Monday, February 16, 2009

Prog 2 - Judge Dredd

The first appearance of Judge Dredd occurred in Prog 2 because it was in development hell for a year and wasn't prepared for the first issue...which worked out fine for Pat Mills because it gave the readers another reason to pick up Prog 2.

A few things to notice here...It's New York and not Mega-City One yet. The text also says that the Judges were elected by the people to enforce the law. I always understood that the Judges took over to fill the power vacuum left by President 'Bad Bob' Booths Atomic World War fiasco. I don't think they were voted in at all.

The image of the Judge on the bike is a lifted piece of artwork from the original unpublished Dredd pilot 'Bank Raid' by artist and co-creator Carlos Ezquerra. The badge on the judge, if you look closely, just reads 'Judge'. It was decided later that the badges would have the Judges individual names on them so you could tell them apart. It wasn't caught in time for this splash page.

From the 'splash' we are infromed that there are a bunch of criminals holed up in the direlict Empire State Building. A judge is approaching to take them of the criminals is afraid. 'Whitey' quiets him down with a great piece of dialogue 'Judges can bleed too!'. It is a perfect summation of how tough and near indestructable these 'new' law enforcers are. They're a special breed.

On page two Whitey is planning on killing the judge. One of the gang is hoping that the Judge approaching is Dredd, that Dredd is the 'toughest of the Judges!'. It's clear from the second page that Dredd is a name to be feared in the criminal world. His name is mentioned three times on this page before we actually see him.

Whitey kills the judge but is disappointed to find out that it's not Dredd but a Judge Alvin that he has murdered.
The scene changes to Justice HQ where we see Dredd in conversation with the Chief Judge.
The Chief Judge at this time is Chief Judge Goodman although here he is just called 'Grand Judge'. From the 'Grand' Judges dialogue we find out that Dredd is a damn good Judge. Crime is down because of him.

As they are talking a report comes in that Judge Alvin's bike has returned with Alvins dead body tied to it. There's a note attached to the body. It reads 'Who you gonna send against me now, punks. Judge Whitey.'

The 'Grand' Judge is mad as hell, he wants to bomb the building,that Whitey and gang are in, off the face of the earth!

Dredd steps in. He wants to go it alone.
Later, Whitey and gang hear the siren of the bike of another Judge come towards the building. Whitey is going to bag himself another Judge. But the bike is riderless. It's on automatic. It's just been a decoy.

Dredd appears behind them and takes out the gang.
Whitey, he leaves to last. Dredd punches Whitey knocking the judge helmet off his head. 'You committed the most odious crime of all, Whitey - killing a judge!'

Dredd has sentenced Whitey to life. Whitey is unrepentant. He tells Dredd that no prison can hold him and he'll bust out. He hates the Judges and all that they stand for. But Dredd isn't going to send him to just any old, Dredd is sending him to Devils Island for life!
On the last page we see Devils Island in all it's glory! The 'Grand' Judge thinks that Life on Devils Island is a stern sentence but in all reality the Dredd of later strips would just have executed Whitey for killing a judge.

What's interesting about the last page is that Dredd is hanging badges of the fallen on a wall..and there aren't many of them. The Judges weren't the dominant force here as they were in alter issues. In fact in later strips from this early Dredd's seems as if there are just a handful of Judges and the Police weren't totally phased out yet.

It's interesting to note the 'Grand' Judges comment to Dredd about going out like Alvin because Goodmans days would be numbered. He is assassinated in 'The Day The Law Died!'.

All in all, a quiet opening for a character that would go on to be 2000ads most popular strip. Wagner and Ezquerra, co-creators of Dredd, didn't write or draw this strip. Wagner and Ezquerra had some issues with management at the time and walked away. Wagner would later return with his first Dredd strip 'BrainBlooms' and the magnificent 'Robot Wars' to take back over his creation. Ezquerra did have a Dredd story in the can before his falling out with management...but wouldn't come back to drawing Dredd until years later with 'The Apocalypse War!'

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