Tag Archives: comics

J is for Judda

The Judda are one of my favourite, woefully underused villains. In fact, discounting Fargo clone Judge Kraken, the Judda have only appeared in one story, Oz (progs 545–570, 1987-1988).

Apparently timed to coincide with Australia’s bicentary, Oz functioned as both a continuation of the Chopper storyline and an opportunity for Wagner and Grant to write a story based on some rather distinctive designs of some rather extreme looking judges by Brendan McCarthy. These were to become the Judda.

The original plan was for art duties for the story to be split between McCarthy and Cam Kennedy, the fan-favourite artist who had redesigned Chopper for the previous Midnight Surfer storyline. In the event, Kennedy could not do this – his slots were hurriedly filled by a number of artists resulting in some problems with both quality and continuity – and Brendan McCarthy ended up only drawing a handful of episodes.

The Judda sub-plot revolved around the discovery that Morton Judd, the scientist behind the cloning programme which was responsible for the creation of Joe and Rico Dredd, was still alive. In hiding since his failed attempt to overthrow the justice department, Judd had used stolen genetic material from the cloning programme to create his own army of Judda – warriors brought up to believe in a warped version of the judicial system, mingled with a personality cult revolving around Judd himself. With Judd seemingly about to launch an attack on the city, Dredd is sent to “Oz” (Australia) to hunt him down.

Needless to say, Dredd succeeds, blowing up both Judd and his secret base inside Ayers Rock (the story was written before the campaign to call the rock Uluru had gained much traction).

Morton Judd appears in one other story, Origins (progs 1505-1519 and 1529-1535, 2006-2007). Ostensibly a continuity cleaning up exercise, Origins came about in part due to the continuity glitches which Oz had established. In fact, however, Judd appears mostly in the background, with the bulk of the story focused on Fargo himself and the fall of President Booth.

Notwithstanding the fact that Judd dies at the end of Oz, it is surprising that we have not seen the Judda since and that Kraken was the only captured Judda to have not been exterminated. But given the times characters have been brought back and overused, I suppose I should be careful what I wish for.

Highlights include:

  • Oz (progs 545–570, 1987-1988)
  • Origins (progs 1505-1519 and 1529-1535, 2006-2007)

J is also for…

Judge Judy Janus

Another member of Psi-Division who, while Anderson was off exploring herself around the galaxy, briefly had her own spin-off series after appearing in Inferno (progs 842 – 853, 1993), written by Grant Morrison.

Strikingly bald, the character has not appeared since 1997.

Judge-Sergeant Joyce

An Irish judge who polices Murphyville, Garth Ennis’s satirical vision of Ireland in the future. He first appears in Emerald Isle (progs 727-734, 1991).

While Emerald Isle is an enjoyable enough story, it pretty much sums up the problem with Garth Ennis’s run on the Dredd strip, and indeed Garth Ennis’s weakest work elsewhere. Ennis has a tendency to fill his stories with Guinness-drinking Irish stereotypes (see also Hellblazer, Preacher, Hitman, Dicks). Occasionally the material transcends this; far too often that’s pretty much all it amounts too. Ostensibly self-deprecating (Ennis is from Northern Ireland), all too often it comes across as a crutch in his work.

Wagner and Grant’s weakest Dredd strips are little more than two note gags. Ennis rarely reached that level of sophistication throughout his run on Dredd. This is a great shame as he is a highly regarded with a whole string of hits to his name.

I is for Incubus

For a while in comics, it looked as if pretty much every character going was battling with Aliens and Predators. While there were some notable successful crossovers – the first Batman vs Predator springs to mind – the vast majority were just formulaic trash. I was shocked to discover a few months ago that I had apparently bought and red Aliens vs Predator vs Terminator, a mini-series so utterly forgettable that I could not recall a thing about it.

Dredd’s first foray with one of 20th Century Fox’s ugly buglies was actually in 1997 when he went up against the Predator (Predator vs Judge Dredd, Megazine 3.36–38). A relatively pedestrian tale let down further by weak art, it notably replaced Anderson with Judge Shaefer, a descendent of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Dutch in the original Predator film. It was clear that Dark Horse Comics were calling all the shots and John Wagner’s heart wasn’t really in it.

So things did not look augur well for the Judge Dredd vs Aliens tale, which appeared in 2003. It is all the more remarkable therefore that Incubus (Prog 2003 and progs 1322-1335, 2003) is in fact a pretty decent story.

There are probably two reasons why Dredd’s foray with Aliens was happier (if happy is the right word) than his tussle with Predator. The first is down to publisher. In 1997, 2000AD was still owned by Egmont Fleetway who were essentially running 2000AD down with a view to cancelling it as soon as it became unprofitable, forecast to occur in 2001. By 2003, 2000AD had been bought by Rebellion Developments who not only valued the comic far more highly but had some actual clout with 20th Century Fox after producing two well received Aliens vs Predator computer games.

The second reason for its strength is probably down to co-writer Andy Diggle.

Andy Diggle probably deserved an entry of his own (alas, D is now done and dusted). He and David Bishop are largely responsible for turning 2000AD around in the late 90s in the face of considerable opposition in the form of Egmont Fleetway. They played an instrumental role in negotiating the deal in which 2000AD was sold to Rebellion (you can read David Bishop’s account in his excellent history of 2000AD Thrill-Power Overload).

Diggle himself is a slightly controversial figure. As editor after David Bishop departed, he undoubtedly “got” 2000AD, as his famous (among 2000AD fans anyway), “Shot glass of rocket fuel” memo demonstrated. At the same time, there is little to doubt that the quality of 2000AD dipped somewhat under his tenure. He also had some rather public falling outs with a number of 2000AD’s key creators – most notably Pat Mills.

In the end, Diggle’s tenure as “Tharg” (the fictional editor of 2000AD and something of an honorific) was rather short. He has since gone on to be a far greater writer than he ever was an editor, including as the writer of The Losers, which went on to become a film in 2010.

