Being a Dreddhead can get lonely sometimes. When you’ve just read the most outlandish comic of all time but you have no one to enthuse to, you start to look further and further afield for like-minded fans.
In my case, my search led me all the way to the Southwest of England — specifically, to Lawgiver Mark II.
Lawgiver is the UK’s only convention (and, I think, the only convention anywhere) solely dedicated to all things Judge Dredd. This year’s con was the second annual Lawgiver, hence “Mark II.”
Organized by Su Haddrell, Lawgiver began as a small gathering of Judge Dredd fans in the Midlands of England. For Mark II, events relocated to Bristol, in the Southwest of England, and grew to include a day of panel talks, signings, vendors, and games.
A special mention must be made here of the games, which were a new feature of Lawgiver Mark II. These were fairground/village fete-type games with a Mega-City One twist. For instance, guessing the number of candies in a jar became “Guess the Number of Perps in an Iso-Cube,” while a standard “pin-the-X-on-the-Y” became a test of Psi-Judge abilities as blindfolded players attempted to pin a badge on Judge Dredd. The games really helped to make the event feel more relaxed, and I hope to see more of them next year.
Although Lawgiver Mark II was a fairly small affair, the caliber of guests was impressive. These artists and writers knew Dredd and his world inside out, and were damn good at what they do. The roster included Jock, among whose most recent work is the terrifying art on Wytches and who provided concept art for the 2012 Dredd movie; John Higgins, colorist on Watchmen and proper art veteran; Michael Carroll, writer of numerous Judge Dredd comics and ebooks; and Patrick Goddard, whose skill with black and white art approaches jaw-dropping. Art prices were incredibly reasonable as well. There appeared to be a standard fee of £10 for a sketch, with individual prints and pages priced at each artist’s discretion. I picked up a print that I kept describing as “Sexy Judge Death” from artist Ryan Brown for only £5.
The panels were enjoyable, although in a few cases they would have benefited from more moderator control to keep guests on track. Though there were no female panelists, several of the panel moderators were women, and they didn’t just talk about women in comics. They posed questions about creativity, the architecture of Mega-City One, badassery, and more.
The lack of women on panels was likely due to the panels’ focus on writers and artists who’d worked on Judge Dredd rather than any ingrained sexism on the part of the con. (While the panel on the women of Judge Dredd was all-male, a la Denver Comic Con, the female panel moderator did draw attention right off the bat to the fact that we had a bunch of guys discussing the topic.) Sticking to that criterion would only have yielded one woman, and if Emma Beeby wasn’t available…
I say this because the atmosphere of the con was otherwise very egalitarian. Despite the dudely image of Judge Dredd fandom, I was one of many women in attendance — and one of several people of color.
Given that the attendance numbers were probably around 50-60, that’s the highest percentage of PoC I’ve seen at any comics-related gathering outside of London. I’m counting academic conferences in that, too; at the Comics Forum conference in Leeds last year, I was genuinely the only non-white person there.
For Lawgiver Mark II, it probably helped that a) official Judge uniforms are completely covered up and unisex (especially the ones from the 2012 movie), meaning that the cosplaying female attendees weren’t restricted to objectifying, skimpy outfits; b) the women of Judge Dredd are pretty freakin’ kickass; and c) the organizer of Lawgiver is a woman. Of course cons can be egalitarian regardless of the gender of their organizers, but one usually organizes the type of con that one would like to attend. A woman at the helm = a con that women will enjoy.
And speaking of cosplay: for most of the day, I was Ma-Ma.
However, I got to take a break from being the crime boss of Peachtrees to make people gaze into the face of Fear. The woman cosplaying as Judge Fear in the above photo offered to loan me her gear for a couple of hours, and of COURSE I said yes.
Those helmet wings are no joke, by the way. I kept bumping into doorways.
Getting a loan of an elaborate and impressive cosplay from someone you barely know is an unusual occurrence at a con, but at Lawgiver Mark II it didn’t seem so out of place. The emphasis there was on meeting new people. It was a con where I could sit down with strangers and launch right into a conversation about what should appear in the last ever Judge Dredd comic. A few suggestions:
- Killed by perps while taking a bath
- Retires to Florida in tropical-print shirt, and still wearing the helmet
- Heart attack (he’s 76 years old now)
- Right before Mega-City One gets nuked into oblivion, Dredd is promoted to Chief Judge; he lets the nukes fall to get out of doing admin
- Stubs his toe; sheds a single tear
And my personal favorite:
- Plot twist: turns out Dredd is a mutant with a helmet-shaped cranial deformity (“They just color it in every day”)
In case you’re wondering, the venue had a bar.
After the con events wound down, it was in that same bar where the colorist of Watchmen offered to kill somebody for me: when I changed back into my Ma-Ma clothes, John Higgins asked me whether the fake blood streaks on my arm were really fake or whether I’d been injured, and then expressed relief that he wouldn’t have to kill anybody for hurting me. That’s proper gallantry, folks.
The bar was also the site of the development of the Rocky Horror Judgement Show, a mash-up of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Judge Dredd. (The Southwest of England has strong regional liquor.)
Technically I think this means I’ve collaborated with a 2000AD artist.
At the end of the con, I had a collection of excellent art, a list of ideas for a Judge Dredd comic, and a lot of new friends with whom I can enthuse about/argue over/laugh at the franchise we love.
If you’re a Dredd person and live in or can get to the UK, the Lawgiver con is a great place to be.