On the passing of 2000AD artist Carlos Ezquerra (Strontium Dog, Bloody Mary) it is a good opportunity to look back on one of his creations and an icon of British pop culture, Judge Dredd of 2000AD.
The future lawman who acts as judge, jury and executioner in a post-nuclear apocalyptic future in the year 2099. Where the east coast of America is now cordoned off from a radioactive wasteland known as the Cursed Earth and named Mega-City One where 800 million people are crammed in and live in megalithic buildings called Mega Blocks.
With the development of intelligent robots, most of the jobs are now automated which leaves civilians at a loss of what to do and many revert to crime.
It is in this universe that Judge Dredd lives and carries out his own version of justice.
From Their Minds, He Came
Judge Dredd first appeared in the pages of 2000AD #2 in 1977. The British-based science fiction anthology comic book which serialised different stories weekly. Dredd is the comic books longest running character and continues to appear in its pages along with his own spin-off Megazine comic book.
The character was created by American born writer John Wagner (History of Violence, Judgement on Gotham), British writer Pat Mills (Slaine, ABC Warriors) and artist Carlos Ezquerra. Where they explored the concepts of life in an authoritarian police state where mostly everything is a crime and punishable by the law.
Judge, Jury and Executioner
The character carries out the word of the law and ensures that all crimes are punished. He does this aided with his Lawmaster motorcycle, his Lawgiver pistol with variable ammo and his colleagues in the Judge System including Psi Division’s Judge Anderson, a psychic who is able to help Dredd when it comes to the more supernatural villains of the world.
Equipped to deal and punish with any crimes Judge Dredd has encountered many adventures and villains that have made their mark in the legacy of Dredd.
Let Me Tell You a Story of Epic Tales
Most issues of Judge Dredd were very episodic so there are only three major epic storylines from 40 years of Mega-City adventures.
The Cursed Earth Saga
One of the first long epic storylines for Dredd was “The Cursed Earth Saga”. Due to a plague affecting Mega-City Two on America’s west coast, Dredd must transport a vaccine from one end of the Cursed Earth to the other.
His adventure encounters monsters, mutants and machines who make their life in the wasteland. This story is where Dredd’s character was formed with his relentless never give up attitude to completing his quest.
John Wagner’s favourite Dredd storyline is “America”. A politically charged story of two friends living in Mega City One, who both take different journeys. Facing life in a fascists style system ruled by judges and the idea of bringing a more democratic government back.
Judge Dredd Origins
Wagner and Ezquerra got together to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the character to create the “Judge Dredd Origins” story. At long last, the story revealed what happened to bring about the Cursed Earth, Mega-Cities and the Judge System and features flashbacks to 2027-2071.
The Cabal of Perps
As with most comic book characters, the (anti) hero is only as good as the supporting cast of villains. In the apocalyptic future, the writers and artists have had scope to create villains to challenge not only the Judge System but Dredd himself.
The number one Judge Dredd villain is Judge Death. A Dredd from an alternative dimension called Deadworld where all life is a crime as it is only the living that commit crime. Death comes to Mega City One and brings his style of judgement. Dredd is able to stop him with the help of Judge Anderson who consumes his psyche to hold him prisoner.
The success of the character meant that it was not long until he resurfaced. He escapes with the help of his fellow Dark Judges, Judge Fire, Judge Fear and Judge Mortis. Each with their own powers, they bring fear to Mega City One to carry out their judgement on the living. Again it is down to Dredd and Anderson to deal with them.
Some villains keep it in the family. Rico Dredd is the clone brother of Dredd and proved to be better than his younger brother during training to become a Judge. This hunger to be better proved his downfall as he fell in to the criminal fraternity becoming involved in extortion and racketeering.
His crimes where ended by his brother and was sentenced to twenty years on the prions colony of Titan. Rico was the villain chosen to face Sylvester Stallone (Over The Top, Oscar) in his 1995 film played by Armand Assante (Mambo Kings)
Not Just In The Funny Books
It has not only been in comic books that the Judge has made his mark. The 1995 lukewarm received film was followed up with a more gritty violent film with 2012’s Dredd starring Karl Urban (Star Trek, Lord of the Rings) and Lena Headey (Game of Thrones).
The universe has also appeared in video games. Starting with 1987’s Judge Dredd on 8 bit home computers. Followed by a movie tie game in 1995. The most popular game is probably Sierra Entertainment’s 2003 game, Judge Dredd: Dredd vs Death which appeared on PC and consoles.
As with other rich worlds in a science fiction setting, the universe has also lent itself to board games and role-playing games.
The lawman continues to appear both 2000AD and Megazine. There is still public demand for a sequel to the 2012 film but these fans may just need to be appeased by Judge Dredd: Mega-City One which is a TV show in production with two years of scripts completed.