Judge Dredd Predicts the Future: Part 2

1704131-dredd  For 40 years, 2000 AD has provided high concept (and often silly) post-apocalyptic sci-fi with Judge Dredd.  Somehow 2000 AD  writers have always been ahead of the curve on technological and social change. Looking at the series as a whole, it is easy to see where our own world has crossed into that of Mega-City One. With over 2000 Judge Dredd stories, it’s no surprise that some of them have overlapped with reality, but it is still fun to observe and dissect the parallels. For this series, we will periodically look at three different Judge Dredd stories and their real life counterparts.

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Undercover Santa: This one might be a little too fresh, but its parallel is oddly specific. New Year’s Eve 2016: a gunman dressed as Santa Claus attacked a nightclub in Istanbul. Near the attack were several undercover police officers also dressed as Santa Claus. In 2000 AD, Dredd donned the famous red robe and white beard to catch a group of robbers dressed as Saint Nick. Dredd’s story ends on a somewhat happier note, with the lead robber (Fatt Blatt) murdered by a sniper. Unfortunately, the Istanbul shooter was able to kill nearly 40 people.

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Futsie: This one hasn’t quite pierced our reality yet, but we’re starting to see the first signs. In the Dredd universe, there is a mental condition known as “Futsie” or “Future Shock.” Victims of this illness cannot handle living in the stressful conditions of the 22nd century, which usually causes them to embark on a killing spree. In reality, emerging research suggests that our brains are rewiring themselves in response to 21st century technology.

At this time, I would point to two examples. The first is phantom vibration syndrome, a feeling that your phone has buzzed, even if it is not in your pocket. The validation that comes with new technologies is causing our brains to create false alarms.It’s an interesting subject and worth a look at the source.

Second, I would look to studies on social media usage and depression. One study from the University of Pittsburgh suggests that obsession with social media usage is linked to depression. Another study suggests that after a certain number of social media friends, your enjoyment quickly declines. This relates to Dunbar’s number, a theory that human mental capacity is limited to roughly 150 social relations. Initial research suggests that there is a rising possibility of depression as humans continue to expand their social structures through substantial virtual interaction. This, in one way or another is a kind of trauma that would not be possible without future technology. Therefore in some small way it seems to be the start of future shock or futsie.

It’s important to remember that this research is in its infancy, but it still represents a disturbing trend.

Source: Phantom Vibration

Source: Social Media Depression

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Gainers and Feeders: Although Fat Acceptance was mentioned in “Dredd Predicts the Future: Part 1,” this is a little different. “Two Ton” Tony Tubbs appeared in 2000 AD on October 19, 1985. At that time, having a character obsessed with gaining weight was a joke. Indeed, the fatties were often used for humor. At one point in Dredd’s history, fatties hijacked a food convoy by jumping from a cliff and crushing the trucks beneath their bulk. 31 years later, gainers and feeders are a real life trend and relationship status.

As you may imagine, the gainer is someone who is overfed for the purpose of gaining weight. The feeder provides the food. Though not hugely prevalent, this trend has launched web shows, documentaries, and even a dating site exclusively for gainers. Regardless of your stance on the trend, it is interesting to see how some couples display affection in a manner that was originally perceived as a form of dark comedy.

How else has Judge Dredd predicted the future? Tell us in the comments!

Judge Dredd Predicts the Future: Part 1

1704131-dreddFor almost 40 years, 2000 AD has provided high concept (and often silly) post-apocalyptic sci-fi with Judge Dredd. 2000 AD writers have always been ahead of the curve on technological and social change. Looking at the series as a whole, it is easy to se where our own world has crossed into that of Mega-City One. With over 2000 Judge Dredd stories, it is no surprise that some of them have overlapped with reality, but it is still fun to observe and dissect the parallels. For this series, we will periodically look at three different Judge Dredd stories and their real life counterparts.

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Dave the Orangutan: Unhappy with the election process in Mega-City One, citizens formed a populist movement in one of Mega-City One’s low level bars. Their candidate was Dave, an orangutan cared for by Citizen Billy Smart. Despite being unable to speak English or sign his name, Dave was able to run for Mayor simply because there was no law against it. Dave won by a landslide, capturing the hearts and minds of the citizens (generally as a joke to make up for the awful candidates). Dredd himself said it was a good thing and proof that democracy was a failed experiment (something that is revisited in Judge Dredd: America). Regardless of your stance on Donald Trump, the parallel is clear. An orange faced politician rises to fame through an unhappy populist movement and ends up elected.
By no means is this meant to compare Donald Trump to an orangutan, but rather the unlikely American populist movement that arose from dissatisfaction with the status quo.

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Some Mega-City One Credits from Dredd 3D

Universal Basic Income: Unemployment in Mega-City One hovers between 96-99%, based on what percentage of the population has been vaporized/executed/eaten alive throughout a given year’s storyline. Robots have replaced almost all human jobs. Given a drawing or writing sample, a robot can perfectly (and legally) duplicate creative content. In short, this means that the only way to become successful in Mega-City One is to either get on TV or become an entrepreneur. Common citizens rely on an allowance from the Justice Department to buy food, pay rent, and purchase other luxuries. Unfortunately, this means that citizens are often bored, and therefore more prone to crime just to break up the monotony.  As real life automation of labor increases, several billionaires and a handful of world governments have been pushing for a guaranteed income given to all citizens.

fatFat Acceptance: The Fatties actually got me into Judge Dredd. I was intrigued by their belly wheels and the troughs hanging from their necks. I often find that a single interesting idea is enough to get me hooked on a franchise (Servitors for Warhammer 40k). Fatties first appeared shortly after the Apocalypse War. Due to a nuclear war, food was severely limited in Mega-City One, yet there were bored citizens who had made a hobby (and even a game show) out of eating as much as possible.

