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The Early yearsEdit
Judge Dredd is the flagship title in the 2000AD anthology, first appearing in its second issue in 1977. The year is 2099 at that time, and Dredd is already a hardened street Judge of many years. Dredd faced countless strange menaces at that time, including a robot uprising. A notable early case was The Return of Rico, where Dredd's disgraced dirty Judge clone brother Rico Dredd comes back to frame him.
Then we have the first Dredd mega epic, The Cursed Earth, which ran for 25 weeks. Dredd treks across The Cursed Earth that is America, facing numerous mad foes to bring an antidote to Mega-City Two on the West Coast.
When Dredd finally returns home, tired and triumphant, he is faced with the next epic, The Day The Law Died. While he was gone, the mad Judge Cal had taken control of Mega-City One and corrupted it. Framed and disgraced, Dredd brings order back to the city through rebellion.
In Punks Rule, Dredd makes an example out of criminals by defeating many single-handedly and exiling them from the city in a dumptruck. We meet Dredd's niece Vienna, daughter of Rico, and while Dredd does mean well, he has no time for family. The long walk, a bittersweet retirement for Judges who have grown too old or otherwise unfit to continue their hard job, is shown in Judge Minty. Minty walks out of the city with his final task, to go into the Cursed Earth and bring law to the lawless.
Judge Dredd's most fearsome menace Judge Death is introduced around this time ( 2000AD #149), with the goal of wiping out all life. Dredd stops him, but with the price of imprisoning his ally Psi-Judge Cassandra Anderson in a plastic stasis while Judge Death possessed her. In Judge Death Lives, The Dark Judges are introduced, further undead galactic menaces. They break Death free and kill many citizens, but in the end Dredd and Anderson are able to defeat them in their own dead dimension.
The psychics are a point which gets more focus, with a precognitive vision showing that a Judge Child will be able to save Mega-City One from an ominous fate. Dredd and Hershey travel through space to find this Judge Child, but when they do Dredd recognizes the child as pure evil, and leaves him behind, disobeying his orders.
The cold war allegory of Mega-City One's conflict with the Sov Judges reaches its breaking point in The Apocalypse War. With Chief Judge Griffin dead and drug-induced mania tearing the city apart, Dredd puts his finger on the button and launches the nukes, killing millions in Russia's East-Meg, and ending the war. Much of Mega-City One is also destroyed in the process when one of the Sov-Judges' nukes makes it past their shields. Dredd as usual decides to stay on the streets where he's needed, and declines the Chief Judge position. Young serial killer PJ Maybe is introduced, and the evil Judge Child's story culminates in City of the Damned, where Dredd loses his eyes. They're replaced with bionic ones.
The 90's: Dredd ContinuesEdit
Judge Dredd: The Megazine launches in 1990, giving Dredd a monthly place for new stories on top of his weekly 2000AD installments. The first issues of this anthology also include the acclaimed America story, where Dredd is in a grimly imposing supporting role. In 2000AD the Democracy subplot culminates with Dredd's failure, and he takes the long walk into the Cursed Earth. There he becomes the scarred Dead Man, and returns in the Necropolis epic, where Judge Death and other deadly menaces have turned Mega-City One into a nightmare. Dredd receives a rejuve treatment and his skin and tissues are fully restored. Another notable early story in The Megazine is the Mechanismo trilogy, where robot Judges are put on the streets, much to Dredd's suspicion. Judge Dredd had notable crossovers with DC and Dark Horse in the '90s, including four Batman/Judge Dredd stories, a Lobo story, and a crossover with Predator. DC published a new Judge Dredd comic reboot with its own separate continuity around this time, it was short lived. In 1995 the Judge Dredd movie starring Sylvester Stallone was released. Dredd's original creator John Wagner has always been the most notable contributor to the title, and he still continues to write Dredd to this day. There were a couple years in the '90s when he was contributing much less and taking some time off from Dredd. This is when writers such as Garth Ennis and Mark Millar took over the title, in what would be one of the least well received eras of Dredd. Grant Morrison also supplied a few longer stories, such as Inferno and Book of the Dead. Wagner wrote some notable Dredd around that time, such as the Wilderlands arc.
Throughout the mid-to-late '90s Wagner's input increased again, and in general the book took a more favored direction. The Pit being a standout long running Dredd story of that time, where Dredd runs his own sector house, with numerous subplots and a cop show procedural kind of feel. Then Dead Reckoning, a notable Judge Dredd vs Judge Death saga, The Hunting Party, and the Doomsday arc closed the decade.
In 2000 Rebellion took over, and under this new management 2000AD and the Judge Dredd Megazine have flourished. Judge Dredd takes place in real time, currently (c.2013) in the year 2135, and Dredd has aged, currently 66 years since his birth, he's still out on the streets. The young serial killer PJ Maybe introduced in the '80s is now a grown man, and he continues his evil schemes. Dredd's niece Vienna too is an adult with her own problems. The way the city and its citizens change over the years is one of the more fascinating details of Judge Dredd. Judge Dredd vs. Aliens: Incubus is a popular crossover from the 2000s, Dredd face to face with the xenomorph menace. Total War, Mandroid, and Origins being some of the other notable recent epics. In Tour of Duty, the Mutant issue comes into play, and Dredd is once again put to the test.
And of course, Dredd is a survivor hardened by the years, still dealing with all crime at all times.
Weapons and EquipmentEdit
Judge Dredd has a large Lawmaster motorbike, which has powerful side-mounted cannons and a centrally-mounted laser (the 'Cyclops' laser), and has full Artificial Intelligence. It is also capable of responding to orders from the Judge, such as driving itself. It is connected to the Justice Department who can receive and transmit information from and to the bike and is equipped with a video communication system.
He also has a handgun which is named the Lawgiver. It is DNA-coded so that no one else may use the weapon - it will explode if it reads an incorrect palm-print. These are standard issue for Judges, firing six types of ammo such as Standard bullets, Rubber Ricochet, Armour Piercing, Heat-Seeking, Incendiary and Hi-Ex. It can also fire tracking bullets, stun shots, and more, although it requires loading to do so.
Other weapons he carries as standards include a Scattergun (pump-action shotgun), a "daystick" (long two-handed cudgel), and a boot knife. His uniform consists of a navy-blue bodysuit; green padded boots, knee pads, elbow pads and gloves; golden alloy shoulder pads (the right in the shape of an eagle - the symbol of the Justice Department), and a blue and red helmet which almost entirely hides his face and has protective lenses, a respirator and communicator built in.
John Wagner, by request from Pat Mills, came up with the concept behind Judge Dredd and Carlos Ezquerra came up with the character design. Writer Peter Harris, artist Mick (Michael) McMahon and Wagner further developed the character.
Judge Dredd as a character is straightforward, he is the law. He spends every waking moment of his life on the streets. He has no secret identity, no time off, and he's never seen without his signature helmet. After a day and night of fighting crime, Dredd returns to the Grand Hall of Justice for 10 minutes in the sleep machine. Then he's back on the job, hammering in just how relentless crime is in this dystopian future. One thing that separates Dredd from other street level crime fighters is that there is no crime he will ignore. While he deals with all the crazy menaces that threaten the city and its citizens, he is also a threat to the citizens if they commit even the most minor of crimes. The future is harsh, so is the law. Dredd does question his role in this harsh regime from time to time, be it sympathizing with mutants or citizen's cries for freedom, but he is a product of the crazy times he lives in, and his allegiance is to the law.