Prog 236 to 244 – Block Mania

CF05Story: Block Mania
Appears: 2000AD Prog 236-244
Issues: 9
Writers: John Wagner and Alan Grant
Art: Mike McMahon, Ron Smith, Steve Dillon, Brian Bolland, John Cooper.
Dated: 31 October 1981 to 26 December 1981

It has been a while since the Big Meg faced a citywide threat. Here is a real treat.

This is an excellent story. It builds slowly and methodically ramping up the stakes and delivering twists and shocks with rapid and deliberate precision. The antagonist and the motivation is hidden right up until the final page when it launches an even more epic tale.

Prog 224 to 228 – Judge Death Lives

CF05Story: Judge Death Lives
Appears: 2000AD Prog 224-228
Issues: 5
Writers: John Wagner and Alan Grant
Art: Brian Bolland
Dated: 8 August 1981 to 5 September 1981

A double whammy in the return of both the Dark Judges and Anderson. The Dark Judges represent a tangible threat to Dredd and the Mega-city unlike the regular criminals that pop up most weeks. Anderson is also a great foil for Dredd by being his emotional opposite.

This story sees the mythos expanded as we journey to the Dark Judge’s homeworld. Like the last encounter there is a satisfying and credible conclusion to this latest chapter.

Bolland does a superb job and is the perfect artist for this story. His mastery of contorted, terror-filled expressions is perfect and brings a real sense of action to the page. There is a wonderful double page spread of all the Dark Judges too.

This also contains one of the most famous quotes of Dredd history: “gaze into the fist of Dredd.”

Prog 182 – Block War

CF04Story: Block War
Appears: 2000AD Prog 182
Issues: 1
Writers: John Wagner and Alan Grant
Art: Brian Bolland
Dated: 18 October 1980

A tightly crafted story that shows Dredd on the streets introducing us to the concept of Block War. This alternates with a meeting of the Council of Five discussing Dredd’s previous mission. Here is a great example of what you can achieve in only six pages.

Judge Giant appears, for only two panels, but it is a nice reminder not to forget about him, and good for Dredd to have a friendly face around. In one of the many quirks of Mega-city law it seems if you crash your vehicle you get ten years and are banned for life but if you engage in block war with guns and explosives then you only get five years. Go figure.

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.

Prog 120 – The Forever Crimes

CF03Story: The Forever Crimes
Appears: 2000AD Prog 120
Issues: 1
Writers: John Wagner
Art: Brian Bolland
Dated: 7 July 1979

A stimulating sci-fi concept and a good hook but the tiny page count means that there isn’t enough depth for the whole thing to hang together. The relationships between the criminals aren’t satisfactorily explained weakening the whole plot.

Dredd Cracks Down on Gangs

CF02As our beloved Meg struggles to rebuild, the scourge of street gangs are taxing our depleted Judges.

Making an example of the Cosmic Punks Dredd stormed their hideout outnumbered a hundred to one. After rounding up the entire gang single handily he exiled them all to the Cursed Earth for ten years. And if anyone knows the horrors of that desolate wasteland it’s Dredd.

Dredd was heard to say “I’m getting a little deaf.”

Story: Punks Rule
Appears: 2000AD Prog 110
Issues: 1
Writers: John Wagner
Art: Brian Bolland
Dated: 28 April 1979

More outstanding work from Bolland as Dredd proves he is a one man army. Gestapo Bob Harris is probably a tribute to the famous radio DJ and TV presenter, “Whispering Bob Harris.”

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.