The Justice Department promptly responded by putting all the fatties in apartments blocks where chefs accounted for every calorie they ate. Citizens could come and go any time they wanted, so long as they were under a certain weight.

Although the real fat acceptance movement has never been so divisive on either side, seeing the iconic “fat fathers for justice” panel from Judge Dredd vs The Fatties brings up some clear parallels. Some of the signs in the panel read “BIG IS BEAUTIFUL” and “FAT PRIDE.” Although this was likely a parody at the time the comic was written, those two phrases have become actual slogans of the fat acceptance movement.

If you enjoyed this article, don’t forget to look at Judge Dredd Predicts the Future: Part 2!

Judge Minty: A Judge Dredd Fan Film

Previously, we looked at Judge Dredd: Superfiend, a fan film that had a lot of comic influence, but put a wacky twist on the story and sound design. Inversely, the Judge Minty fan film stays true to the comics, but gives it a realistic twist similar to Dredd 3D. Fitting with The Rad-Land’s theme of post-nuclear fiction, the majority of the film takes place in the radioactive wastelands of the Cursed Earth.

Story: The film concerns Bill Minty, an aging Judge who was severely wounded in the line of duty. Minty rejects a teaching position at the Academy of Law and instead decides to take the Long Walk, exiling himself to the Cursed Earth to bring law to the lawless. What’s interesting about this film is that Judge Minty was actually a character who briefly appeared in Judge Dredd (and was recalled just before Necropolis). The film knows this and mirrors the story exactly as it occurred in the comics. The camera angles and dialogue match up perfectly. The film’s opening act is truly a Judge Dredd comic come to life. Once Minty has entered the Cursed Earth, the story picks up speed as he is hunted by a war party of mutants led by Aquila, an extremely powerful psyker.

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The establishing shots in Judge Minty are great wallpapers!

Establishing Shots: I believe every fan film does at least one thing exceedingly well. For Superfiend it was sound design. For Judge Minty it is establishing shots. Each act of the story opens with an establishing shot: First of Mega-City One, then of the Cursed Earth, and finally the village of Fairville. The film opens with the voice of a lone dispatcher, but quickly builds up to dozens of voices reporting crimes at the same time. Immediately, the audience gets a sense for the chaos of Mega-City One, which juxtaposes well with the lawless Cursed Earth. The wasteland itself is given a lengthy introduction, but one that serves to better the tone, establishing that the Cursed Earth is a nearly lifeless place where only near-human mutants and other monstrosities remain.

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The costumes are exactly as they are in the comics

Characters: Although the set design in Judge Minty is top-notch, the characters themselves are lacking a bit. Judge Dredd characters are generally straight forward lawful neutral archetypes, but after the first act, Judge Minty is essentially one long action scene with less characterization than Dredd 3D. The main villain doesn’t speak. Any change in Minty’s character is internal, without dialogue. Unfortunately, although the film excels in many areas, the acting is the weakest link. Some of Aquila’s soldiers are borderline cringey.

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Aquila the Psyker

Mutant antagonists with visible faces more often look silly than intimidating. Luckily, the mutant leader conceals his face and acts only with body. That having been said, the actor playing Aquila (the mutant leader), does a good job of appearing both intimidating and mysterious as he uses only his hands and a wide eyed expression. The mutant’s costume design is excellent and his war party invokes a variety of Mad Max-esque marauders, each of which has a costume cobbled together from scrap. The antagonists’ costumes look properly wastelandish while the framing and editing creates a tone similar to The Purge.

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Dredd’s brief appearance

The Judge costumes are also true to the source material: black zip-up jumpsuits. green padding, and gold pauldrons. Even the famous Cursed Earth cloak makes an appearance.  The actor playing Minty is effective at being stern and gritty, but I couldn’t help noticing that the Judge helmet flattens his nose. Judge Dredd briefly appears (as he does in the comics), but he doesn’t feel quite right. His gruff voice feels forced and his jaw line doesn’t live up to the nickname of “old stony face”. However, these are nitpicky and ultimately shouldn’t distract from the action scenes and impressive tone setting.

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Attention to Detail: Like Superfiend, Judge Minty’s background static is heavily influenced by comic references. In an interesting story telling decision, Mega-City One’s radio is heard throughout the first act and is shown to be originating from Minty’s helmet. The exposition fades properly when the Judge removes his headgear. Background radio chatter references Otto Sump’s first appearance, the banning of Umpty candy, Robot Wars, skysurfing, and much more. What’s most impressive is that the film is consistent with the comic’s timeline. Minty’s Long Walk was relatively early in the Judge Dredd story line, but the references to the Robot Wars and Otto Sump are well placed within the context of the story. Someone did their homework.

Despite its length, the film is surprisingly dense, full of inside references, good set design, internal consistency, backstories, a fun villain, and a fair amount of set up and pay off. Plus, it explores the often underappreciated Cursed Earth and does so beautifully. Overall, Judge Minty is another half hour fan film that is a must see for any Judge Dredd fan.

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Mad Minty: Beyond Cursed Earth

Judge Dredd: Superfiend

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.

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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.

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Superfiend portrays a very different Judge Death.

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.

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 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.

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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.

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Fink Angel without his poison

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Father Earth makes a brief appearance

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Fergee (no not that one)

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Tony Tubbs sitting in McFattys

Edit: It seems that I missed a few obvious references at McFattys!

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The Abdominal Arnie Stodgman! Hiding in plain sight.

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Dick Porker, leader of the fatties.

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Even the framing of the image is the same…

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!