It is clear that a lot of deft merging of the conventions of the Aliens franchise with past Dredd continuity is down to Diggle. Like the best crossovers, it works by honouring both series without resorting to shoehorning in anything too blatant: there is no Cadet Judge Ripley, for instance. It won’t go down in history as the greatest of literature, but as fun, action packed stories go, it sets a fairly high standard.

Of course, after 35 years of publication, neither of the official crossovers mark the first time Dredd has encountered any familiar looking aliens. We can discount Trapper Hag as a Predator stand in as, regardless of the similarities, he appeared in 1983, four years before the Schwarzenegger film (Trapper Hag, progs 305-307, 1983).

The best undeniable homage to Alien in the Dredd strip was the Starborn Thing (progs 309-314, 1983). In this story, Dredd is required to investigate a spaceship crash in the Cursed Earth. He encounters a squat creature covered in tentacles which proceeds to take control of his body. Dredd eventually defeats it only to discover it has impregnated him with its young. The story resulted in one of the most iconic 2000AD covers, drawn by Mick McMahon.

The other notable rip-off is Raptaur, a sort of amalgam of Alien and Predator, which appeared in an eponymous tale by Alan Grant and Dean Ormston in 1991 (Raptaur, Judge Dredd Megazine 1.11-1.17, 1991). Sadly all this iteration seemed to do is run around and eat people – it wasn’t half as fun as the Starborn Thing – but the creature has since reappeared in spin-off series The Simping Detective.

Highlights include:

  • The Starborn Thing (progs 309-314, 1983)
  • Incubus (Prog 2003 and progs 1322-1335, 2003)

I is also for…

Insurrection

Insurrection is a spin-off series which has thus far had two runs in the Judge Dredd Megazine (279-284 and 305-310). It concerns a group of renegade judges and their allies – a motley crue of intelligent apes and autonomous robots – who are under attack from Mega City 1 for declaring independence.

While set squarely in Dredd’s world, the series has very clear Warhammer 40,000 influences – indeed both writer Dan Abnett and artist Colin MacNeil are Warhammer mainstays. It is one of the most popular spin off series to appear in the Megazine in recent years.

H is for Hershey

Second only to Anderson, Judge Barbara Hershey is the longest surviving member of the Dredd supporting cast. Created by John Wagner and Brian Bolland (who drew her with a distinctive Louise Brooks’ style bob), she first appeared in the Judge Child saga (progs 156–181, 1981) as one of two street judges appointed to assist Dredd in his mission. Dredd and Hershey’s relationship gets off to a rocky start as Hershey perceived Dredd persecuting and being responsible for the death of the third judge, Lopez, for the latter’s refusal to shave off his moustache.

Nonetheless, Hershey impresses Dredd sufficiently that he handpicks her for his Apocalypse Squad at the end of the Apocalypse War. She goes on to have a meteoric rise, joining the ruling Council of Five whilst apparently still in her 20s, and being made acting Chief Judge during Judgement Day (progs 786–799 and Megazine 2.04–2.09, 1992). Hershey comes bottom of the poll in the election to replace Chief Judge McGruder in 2116, but ends up in that office in 2122. She remains Chief Judge until 2131 where her decision, at Dredd’s behest, to reform the anti-mutant laws, proves to be unpopular and she is ousted. In 2134, she returns to once again serve as Acting Chief Judge following the Day of Chaos disaster (Day of Chaos: The Days After, prog 1789, 2012).

Hershey also had her own solo series in the Judge Dredd Megazine, but that series is not remembered with particular fondness. As with Anderson’s series at the time, she was portrayed as a drippy, passive character, mournfully observing how wicked and authoritarian the judges are, whilst doing even less about it than Anderson (and even Dredd). It is a shame that during the early 90s, the stock response to giving a female character her own series was to throw in some politically correct, feminising (as opposed to feminist) tropes which quickly sap the character of any verve whatsoever. Frankly, going the full cheesecake route would have at least been more entertaining.

Nevertheless, she survived that and went on to become, in Dredd’s view, the best Chief Judge he had ever served under.

Hershey appears as a major character in the 1995 Judge Dredd motion picture, played by Diane Lane (Barbara Hershey was presumably unavailable). Shorn of her distinctive bob, the character commits the egregious sin of kissing Stallone’s Dredd at the end of the film.

Highlights include:

  • The Judge Child (progs 156–181, 1981)
  • The Chief Judge’s Man (progs 1244–1247, 2001), On the Chief Judge’s Service (1263–1266, 2001) and Revenge of the Chief Judge’s Man (1342–1349, 2003)

H is also for…

Helter Skelter

After Garth Ennis’ not so successful first shot as a regular writer of Judge Dredd, this was his second chance. A tale of parallel universes, drawn by Carlos Ezquerra and with Ennis fresh from the triumph of his Preacher series, this seemed to have the makings of an instant classic.

Sadly however, it failed on pretty much every front. The story itself was pretty insipid, most of the appearances by characters from other 2000AD stories felt shoehorned in and amounted to little more than walk-on parts, it was simply too fannish – a bit like Doctor Who at its worst when all the Doctor Who monsters team up and appear for seconds each onscreen (yes, The Pandorica Opens, I’m looking at you).

On the plus side, it did serve as Henry Flint’s first stab on a high profile project, when he filled in for Ezquerra who was having personal problems at the time. Flint has gone onto become a firmly established fan favourite.

G is for Giant

Three generations of Giants have appeared in the Dredd strip over the years. The first Judge Giant was a frequent sidekick of Dredd’s in the early years, helping him during The Day the Law Died (progs 89–108, 1978-1979) and dying in Block Mania (progs 236–244, 1982). While popular at the time, Giant somewhat dates the strip; it seems unlikely that they would introduce a black Judge these days who talked jive. His death was quite controversial – many fans quite naturally objected to one of their favourite characters being killed by being shot in the back.

