Judge Dredd: Where Do I Start?

American comics fans were born and raised on a steady diet of super-heroes, but for the people of the United Kingdom they had another hero to look up to: Judge Dredd. Created in 1977 in the just-launched anthology magazine 2000AD, Judge Dredd came of age in the early 80s as a UK counterpart to the “growing up” of comics as seen in other books like Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns. Living in a post-apocalyptic future, Judge Dredd is a law enforcement officer operating in a violent, bustling city walled away from the wasteland outside called Mega City One. The series played the “tough as nails” cop to the hilt, with Judge Dredd brandishing both the crime and the punishment in the name of the law.

For the world outside the UK, Judge Dredd has existed as a import with varying degrees of availability. Considered both exotic and violent, Dredd has stepped into American comics both in a crossover with Batman as well as a series of DC-originated titles. Neither caused much of an impact, leaving American fans of Judge Dredd to rely on imported shipments of comics to get their fix. But with the advent of graphic novels and collections, Judge Dredd’s brand of law is finally permeating the world outside Mega City One.

iFanboy has put together five essential books to get to know Judge Dredd and the world of Mega City One. They’ll cost you a few creds, but it’ll be worth it.

The Best of Judge Dredd: This multi-faceted compilation cherry-picks some of the best works from Dredd’s stories, showing excerpts from sprawling epics as well as highlighting dynamic stand-alone stories that flesh out the world. Of special attention in this is the “The Fink”, a story that would be a treat to fans of Transmetropolitan. Also included is the complete “America” storyarc, which acts as a look at Mega City One and its Judges from the perspective of pro-democracy dissidents. This book stands out from the other “best of” collection, Judge Dredd: Complete Case Files because instead of simply publishing every story from beginning to end it culls it out for true gems all in one book — includingthe excellent “The Cursed Earth,” “The Judge Child” and introducing you to Otto Stump.

Judge Dredd: Judgement Day: In a nutshell, it’s Judge Dredd versus zombies. Written by UK-transplant Garth Ennis, fans of Preacher and The Boys will get a (severe) kick out of this as Judge Dredd wrangles up Judges from all over the world to stop a mad necromancer and kills millions in the process.

Judge Dredd: The Apocalypse War: An early story in the long-running Judge Dredd strip, this arc sees Mega City One on the defensive as nearby East-Meg One mounts a nuclear strike before full-on invasion. Using hints of Cold War politics, Judge Dredd and other Mega-City judges are forced to go in as a defacto wetworks squad to mount an attack. The story is done by Judge Dredd creators John Wagner & Carlos Ezquerra, joined in by co-writer Alan Grant

Judge Dredd: The Day The Law Died: Judge Dredd’s authoritarian police work is put on trial as he’s convicted of murder, leading to a whole new regime to head up MC1’s Judges. Dredd must break out of incarceration, band together with retired and laid-off Judges to put a stop to the dictarorial regime that made Dredd’s policies look liberal.┬áThe abortive Stallone movie borrowed some of its elements from this arc, but refer to the original here to really enjoy it. This arc features phenomenal art by Brian Bolland and Mike McMahon, and is written by Alan Grant.

Judge Dredd featuring Judge Death: Arguably Dredd’s most popular foe, Judge Death gets his first appearance here. Coming from another dimension, Judge Death operates with the motto “The crime is life, the sentence is death!”, thinking that since only living people can do crime then life is the true criminal and needs to be put to justice. Considered by some to be Judge Dredd’s Joker (or perhaps Venom, for Spider-Man fans), Death became one of the few villains to last since most of Dredd’s foes are quickly executed with his kill-first attitude.

 

Comments

  1. So you’re saying that one needs to work up to the Stallone Judge Dread?

  2. Never a huge fan of the Dredd character as essentially fascist cop, not really my cup of tea, but the stories can be great nonetheless. I always loved the irreverent humour, particularly with Dredd’s pathetic robo-servant, Walter the Wobot …Love many of the other 2000AD series like Strontium Dog, Nicolai Dante, Ace Trucking too.

