So are the rumours true: is leading British comic writer Andy Diggle taking over as writer of the Action Comics monthly series? And what does he think of the upcoming Dredd movie reboot, a character he worked on extensively during his tenure at British cult magazine 2000 AD?

These were just some of the questions addressed at Spotlight On Andy Diggle, an hour-long panel on Saturday that I moderated at last weekend’s Singapore Toy Game and Comic Convention (STGCC).

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Andy Diggle holds court.

You probably know Diggle best for creating DC’s Vertigo imprint series The Losers, which was adapted into a movie in 2010, starring Chris Evans, who would go on to star in Captain America (2011). The 41 year old is also known for his work on Daredevil: Shadowland, Batman: Confidential and Rat Catcher.

Diggle was engaging and articulate as  took on questions about the new Dredd movie, his run on Daredevil in the wake of acclaimed writers Brian Michael Bendis and Ed Brubaker, the biggest change he has seen in the comics industry since starting as an editorial assistant at 2000 AD in 1997 and of course, his run on the Doctor Who monthly series, which begins this month. I must say, though: Diggle does seem rather fond of the words ‘hard’ (“a ‘hard R rating”, “really hardcore”), “dark” and “violent. But hey, I’m not complaining, since I told him that “violent” and “hardcore” are my two favourite words.

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Diggle’s responses were always well thought out. And hard too.

On Singapore:

On his first trip to Asia, he enthused about Singapore, likening it to a sci-fi landscape. Asked if he might put the island in a story, he envisioned the Republic as the setting for a story about pirates, or perhaps a high tech action thriller. Which would be a relief, given how comic writer Mark Waid once destroyed Singapore in his series Irredeemable, about a Superman-type figure who turns evil.  On piracy, it was down to the fact that Diggle often draws his inspiration from actual news stories. Noting that people often associate piracy with a phenomenon confined to the coasts of the African continent, he felt that the piracy that takes place in and around the Straits of Malacca would be ideal fodder for a story.

On Daredevil

Asked whether there was any pressure from Marvel to keep the momentum going on Daredevil when he took over as writer, he joked that it was a tradition for writers to leave the next guy in the worst position possible by pushing the main character into a corner. But given a specific direction by Marvel editor in chief Joe Quesada, Diggle’s Shadowland run ended up becoming “the worst reviewed but best selling thing I’ve written” (note: this quote is from the Heroes and Villains panel that took place the next day).

It was also timely to discuss his work on Daredevil, given that Marvel is looking to reboot the 2003 movie, which starred Ben Affleck in the title role. Interestingly, Diggle reckoned that Danish actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who plays Jaime Lannister on Game Of Thrones, would make a great Daredevil, and Affleck the ideal director for a DD reboot. He also felt that Narc (2002) director Joe Carnahan’s recent 1970’s-themed Daredevil pitch, which was rejected by Fox, would not fly, given that it wouldn’t fit into the Marvel cinematic universe.

On Dredd

Diggle is very much looking forward to the reboot of the Dredd movie, which comes out in the UK this week and is going for a “hard R rating”. Noting that print stories featuring the character can run the gamut from “Monty Python-esque” humour to dark and violent, he expressed satisfaction that the tone of the movie would not pull its punches, unlike the 1995 version, starring Sylvester Stallone, which very much “dumbed down” proceedings.

He also explained the history behind the reboot, a process which began shortly after he became 2000 AD editor in, appropriately, 2000. The owners of Rebellion, one of the biggest video games developers in the UK, bought over the magazine and were big fans of Judge Dredd. They were keen to see the character done in the right way, but were reluctant to lose creative control to Hollywood studios. So instead, they went to venture capitalists to help finance the film, with a script by Alex Garland and Dredd writer John Wagner on as consultant.

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As you can clearly see, I was enraptured by Diggle. Photo courtesy of Here Be Geeks.

On the comics industry

As to the biggest change in the comics industry since he started, Diggle points to the digital revolution as having both widened the access for both creators and fanboys and increased the challenges for the comic industry. At the beginning, the industry was slow to respond to the challenge: Diggle recalled that a senior editor at DC had been against going digital, as he felt that no one would want to read a comic on a computer. But even with the advent of tablet PCs, books will never go away, he said, since the tactile experience of holding a piece of work in your hands is still something to be treasured.

On breaking into the industry

Diggle’s advice to would-be comic creators: go and make comics, you don’t need permission to do so. He noted that creators like his fellow countrymen Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, as well as STGCC 2010 guest Matt Fraction, started out by writing smart, independent comics before getting noticed by the big players Marvel. Some time back, Diggle also started the #createcomics hash tag on Twitter, as a tool for aspiring writers and artists to find collaborators. Asked by the audience about the importance of synergy between creators, Diggle concurred and spoke of his fondness for working with frequent collaborative partner Jock, with whom he shares a unique chemistry.

On Action Comics and upcoming projects

Unfortunately, due to non-disclosure agreements, Diggle wasn’t able to say much about his three upcoming major projects, which will be announced next month, or comment on the rumours swirling around the Internet that he is taking over DC’s Action Comics. But he did reveal that he is currently working with Jock on Snapshot, a creator-owned work about a young man in San Francisco who stumbles on a smartphone with photos of a murder victim. The duo are also coming up with a new Lenny Zero story , a character from the Judge Dredd universe whom they have worked on previously.

And that’s that. If you were at the panel, what did you think of it? What would you like to have asked Diggle?