Like Fargo, DeMarco and, one suspects, a pretty huge number of judges, Giant couldn’t abide by the “no sexual relations” rule of being a Judge (given the parallels with the Catholic church, it is surprising that no-one has yet decided to do a story about a Judge-Tutor abusing Cadets in the Academy of Law, but I digress). And so it was that just prior to Necropolis (progs 674–699, 1990), it emerged that Giant had secretly fathered a son (Young Giant, progs 651-655, 1989), who was swiftly inducted into the Academy of Law. Giant Jr performed a similar role in Necropolis to the one played by his father in The Day the Law Died. Soon after, Giant graduated from the Academy and went on to perform a similar role as Dredd’s sidekick in numerous stories.

I hope you’ll indulge me however, if I spend most of the rest of this article focusing on Giant Senior’s father, and Giant Junior’s grandfather, John “Giant” Clay. This character only appears once in the Dredd strip, although there was a one-off story called Whatever Happened to John “Giant” Clay (Judge Dredd Megazine issue 216, 2004)? He was better known as the star of the Harlem Heroes series (progs 1-27, 1977), one of the most popular strips in the first year of 2000AD. Indeed, since Harlem Heroes was published in prog 1, Giant actually predates Dredd by one week.

Harlem Heroes, named as a nod to the Harlem Globetrotters, focused around the futuristic sport of aeroball. As lost genre now, British comics in the 70s and 80s were full of sports stories, and this one followed the same basic formula (think Roy of the Rovers but with jetpacks).

This explicit link between Judge Dredd and the Harlem Heroes was to be just one of several little cross references which were to appear in the Dredd strip over the years. Satanus, the black tyrannosaur which appeared in The Cursed Earth (progs 61–85, 1978) was cloned Jurassic Park style from the DNA of the son of Old One Eye, the tyrannosaur which was the main antagonist in Flesh! (progs 1-19, 1977); just to be confusing, his own son Golgotha then appeared in the ABC Warriors in a story which was technically set several decades before Dredd was even born (ABC Warriors: Golgotha, progs 134 to 136, 1979). ABC Warriors itself was set initially during the fag end of the Volgan War, which first appeared in the 2000AD story Invasion. The Kleggs, alien mercenaries who appeared in The Day the Law Died, were to appear in the first Ace Trucking Co story (The Kleggs, progs 232-236, 1981). And finally, there have been two stories in which Dredd either fights or teams up with Johnny Alpha from Strontium Dog, a series which is set in the late 22nd century (Dredd is set in the early 22nd century).

As time has gone on however, enthusiasm for the idea of a shared 2000AD universe akin to the Marvel or DC universe, appears to have waned. Origins (progs 1505–1519 & 1529–1535, 2006-2007) makes no reference to the Volgan War for instance. A number of series have appeared subsequently which have been explicitly set in Dredd’s world, mostly in the Judge Dredd Megazine, but the more tenuously linked strips have tended to go their separate ways in recent years, although Pat Mills has actually been drawing his own creations Invasion and the ABC Warriors even closer together, with Invasion’s follow-up Savage telling the origins of the ABC Warriors and its predecessor series Ro-Busters.

Where there have been crossovers in recent years, they have tended to take the form of alternate versions. The 1995 Judge Dredd film featured an “ABC Warrior” which looked remarkably like Hammerstein from the ABC Warriors. As a tie-in, Pat Mills wrote Hammerstein (progs 960-963, 1995), which ret-conned the robot into being one of the wardroids used by President Booth to fight the judges at the end of the Atomic Wars. That story has since been contradicted by the ABC Warriors series, which establishes the Volgan War continuing for decades longer than would work in Dredd’s continuity.

A year previously, 2000AD featured a crossover between Dredd and the Rogue Trooper (Casualties of War, prog 900, 1994), but this Rogue Trooper appears to be an amalgam of both the original Rogue Trooper and the reboot version “Friday” (Rogue Trooper continuity is a whole other kettle of fish I won’t go into here).

And finally, in the story Helter Skelter (progs 1250–1261, 2000), Dredd faces his own Crisis on Multiple Earths and encounters several different 2000AD characters, as well as judges from another parallel universe.

It probably made sense to decouple all these series from each other; the longer they went on the more of a straitjacket it would become. From a fan’s perspective however it is a bit of a shame as it was fun trying to piece it all together. Judge Giant then is a sort of artefact from a bygone era.
Highlights include:

  • Giant Sr’s first appearance – The Academy of Law (progs 27-28, 1977)
  • Giant Sr’s death – Block Mania (progs 236–244, 1982)
  • Giant Jr’s first appearance – Young Giant (progs 651-655, 1989)
  • Giant Jr’s finest moment – Necropolis (progs 674–699, 1990)
  • Satanus’s first appearance – The Cursed Earth (progs 61–85, 1978)
  • First (and best) Strontium Dog crossover – Top Dogs (Judge Dredd Annual, 1991)
  • Rogue Trooper crossover – Casualties of War (prog 900, 1994)

G is also for…

Alan Grant
Thus far in this A-Z I have made numerous comments about Alan Grant’s contribution to the Dredd series, most of them not complimentary. I wouldn’t however wish you to think that I don’t value the contribution he made to the Dredd series.

Without Alan Grant, it is entirely likely that Judge Dredd would have fizzled out years before its greatest stories had been told. Grant teamed up with Wagner at a crucial time during the latter’s writing of the Judge Child saga. Grant helped him get past his writer’s block and the two formed a writing team which lasted for the best part of a decade.

Most of what is regarded as the golden age of Judge Dredd was written by Wagner and Grant (or T. B. Grover as they typically wrote under). Combined with artist Ron Smith (another unsung hero), they produced a consistent, funny and imaginative body of work at a level of quality that the series struggled to reach both before and afterwards.

