Tag Archives: america

B is for “Bad” Bob Booth and Beeny

Cover to Prog 1517Robert L. Booth – aka “Bad” Bob Booth – is, in Dredd continuity, the last president of the United States of America. Following a disastrous global nuclear war, he was overthrown by the Supreme Court, which invoked the Declaration of Independence:

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Booth is not executed but, rather, held in suspended animation, which is how he manages to be not just a key historical figure but, eventually, a key antagonist.

Booth has only appeared three times in the series, once in a flashback (The Hunting Party: Fog on the Eerie, progs 1037–1040, 1997). His first appearance was in the Cursed Earth (progs 61-85, 1978), the first bona fide Judge Dredd epic. Written by Dredd’s first editor, Pat Mills, the Cursed Earth is important in several respects, not least of all because it established a number of aspects about the strip’s pre-history which have gone on to become central to numerous stories ever since.

Although Booth’s shadow falls across the entirety of the Cursed Earth (after all, the nuclear wasteland it is set in was created as a direct result of Booth’s policies and actions, and it concludes with Dredd fighting off Booth’s robot army), he only appears fleetingly. Kept in suspended animation in Fort Knox, the life support system has begun to malfunction and the robots in charge of ensuring he survive start preying on the local populace to keep him alive. Discovering this, Dredd decides to revive Booth and put him to work for the townsfolk.

At the time the Cursed Earth was published, both Dredd’s creators had an ambivalent relationship to the strip. Although John Wagner was still writing the strip, both he and Carlos Ezquerra were focused on making Strontium Dog a success for 2000AD’s short-lived sister publication Starlord. It is a tribute therefore to Pat Mills that, 30 years later, they both came up with Origins (progs 1505-1519, 1529-1535, 2006-2007). In many ways Origins is a direct sequel to the Cursed Earth, filling in the history (from Dredd’s personal perspective) and also set in the nuclear wasteland that is all that is left of central North America. And of course this is where Bob Booth makes his second significant appearance.

Origins revolves around the revelation that the body of former Chief Judge Fargo, the founder of the Judicial system and Dredd’s clone-father, has been found in the Cursed Earth and is being held for ransom. Unknown to all but a few, Fargo had not died in 2051, but had in fact been kept alive and kept in suspended animation. With the possibility that Fargo is still alive, Dredd is given the task of recovering him and, over the course of the story, reveals to his team of Judges the secret history of the Justice Department. Eventually it emerges that the body is in the possession of Booth himself, who is revealed as the leader of the New Mutants Army, a growing force in the Cursed Earth. Dredd defeats Booth, destroys the army and recovers Fargo.

It is interesting to note how the portrayal of Booth changes between the two series. While it is not spelt out, it is implied in the Cursed Earth that Booth is something of an incompetent. When he appears, he rather resembles Jimmy Carter (Carter himself appears in the Cursed Earth rather improbably as one of the faces on Mount Rushmore). By contrast, the portrayal of Booth in Origins borrows more than a little from George W. Bush.

Cadet BeenyIt is highly appropriate to write about Judge America Beeny in the same article as Bob Booth because in many respects the two characters neatly summarise the past and future of the Dredd strip. As you will know from reading my entry for A, Beeny is the daughter of America Jura and Bennett Beeny. First appearing in America II: Fading of the Light (Judge Dredd Megazine vol 3, 20-25, 1996) as a small child, that story concludes discordantly with her father dead and her being inducted into the Academy of Law.

Skip forward 10 years and Beeny reappears in America III: Cadet (JDM 250-252, 2006). Dredd tests her ability and commitment to the Justice Department by assessing her investigation into her father’s death. She passes the test and impresses Dredd sufficiently that after graduating from the Academy, she becomes a core member of the Dredd supporting cast and one of his most trusted colleagues.

How are Beeny and Booth connected? Well, Booth is quite literally the justification for the Judicial system which Dredd has sworn to uphold. The America stories which comprise Beeny’s origin represent a refutation of that system, explaining how the system works against the interests of ordinary citizens. Beeny herself is a reformer, but is committed to working within the system.

Dredd himself has flirted with the idea of reform himself. In the past, he has become so disillusioned with the system that he actually resigned and took the Long Walk (a self-imposed exile into the Cursed Earth), which eventually leads to the Necropolis storyline (progs 674–699) and a referendum on whether or not to restore democracy (democracy loses). Origins, in which Dredd discovers he has mutant relatives and is told by a dying Fargo that the system has failed, forces him to again re-evaluate his position. In this he finds a core ally in Beeny, another exile (this time not self-imposed) and the events which lead to the Tour of Duty storyline (progs 1650 – 1693, 2009-2010).

