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 took her life in John Wagner and Colin MacNeil's Guatemala (2000 AD Progs 2150-2157). In Hershey: Disease by Rob Williams (Suicide Squad, Unfollow) and Simon Fraser (Nikolai Dante, Kingsman) beginning in 2000 AD Prog 2175, published today, she's back.
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. The comic book 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. Death is the longest walk – but for Judge Barbara Hershey, it's only the first step. Publishers Rebellion state that "Williams and Fraser have crafted a tense, moving new series that gives one of the Judge Dredd world's longest-standing characters a brand new lease of life – or is it merely borrowed time?"
2000 AD Prog 2175 is out on 1st April 2020 and is available in print from some newsagents and comic book stores, as well as digitally from 2000 AD's webshop and apps.
So what happened to Judge Hersey?
Created by John Wagner and Brian Bolland for Judge Dredd 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 Progs 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.
Judge Dredd spin-off goes solo
Editor of 2000 AD, Matt Smith, said: "When Hershey stood down as Chief Judge, Rob came to me with the idea of a solo series, with her repairing Smiley's legacy in the wake of The Small House storyline. John said he had no plans for Hershey and was happy for us to use her as we saw fit. When John wrote the first episode of Guatemala, he came up with a cover story that would take Hershey out of the game, with no one but Logan, Dredd, and a select few others knowing the truth – and Rob worked his scripts in tandem with that. Hershey is still dying – she's taking medication to stave off whatever microbe she's been infected with – but she's going out with the intention of righting wrongs that were done on her watch. Rob and Si's series is a redemptive, violent, propulsive new arc for Hershey, with lots more surprises still in store."
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?"
Rob Williams said: "The idea for the series came off the back of The Small House. I felt the "I no longer recognise 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. A Long Walk for someone who's deserved a journey that isn't just going into The Cursed Earth. A Long Walk for someone burnt out and dying, who is asking herself the question – my life's run its purpose. So, what's left? Can she find that? Simon and I have worked together a bunch of times and he's a good friend. I thought he'd be great for this. He said he wanted to draw her looking her age. Which was tonally exactly the themes of the story needed. 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…"
Simon Fraser said: "The planning process was, and I'm paraphrasing, "Hey Si, you want to do a hard as nails revenge thriller, kind of like Point Blank, but with Judge Hershey?" My reply, also paraphrasing, was " Yes" or maybe "**** Yes", which is my usual response when Rob suggests things. I was looking for a story to stretch my new digital drawing tools. Lots of world-building, which I love, but not much dialogue… which I also love. I'm also very happy to be drawing a lady of advancing years being very angry and violent. 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. 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."