And of course they did this while writing numerous other titles at the same time, including Strontium Dog, Ace Trucking Co, Robo-Hunter and many other series which appeared in the Eagle and Scream. Their run on Batman remains one of my favourites (as is Alan Grant’s solo run); in particular, in the Ventriloquist they created a quintessential Bat villain.

Without Alan Grant’s no-nonsense approach, John Wagner’s style has developed to become much more introspective and meandering. In general, it is a style that I love, but that isn’t to say that the occasional jolt of Alan Grant-style anarchism wouldn’t be unappreciated to keep things more on track. An Alan Grant co-written Day of Chaos for instance would probably have ended in half the time (although I think even he would have baulked at going further than wiping out 87 per cent of the population).

I don’t agree with everything he has done, or wanted to do, with Judge Dredd and Anderson, Psi Division (not to mention killing off Johnny Alpha in Strontium Dog), but he remains one of the British comic industry’s greatest ideas men and I would like to see him writing a lot more than he does these days.

F is for Fargo (and Fargo clones)

Dredd 3D will be fairly unique as movie comic book adaptations go because it will be neither an origin story, incorporate an origin story or be the sequel to an origin story. The reason for this is quite simple: Dredd doesn’t really have one in the superhero sense. Because Dredd is essentially a walking high concept, the strip has never burdened itself with wasting too much time focusing on motivation. He’s a cop, he shoots people, he’s a clone and he spent his entire childhood being trained to do what he does; what more do you need to know?

To the extent that Dredd needs an origin, Eustace Fargo serves a dual purpose. Not only is Dredd a clone of Fargo (the so-called bloodline which has fuelled several Dredd storylines), but Fargo is the person responsible for establishing the judicial system in the first place. So it was inevitable that at some point they would get around to telling his story; what’s surprising is that it took them 30 years to do so.

Most of the background presented in Origins (progs 1505-1519, 1529-1535, 2006-2007) was relatively unsurprising, and I’ve covered a lot of it in my entry on President Booth. The main revelations essentially exist to explain a number of continuity glitches which had appeared in the strip over the years. So it emerges that Fargo had an illicit affair in 2051 and attempted to commit suicide. A cover up ensued and his injuries were sufficiently serious that they felt the need to announce his death – announced as a brutal murder. He recovered however and was kept alive to act as his successors’ secret advisor and as Chief Judge at large. He lives for another 20 years, thus allowing him to do all the things past stories had said he had done after his official death, but eventually his injuries prove too much and he is put into suspended animation whereupon a renegade group kidnap the body.

It isn’t entirely clear when the decision to establish that Dredd is Fargo’s clone was made. It is first announced in A Case for Treatment (prog 389, 1984), but is slipped out in such a casual manner that it is almost as if the writers had assumed they had already revealed it. Indeed, a clone foetus of Fargo’s appears briefly in the previous story Dredd Angel (377–383, 1984), but no explicit link is made then. Indeed, Fargo’s face is shown in Dredd Angel, implying the artist had no idea about his lineage (Dredd’s face is never shown as a matter of convention) – although it is fair to say that the face does feature a rather Dredd-like chin.

Either way, making Dredd Fargo’s clone seemed to fit perfectly. Ever since, the series has explored the idea of bloodline and whether it is nurture or nature that makes Dredd the man he is repeatedly. Aside from The Return of Rico (prog 30, 1977) in which Dredd’s clone brother returns after 30 years on a penal colony to wreak revenge, it is first explored in a significant way in the Kraken story arc, which begins in Oz (progs 545–570, 1988) and ends in Necropolis (progs 674-699, 1990). Kraken is a Judda, a tribe of judge-like warriors founded by renegade judge and founder of the cloning programme which created Dredd, Morten Judd. When the Judda are defeated, the Justice Department attempts to rehabilitate a handful of them and Kraken shows real promise. Dredd however detects an arrogance in him and fails him in his final assessment to become a judge (Tale of the Dead Man, 662-668, 1990). When Dredd goes into exile however, the Chief Judge decides to suppress this news and secretly replace him with Kraken.

It is left ambivalent as to whether Kraken fails and ends up responsible for releasing the Dark Judges because of an inherent weakness or because the power of the Dark Judges is too strong. The next time a Fargo clone appears it is in happier circumstances. The clone foetus which appeared in Dredd Angel has grown up and Dredd is again in charge of assessing him (Blood Cadets, 1186-1188, 2000). This clone passes the test, adopts the name Rico in honour of Dredd’s brother and has been a mainstay of the comic ever since (rumours that Rico was created simply to replace Dredd with a younger model – possibly by way of a body transplant – have proven to be false). Yet another clone to appear has another future. Dolman is a model cadet but dislikes the discipline associated with being a judge and ends up resigning (Brothers of the Blood, progs 1378-1381, 2004). For a full list of Fargo clones which have appeared in the Dredd series, see wikipedia.

It is fair to say that in the world of Judge Dredd neither your genetic heritage or your upbringing are particularly good factors for predicting whether or not you are going to end up as a hero, villain or something in between.

Both Fargo and Rico are major characters in the 1995 Judge Dredd motion picture. Confusingly though, despite all sharing the same genetic code with Sylvester Stallone’s Dredd, none of them look alike (why they didn’t make Rico look like he does in the comics given how neatly it would have solved the problem of Stallone having to play two characters I will never understand).

Highlights include:

  • Origins (progs 1505-1519, 1529-1535, 2006-2007). Reprinted in Judge Dredd: Origins.

F is also for…

Fergee
Not to be confused with Rob Schneider’s Fergie in the 1995 film, the Duchess of York or the Black Eyed Peas singer, Fergee is a simple minded lunk who Dredd discovers in the Undercity (the underground network of tunnels and caves underneath Mega City 1 which was formed when it was concreted over) while on the run from Cal. Befriended by Dredd, Fergee is ultimately responsible for killing Cal, killing himself in the process. As a subsequence, hundreds of Fergee monuments are erected across the city (The Day the Law Died, progs 89-108, 1978-1979).