Without wanting to go into too much detail at this stage, in summary, Origins marks the end of an era for the Dredd strip. Ever since then, Wagner has been slowly but surely picking the world he created apart. The apex of this thus far has been the recent Day of Chaos storyline (progs 1743–1789, 2011-2012) in which the vast majority of the city’s population has been wiped out and the judges’ reputation is in tatters. Beeny represents the generation of judges that will inherit this brave new world. Left distraught at the end of Day of Chaos, I get the impression her story is not over yet.

Highlights – President Booth:

  • The Cursed Earth (progs 61-85, 1978). Reprinted in the Judge Dredd Complete Case Files Volume 2.
  • Origins (progs 1505-1519, 1529-1535, 2006-2007). Reprinted in Judge Dredd: Origins.

Highlights – Judge Beeny:

  • America III: Cadet (JDM 250-252, 2006). Reprinted in Judge Dredd: America.
  • Tour of Duty (progs 1650 – 1693, 2009-2010). Reprinted in Judge Dredd: Tour of Duty – Backlash and Judge Dredd: Tour of Duty – Mega City Justice.
  • Day of Chaos (progs 1743–1789, 2011-2012). Not yet reprinted.

B is also for…

Banzai Battalion
A team of tiny gardening robots who talk and act as if they are in a World War II film who end up foiling a number of crimes and being recruited by the Justice Department.

Batman
There have been four Judge Dredd – Batman crossovers to date, the most critically acclaimed of which was the first, Judgement on Gotham (1991), written by John Wagner and Alan Grant and illustrated by Simon Bisley, in which Judge Death escapes to the DC Universe, teams up with the Scarecrow, and Dredd, Anderson and Batman work together to stop them. A sequel, Die Laughing (1998) – in which the Dark Judges team up with the Joker – was commissioned to coincide with the release of the Judge Dredd motion picture but original artist Glenn Fabry ended up taking so long to paint the story that The Ultimate Riddle (1995) was commissioned to fill the gap. Featuring the Riddler, it also coincided with the release of the film Batman Forever (in which Jim Carrey played the Riddler).

A personal favourite however is Vengeance on Gotham (1993), which featured Batman villain The Ventriloquist, originally created by Wagner and Grant.

Oola Blint
A mass murderer, also known as the “Angel of Mercy” who would go door to door euthanising her unwilling neighbours. She was a recurring character in the late 90s and early 00s.

A is for Anderson

Judge AndersonPsi-Judge Anderson is probably the most popular Judge other than Dredd himself amongst the fan base. Anderson is a telepath and can read minds, read psychic impressions from inanimate objects and gets “psi-flashes” of things happening nearby (a souped-up form of clairvoyance).

She originally appeared in Judge Death (progs 149-151, 1980), which was also the first appearance of Psi-Division itself (which, as the name suggests, is a division of the Justice Department which trains and utilises judges with psychic powers). In accordance with the throwaway nature of the strip in its early days, Anderson’s first appearance could quite easily have been her last, as she sacrifices her life at the end of the story by allowing Judge Death to possess her and for her body to be encased in the airtight, rubber-like substance Boing®. Anderson and Death however both proved to be highly popular and both returned in Judge Death Lives! (progs 224-228, 1981) 18 months later. That creator Brian Bolland drew her as Debbie Harry in tight leather may have been at least a part of her appeal.

Anderson would go on to become a core member of the Judge Dredd supporting cast. She was rewarded with her own spin-off series, originally due to be published in the abortive Judge Dredd Weekly. This strip eventually wound up in 2000AD itself and, again, featured Judge Death and his Dark Judge cronies. Since breaking out in her own series, Anderson has only occasionally appeared in the Dredd strip itself, most notably playing a key role in the epics Necropolis (also featuring the Dark Judges) and Doomsday. She has not featured in the Dredd strip in a significant way in the last 12 years.

While technically of lower rank than Dredd, Anderson has never really played the sort of sidekick role which characters like Judge Giant and Judge Beeny do. She has always been portrayed much more as Dredd’s equal, even occasionally his friend (albeit never entirely convincingly).

Judge Anderson: The Jesus SyndromeShe has undergone several personality changes over the years. In the early days, Anderson was portrayed as a rather sassy, wisecracking persona, which contrasted well against the often dark themes in her stories. As the 80s drew on, and 2000AD got caught up in the post-Watchmen (and particularly in this case post-Halo Jones), “WAM! POW! Comics Grow Up” mindset, the Anderson strip got serious. Initially, this worked quite well but then-writer Alan Grant, not known for his subtlety, started making the series increasingly issue-focused and bleeding-heart in tone. The strip started to focus on the dark side of the Judicial system (which in Alan Grant’s hands was no more and no less fascism). Anderson got retrofitted as a victim of child abuse and gained a rival going by the incredibly literal name of Judge Goon.

