“Closet” – the Judge Dredd story in prog 1817 concerning a young gay Mega-citizen and the fetish club he visits, written by Rob Williams with art by Mike Dowling – seems to have generated quite a lot of interest. I’ve read various pieces on various news and comic websites where the main draw seems to be the question of Dredd’s sexuality. Any fan of Dredd knows it’s irrelevant; Dredd is in love with the law. All Judges are supposed to be celibate. And anyone who actually reads the story will see that it is nowhere near as sensationalist as the newspapers would have us believe.
In recent years the monastic life of a Mega-City Judge has been called into question time and again; with several Judges being revealed to be less than perfect when it comes to keeping it in their pants. Even the architect of the Justice System, Judge Fargo – the man who just happens to also be Dredd’s clone father – was seen to have fallen short. It’s an interesting way of showing a glimpse of the humanity which the Judges must suppress. When Judge Galen DeMarco made a pass at Dredd in the story “Beyond The Call Of Duty” he stoically ignored her advances. It was clear that Dredd respected her as a Judge and maybe even liked her in his own repressed way. But the idea of him as a character possessing any kind of sexuality, either straight or gay, was never ever going to be given light. The character just isn’t capable of it.
Homosexuality has never really featured in any big way in Dredd’s world – it’s been there, but any instances have usually been subtle everyday references. The last time I can remember any gay character being highlighted in any way in a Dredd tale was in the Judge Dredd Megazine back in issue 300. The story was “Judgement Call” by John Wagner and concerned a terrorist suspect who just happened to be in a same-sex relationship; that character’s partner was even shown to be pregnant. It wasn’t a big thing. It was just a detail in the story. And it suggested a more open and equal standing for same sex relationships in Mega-City One; it drew attention to that fact by not drawing attention to it at all. The way Dredd, and fellow Judge Beeny, discuss the pregnant same-sex partner of the terrorist suggests this is nothing more than a routine occurrence. It was shown to be quite normal, as it should be. And it certainly didn’t generate any “Is Dredd gay?” headlines.
That, to me, is how you handle differing sexual preferences. You don’t chase headlines. You don’t make a big thing of it. You treat it as normal and you just write about it. All these sites reporting on the current story are once again sensationalising the idea of a gay character. “Judge Dredd may be gay” say most of the headlines as they take an answer to a question asked of writer Rob Williams out of context. He was asked, “Has Dredd's sexuality ever come up before?” and answered:
“Dredd may well be gay, straight or bi. But it's all buried beneath layers upon layers (upon layers). There's a man there, like anyone else, he's not a robot. But Dredd's pure repression. Although, can you imagine what would happen if that repression ever fell away, just for an instant?”
“Sure, Dredd could be gay. You can't look at the original costume design of leather and chains and not see a fetishistic edge there. But, as I said before, Dredd's feelings are so deeply hidden, he is extremely unlikely to ever let them show. With Dredd, you only ever get subtle glimpses of the man beneath.”
But it was the “Sure, Dredd could be gay” part of the answer which was picked up on in most news articles which followed the interview quoted above. William’s has talked about how it feels to be taken out of context in his blog here .
Like the sensationalist “outing” of Green Lantern last year, the actual story seems to have been made irrelevant by those reporting it in favour of baiting reaction with a misquoted line. It’s pretty obvious that the out of context “Dredd Gay?” quote drew more attention than any desire to report on a little one-off story which just happened to feature a glimpse at homosexuality in Mega-City One.
It’s a beautiful story by the way, nothing at all like the news reports would have you believe and certainly not about whether Dredd is gay or not. That picture of Dredd embraced in a kiss which has been doing the rounds isn’t even Dredd, just someone dressed like a Judge. It’s just a story about a young kid who’s lost his way. It’s the story of someone who’s been through a lot and shows how they’re trying to cope with their sexuality. It’s not sensationalist at all, just a story telling a tale that anyone who’s ever felt different, or been made to feel different in any way, can relate to.
I know they say “all publicity is good publicity” but in this case I don’t know if it is. 2000AD deserves to be in the news more. It’s a brilliant comic book anthology and it should be celebrated as such. This isn’t the first time gay issues or characters have featured in the comic. But in this instance I think less publicity would have been better. Because 2000AD has told a smart, intelligent story and that point seems to have been missed. It’s all very well to be seen to be tackling thorny subject like this but as long as those reporting on the issues choose to trivialise or sensationalise then any effort to make differing sexual orientations more accepted are going to fail. And it’s a real shame that this sort of thing still happens.
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