Francisco

Dan Francisco is the 10th Chief Judge of Mega City 1 (or 9th depending on whether you count Fargo who was technically the Chief Judge of the whole of the USA). He takes over from Hershey after the failure of her attempts to reform the anti-mutant laws in favour of a more permissive policy which enables thousands of mutants to move into Mega City 1 – a policy which Dredd effectively blackmails her to adopt. Francisco is elected mainly on the basis of his popularity – he is the host of top rated reality television programme the Streets of Dan Francisco.

From the beginning, Francisco is portrayed as a puppet of Judge Martin Sinfield, who becomes his deputy. However, Francisco insists on adopting a more liberal approach towards removing the mutants living in the city than Sinfield is prepared to accept. Frustrated with this, Sinfield resorts to drug Francisco with a hypnotic drug (developed by mass murderer P. J. Maybe) and persuades Francisco to resign (Tour of Duty, progs 1650 – 1693, 2009-2010).

Eventually Sinfield’s crime is exposed and Francisco is restored to full office and full health. However, shortly after this the events leading up to the Day of Chaos (progs 1743–1789, 2011-2012) occur, eventually leading to most of the city’s population being wiped out. Francisco has since resigned and Hershey has been reinstated on a temporary basis.

An African-American, clear allusions to Barack Obama were made within the comic when he became Chief Judge. However, it should be noted that Francisco is actually the second African-American Chief Judge to have lead Mega City 1, with Chief Judge Silver being the first.

E is for Edgar

While Judge Death is a relatively well known Dredd antagonist with certain basic flaws, Judge Jura Edgar is an example of a less known antagonist who is done to perfection. Edgar was, for 22 years, the head of the Justice Department’s Public Surveillance Unit – a division which specialises in spying on the populace.

The Public Surveillance Unit (PSU) is used in several stories to explore the growing trend for universal surveillance in daily life but the obsessive, secretive and downright paranoid Edgar is more like a figure out of the Cold War. Part George Smiley, part Margaret Thatcher (artist John Burns clearly modelled her on the former Prime Minister) and, yes, part J. Edgar Hoover, she embroils Dredd in a number of intrigues, including holding out the possibility that Dredd may not be a clone of Fargo but actually his son (The Cal Files, progs 959-963, 1995). After her introduction, Dredd and Edgar rapidly fall out and Edgar becomes obsessed with bringing about his downfall, eventually using a partial account of Galen DeMarco‘s romantic proposition to Dredd as a pretext to discredit him (The Scorpion Dance, progs 1125-1132, 1998-1999). This fails, but so too does an attempt by Dredd’s allies – including then newly instated Chief Judge Hershey – to convict her with criminal charges for secretly keeping sensitive information on senior judges. Despite this, Hershey removes her from the head of the PSU and transfers her to head a penal colony in the Cursed Earth (The Cal Legacy, progs 1178-1179, 2000).

Years later, with Edgar dying, she attempts her final revenge on Dredd and Hershey. She passes Dredd information about the Citizen’s Court, an illegal execution squad set up by a small group of judges in the 2090s. As per her plans, the surviving members of the squad attempt to kill Dredd as he carries out his investigation, but fail. The final twist however is that it emerges that Edgar herself was the ringleader of the Citizen’s Court – which is how she knew about it – but by the time Dredd returns to her penal colony to bring her to justice, she has died (The Edgar Case, progs 1589-1595, 2008).

While there are probably not enough of them, the Dredd strip has a fairly good track record in producing strong female characters, albeit with an occasional tendency to lapse into cheesecake (Anderson and DeMarco in particular appear to have managed to get the artists and editors into a lather). Edgar is relatively unique in being a female character where her gender is not made an issue of at all (the handling of McGruder, Hershey and Beeny is also quite strong, although the former tends to be presented as a crone while Hershey has had her cheesecake moments – particularly in her younger days). She has a character arc and was thankfully not overused.

She also marks a distinct change in John Wagner’s writing style. Between Necropolis and the Cal Files, Wagner had only written a handful of Dredd tales, including the arc which was kicked off by Mechanismo and ended with the Wilderlands. The rest of the writing duties particularly in 2000AD (Wagner and Grant mainly wrote for the Judge Dredd Megazine at the time) were handled by Garth Ennis, Mark Millar and Millar’s then occasional writing partner Grant Morrisson. None of these writers really “got” Dredd; Millar and Morrison never really got past the fascist overtones, while Ennis seemed to simply run out of ideas quite quickly.

It is fair to say however that even Wagner’s MechanismoWilderlands arc failed to really catch fire. It had any brilliant ideas within it but ended up less than the sum of its parts. Throughout the first half of the 90s, it really did feel as if Dredd was in terminal decline.

Ironically, it seemed to be the prospect of a film which in retrospect is widely regarded as a failure which appeared to turn things around. With The Cal Files, Wagner changed the whole tone of the strip from action-adventure to something more akin to police-procedural thriller.

It might seem obvious for a strip about a future cop to borrow from police TV shows, but at the time the change in tone seemed quite extraordinary. The Cal Files was immediately followed by The Pit and eventually lead to Wagner changing the style of the whole strip, expanding and deepening the supporting cast, focusing on cases rather than just shooting things and ramping up the political intrigue.

The bottom line was that after 20 years, we’d all grown up and needed a bit more from Dredd than zany fashions and future crime. John Wagner realised this and responded at pretty much exactly the right time.

