I’ve decided to create a new series of posts based on famous (and not so famous) characters from various comics we all enjoy. The first character spotlight goes to one of the biggest comics icons of the United Kingdom – JUDGE DREDD.
The Development of Judge Dredd
Created in 1977 by writer John Wagner and artist Carlos Ezquerra, Judge Dredd is one of the most prominent characters featured in the comics publication 2000 A.D. – a sci-fi pulp magazine similar to Heavy Metal. He is currently the longest re-occuring character in the magazine, appearing regularly since the 2nd issue. Judge Dredd was developed from Wagner’s idea of a lawman similar to Dirty Harry set in the distant future, with the ability to deliver instant justice through ultra violent means. The character’s signature look with his hard-set riot helmet, stomper boots and armored heavy epaulets was developed by Carlos Equerra, who was given an image of David Carradine as Frankenstein from Death Race 2000 as reference.
Plagued by a series of problems that would eventually lead to the temporary departure of Wagner, Judge Dredd found itself in the hands of Peter Mills and artist Mike McMahon for the first ‘real’ issue. The story had been modified heavily by Mills from the original introduction, setting Dredd in a future version of New York City where he had the ability to act as judge, jury and executioner as needed. His hard-line attitude allowed him to exact harsh punishments on criminals, and the basis of the series was born.
Annoyed that the character was redrawn and reimagined, Ezquerra quit and resumed his work for Battle. Wagner returned to writing stories for Judge Dredd again after the 9th episode, and his dark style became the model for all subsequent stories. Wagner would write the majority of the stories from 1980 to 1988, and collaborated at times with Alan Grant.
In 1990, Judge Dredd received his own title – Judge Dredd Megazine. Wagner left 2000 A.D. to assume the primary writing duties for the new publication, and left the stories in the original to be handled by Garth Ennis, Mark Millar, Grant Morrison and John Smith. Unfortunately, their vision of Judge Dredd paled in comparison to the imagination of its original creator, and Wagner returned to write for 2000 A.D. in 1997, after years of sagging sales of the flagship title.
Currently, some of the stories have been written by Gordon Rennie, in the same dark, gritty style of Wagner. It is believed that Rennie will take over the writing duties full-time once Wagner retires and Rennie has established himself amongst fans.
About Judge Dredd – the Character
Joe Dredd is actually a clone of a ‘Chief Judge’ by the name of Eustace Fargo. He is the most famous of the elite corps of Street Judges within Mega-City One, and as a law enforcing Judge, has the ability to sentence and execute criminals under the guise of the law. Dredd travels via his “Lawmaster” motorbike – a high-tech machine equipped with state-of-the-rt weaponry and artificial intelligence. His main weaponry includes a special issue “Lawgiver” handgun with a DNA imprint and the ability to fire a variety of bullet types. Dredd’s uniform is standard issue, with a riot helmet that obscures his entire face with the exception of his mouth and trademark jutting chin, large brass epaulets (one with the Eagle of justice) a large brass badge attached to a chain link, and the Judge’s signature stomper boots.
Judge Dredd’s face has never been shown in an issue of 2000 A.D. or the Megazine. Although it was established that Dredd was a clone of Judge Fargo, it was never stated if he resembled Fargo in terms of appearance. Judge Fargo’s full face is shown in later issues, but Dredd is never fully seen by the viewer, even when his helmet is off or broken.
In one story arc entitled ‘The Dead Man,’ Judge Dredd is drawn badly burned and in the City of the Damned storyline, he is fitted with bionic implants for eyes.
‘I am the Law’
Much like Schwarzenegger, Stallone and other action heroes, Dredd has his own catchphrase – I am the Law. As a Street Judge, he is a living personification of the law, and exacts swift justice against those who clearly oppose it. The line, which proved to be extremely popular to fans due to its straightforward delivery and the truest representation of the character, that it became a signature.
The Old Man
Since the stories in 2000 A.D. are supposed to be set in ‘real-time,’ Judge Dredd is presumably over 60 years of age. Even though he is treated with longevity therapy to maintain his active abilities, in later issues and stories, Dredd appears to suffer from the burden of old age. Currently, there are newer Judges who are being groomed to take Dredd’s place (Judge Giant, Judge Rico), but is has never been determined if Dredd will actually be retired by writer Wagner and Rennie in the future (speculation of Wagner’s impending retirement helped fuel this idea). Although newer stories have Dredd fully aware that his time is coming due, to this day there have not been any indicators as to when this may occur, if at all.
He was diagnosed with cancer, but due to the story being set in the future, and possible cure could be concocted to fit within the storyline. Will Judge Dredd retire, die of cancer or keep going? The future is unclear.
Stay tuned for future spotlight posts on our favorite comic book characters, their creative origins and their backgrounds!
Who do you think should be featured in the next character spotlight? If you have a character request, drop me a line and tell me who you’d like to see!