Borag Thungg, Earthlets! And here we are again to gather around the fire and talk about the Galaxy’s Greatest Comics, 2000 AD, and more specifically — Judge Dredd! It’s been a really busy month with tons of titles hitting the shelves, Thought Bubble taking place at the beginning of the month in Harrogate, and HEAPS of news about what we can expect in the future.
But more importantly, it’s the time of year when I get to make curated recommended reading lists because I woke my partner up in the middle of the night after coming up with the title “Gaze into the feast of Dredd!” while trying to figure out a way to making Thanksgiving (for those of us in the U.S.) something Dredd-worthy.
(Look, it was either this or you were going to be subjected to the 12 Days of Dreddmas. You’re welcome.)
With that being said, this column is almost entirely a love letter to Judge Dredd and the creators who have been a part of keeping him the flat-arsed, skinny-legged, grumpy af lawman we know him to be.
Making Dredd recommendations is not a one size fits all experience. That’d be ridiculous!
There’s four sizes.
So whether you’re reading this column to try and see where to start reading Judge Dredd for the first time, only interested in the early years, only interested in the current years, or you’re just here to browse what my nonsense brain has conjured up for recommendations, I am a firm believer that there is a flavor of Dredd for everyone. So without further ado—
For readers interested in Classic Dredd
JUDGE DREDD: THE COMPLETE CASE FILES 14
What happens when Judge Death and the Dark Judges manage to take over Mega City One because Judge Dredd has f&%^ed off to do “the long walk” and has since been replaced? Well…let’s just say death reigns supreme and Dredd has a crisis of conscience. (If I’m still losing you on this, think The Killing Joke but for Judge Dredd…and with less (re: no) sexual assault!) Aha!
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Another mega-epic that combined two separate stories: one about rogue clones of the same man Dredd was cloned from (hey, maybe you should read Origins, too!), and the other is — uncharacteristically — a surfing contest in Australia. No joke. But on top of it all, the hero of the strip is Chopper, who is still widely recognized as one of the most iconic characters in Dredd’s supporting cast over the decades.
JUDGE DREDD: THE COMPLETE CASE FILES 02
In terms of classic Dredd, Case Files 02 sort of takes the cake. A combination of two stories — “The Cursed Earth” followed by “The Day Law Died” — make this collection two of the biggest epics of the Dredd-Verse. Maybe it’s because it’s Pat Mills’ longest running contribution to the Dredd story (with Wagner dropping in every so often for funsies, I assume); or maybe it’s because there is an intense amount of world-building after being only the second serialized collection of Dredd stories. Either way, this is where the world of Dredd really expanded outward beyond Mega City One as Dredd, who has to cross what’s left of America to get a vaccine to Mega City Two (the West coast) then — in one of my favorite heel-turns in comics history — comes back to Mega City One where the story essentially morphs into Caligula with less sodomy. I can’t make this shit up.
Honorable Mention: THE DARK JUDGES
When people think of Dredd enemies, they think of The Dark Judges. Luckily, there’s a whole collection of the retro strips in which they first appear. Yes, it includes the famous “Gaze into the fist of Dredd!” panel! But if that’s not enough to entice you — Brian Bolland does the majority of the art and it is entirely drool-worthy.
For readers interested in modern Dredd!
DAY OF CHAOS (The Fourth Faction + Endgame)
Okay, so maybe I copped out of this one because Day of Chaos is published over two separate collections. BUT! In my defense, this story is the biggest single dread storyline in the strips history, and with good reason. As series co-creator John Wagner precedes to basically destroy Mega City One just to see what happens, there’s also a lot of tying up of loose ends dating back to some of the earliest days of the strip. It’s not all so grim, though. Wagner still makes sure there’s plenty of room to make light of how ridiculous the concept of elections are.
Wagner: not a big fan of democracy. Or IS he?!
I maintain that this is, objectively, the way all comics crossovers should be done: with no warning, no heads up…just one big punch in the face. What I mean by that is, Trifecta brings together Judge Dredd: Low Life and The Simping Detective strips featuring writing by Al Ewing, Si Spurrier, and Rob Williams in a way that makes its a masterclass in bizarre storytelling, dry wit, and harmonious co-creation.
