Prog 521 – What If… The Judges Did the Ads?

Story: What If… The Judges Did the Ads?
Appears: 2000AD Prog 521
Issues: 1
Writers: John Wagner and Alan Grant
Art: Brett Ewins, Ian Gibson, Robin Smith, Kevin O’Neill, Cam Kennedy
Dated: 9 May 1987

Possibly inspired by the Marvel “What If…” comics of the period this is a series of parodies of advertisements that would have been on British television at the time. Because the title prefaces the nature of the stories you know not to take it seriously. Unlike the clanger “A Real Xmas Story” from Prog 502.

If you aren’t familiar with the actual adverts themselves, which are now at least 20 years old they won’t make any sense. But if you are there is some sharp humour in here. Each of the five stories is drawn by a different artist helping to keep them separate.

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Prog 393 to 406 – City of the Damned

Story: City of the Damned
Appears: 2000AD Prog 393-406
Issues: 14
Writers: John Wagner and Alan Grant
Art: Brett Ewins, Ron Smith, Kim Raymond, Ian Gibson
Dated: 24 November 1984 to 23 February 1985

This is a strong mini-epic that despite digging up and beating the dead Judge Child villain is a tense and rewarding read.

The alternate/ future setting allows the writers to run riot and kill off major characters to up the stakes. Despite the citywide disaster backdrop this feels extremely personal. Anderson gets a chance to shine and behave like a real human being which is something we rarely have opportunity for in a Dredd story.

For the unique tone and creepy setting this is definitely a classic.

Prog 390 to 392 – The Wally Squad

Story: The Wally Squad
Appears: 2000AD Prog 390-392
Issues: 3
Writers: John Wagner and Alan Grant
Art: Brett Ewins
Dated: 03 November to 17 November 1984

Two undercover Judges go off the rails.

This story not only broadens the depth and detail of the Justice Department but it also allows Wagner a different perspective to write from. What we have here is a gangster story in which Dredd is supporting actor rather than the lead and it works just fine.

The art is strong stuff with plenty of cinematic close-ups and bizarre Mega-city fashions. There are some stereotypical accents for the foreign criminals but nothing that you haven’t seen before.

Prog 359 to 363 – The Haunting of Sector House 9

CF07Story: The Haunting of Sector House 9
Appears: 359-363
Issues: 5
Writers: John Wagner and Alan Grant
Art: Brett Ewins
Dated: 10 March 1984 to 7 April 1984

This is a fantastic story and one of my all-time favourites. Dredd rarely does horror but this is a superb execution. This was released about the time the Amityville Horror films were on VHS and Tales of the Unexpected was on TV. You can see both influences and possibly something of Richard Matheson’s Hell House too.

There are plenty of established horror tropes, such as the bleeding walls, but because they are new to Dredd they feel fresh and chilling as opposed to cliché. The reason for the horror is believable and forms a nice twist at the end.

We get to learn more about Psi Division, meet our first Sikh Judge and get another peek into how the Judge system works on a practical level. This kind of world-building is always welcome. It also helps anchor the supernatural premise and makes it believable for the reader.

The art is good with the manifestations feeling visceral and threatening. There are a couple of disembodied heads/ badges for dialogue which does break the mood somewhat but the action and horror certainly make up for it. Ewins does a great job of conveying a creeping menace in static panels. 

2000AD Annual 1979 – Dr Panic

CF03Story: Dr Panic
Appears: 2000AD Annual 1979
Writers: (uncredited writer)
Art: Brett Ewins and Brendan McCarthy
Dated: 1979

This is uncredited and probably justly so as although there are plenty of Dredd elements, such as Walter and Max Normal, the whole thing lacks any kind of sparkle. Dredd utters nonsense about how synthetic caffeine is illegal and Max Normal speaks far too normally.

The premise of a suicide arcade where people risk their lives against deadly slot machines was done better as “You Bet Your Life” in Prog 25. This has a longer page count than usual but doesn’t do anything notable with it.

Frankenstein Killed by Own Creation

CF02Professor Milton D. Frankenstein, DNA pioneer and radical scientist, who was dismissed from mega-City tech last year, is dead.

Frankenstein who had been attempting to recreate life in his own image murdered his lab assistant and tried kill Judge Dredd.

While fleeing the city via the Northways Bridge one of his freakish creations turned on him and they both plunged to their deaths.

Dredd was heard to say “Can’t you hear the doorbell?”

Story: The DNA Man
Appears: 2000AD Prog 113-115
Issues: 3
Writers: John Wagner
Art: Brett Ewins
Dated: 19 May 1979 to 2 June 1979

An unusual story on many fronts. The second criminal to be called Frankenstein and the second story to put a modern slant on the classic tale. In true Dredd fashion the criminal comes to his own sticky end. At the start of the second part there is a preview panel taken from later in the story. At the start of the third part the last panel of the previous Prog is reproduced as a recap. An odd occurrence.

Prog 89 to 108 – The Day the Law Died!

CF02Story: The Day the Law Died!
Appears: 2000AD Prog 89-108
Issues: 20
Writers: John Wagner
Art: Mike McMahon, Brett Ewins, Brendan McCarthy, Brian Bolland, Gary Leach, Ron Smith
Dated: 4 November 1978 to 14 April 1979

This is another of those classic epics that make Judge Dredd such a joy to read. Following straight after the mighty Cursed Earth saga this tale put Mega City One well and truly through the wringer.

The three issues preceding this, in which Dredd is framed for murder but catches a robot duplicate of himself, are part of this story but are given separate titles. Maybe no one knew how big this story was going to get.

A new chief judge takes over who happens to be a raving lunatic styled in the vein of the Roman Emperor Caligula. He is the perfect villain. Wielding authority over the whole of the city he has infinite resources at his disposal, including the Judges. If Dredd has a weakness it would be the law and turning the law against him is an emotionally brutal weapon. Forcing Dredd to rebel against the city he loves and kill his fellow judges is the ultimate test of his character.

Because Chief Judge Cal is raving mad he is totally unpredictable. You can’t anticipate his methods, his goals or his strategy as it changes from moment to moment. He can’t be reasoned with as he has no reason. This also adds a wonderful surrealism to the whole storyline as a goldfish is made deputy chief judge, judges are forced to perform their duties in their pants and Cal makes many of his proclamations from the bathtub. There is a beautiful Monty Python vibe about the whole thing.

It makes great use of existing characters such as Judge Giant and the one-eyed principal of the Academy of Law who is finally named as Judge Griffin. We are also introduced to another of Megacity’s classic personalities, Fergee.

The tone of the piece is perfect and Dredd is constantly on the back foot waging a desperate resistance fight against overwhelming odds. But even in the midst of a life or death struggle he still makes time to stop and arrest petty criminals showing that Dredd truly is the law.

There are six different artists working on the 111 page spectacular. Whilst the transition could be jarring you are so engrossed in the story and so familiar with many of the names and styles that it does not trouble you. We do see the first appearance of Brett Ewins who has an ultra-clean style similar to Bolland’s which contrasts with the traditional rugged look of previous Dredd artists. There are a lot of powerful expressions, particularly from the contorted scowl of Cal as his madness twists him.

One of the best villains and best storylines ever seen.