    • Dredd is NOT a fascist. That’s his whole point. Judge Dredd treats everyone equality, whether they are the poorest waif, or the richest fatcat, all are beholden to the LAW. And no one is above the law. Not even Judge Dredd.

    • Fair nuff. Maybe fascist was the wrong term. just never particularly liked him, maybe i’m not supposed to. Give me Johnny Alpha any day.

    • Strontium Dog is pretty great. I’ll give you that.

    • Wait a minute…. “he’s not a fascist, he merely works for a brutal police force in a dystopian city, dogmatically upholding the law and dispensing ‘justice’ by killing people”… hmmm. he’s an antihero, i’ll give him that. Perhaps he’s making the best of a bad situation. But he is at least a tiny bit fascist… Isn’t that the point, it’s supposed to be satirical, no?

  3. Why not start with the Complete Case Files 01? Less than sixteen bucks, you get the character from the beginning in glorious black and white.

  4. The first two pages of America (contained in “The Best of Judge Dredd” are all you need to read in the store if you want a quick sampler in the shop to see if you’d be into the character. America is far and away one of my favourite comicbook stories ever, and I’d encourage everyone to give it a go.

    • Whole heartedly agree. this has all that made these books great. Dredd is 50% hero 50% villain and they found a way to make it work.

  5. You had to go and recomend Judgement Day? Easily one of the worst Dredd epics of all time, by one of the worst Judge Dredd writers of all time.

    Now, Apocalypse War and Day the Law Died. Those are true blue classics. Day the Law Died (along with The Curse Earth) can be found in Judge Dredd Case Files 2. Apocalypse War is contained in Case Files 5 (along with other seminal classics like The Hot Dog Run, Block Mania, and Judge Death Lives)

    For Modern Dredd. Judge Dredd: Mandroid, is in my option the perfect stand alone Judge Dredd collection. No heavy continuity, introduces many aspects of what Judge Dredd is all about (its a Police Procedural, its a personal tragedy, its a black comedy, its an action story. Everything Judge Dredd is, and can be, at its very best). After that Judge Dredd: Brothers of the Blood is in my opinion the perfect primer for Dredd’s expanded cast and who Judge Dredd is as a character.

    After that, Judge Dredd Origins, Judge Dredd: Tour of Duty – The Backlash, and Judge Dredd: Tour of Duty – Mega City Justice is one fine Mega-Epic.

    In short, read Judge Dredd stories written by John Wager, who created, and has nurtured Judge Dredd throughout all 30 years of his existence. Stay away from Judgement Day, it is terrible. But not as terrible as that film-that-shall-not-be-named.

    • The film-that-shall-not-be-named did feature a GORGEOUS rendition of Mega City One itself though… and Hammerstein was fun too (even if he was apparently lobotomised, his design was spot-on!)

  6. I discoverd Judge Dredd in the early ’80s when I traded my collection of Gold Key &Charlton PHANTOM comics for an equal amount of British weeklies. Was blown away by JD and the rest of the 2000 A.D. characters, as well as some of the other more cartoonish ones in BEANO, etc. Took me a while before I was able to find a shop in Connecticut that carried the book, but I remained a fan of the character for years.

    It’s a bit easier to find them now, but still not all shops will order them for a single client.

  7. “Gaze into the fist of Dredd”
    “Next time we get our retalliation in first”.
    “He aint heavy, he’s my brother”
    Dredd gets the one liners and the action, but he’s not really the star.
    The REAL star is the world of Mega-City one, Dredd is just the sounding board to bounce ideas off, like all good sci fi.
    Except with more guns.

  8. THREE Batman/Judge Dredd crossovers…

    Judgement on Gotham (Joker/Judge Death) … Another with the Riddler… and a third (Die Laughing?)

    Sorry, it’s been a while since they came out, but they also did the thing where they were produced 2000AD-sized in the UK and “US-comic-sized” by DC in the US…

    Also – the crossovers are (or were at least) considered part of the Dredd canon, as a Judge Anderson story (by Alan Grant) featured premonitions of a Bat and and Eagle fighting befopre the second crossover was announced…