TITAN & THE SMALL HOUSE
I cannot stress enough how much both of these titles are capable of standing on their own; but if I’m being honest, the combination of Titan and The Small House (and Trifecta!) make for what we should all be looking for in a modern Dredd experience. If you want to see all the details that make up a story about what happens to the rogue Judges in Titan prison after they get their hands on Dredd, and then see what happens when the shadows behind the law come to head *ten years after these stories were set up*, then this is going to be — ironically — a trifecta of stories tailored to you. And c’mon. Have you seen Henry Flint’s art? InSANE.
Honorable Mention: THE PIT
The short version: what if Judge Dredd was a soap opera? Yeah, it sounds completely counterintuitive and strange considering the Dredd-verse, but somehow it works in the best of ways. Turning the strip into a police procedural with an extended cast, you see crimes being solved, riots taking place, and what happens when another Judge falls in love with Dredd. Big yikes.
For readers who are just getting into Dredd!
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APOCOLYPSE WAAAAAAR! Arguably one of the most impactful stories in Judge Dredd’s history, it’s a Cold War era story that wonders what happens if the U.S. and Russia actually came to nuclear blows with one another. This is, essentially, a gift of Wagner being Wagner; and just being bolstered further by Carlos Ezquerra being Ezquerra. There’s few other ways to put it other than — it’s nitty, it’s gritty, there’s explosions and fascists on both sides, and everything falls to shit. Which is entirely perfect and best sums up what you can expect from the big Dredd moments.
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This is where Wagner and Grant — as a co-writing team — demonstrate that they are the best at world building. (Yes, I already said that about Mills earlier but WE’RE PAST THAT NOW, KEEP UP). Essentially an entire volume of short stories, John Wagner and Alan Grant successfully manage to make it seem as though Mega City One is not just a character, but the most important character in the strip entirely. Not only that, but Wagner creates an intersection of genres between comedy, drama, and action as the series of vignettes pans out to show just how absurd and messed up the crimes — or what Judges can consider crimes — of Mega City One really are.
This is honestly less of a Judge Dredd story and more of a story that features Judge Dredd. Ironically, that is what makes it one of the most important Dredd stories from Wagner and artist Colin MacNeil. While all the stories I’ve recommended thus far take place around the Judges, the Law, Mega City One, or those with whom the Judges surround themselves with, the focus is instead places on the people who are affected by the fascist regime of the Justice Department. There are definitely some problematic elements to this story (you know…guy is in love with a woman so when she dies he…well, you’ll find out) but all of the “oh no” moments pay off as we get a full experience of life as a part of the Big Meg.
Honorable mention: JUDGE DREDD: UNDERBELLY
I wanted to make sure to add this an honorable mention because for many people, the movies are the only exposure to Judge Dredd that’s closely available. And with Karl Urban’s Dredd being such a hit even among non-comic fans, Underbelly is a great go-to if you’re wanting to stay in that Dredd continuity. Written by Arthur Wyatt and drawn by Henry Flint, it’s a great mix of Dredd comic and the even harder attitude of the film.
For readers who like to Judge Dredd universe, but don’t want more Dredd
LAWLESS: WELCOME TO BADROCK
Ahhhh a breath of fresh air. Sort of. The ever-talented Dan Abnett and the absolutely incredible Phil Winslade teamed up and made an incredible visual journey out into the great unknowns outside of Earth and onto 43 Rega — a planet that is delightfully similar to the Wild West of Earth. There’s too much lawlessness around these here parts and so enter Colonial Marshal Meta Lawson: a tough, surly, no-nonsense Judge who…may not exactly be who she says. And as someone who enjoys little clever details like someone pointing out that she’s not in MC1 anymore and can say “fuck” freely, this book is 100% what you may be looking for if you’re wanting a little more sass.
ANDERSON: PSI DIVISION (All of them)
A complimentary addition to the Dredd-Verse offering an entirely alternative view on what it means to be a Judge, curtesy of psychic Cassandra Anderson. She’s Dredd’s opposite in many ways: empathetic, witty, and morally ambiguous; and writer Alan Grant takes the strip in directions you can never imagine Dredd would stand for.