What was no doubt meant as well meaning eventually lead to the character becoming little more than a weeping, passive victim in her own series. The strip’s low points were Postcards from the Edge (Judge Dredd Megazine vol 2, issues 50-60, 1994), in which Anderson travels around the galaxy having resigned from the Justice Department, and Crusade (Progs 1050–1061, 1997), in which Mega-City 1’s children all revolt and are nuked by the Chief Judge (an incident which the writers of both Dredd and Anderson have since conveniently forgotten). Since then, the strip has recovered somewhat and Anderson herself has reverted to being a somewhat older, and wiser version of the original inception (note that since Judge Dredd and its spin-off strips work in real time, Anderson herself is now well into her mid-50s, even if she doesn’t look a day over 30).

Anderson features heavily in the upcoming feature film Dredd 3D, played by Olivia Thirlby.

Highlights:

  • Judge Dredd: Judge Death (progs 149-151, 1980) and Judge Death Lives! (progs 224-228, 1981). Reprinted in the Judge Dredd Complete Case Files Volume 3 and 5.
  • Judge Dredd: City of the Damned (progs 393–406, 1984). Reprinted in the Judge Dredd Complete Case Files Volume 8.
  • Anderson, Psi Division: The Possessed (progs 468–478, 1986). Reprinted in the Judge Anderson Psi Volume 1.
  • Anderson, Psi Division: Triad (progs 635–644, 1989). Reprinted in the Judge Anderson Psi Volume 1.

A is also for…

Angel Gang

A criminal family of rednecks – Pa, Link, Mean Machine and Junior – who kidnap the Judge Child and are eventually executed by Dredd at the conclusion of the Judge Child saga (progs 156-181, 1980). It turns out they have a long lost brother, Fink, and the most popular member of the gang and Mean Machine (the one with the dial on his head) is brought back from the dead. Both Pa and Junior Angel also end up getting resurrected, but John Wagner appears to have concluded that was a mistake and they haven’t appeared in the strip for many years.

The Angel Gang appear in the motion picture Judge Dredd (1995). It’s portrayal of Mean Machine is widely considered one of the best things about it.

America

Regarded by many as one of the best Judge Dredd strips, America (Judge Dredd Megazine vol 1, 1-7, 1990) is the tale of America Jara, the daughter of immigrants who goes on to get involved in the Democratic Movement, a campaign to restore democracy to Mega City 1. Disillusioned by how the Justice Department crush the movement, Jara gets involved in the terrorist organisation Total War. To cut a long story short, she is killed but her body is saved by her childhood friend Bennet Beeny who, um, has his brain transplanted into it (the story is better than this sounds, I can assure you!).

The story had two sequels, in the first of which it is revealed that Beeny also conceived a daughter (his sperm, her eggs). America Beeny goes on to become one of Dredd’s most trusted colleagues.

Father Ted: “I didn’t swallow.”*

I’ve never understood why it is that public figures who are caught with their proverbial – and sometimes literal – trousers down, are always so keen to qualify their offence as much as possible, as if it makes it any better.

So it was that we had Clinton admitting he smoked cannabis but didn’t inhale. More bizarrely, Mark Oaten earlier this year got most exercised when the Independent reported that his sexcapades with a male prostitute involved a glass table. His denial somehow made the whole sorry incident sound even more sordid.

Now we find US Evangelist and personal buddy of George Bush “Pastor” Ted Haggard admit to buying drugs and getting a massage off a gay masseuse, but deny taking the drugs or having sex with the man. Far from making it okay, you’ve got to wonder why he wasted his money.

* The title above refers to the drugs, not the gay sex. Of course.

Stupid is as stupid does

David Cameron’s latest effort to get wit da yoot involves having tea and crumpets with a man who goes by the name of Rhymefest.

Rhymefest, who may or may not be allowed to sleep with Cameron’s wife afterwards, accuses Dave of knowing nothing about rap.

Far be it for me to stick up to Cameron here, but it should be pointed out that this photo demonstrates that Rhymefest knows nothing about the wearing of eye protection. My old science teacher, Mr Marshall, would have had a fit.
Boys In Da Hood
It is of course a matter of some debate as to which of these areas of ignorance is more serious, but I would suggest that knowing about rap isn’t likely to stop you from being stabbed by a 12 year old with a flicknife, while knowing about eye protection is liable to prevent serious blindness when using a lathe.

And they wonder why US industry is in decline.

An Inconvenient DVD

I should have mentioned this earlier in the week, but over the weekend a friend of mine bought a pirate DVD of An Inconvenient Truth off some bloke in a pub. When we sat down to watch it on Saturday, the disc turned out to contain a 90-minute Fox News documentary that was all about how climate change is all a hoax.

