Prog 21 – The Solar Sniper

Dredd BadgeStory: The Solar Sniper
Appears: 2000AD Prog 21
Issues: 1
Writers: John Wagner
Art: Ron Turner
Dated: 16 July 1977

Plot: A hitman kills Judges with a solar powered gun. Dredd orders weather control to make it cloudy.

Verdict: Another case of a criminal coming to a sticky end. Another case of a criminal with a silly name – Gorilla. And another visit to weather control.

It seems that the citizens of Mega City One get to vote on what the day’s weather will be. They like hot and sunny.

This is a good story and you are wondering why a monkey appears halfway through but all is cleverly revealed. Ron Turner does some great art too.

The Law Rod we have seen before finally gets named but we still have a Grand Judge – who actually attends a crime scene.

Disconcertingly the clock on the front of Weather Control says the year is 2090 so we have lost nine years somewhere. So much for continuity.

Prog 20 – The Comic Pusher

Prog 20Story: The Comic Pusher
Appears: 2000AD Prog 20
Issues: 1
Writers: John Wagner
Art: Mike McMahon
Dated: 9 July 1977

Plot: Old comics are now as addictive as drugs. Dredd busts the pushers.

Verdict: At first glance this is just a lame marketing ploy or self-aggrandisement, bringing the comic you are reading into the fictional world you are reading about. But look deeper and it might just be a comment that modern life is rubbish and that humour or culture in general will never be as good as it used to be.

We also see the first appearance of Max Normal, Judge Dredd’s star informant. He is also a comment on the youth of the day and a genius creation. How do you rebel against a future society that represents every spectrum of the outlandish? By being as conservatively normal as possible. Bowler hat, pinstripe suit and umbrella. All icons of the 70’s establishment. He talks like an old school Disco cat – plenty of jive here.

Another Dredd first is the word “stomm.” Like later additions “drokk” and “by Grud” this is not only an attempt to futurise the language but to avoid trouble with the publishers and the parents. And if you think about it swearing is probably illegal in 2099 so a Mega-City cant would develop.
The internal logic is flawed as comics are illegal, worth a fortune and sold to kids. Not really seeing the economic model there. This stretches the drugs analogy a bit thin. And laughably the most futuristic comics’ technology is microfilm.
The art is great but one of the great features of this story is the attention to detail in the background. A soda joint is run by Fat Sam. A menu advertises “New Coke – The Surreal Thing,” a parody of Coca-Cola’s “real thing” tagline of the period.
This is also the introduction of setting number four on the Lawgiver. The ricochet bullet.

Prog 19 – Mugger’s Moon

Prog 19Story: Mugger’s Moon
Appears: 2000AD Prog 19
Issues: 1
Writers: Gerry Finley-Day
Art: John Cooper
Dated: 2 July 1977

Plot: Dredd delivers justice to muggers and poetic justice to the citizens who looked the other way.

Verdict: The fact that a brand new writer and artist can pick up and succeed with Judge Dredd is a testament to the strong concept and great editors at 2000AD. This is a strong story with an equally strong moral sting to it. Could it be Dredd joins the biblical parables and Greek morality plays as an expression of our social conscience? Or is this too highbrow for a kid’s comic.

Drawing night scenes in black and white is tricky but John Cooper does a great job and really gets his teeth into the dynamic layout idea. The dialogue is slightly Shakespearian but eminently readable.

We see Lawgiver setting 6, the heat seeking bullet or “hotshot” for the first time.

Prog 18 – Brainblooms

Prog 18Story: Brainblooms
Appears: 2000AD Prog 18
Issues: 1
Writers: John Wagner
Art: Mike McMahon
Dated: 25 June 1977

Plot: Dredd goes after an old lady cultivating illegal plants.

Verdict: It’s alright. A 100 year old lady is cultivating illegal plants. A story which has appeared in our own 21st century press. Clearly 2000AD carries the weight of prophesy.

We see either nepotism or compassion from Dredd as he lets his housekeeper Maria off with a warning for possession of a banned plant. Although Maria is now described as his landlady. He also lets the centenarian criminal listen to one last song after she agrees to come quietly. What a big softie! A song that sees him hypnotised and almost results in his suicide.

We also see the first appearance of Riot Foam. And from the eagles on the riot squad’s helmets they look like Judges.

The art is solid stuff with weird panels and layout typical of what McMahon usually delivers. His angles and composition are also really good. This is another story that ends with an intrusive joke for the reader presumably from Tharg. “2000 A. D. now available printed on heat resistant metal for readers inside stars.” Curious stuff.