Police State

“Two weeks hard labor.”

That was the sentence given to me by “his honor” the Judge. Geeze. I can still see that fat sluggish tongue scraping the cheese dust from his bloated lips. Guy looks like a bullfrog with a mustache. And the smell… his whole courtroom smells like a plate of steaming hot puke with a glass of skunked beer.

After my “trial” (if you can call it that), I was shackled, beaten again, and hauled off to the blacksmiths. Saul Fore wouldn’t get me out of this one. For two weeks, he just glanced at me and shook his head. When I called out to him, he said that I was beyond helping. Those words hit a lot harder than the police batons, even if they didn’t leave me covered in purple splotches.

For the past two weeks I’ve been lighting forges, assembling weapons, and handloading fresh bullets. My fingers have turned grey, but it hasn’t been so bad. I’ve actually learned a lot about how guns work. Plus, all this gave me some time to clear my head and think about everything that’s happened in the past few weeks. Besides, hard labor is a lot better than getting thrown out in the wasteland…again.

You’re probably wondering: How did that idiot Joe Junkman get into this mess?

Well, I had just entered the BLVD with Saul Fore our food caravan. It had been a long, but uneventful journey from Abundance. Almost immediately, I spotted a crowd gathered round a band playing on a rusting pickup truck. Then the music hit me. All I could hear was the wonderful strumming of a finely tuned guitar. I ignored Saul Fore’s warning and followed the string of notes drifting through the air. I caught myself nodding my head and shaking my hips. I was in a trance, comfortably numb to the world around me.

That’s partially why I didn’t hear the curfew siren. The other reason is that I had no idea the BLVD had a curfew in the first place. At first, I didn’t even notice the “counselor’s” approached wearing their fancy suits and armed with nightsticks and hand crank sirens. The crowd quickly dispersed, but I had no idea what was happening. Nobody told me anything! Of course the Judge croaked out that “ignorance of the law is no excuse.” Seems pretty stupid to me.

It wasn’t long before I was the last person on the street. The counselors boxed me in. One shouted something at me through a megaphone, but I couldn’t make out what he was saying. I didn’t want any trouble, so I shot my hands up and slowly walked toward the suit with the megaphone. He didn’t like that.

Something slammed into the back of my head. I hit the ground hard. A padded knee rested on top of me as my arms were roughly placed behind my back. I tried to use the old Junkman charm, but that just got me a steel-toed kick to the guts. Bruises. Just what I needed. I’m sure someone will find that attractive.

After all that, I was hauled off to the courthouse to await my trial the following morning. Of course, I had to defend myself in court so it didn’t go well. But all this got me thinking. What if someone were to put an official list of the BLVD’s laws on paper? And what if they sold that list for a few tags? And what if that someone was me?

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!

An Introduction to Judge Dredd

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Judge Dredd. He’s the only comic book hero I truly enjoy. From humble beginnings in the pages of 2000 AD to movies and even video games, Judge Dredd has been a cultural icon of law and order for nearly 40 years. Whether it be on the streets of Mega-City One, the radioactive wastelands of the Cursed Earth, or even deep space, Judge Dredd not only upholds the law, he is the law.

Concept

Getting into Judge Dredd can be daunting for some. The character has a lot of history and ages in real time. The first issue of Judge Dredd takes place in the year 2099. Nuclear war has crippled the Earth, leaving endless deserts populated by hideous mutants while surviving Humans have been resigned to a handful of walled Mega-Cities.
A single Mega-City can stretch hundreds of miles and usually has a population in the hundreds of millions. Manual labor in these cities has been widely replaced by robots, leaving the unemployment rate anywhere between 96%-99%. Massive unemployment has caused many citizens to turn to crime. In a single day, there may be thousands of crimes in a single district.

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The Judges are all that stands in the way of complete lawlessness.They are judge, jury, and executioner. Of all the Judges, one has proven himself time and time again as not only an exemplification of the law, but a hero of Mega-City One. He is Judge Dredd.

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Dredd

For almost 40 years, Judge Dredd has dealt with: robot uprisings, multiple genocides, mutant children, psychic horrors from parallel dimensions, werewolves, zombies, aliens, and he’s even been bodyguard to an Orangutan. Through all of that, Judge Dredd has maintained a stern persona. He is the epitome of the “lawful neutral” archetype. Dredd is the law and the law is his life, but the Judge is not “lawful stupid”, he focuses on the most important crime at hand, but still deals with minor infractions during a slow day.

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Despite hist reputation for being rugged and ruthless, Dredd occasionally reveals his softer side. The Judge has a niece (daughter of his evil twin) who he shows more compassion for than anyone else. Although Dredd is supposed to uphold the law completely, he has occasionally fought against the Justice Department whenever it strays too far or refuses to use common sense.

One of the long ongoing jokes in the series is that Dredd’s face is never shown. The Judge has removed his helmet several times throughout the series, but his face is always hidden or changed beyond recognition.

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Judge Dredd is post-nuclear, but that is merely the backdrop.

Fun

Reading Judge Dredd is fun. The world is filled with interesting super-science, silly fashion trends, great action, and funny social commentary.Interestingly enough, Judge Dredd has correctly predicted the future on several occasions (sugar tax, fat acceptance, Olympic blood doping, etc). Despite a mostly unchanged titular character, the series has stayed fresh for over 40 years. When you open a copy of 2000 AD or one of the Judge Dredd Case Files, you never know what you’re going to get. One week it may be an epidemic of fatties stealing food, another it may be a second nuclear war or robot vampires. No matter what,  Judge Dredd’s adventures are always entertaining.
As 2000 AD releases their 2000th issue, I only hope that old Joe Dredd still has a few more years on the streets of Mega-City One.

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