The world of comic books is mainly populated by the big American superheroes. Batman, Superman, Spider-Man and The X-Men are usually the first characters to spring to mind when we think of comic book creations. This is compounded by the fact that many of these characters exist across other forms of entertainment: Marvel Comics’ The Avengers (Avengers Assemble in the UK) is due to hit cinemas this summer.
Great Britain has its own comic industry of course, as well as many home-grown talented writers and artists. There aren’t as many widely known characters among the lexicon of British comic books, except perhaps one significant exception. Judge Dredd.
Judge Dredd is an icon of British popular culture, born of – and still appearing – in the pages of science fiction anthology magazine 2000AD. While not appearing until the second issue, Judge Dredd is inextricably linked to 2000AD and has been since his creation in 1977. With input on Dredd’s development by editor Pat Mills, artist Carlos Ezquerra and writer John Wagner brought the character to life.
Not so much a hero as an anti-hero, Dredd is a member of the law enforcement organisation of Mega-City One, called judges. These futuristic mega-cities are a pockets of civilisation among the post-holocaust environs of Earth. Within these cities the Judges protect the populace, often using extremely violent measures. Not only upholding the law, but metering out justice, they are truly judge, jury and executioner. Judge Dredd is very quick to offer judgement, which tends to lead to bloodshed.
Judge Dredd’s adventures
Dredd’s comic strip adventures begin in 2099, introducing us to the heavy booted, armoured judge. We learn of his powerful motorbike, the Lawmaster, with its own artificial intelligence and an array of weapons. Dredd also carries the Lawgiver, able to fire various ammunition and can only work with Dredd’s palm print. Unusually for a comic book character, Judge Dredd ages in the strips, and is now in his 70s, older, more grizzled, but no more mellow.
This no-nonsense character was an instant hit with readers. Mega-City One was a fully fleshed out world, populated with the most outlandish of characters. Mutants, cyborgs, aliens and paranormal entities have kept Judge Dredd busy for nearly 35 years, and he shows no sign of retiring.
Dredd has made it to the cinema, with his first live-action outing starring Sylvester Stallone. It received mediocre reviews back in 1997, with many fans of the comic series citing Stallone’s Demolition Man and RoboCop as being closer to the world of Judge Dredd than the eponymous film.
The lawman is due to return to the big screen this year, starring Karl Urban and directed by Danny Boyle. Current Judge Dredd writer John Wagner has been quoted as saying it is closer to the comic book version than the previous film, so hopes are high. Despite these adventures on film, it is the world of 2000AD’s comic strips where we see the real Judge Dredd, in all is high action glory.
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