On the one hand this anecdote is an amusing moral lesson about why you shouldn’t buy dodgy DVDs off blokes in pubs. On the other hand it did get me thinking: why would you go to the lengths of copying the wrong programme on a disc unless you were politically motivated?

I know I’m liable to be accused of wearing tin foil hats in my spare time for saying this, but is there an agenda to undermine Al Gore’s campaign by flooding the black market with disinformation?

The other DVD he bought – Superman Returns – didn’t have a Fox New programme explaining how it is physically impossible for a man to fly and lift up islands with one hand.

Death of a President

I watched More 4’s Death of a President last night and, to be honest, I rather wish I hadn’t wasted 2 hours of my life.

I don’t have a problem in principle with either mockumentories or a drama speculating what would happen if Bush was assassinated. I enjoyed the BBC’s If… series as well as their one-offs about smallpox and transport system collapsing. But most of these had something in common: they either explored how a supposedly unlikely to terrible event might conceivably happen, or they explore (rather more speculatively) what would happen in such a situation.

Death of a President did neither of these things. What we got instead was a rather feeble story padded out by use of the mockumentory style (authentic looking footage, lots of talking heads going over the same incident from several different angles…). It wasn’t making any serious claims about weaknesses in the Secret Service’s methods, it didn’t say anything really about the War on Terror or the civil liberty implications of the Patriot Act. The only thing it had to say was that a lot of people don’t like George Bush very much. Well, duh.

Worse, it ticked the box of every leftist prejudice going. The main suspect was a Syrian man who trained at an Al Qaeda camp. Therefore, he must be innocent. Instead, the murderer turns out to be an ex-US soldier, driven to do it because his son was killed in Iraq. In fact, far from being presented as a lunatic (who, let us not forget, inflicts President Cheney on the world for God’s sake), it actually portrayed as a tragic hero. The “villain” of the piece is clearly made out to be the Intelligence Community who lock up an innocent man, and Cheney, who nearly declares war on Syria despite having no evidence of their involvement.

Either this film has a message – in which case it stinks – or it doesn’t – in which case it is utterly pointless. I happen to think it is the latter. If instead of concocting some silly whodunnit the programme had explored the national and global consequences of what happens when the world’s most powerful man gets wiped out, it might have been more interesting, but even then I suppose it would inevitably have been politically loaded.

But at least it would have been better than the lazy nonsense I had to sit through last night.

Constitutions and the choke factor

My boss has written a nice post about the last episodes of the West Wing last night, linking it with the House of Lords Constitution Committee’s report this week on Royal prerogative.

For me, the “choke” moment of the two episodes was the bit when Bartlet gave Charlie his copy of the US Constitution. But then it got me thinking: not only do we not have a document with similar meaning in the UK, but for our government such rules are problems to be got around, not sacred limitations of their power.

Both America and the US Constitution have their faults, and the iconic status many Americans grant the Constitution occasionally strikes one as bizarre. I would certainly take issue with the way some treat it as if it were written on tablets of stone – constitutions have to be able to slowly evolve over time. But I take far more issue with those, including its current non-fictional president, who act as if it is a legalistic buffet that you can pick and choose from to suit your agenda.

In the UK, we desperately need a written constitution; the last five years of repeated assaults by Labour on our civil liberties prove that. But going hand in hand, we need a culture that values constitutional documents.

Yet the nearest thing we have to a constitutional document, the Human Rights Act, is continually under attack. We are told we have a “human rights culture” – the truth is we have anything but. A human rights culture is a culture in which people instinctively understand what rights are, not one in which the police claim the HRA forces them to give perps Kentucky Fried Chicken on demand.

The problem is, for constitutions to have that sort of ownership or resonance – for them to be able to convey that West Wing “choke factor – they tend to be borne of war or revolution, neither of which are things liberal democrats (small-l, small-d) should wish on the country. The real problem with the HRA is that it was drafted by ministers and civil servants while the rest of us were shut out. It should have been drawn up in a more open fashion and should have been ratified by a referendum – back in 1999 Labour could have easily won such a thing. If we are to have a written constitution, it has to be written by the people, for the people, and nothing less than a Citizen’s Convention will do.

Not as super as it should have been (warning: geekfest alert and spoilers)

I’m afraid I was somewhat underwhelmed by Superman Returns, which I saw on Saturday evening. In part, this may be because I built it up too much, being a fan of both the Richard Donner film and Bryan Singer. However, there are a number of ways in which I think the film took a wrong turn. So, Mr Singer, here’s my constructive feedback: Continue reading Not as super as it should have been (warning: geekfest alert and spoilers)