THE writers of the legendary lawman Judge Dredd have caused a stir among fans by suggesting he might be gay.
The latest edition of the comic 2000 AD is titled Closet and deals with the issue of a teenager coming out.
The first page has been released on the internet and apparently shows Dredd - a judge/policeman form the future - kissing the youth in a gay club.
Reaction to the teaser, which was released online last month, has been mixed, with some fans so hostile to the idea they have threatened to burn the comic.
A spokesman said: "We have had quite an extreme reaction.
"Dredd has always been satirical, while touching on serious issues. This is another example of this."
There is a twist in the tale, with all not being as it seems, the spokesman said.
Writer Rob Williams said Dredd's sexuality - whatever it is - was buried beneath his love for the law.
He said: "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 Dredd's feeling are so deeply hidden, he is extremely unlikely to ever let them show."
The writer said comics were a "great" place to deal with issues such as homophobia.
He said: "As long as you stay true to the character throughout - which I think 'Closet' does - you can deal with all sorts of issues in a story.
"And if they push people's buttons, fine.
"I'd rather a story be provocative than just, 'and they have a fight'.
"Plus, putting Dredd in a gay club filled with men dressed as him is a pretty funny image. It's worth it for that alone."
Dredd is a Street Judge in the American metropolis Mega-City One, with the power to enforce law and impose an instant sentence, including even execution.
The strip, illustrated by CLiNT magazine's Mike Dowling, will be available on Wednesday.