Friday, August 14, 2009

Famous First Fridays: Judge Dredd

Borag Thungg, Groove-ophiles! Ol' Groove must confess: I didn't know Judge Dredd existed until 1983. Living in the mountains of Southeastern Kentucky doesn't give one much opportunity to get a glimpse of British comicbooks. My introduction to Judge Dredd was via ads in a Pacific Comics catalog (this was when they were still a distributor and just beginning to begin publishing comics of their own. I got on their mailing list by subscribing to Starslayer and Captain Victory.). Dredd's costume and the title "Cursed Earth" just grabbed my attention and would not let go. Needless to say, when Eagle Comics started publishing Judge Dredd comics here in the U.S. (reprinting the British originals in full color) in the early 1980s, I subscribed. Oh, yeah, I subscribed.

But that's more fodder for my other scrotnig blog, Blinded Me with Comics, isn't it?

Judge Dredd made his first appearance in the first issue of the British weekly 2000 AD (cover dated February 26, 1977) in an ad. That's right, a house ad introducing 2000 AD's editor/host, Tharg the Mighty, also gave the world its first glimpse of Mega-City One's most zarjaz judge. And heeeeeere it is:

But that wouldn't make much of a post all by its lonesome, would it? F'rinstance, how come Dredd's debut story didn't appear in 2000 AD's premiere ish? Well, as legend has it, writer John Wagner and artist Carlos Ezquerra, with editor Pat Mills' help, co-created the good judge and concocted a debut story. Behind-the-scenes wrangling over Judge Dredd's ownership led to author/co-creator Wagner to quit 2000 AD, leaving Mills to find a new writer and script. Because Mills was trying to beat deadlines, he had a few different Dredd stories in the pipeline, written and drawn by a variety of British writers and artists. None of them, however, were completed in time for the first ish, so fate decreed that Dredd would begin his career with issue #2 (cover-dated March 5, 1977).

The first published Judge Dredd strip was written by Peter Harris (with Mills re-writing much of the script) and drawn by Mike McMahon. Bet you'd like to see that, wouldn't ya? Don't spaz out, man, Ol' Groove's got ya covered!

To say this satirical/superhero version of Dirty Harry was a hit is like saying an A-Bomb makes a little noise. Fans totally dug Judge Dredd and his dystopian future (filled with black humor, natch), and the enthusiasm didn't take long to cross the Big Pond. Countless reprints, trade paperbacks, games, posters, action figures, buttons, pop songs, and even a Sylvester Stallone movie followed, proving that, not only is Judge Dredd the law--Judge Dredd is the man! (More Judge Dredd love to come over on my Blinded Me with Comics blog. Stay tuned!) Splundig Vur Thrigg!


  1. Hey Groove! I was 10 years old when the Judge first appeared and I thought he was the coolest thing ever. I was obviously too young to appreciate the satire or realise that Joe Dredd was meant to be nearer to a villain than a hero. All that would come later. All I knew was he had a big gun, a big bike, a cool helmet ( ahem! ) and he ROCKED!

  2. There wasn't behind the scenes wrangling over just Dredd's ownership. Wagner left over a stake in the comic that he was promised and IPC pulled the rug out from under him...and made 2000ad an in-house comic instead as a 'freelance' comic. He later came back onto the title a few months later. Incidentally, the first published Dredd story didn't feature the work of its two creators (Not unless you count the Dredd figure on page one. Which was a cut and paste from an Ezquerra drawing. Which didn't even have Dredds name on the badge.)



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Special thanks to Mike's Amazing World of Comics and Grand Comics Database for being such fantastic resources for covers, dates, creator info, etc. Thou art treasures true!

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