Highlights include:

  • The Cal Files, progs 959-963, 1995. Reprinted in Blind Justice (out of print)
  • The Scorpion Dance, progs 1125-1132, 1998-1999. Reprinted in The Scorpion Dance Featuring Beyond The Call of Duty (out of print)
  • The Cal Legacy, progs 1178-1179, 2000. Not reprinted.
  • The Edgar Case, progs 1589-1595, 2008. Not reprinted.

E is also for…

Carlos Ezquerra
I’ve written quite a bit about John Wagner thus far but failed to write about his co-creator, Carlos Ezquerra.

Spanish born, Andorra (via Croydon) based Ezquerra was a celebrated artist in the 70s even before 2000AD was first published, mostly due to his work on Action and Battle. Chosen by editor Pat Mills to design Dredd, he developed the leather biker look quite quickly (while Wagner may have had half an eye of the Dirty Harry films, Ezquerra had been watching Roger Corman’s 1975 film Death Race 2000). But it was arguably his city scape designs that really elevated the project to a new level. Up until that point, the idea had been to set Judge Dredd in a future version of New York; it was Carlos Ezquerra who created the deranged vision of Mega City 1, with a cityscape that more resembles a series of giant termite mounds than high rise buildings.

Ezquerra however grew disenchanted with the development process of Judge Dredd and eventually peeled away. He was further put out by the fact that his replacement, Mick McMahon, was extremely good at copying his style – although he very rapidly developed a style which was unique to himself.

Ezquerra was to walk away, instead focusing on developing Strontium Dog for 2000AD’s sister publication Starlord (also in collaboration with John Wagner). He didn’t return to the strip for five years but when he did, his illustration of The Apocalypse War (progs 245–267, 269–270, 1982) was magnificent. The character design had developed significantly since he had left the project, but he instantly made it his own.

Ezquerra has subsequently become established as one of the main Dredd artists. He is the only artist other than Ian Gibson to have worked on the character in every decade since it’s creation and while Gibson is limited to the odd 6-pager these days, Ezquerra’s work rate remains extraordinarily high, albeit with the help of his son Hector. He remains active despite being treated for lung cancer in 2010.

D is for Death, Dark Judges and Democracy

I can’t really get away with reaching D and not mentioning Judge Death and the Dark Judges. Judge Death and co come from a parallel universe in which life itself is deemed to be a crime on the unarguable basis that only the living commit crimes. Sidney De’ath is a judge on that world and he and and his colleagues become undead killing machines in order to carry out their deranged policies.

Death first appeared, alongside Judge Anderson, in the eponymous story in 1980 (progs 149-151). Designed by artist Brian Bolland, the story was an instant hit, leading to a follow up featuring the rest of the Dark Judges – Fear, Fire and Mortis – in 1981 (Judge Death Lives!, progs 224-228).

Since then, the characters have appeared on numerous occasions, ranging from Anderson’s first solo strip and two of the four Batman crossovers to three Judge Death solo series: Young Death – Boyhood of a Superfiend (Judge Dredd Megazine vol 1 #1-12, 1990-91), My Name is Death (progs 1289-1294, 2002) and The Wilderness Days (JDM #209-216, 2003-2004). The latter appears to feature the unkillable Death’s death, but somehow that seems unlikely to be permanent.

The problem with Death and his brothers in arms is that they are basically personality free. Not so much characters as cyphers, they look great but essentially have no motivation other than to kill as many people as possible. Attempts to deepen their characters have not been wholly successful. Young Death explains his origin but ultimately ends up as broad comedy. A lot of subsequent stories have followed tack, with Death forced to wear a rubber chicken for a shoulder pad in Judgement on Gotham (1991) and going drag in Dead Reckoning (progs 1000-1007, 1996). Attempts to make the character darker and more explicitly horrific have not been entirely successful.

Where the Dark Judges tend to work best is in stories where the protagonists are forced to deal more with the destruction they leave in their wake than head on. The best example of this is probably Necropolis (progs 661-699, 1990), a 52 part saga (including prologues) in which the Dark Judges themselves barely feature. In many respects a rehash of The Day The Law Died (see Judge Cal), a heavily scarred Dredd returns from a self-imposed exile to find Mega City 1 and its judges under the control of the Dark Judges. He enlists the former Chief Judge McGruder, Judge Anderson and a group of Cadet Judges to retake control. Necropolis also features three more Dark Judges: the Sisters of Death Nausea and Phobia (whose psychic auras enable the Dark Judges to take control) and Kraken, a clone-brother of Dredd’s and former Judda who replaces him after he goes into exile and is corrupted by Death.

With Death apparently departed, John Wagner opted to bring back Fear, Fire and Mortis during the recent 35th anniversary mega-epic Day of Chaos (progs 1743–1789, 2011-2012). Many of the same problems remain in terms of tone, with the sub plot involving P.J. Maybe capturing them seeming remarkably similar to Death’s previous run-ins with Batman villains Scarecrow and The Joker. I remain to be convinced this will lead to anything particularly memorable, although apparently a new series reuniting the four Dark Judges with art by the excellent Greg Staples is in the works.

Speaking of heretical opinions, I’m also sceptical of the received wisdom that a future Dredd movie sequel should feature Death. Speaking personally, I think the film makers have enough of a challenge on their hands selling a lay audience the concept of Mega City 1, without getting into the messy business of alternative dimensions and the supernatural. Some simplifying will be almost certainly necessary, and that could lead to the same sort of mess which plagued the original Judge Dredd motion picture (1995). With Anderson in a co-starring role in Dredd 3D however, it may well be that they have already figured out how to make it work and that we will see some foreshadowing in the first (of hopefully several) film.

