Marvel may be hogging the spotlight with its ever-expanding cinematic universe, but there’s still space out there for other contenders – especially as DC seems to be struggling to really get its head around what makes Marvel quite so… special.
This week, we saw reports start to circulate that a Judge Dredd TV show is in the works, with two years’ worth of script treatment locked in and a pilot episode ready to be filmed. The series has Rob Williams – long-time Dredd writer – attached to the project, so there’s a promised level of authenticity there by proxy. The show is also hoping to attract Karl Urban back to 2000 AD universe – reprising his role from 2012’s infuriatingly underrated Dredd film.
“The critical acclaim of [the last Dredd] movie proves there’s desire for it,” says Rebellion and 2000 AD head honcho, Jason Kingsley, “Perhaps we failed in distribution, or maybe in marketing – that was the problem. The Stallone movie had its difficulties, too, and because of that legacy, we’ve got a lot of work to do to bring people back to Dredd – but we’re doing that with the Mega City One TV show. ”
“Dredd’s world is so beloved. The mass market may not know it as much as the Marvel stuff, but I’m confident the TV show is going to help push through.”
Yet, the new Dredd series is just the beginning of 2000 Ad’s upcoming media onslaught. At San Diego Comic-Con, we also saw 2000 AD IP owners Rebellion announce a Rogue Trooper movie, hot on the heels of the relaunched 2006 game of the same name. Duncan Jones (whose name you may recognise from 2009’s Moon and er, 2016’s World of Warcraft movie) is attached to direct, too, making both of these projects pretty significant entertainment prospects.
But that’s not it for Rebellion. Alongside the film and TV show announcements, Kingsley told us that it has other projects in the oven – including more videogame titles. So could we end up seeing a cohesive 2000 AD universe, built across multimedia platforms in a way that Marvel neglects by keeping the MCU, games and comics separate?
A Connected Gaming and Cinematic Universe?
Kingsley remains tight-lipped on exact details but manages to let slip a few hints.
“We… we tend to put little easter eggs in our games that allow hardcore fans that really know the landscape of the IP to kind-of link them together,” Kingsley tells us when we ask him if we’re likely to see a collected Rebellion universe.
“You might notice for instance that there’s a Frank Fairburne in Strange Brigade and he’s a sharpshooter, an Englishman and a gruff soldier type… for those that know Karl Fairburne, the protagonist in the Sniper Elite series, there might be a connection…” Jason smiles wryly at this before pressing on.
“Obviously they’re not father and son or anything – the difference in age wouldn’t allow for that – but at the same time, there’s an overlap. Maybe the Fairburne family is just really good at sniping. We do things like that [in our games] – that don’t really make any difference – but people think it’s cool.”
It’s a nice touch, sure, but we couldn’t help but think Kingsley sidestepped our question a bit – and credit to him: he’s been dancing the PR dance for over 25 years, and has become such an important name in the British creative industry that he was even awarded an OBE. He clearly knows how to handle interviews like this.
We press Kingsley again about the idea of an overarching 2000 AD world, and he relents. A little.
“You can get caught up in continuity and that sort of thing, I think…” he shrugs. “I mean, we do have a 2000AD universe with all sorts of different things going inside, you’ve got Dredd, obviously, but then all sorts of other characters too – like Strontium Dog, who has appeared in Dredd’s world. There’s a connection there… There is a certain amount of linkage, and there is some crossover, but at the end of the day each game, each project, is its own world and it’s own thing, so to speak.”
Interesting. Kingsley never rules out a connected universe so-to-speak, which is an interesting prospect when you consider the company recently opened its doors to smaller developers, asking companies to come forth and pitch to work with any of the IP under the Rebellion brand.
“[The decision to open up the Rebellion catalogue] comes down to the fact that I want to make more games based on our IP… but I keep running out of time and resources to do it [laughter]. So, I thought I’d see if other people would be interested and would like to have a go at it, too.”
As it happens, it was a great move – a ‘decent’ number of developers approached the independent British company, keen on lending their game-making expertise to Rebellion and bringing some of the cult comic favourite brands back to PC and consoles.
“We got a lot of interest and we have quite a lot of people working on projects now – we haven’t announced anything yet because it’s early days (we don’t like to announce games too soon), but we had a lot of very interesting and exciting work, from various people in various properties,” Kingsley teases.
“Judge Dredd is the obvious one, but we’ve got work going on throughout the 2000 AD IP, and there are lots of characters that [developers] want to have a go on.” Kingsley does that wry smile again. “We launched Rogue Trooper Redux [in 2017] which was very successful… so maybe he’s got more games in him, too.”
Yet, despite, the (incredibly vauge) hints at a cross-connected universe, Kinglsey knows better than anyone that games don’t need to lean on other artforms in order to be a success:
“Games are their own medium, and they are completely viable as their thing. You don’t need a film to make a good game. The games industry, in the UK, is bigger than film and TV – and even though we’re not treated that way because we haven’t been around as long, we’re just as important… if not more important.”
There’s something infectious about the coy enthusiasm Kingsley has when talking about Rebellion and the projects he’s been fortunate enough to work on. He’s friendly, he’s eloquent – and he’s remarkably humble.
At the end of our interview, we asked him what the highlight of his 25 years at the head of the company has been. He smiles, leans forward and says almost conspiratorially:
“You know, I think it’s just been that I’ve stayed alive!”