NOTICE: This article reveals spoilers for interconnected stories featured in the upcoming 2000 AD prog as well as previously collected 2000 AD progs!
In an almost forebodingly backwards “life imitates art” fashion, readers were saddened last year when a microbial virus first forced Hershey to resign her position as Chief Judge of Mega-City One and then apparently took her life in John Wagner and Colin MacNeil’s Guatemala (2000 AD Prog 2150-2157). But all was not as it seemed – Judge Hershey was alive all along and she’s now on a mission of revenge that will take her far beyond the walls of Mega-City One.
HERSHEY: DISEASE by Rob Williams (Suicide Squad, Unfollow) and Simon Fraser (Nikolai Dante, Kingsman) begins in 2000 AD Prog 2175 and sees Judge Dredd’s long-time ally using the cover of her faked funeral to head out into the world and right the wrongs committed by Judge Smiley! Williams and Fraser have crafted a tense, moving new series that gives one of the Dredd world’s longest-standing characters a brand new lease of life – or is it merely borrowed time?
Co-creator of Judge Hershey, John Wagner, said “When discussing the new series with Matt Smith and how it might fit in with Guatemala, I suggested Hershey’s death could just be a subterfuge – I had no plans for Hershey and am happy to see others take her in new directions, so there’s a little clue in Guatemala, that I don’t think anyone spotted, that things were not as they seemed! And who doesn’t love a good old story of revenge?”
Created by Wagner and Brian Bolland in 1980, Judge Barbara Hershey was one of Justice Department’s most respected and capable young officers before she became Chief Judge. But it was during the critically-acclaimed The Small House storyline (2000 AD Prog 2100-2109) that her bond with long-time colleague Judge Dredd was near fatally damaged, following the revelation that there was a vast clandestine operation at the heart of Justice Department run by Judge Smiley, a Machiavellian manipulator who had controlled world events for decades. During last year’s Guatemala storyline — and after Hershey’s apparent death — the new Chief Judge was seen talking to an anonymous voice by radio – the identity of that voice remained unknown … until now.
“The idea for the series came off the back of The Small House. I felt the “I no longer recognize your authority” line had been building for years, and was organic and justified, but it also didn’t really let Hershey tell her side of things. I felt we’d undersold her a bit. And even in the scene that followed it that John wrote, when Hershey and Dredd meet on their bikes – that we play on in Hershey episode one – that was still written from Dredd’s point of view. I felt, after how long she’d been in the strip, she deserved a version that told her side of the story,” said Rob Williams. “John agreeing we could tell this story, and to fit it in around Hershey’s ‘death’ in his story was important. Ultimately, she’s his character. Boorman’s Point Blank was one of the big inspirations behind this series. A revenge thriller, with Hershey as this unstoppable, grim force. There’s a school of reading Point Blank as how Lee Marvin’s character dies in the opening scene, and everything that follows is his fantasy just before he dies. Maybe this is Hershey’s fantasy just as she dies. Or maybe not…”
“Hershey has been the good and dutiful public servant for a long time, she’s taken a lot of crap, stoically and responsibly, now let’s see how she chooses to close her account!” agreed artist Simon Fraser. “I know that people get upset because we’re bringing a character ‘back from the dead’, but I think we’re giving an amazing woman the ending she deserves.”
So while death is the Longest Walk, for Judge Barbara Hershey, this upcoming prog may prove that may have only been the first step.
See below for a preview of Hershey: Disease in 2000 AD Prog 2175, out April 1st and available in print from some newsagents and comic book stores, as well as digitally from 2000 AD’s web shop and apps.