Highlights include:

  • 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.
  • Anderson, Psi Division: Revenge (progs 468–478, 1986). Reprinted in the Judge Anderson Psi Files Volume 1.
  • Judge Dredd: Necropolis (progs 674–699, 1990). Reprinted in the Judge Dredd Complete Case Files Volume 14.
  • Batman/Judge Dredd: Judgement on Gotham (1991). Reprinted in the Batman/Judge Dredd Collection (not yet published)

Necropolis is not just a good example of John Wagner managing to make the Dark Judges work as a concept; it was also the culmination of the first arc of the Democracy storyline. Alongside the non-death of Chopper (and, if you’re counting, the Last American and Alan Grant’s decision to kill off Johnny Alpha in Strontium Dog), it was the development of this ongoing storyline which helped lead to the break up of Wagner and Grant’s writing partnership. Once again, Wagner wanted to adopt a more subtle approach while Grant wanted to simply deepen the idea of the Judicial system as little more than fascism and play the satire for all it was worth.

And once again, John Wagner proved to be correct.

As I touched upon in my B entry, at the heart of the Dredd strip, certainly for the past 25 years, is the dramatic tension which surrounds the very legitimacy of the judicial system. The Judges take over from a democratic system which has clearly failed (and one which rather resembles our own), but however justified those actions may have been, the result is a society in which most citizens have no responsibility over their own lives. Are they irresponsible, and is crime endemic, because of that removal of responsibility or is the judicial system necessary because people lack the capacity for it? In John Wagner’s hands (unlike the hands of many others), the strip offers no clear answers, merely more questions.

It really all kicks off in Letter from a Democrat (prog 460, 1986). This story juxtaposes the actions of a group of pro-democracy insurgents with the text of a letter by one of them, Hester Hyman, to her husband to explain her actions. The strip caused quite a stir and resulted in a sequel a year later, Revolution (progs 531–533, 1987). In this take, a group of non-violent democracy activists organise a march which a team of judges lead by Dredd himself methodically and brutally suppress.

In conjunction with the Chopper stories which ran in parallel, these two vignettes did far more to humanise the plight of the Big Meg’s citizens than any crude satire ever could. In Revolution in particular, no attempt is made to justify the judges’ actions – it just portrays what happens. As a 12 year old, I found the story quite chilling; as a 14 year old observing the Tiananmen Square massacre a couple of years later, it was revelatory (the older and wiser me would also cite the civil rights movements in South Africa, the US and Northern Ireland and the miners’ strikes); it is no exaggeration to say that these stories lead directly to my subsequent career in politics and campaigning.

Revolution has major consequences. It causes America Jura and her cohorts to adopt more violent methods. It adds to Dredd’s existing doubts about the system which eventually leads to his resignation and voluntary exile in the Tale of the Dead Man (progs 662–668, 1990).

This brings us back to Necropolis, where the system is shown to have palpably failed – possibly as a result of Dredd’s absence, possibly not (this is left open: the Dark Judge’s takeover is made possible because of the mistakes of Dredd’s replacement Kraken, but it is not clear whether Dredd could have resisted the Sisters of Death if he had been in the same position). Having saved the city, Dredd’s price is to force the judges to hold a referendum on whether or not to restore a democratic system. In the end, the citizens vote to reject democracy on 68%-32% on a 35% turnout. Apropos of nothing, this just happens to be almost identical to the result in the 2011 UK referendum on introducing the Alternative Vote system, which I was closely involved with. 😉

Since this referendum, the more overt storyline about the quest for democracy have fallen into the background, with the exception of the ongoing America storyline. America Jura‘s organisation Total War returns in an eponymous storyline (progs 1408-1419, 2004) which satirises the counter-terrorism policies engulfing the UK and US at the time. In this story, Total War scale up their activities by detonating a series of nuclear bombs around the city and threatening to continue to do so until the judges relinquish control. Not surprisingly, these actions fail to win much public support.

The other main way in which democracy as a theme has continued in the latter years of the Dredd strip is the portrayal of Mayor Byron Ambrose. Ambrose is one of the most competent and popular mayors Mega City 1 has ever had, even winning the support of Dredd himself. However, it emerges that he is in reality the notorious psychopath and mass murderer P. J. Maybe. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what John Wagner is implying there.

But just as it looks as if the pro-democracy cause is dead and buried, the series took a left turn. The events of Origins (see Booth) again left Dredd questioning the system he has sworn to uphold. This time he uses his influence to force the Chief Judge to abolish the anti-mutant laws and adopt a more permissive policy which by Dredd’s own admission, doesn’t work out very well (Mutants of Mega City 1, progs 1542–1545, 2007 and Tour of Duty, progs 1650–1693, 2009-2010). More recently, the judicial system has come under renewed scrutiny in the Day of Chaos storyline (progs 1743–1789, 2011-2012). A series of intelligence failures and a total breakdown in public trust leads to the massacre of most of the city’s population. How this will play out remains to be seen, but it is clear by the end of that story that as far as the writer and main character are both concerned, the judicial system as we know it no longer exists. Is democracy on the way back?

Highlights include:

  • Letter from a Democrat (prog 460, 1986). Reprinted in the Judge Dredd Complete Case Files Volume 10.
  • Revolution (progs 531–533, 1987). Reprinted in the Judge Dredd Complete Case Files Volume 11.
  • America (JDM 1-7, 1990). Reprinted in Judge Dredd: America.
  • The Devil You Know and Twilight’s Last Gleaming (progs 750–756, 1991). Reprinted in the Judge Dredd Complete Case Files Volume 15.

D is also for…

Dave
Before Letter from a Democrat, John Wagner, Alan Grant and Ron Smith chose to explore the theme of democracy from a different angle in Portrait of a Politician (progs 366-368). While lacking legislative powers, Mega City 1’s mayor and council continued to be elected. Dave the Orangutan shot to prominence, first as a sports pundit and eventually as the mayor himself, prefiguring Stuart Drummond‘s successful bid to get elected as mayor of Hartlepool while dressed as a monkey by 16 years (Dave himself more closely resembles Boris Johnson).

Dave is eventually assassinated by his owner and drinking partner. The post of mayor is left unfilled for a decade.

