For The Comics Journal a read of I Am The Law: How Judge Dredd Predicted Our Future, which is 2000AD’s new non-fiction book of…well what exactly?
Half the book is straight political history, a line-up of policing and social justice flashpoints as a readout on industrial society’s eternal failure to deliver what it says on the packet. It’s a book about a comic and self-published by the same company that publishes that comic and written by the Brand Manager, so holding it to the standards of a social sciences textbook might be a bit strict. But if you’re going to talk the Left talk then at some point your book has to walk the walk, into interpretation and prescription and imagined possibilities of a better world rather than just describe things already well described elsewhere.
The other parts are also descriptions, of Judge Dredd plots and stories from 2000AD that the book would like to tie to the real-world events, although the tying is where it really struggles. 2000AD’s origins and the audience aimed at and the individuals involved—plus the entire nature of 1977—would have made it weird if the comic had not offered up references and black humour that bounced off current events and then stuck with that approach as the comic found its readers.
Tethered to its own subtitle despite an introduction stating plainly that 2000AD wasn’t actually in the prediction business, Rebellion’s book wants to paint Rebellion’s comic strip as an active political force, and even leaving aside the presumptive bias and marketing purpose (although you shouldn’t) this limbo bar would defeat pretty much all comics plus most art in general. Rebellion hasn’t quoted sales figures for its comics in years, so implying cultural agency has to be done without pointing to any actual cultural footprint. All the book can do is put the two different things next to each other, Judge Dredd and the whole wide world, and make encouraging gestures of connection like urging a wary couple to hug.
The book also does that thing that Judge Dredd promotion does constantly, institutionally, and praises only archival material from the past, happy to imply that the current product is either less of a thing or not in the same business. The fact that it indeed is not wouldn’t stop a publisher’s marketing chief from barging into the office of such a book’s author pulling an angry face, except that in this case they continue to be the same person.
See also: On the book Judging Dredd which rehearsed some of this.
And: Arts criticism’s troubles.