Prog 156 to 181 – The Judge Child

CF04Story: The Judge Child
Appears: 2000AD Prog 156-181
Issues: 26
Writers: John Wagner & Alan Grant
Art: Brian Bolland, Ron Smith, Mike McMahon
Dated: 15 March 1980 to 11 October 1980

Welcome to another epic Judge Dredd story lasting six months of weekly issues. Having introduced Psi Division they can now play about with prophesy. A vision of doom now clouds the city and the only saviour is a kid with a funny birthmark. Typical stuff.

This is basically the Cursed Earth Saga all over again but in space. Dredd stops off at random planets, which all have some wacky theme, and plays hero. You could cut most of these side-tracks out as padding or “Future Shocks” that didn’t make it and you wouldn’t notice. It’s almost as if Wagner went on holiday and the people in the office filled in.

But having said that it is a good story. We meet the Angel gang for the first time and see how villains should be done. We see the recreation of Ancient Egypt in the Cursed Earth. We also meet Judge Hershey for the first time but she is allowed precious little to do.

The planet-of-the-week isn’t all bad. There is a story of a primitive alien race that is told entirely through rhyme and is possibly a reworking of the song “Ernie” as devised by Benny Hill. The jigsaw disease is a real sci-fi masterstroke and brought to life spectacularly by Bolland.

We also meet the Judge Child and like Dredd we are unsure of his motives. This saviour Dredd has risked everything for disappoints him, and he must make a decision for the good of his city. A decision that will bring him into conflict with his superiors. This is real character making stuff.

There is humour here. Dredd’s personal logs and his disdain for facial hair are very well done. There is also darkness with the Angel gang indulging in murder and worse still torture. This is quite a shocking theme particularly for a younger reader and I know it left a profound mark on me.

It is a good story, and minus the padding, is a thrilling ride, with strong characters and a superb ending.

Prog 149 to 151 – Judge Death

CF03Story: Judge Death
Appears: 2000AD Prog 149-151
Issues: 3
Writers: John Wagner
Art: Brian Bolland
Dated: 26 January 1980 9 February 1980

Here is the birth of one of Dredd’s most iconic foes, the virtually unbeatable Judge Death. And who better to do it than Brian Bolland. Death’s look is superb. A terrifying, twisted mockery of the Judge’s uniform that tells you everything you need to know as soon as you see him. His method of killing people, in that he just makes them die, is elegant and terrifying. Unfortunately, whilst it might be time pressure or may be an artistic choice many of the panel backgrounds are black meaning we are missing out on much of Boland’s famous detail and line work.

Along with Death we also get Judge Anderson. Finally, a relatable female character. One who seems to be the polar opposite of Dredd. There is a classic buddy movie in the works. Both she and Death will grow exponentially from these humble beginnings.

We get Psi Division, we get Tech Judges, and we get the Hall of Heroes. It seems like Mega-city One takes a vast leap forward in just three issues.

Progs 140 to 143 – The Black Plague

CF03Story: The Black Plague
Appears: 2000AD Progs 140-143
Issues: 4
Writers: John Wagner
Art: Ron Smith
Dated: 24 November 1979 to 5 December 1979

This is a really good story. The swarm of insects makes a great threat that is credible and frightening. Possibly influenced by the 1938 story Leiningen Versus the Ants this unstoppable hoard principle is the forerunner of today’s modern zombie horror.

The tale is full of neat little touches such as a talking horse named Henry Ford, The H-bomb Memorial Bridge; and intelligent use of humour throughout.