Judge Dredd: Superfiend is an online mini-series made for Judge Dredd fans by Judge Dredd fans. The project was produced by Adi Shankar (executive producer of Dredd) as a passion project. In his introduction, Shankar says that Superfiend was made as a callback to Saturday morning cartoons or 90s MTV. Superfiend takes place in the “bootleg universe” a world similar to the Judge Dredd comics, but with some added silliness and character relationships.
Story: Superfiend loosely follows the story of Young Death – Boyhood of a Superfiend before portraying Death in Mega-City One. Superfiend does a great job showing a young Sidney De’ath (later Judge Death) and his journey to becoming Judge Dredd’s greatest enemy, but Death is lacking when it comes to the third act.
Thankfully, Superfiend is more comedic and far less dark than the original Young Death. Judge Death kills a lot of people, but there’s no incident where he murders a crying child. Superfiend is fun and tame throughout, fitting with the often silly tone of the Judge Dredd Case Files.
Despite its relatively short length, the series has everything: exciting chase scenes (synced with a great soundtrack), developed character relationships, and over the top action. Superfiend is short, punchy, and funny.
Sound Design: The sound design alone makes Superfiend worth talking about. Judge Death’s mouth always makes a rubbery noise when he smiles. Mean machine’s metal arm squeaks as it moves. Every tiny movement has a distinctive sound, better connecting the audience to the action. There’s never a quiet moment in Superfiend and it works to the show’s advantage. In a streak of dark humor, one of the best examples is a disembodied head spinning on a record that is stuck repeating “I’m in heaven.”
What’s more impressive is that an original soundtrack was made for and synced to each scene.
Bootleg Universe: The “bootleg universe” is meant to be a fun and light-hearted parody. The rising action to the climax involves Judge Death doing things that his comic counterpart would never think of, but because everything in the series is overextended and caricatured, it’s played as comedic. Does a fan project need to stay true to the source material? I’ll leave that one up to you.
The environments are a lot of fun. Mega-highways are portrayed as winding roads that lead to nowhere. The Disco Crater has the same 80’s punk vibe as Warhammer 40k’s Necromunda. McFatty’s was never seen in the comics, but is a great excuse to put the fatties in the show.
My one gripe would be that Judge Death’s creators, Nausea and Phobia are handled awkwardly. It was likely a matter of pacing, but they appear from nowhere just to move the story forward or to have an interesting action scene. Phobia and Nausea are important to the Judge Death story line (particularly Necropolis), but it’s never explained where the sisters came from. It would have been interesting to see Superfiend expand on the two, but it likely would have ruined the pacing.
References for comic fans: Superfiend is surprisingly dense. There are a lot of sight gags for fans of the comics, but these don’t disrupt the story. Strange items that appear in the comics are briefly explained in a way that is informative for new audience members, but doesn’t break the flow for Judge Dredd veterans. I recommend going to watch Superfiend first, but here are all the references I was able to find. To normal viewers, they’re just background characters, but to Judge Dredd readers, they’re nice little winks.
Edit: It seems that I missed a few obvious references at McFattys!
I realize now that almost every character in Superfiend was lovingly pulled directly from the comics. Each of these referential characters is extremely detailed, making it all the more clear that the creators and artists did their homework and really care about the series. With all these references, I’m surprised they couldn’t find a place for an Otto Sump advertisement.
Overall, Judge Dredd: Superfiend is a fan project with high production value that diverts from the source material and has a lot of fun doing it. From the story to the sound design, every part of this series feels like it was made with love and attention to detail. If you have time, give this one a watch, the whole series is only 30 minutes.
Did you see any other comic references? If so, share them in the comments!