LOW LIFE (All of them)
Take a psychological thriller, a cerebral massage, some empathy and sympathy; wrap that all up and you have Low Life. As so many Mega City Judges find themselves a part of the Wally Squad — a team of undercover judges in the slums of MC1 — readers get to see how pretending to be a part of the oppressed in hopes that it will make them seem human, actually just makes them bigger monsters. But really — and maybe I’m biased — you should just read this because Dirty Frank is the best.
Honorable Mention: The Complete P.J. Maybe
If you’re the type of person who wants to read a story about how an illiterate psychopath managed to become the best mayor Mega City One has ever seen and then killed basically everyone around him because he just felt like it, then hey. You’re welcome. P.J. Maybe is a gift from me to you.
BREAKER BREAKER, EARTH-DIGGIN’ BUDDIES!
Like I said earlier, it’s been a pretty crazy month in terms of news. It seems like left and right Rebellion has been dropping some goodies for us! No complaints here, but I know it’s hard to keep up with all of it. So to help, here’s some of the big news that you may have missed from this month!
-Rebellion sent us all into orbit by announcing the new Best of 2000 AD books to be launched in April. The title is set up to be a 12-issue monthly anthology with Judge Dredd and other classic 2000 AD characters on the docket. Not to mention the fact that they’ve already released the images for the first four covers with hopes to entice an American audience by having Jamie McKelvie, Erica Henderson, Charlie Adlard, and Becky Cloonan as guest cover artists.
-An all new title wasn’t enough to put the thrill-power in your pencil, so Rebellion also up and let loose the roster of fantastic new specials that readers can be expecting in 2020. From old school and campy to creepy and thrilling, you should make sure to be waiting at your local shop for these puppies.
-Thought Bubble happened in Harrogate just a few weeks ago and holy cats — did you guys see just how big and awesome and sleek 2000 AD’s booth was? Swanky. (This isn’t news. It just looked really rad.)
-It seems that comic artist and historian David Roach has been exceptionally busy as he continues to to identify several long-lost girls comics. While we continue to be wowed with Misty, Jinty, and Tammy coming back to life, I’m sure we can look forward to more old girls comics with thanks to Mr. Roach.
-Rebellion was pleased to announce the very limited pre-order for the all new hardcover edition of the first volume of The Rise and Fall of the Trigon Empire between November 1st and December 4th (there’s still time!)
-What’s that? You’re a huge nerd and you wanna be an even bigger nerd? Well GOOD NEWS! It seems that Rebellion is rolling out their very own board game division! Having operated across TV, comics, film, video games, and books, Rebellion is obviously extending their reach with Rebellion Unplugged by kicking off their first game — Sniper Elite The Board Game — named for the studio’s bestselling tactical shooter series.
-Offering the inside story of the British comics industry from the man who ran it, Rebellion has begun advertising for the must-read memoir of 2020 — King’s Reach: John Sanders’ Twenty Five Years at the Top of Comics. With John Sanders‘ history of going up against one of the industry’s biggest crooks and battling censorship laws all while selling millions of books every week, this is a title you don’t want to miss in the coming year.
-In a time where political satire is something that is sorely needed, Rebellion unveiled a special hardcover of the defining comic of the 1980’s, Third World War. Nitpicking at capitalism, imperialism, and exploitation, this is a book that’s well worth the hardcover…because you know…*gestures wildly*.
–Q-Collectibles and 2000 AD were very proud to unveil the forthcoming Judge Dredd 1/4 scale statue. Sculpted by the talented Eduardo Silva from Brazil, the statue — which is also offered in alternative display options — will be available worldwide coming soon.
ONWARD AND UPWARD!
We’ve spent plenty of time talking about new, old, and evergreen Dredd stories, exciting news, and all of the stuff you should spend your hard-earned monies on, but there’s always something new to look forward to when it comes to Rebellion’s line of comics. Here are some of the other titles that have come out this month and ones that you can expect before next month’s column!
November 28th: Ken Reid’s World Wide Weirdies
November 28th: The Dark Judges: Fall of Deadworld
December 3rd: The Complete Judge Dredd Case Files 18 (US)
And so we’ve reached the end of our time together, Earthlets.
While I could talk about great Judge Dredd stories until the sun burns out, I’m thinking that this might be enough to get you started. So for now — and until next month — it’s time to say Splundig vur Thrigg! Make sure to check back next month for another chat about all things involving the Galaxy’s Greatest Comics!