of a Dredd portrait Nick Percival had kindly donated for the event. I believe it is going to appear on the cover of 2000AD at some point, but was a Lawgiver exclusive. As you can imagine, it was a much sought after item.
Many people stepped forward to present their best ‘Dredd chin’. You could not believe the gurning that went on! No doubt many attendees left with aching jaws and ground-down teeth. Amongst the most impressive entrants was the Hi-Ex scourge of the Judge Dredd Miniatures game, young Vincent Lally. After some coaxing from the attending Judges, he pulled off a magnificent chin. We all thought he was destined to take home Nick’s print, until a new contender stepped into the ring – Ivan Noel. His Dredd chin was truly remarkable – rugged, manly, enormous. No doubt artists will be using him as a model for future Progs. He won hands down.
Here’s Ivan prior to winning, representing John Caliber’s excellent ‘City of Dredd’:
At the end of the competition we got everyone outside for a final picture before the movies started. You can see Ivan Noel at the front holding his beautiful prize, surrounded by creators, writers, Judges, and attendees.
We ended the day with screenings of Judge Minty and Dredd. The attendees had started to thin out a bit by this point, and the Judges took the opportunity to strip off their gear and get back into civvies. That said, Minty still got a rousing cheer when it finished, and some of the 2012 Judges watched all of Dredd before joining the rest of us for a pint, and well-earned rest.
Judge Lemmy invited John Wagner to join us for a celebratory drink, and Peter Doherty ambled up shortly after. A chance question about lettering from Tara Court and Victoria Matthews led to a fascinating conversation with John and Peter. They discussed the merits of drawing in the balloons with the art, and how restrictive that could become. Peter then pulled out a page of original art from Young Death, which had lettering from Tom Frame overlaid. He lifted the lettered cellophane to show how he laid out the panels, leaving room for speech bubbles.
I noticed this art had a price tag, and asked if it was for sale. Petter said it was, and was one of the last pages available from the ‘Young Death: Boyhood of a Superfiend’ story. I was instantly trying to figure out what my bank balance was in my head, and trying to decide whether I could afford it or not. Then Wagner weighed in with more interesting comments. He described how he wrote the piece, and how Mrs Gunderson was written with his mother in mind. Peter added that his pictorial depiction of Mrs Gunderson was based on his own mother too. He went on to say the frightened dude on this page was actually him!
Well, that was it – bank balance be damned, I was having that piece of artwork! Through the powers of modern technology I Paypal’d him on the spot, and the artwork was mine. Both Peter and I were very happy with the way the conversation had gone. He and John asked if I’d like it signed, and I delightedly agreed.
Here’s the art in all it’s glory, for your perusal:
After a few pints, it was time for Lemmy, Court and Pal to say their farewells. We were exhausted, but very happy with how the day had gone. There were a couple of minor hitches as we left – Victoria got chinned by my artwork as I grabbed it from her to stop it getting wet in the rain (so sorry about that Vicky!), and Nicklas realised Lee Fields had gone, and left behind the massive Widowmaker he had lent him for the patrol. I agreed to look after it for him, but then had to figure out how to get it home on public transport without being arrested. This is what we eventually settled on:
Anyway, it’s probably time to summarise the day, so I’ll turn again to comments from my compadres. First of all, David Court:
‘So, the events of Lawgiver are a few days old now and as I’m writing this I’m still firmly in the middle of the awful doldrums of that post-convention comedown feeling – well, it’s either that or a nasty case of Rad-flu picked up from the irradiated Black Country wastes of Brum-001. We moan about the heat of the Judge Uniform when we’re in it, but boy do we miss it when we’re flung kicking and screaming back into reality.
On a personal note – and the reason that keeps bringing me back to things like this – it’s always nice to catch up with the familiar faces of Burdis, Pal, Lemmy, Spike and Labelle.
I’ve got many personal highlights of the day, but to name a few it was a genuine delight to see the ever charming Edmund Dehn get into the Minty outfit again and to get the opportunity for a few photographs with him, and also finally getting the opportunity to meet Michael Carroll (the writer, not the lottery winning binman) and Peter Doherty (the artist, not the druggy musician) as well.’
Next up we have Judge Lemmy:
‘The day was one of the best ever! I have been doing the Judge thing since I got my Planet Replicas outfit in 2012 and was told that it would open doors for me. Well Lawgiver was by far the biggest door yet. The event went off without a hitch and the feedback from everyone has been nothing but phenomenal. It was great being part of what I believe to be the biggest gathering of people in Judge outfits in the UK so far!! That is something that will stay with me for a long damn time.
I was told I even out-shouted Judge Burdis at the beginning of the day, because the crowd were not saying ‘good morning’ loud enough…..they did after I had a word with them! Sorry John.
All in all I had the very best of times at this event, and hope this paves the way for more Dredd cons in the future.
I know we are pushing to get LGMK2 to happen next year, and if it does you can bet the house that Judges Court, Pal, Burdis, Spike, Labelle and Lemmy (that’s me) aka ‘The Judges from Sector House 001′ will be there to keep Law and Order.’
Now a word from the Judge who travelled the furthest, Nicklas Åberg:
‘At Lawgiver, it was so much fun to meet up with fellow Judges, many of who I haven’t met before. The free Anderson sketch I got from Barry, wow! Very very happy with it! Carrying Lees shotgun – awesome!
I think it was a very nice event – many thanks to Su and her team. So many friendly and nice people all over. My only regret is that I didn’t chat a bit more with everybody.
It was definitely worth it to come over from Sweden for this. One of the reasons I came was just to support Lawgiver and Dredd, so I am hoping it will be an annual event.’
I also asked Judge Burdis to summarise Lawgiver, and he replied:
‘I had only one wee during the whole event.’
You’ve already heard my thoughts and experiences, so I will finish by adding my support and thanks to all who organised it. The dedicated team made this such an enjoyable event, one every Dredd fan should have attended. I too give my total backing to Lawgiver II next year.
In the meantime, what the hell am I gonna do with this?!?