DeMarco
Judge Galen DeMarco is a street judge and key supporting cast member who first appeared in The Pit (progs 970–999, 1995-1996). Highly competent, she quickly wins the trust of Dredd. However, it is discovered that she is having an affair with a fellow judge and suspended (judges are prohibited from having sexual relationships).

DeMarco is eventually reinstated and recovers her reputation. Eventually, she is even made Sector Chief of Sector 303. At around this time, she develops a crush on Dredd and eventually propositions him. He rejects her but does not report it, something which Public Surveillance Unit chief Judge Edgar uses to undermine Dredd (Beyond the Call of Duty, progs 1101–1110, 1998). DeMarco is forced to resign, after which point she becomes a private detective. Before spinning off into her own short-lived spin-off series, DeMarco plays a pivotal role in exposing the plot which leads to the Second Robot War (The Doomsday Scenario progs 1141-1164 and JDM vol 3 issues 52-59, 1999).

C is for Chopper

Marlon “Chopper” Shakespeare is the Judge Dredd series’s own rebel without a cause. Originally appearing as a graffiti artist in Un-American Graffiti (progs 206-207, 1981), for true Dredd fans it is this they think of whenever they see a smiley face, not Watchmen or acid house. He went on to become best known as a sky-surfer (literally, someone who rides on a flying surfboard fitted with an anti-gravity device) and the winner of illegal world championship Supersurf 7 (The Midnight Surfer, progs 424-429, 1986). Most stories since then have focused on the fictional sport of sky-surfing.

The Midnight Surfer was followed up by Oz (progs 545-570, 1987), a Dredd epic which is framed around Chopper’s escape from prison, journey to Australia to compete in Supersurf 10 and the contest itself (the story also focuses around an attack on Mega City 1 by the Judda, but I’ll cover that elsewhere). This story is cited as one of the reasons John Wagner and Alan Grant decided to end their writing partnership, which had begun towards the end of writing the Judge Child saga. In short, Wagner wanted Chopper to lose the championship but live, while Grant wanted Chopper to win the championship but die. Wagner got his way.

After Anderson, Psi Division, Chopper is the second Judge Dredd character to get his own spin-off series. The Song of the Surfer (progs 654-665, 1989) focuses on Supersurf 11, this time taking place in Mega City 2. The championship turns deadly when its organisers decide to make it more exciting by firing guns at the contestants. This time, almost as if to show Alan Grant how it should be done, Wagner let’s Chopper win – but apparently dies. The story also marks the first major collaboration between John Wagner and artist Colin MacNeil, who went on to draw America and a number of other classic Dredd stories.

And there is should have ended. Unfortunately, Chopper was then brought back with the launch of the new Judge Dredd Megazine, in a story called Earth, Wind and Fire (Judge Dredd Megazine vol 1, 1-6, 1990). This story was written by Garth Ennis (and drawn by frequent Ennis collaborator John McCrea), at the time still at the early stage of his career. Ennis has many qualities as a writer, but one of his weaknesses is a tendency to turn everything he writes into meandering bromances which focus more on drinking alcohol than on character or plot. Earth, Wind and Fire is a particular low point of his career – and one he appears to readily acknowledge himself.

Chopper, now a character who had entirely run out of a story to tell, limped on to appear in yet another story in 2000AD – this time written by Alan McKenzie and drawn by John Higgins (Supersurf 13, progs 964-971, 1995) – before the editor’s finally decided to give him a rest. Even then, Wagner himself attempted to revive the character in 2004 in a fairly forgettable story (The Big Meg, progs 1387-1394, 2004).

Chopper’s run therefore is a tale of two halves. His first four appearances are as great as his latter three are forgettable. It is easy to see how the readership easily identified with this character, a kid who was about the same age as most of the people reading his stories. The best Chopper stories are all about an ordinary guy achieving extraordinary things in the face of adversity, but there comes a point when there just isn’t anything left to kick against.

Highlights include:

  • Un-American Graffiti (progs 206-207, 1981). Reprinted in the Complete Judge Dredd Casefiles vol 4.
  • The Midnight Surfer (progs 424-429, 1986). Reprinted in the Complete Judge Dredd Casefiles vol 9.
  • Oz (progs 545-570, 1987). Reprinted in the Complete Judge Dredd Casefiles vol 11.
  • The Song of the Surfer (progs 654-665, 1989). Reprinted in Chopper: Surf’s Up.

C is also for…

Cal
Chief Judge Cal is an early antagonist of Dredd’s. The head of the Special Judicial Service – the Justice Department’s own internal affairs unit who dress like members of the SS – Cal uses his position to kill Chief Judge Goodman and brainwash the judges, leaving only a handful of judges – including Dredd, Giant and the tutors at the Academy of Law – left to fight a rebellion.

Originally drawn to resemble Pat Mills, Mills objected and as a result Cal was quickly changed to instead resemble John Hurt’s portrayal of Emperor Caligula in BBC TV’s adaptation of I, Claudius.

The Day the Law Died (progs 89-108, 1978-1979) was the basis of the Judge Dredd motion picture (1995), albeit with Cal replaced by Dredd’s clone brother Rico and loveable oaf Fergee replaced by the distinctly unloveable Fergie, played by Rob Schneider.

An alternate Cal appeared in dimension hopping series Helter Skelter (progs 1250-1261, 2001).

Call-Me-Kenneth
Call-Me-Kenneth was the revolutionary leader of the robot rebellion in the Robot Wars, the first multi-part Judge Dredd story, which also marked a return to the strip by creator John Wagner after initially walking away due to conflict between him and commissioning editor Pat Mills (progs 10–17, 1977).

With clear allusions to Jesus, Call-Me-Kenneth is originally a carpenter droid who rebels against his brutal master. He is eventually brought to heel by Dredd and his sycophantic servant droid Walter, in what is a highly satirical story (a personal favourite).

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.