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