Daily Archives: 18 May 2020

Judge Dredd Snapshots: Shanty Town part 4 (prog 303)

Shaver here. Rear access still secure. Stub got Ock’s arm though!

What the heck! I needed to lose a little weight!

Judges Shaver and Ocks

Script: John Wagner & Alan Grant (as T.B. Grover); Artist: Ron Smith; Letters: Tom Frame

Plot Summary

Judge Dredd has formed a squad of judges to clean up a shanty town that has arisen outside of Mega City One, but the criminal gangs have risen up to fight back, lead by Mad Mox, who is using a stub gun, an extremely powerful hand gun used by the judges during the Apocalypse War, to attack the judges’ base (a crashed Sov Judge craft which is also a remnant of the war). Stub guns are however prone to overheating and Mox blows himself up. The mob recedes following the death of their leader, giving the judges a chance to regroup. They discover however that Judge Elvino, the judge sent to raise the alarm back in the city, has been lynched.

The gangs decide to charge the judge’s base with a tanker full of phosphorous but the judges decide to abandon it on their bikes and shoot their way through the remainder of the mob. Eventually they win, sending the gangs into exile. Rather than allow the shanty town to remain and foster more criminal activity, the judges decide to demolish it and send the non-criminal inhabitants to hike across the Cursed Earth where they will be allowed to work on a food farm.

Commentary

The fallout of the Apocalypse War would end up dominating the strip for more than six months after that story ended. “Shanty Town” marks the end of that period (although the war would continue to come up from time to time) and is perhaps the most explicit story to explore the toll the war had taken on ordinary citizens.

This episode goes into that the least; the first part focuses on how people are driven to selling their organs and even children to criminal gangs. There is a deliberate irony mirroring between the fact that Dredd is originally sent to sort out the fact that children are being sold into slavery only to end up forcing the civilian population to work effectively as slaves. It’s pretty grim!

Two of the judges who appear here are recurring characters; in fact, both Ocks and Hershey were members of Dredd’s “Apocalypse Squad” that embark on a desperate mission at the end of the Apocalypse War to end the war by turning East Meg One’s missiles on itself. Ocks is a fairly one note character: he’s big and strong and that’s about it. Hershey however is the most significant character after Dredd to appear in the strip.

Hershey first appeared as a young judge just out of the Academy of Law who went on Dredd’s interplanetary mission to find the Judge Child (progs 156-181). In that storyline, she actually falls out with Dredd after he orders her friend Judge Lopez to effectively commit suicide by taking a drug that will give him prophetic visions and thus find the Judge Child. Created by Brian Bolland, in this case he modeled her and her bob haircut on the silent movie actor Louise Brooks. She has retained this haircut throughout her long career, although Ron Smith in this story and more generally draws her with much longer hair.

Hershey would go on to make repeated appearances in the strip, and drifted into politics becoming a member of the judges’ governing body the Council of Five in “A Chief Judge Resigns” (prog 457). She would eventually go on to become Chief Judge in “The Cal Legacy” (progs 1178-1179), resign, come back, and, last year, die (ish) in “Guatemala” (prog 2150).

It’s worth contrasting Smith’s art style here with his work on “the Blood of Satanus“. The inking is significantly lighter and less scratchy. The way he draws Dredd’s helmet is also much less expressive and dynamic – which I assume is a design choice to present Dredd as more implacable and unwavering. It’s a Dredd that much better suits this era where Dredd increasingly takes a backseat as the strip focuses more on the craziness of the city.

Trivia

  • The cover image I’ve used in this post is the cover from The Chronicles of Judge Dredd 6 published by Titan Books in 1985 and is drawn by Steve Dillon – another definitive Dredd artist who we will hopefully cover at some point in this series. For a lot of people too young to read Dredd during its initial run but old enough to be around in the 1980s (i.e. my cohort), these reprints were the lifeblood for our fandom. The binding was, sadly, frequently pretty shoddy, but the art was printed full size (unlike the current Complete Case Files which are trade size) and they frequently commissioned beautiful covers such as this one, in which Dredd and his squad escape the exploding phosphorous truck.
  • There is an interesting discrepency between how the first page of this strip is presented in Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 06 (I tend to depend on these to write this series) and the original art. In the Case Files you only see panels 5 and 6, as well as Dredd’s speech bubble on panel 7. I don’t have access to my copy of the original prog – strips would get chopped and changed like this all the time for space – but this one is not done especially well (it may have been done for the Titan reprint rather than the original prog). If anyone happens to know how it originally appeared and can leave a comment below I’d be most grateful!
  • And yes, if you’ve been keeping count, it does mean that I own this strip three times in three different formats. In fact, I also own it in the Eagle Comics reprint! My fandom was pretty hardcore in the late 80s.