Mega-City Law – 10 Reasons Judge Dredd is the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic: (5) Moral Complexity (or Judge Dredd Died For Your Sins)

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MEGA-CITY LAW – 10 REASONS JUDGE DREDD IS THE GALAXY’S GREATEST COMIC: (5) MORAL COMPLEXITY (OR JUDGE DREDD DIED FOR YOUR SINS)

 

Okay, so it might be something of an overstatement that Judge Dredd died for your sins. For one thing, it would be your crimes, as Dredd is quite happy to leave your sins as something between you and Grudd (the sanitised term for God in Mega-City). For another, Dredd hasn’t died – yet. He is in his seventies, although with an extended lifespan from cloning and medical technology, that is roughly equivalent to a present-day male in their forties. (For Judge Dredd, seventy is the new forty!). However, he is getting on, although fortunately Mega-City has at least one younger clone replacement in waiting.

 

Ironically however, for a series in which Dredd and his fellow Judges were intended as a dystopian satire of the worst excesses of police and governmental authority fused together into a post-apocalyptic police state, it is notable for its moral complexity (not unlike its thematic predecessor, the Dirty Harry film series).

 

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TV Tropes states it best:

 

“By his very nature and purpose, anti-hero Dredd is firmly committed to his organization’s authoritarian, brutal, and ruthless methods of law enforcement, but it’s established that Mega City One would collapse without him and his fellow Judges, and more than once has. Though Dredd is impeccably honest and honorable, despises corruption, does not discriminate, goes out of his way to save innocents…and has been given cause to question his purpose more than once, he is an unapologetic authoritarian. In this setting, democracy within his society has been shown to be simply unworkable”.

 

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This thread of moral complexity was present from the very outset. Compounding the irony, Dredd co-creator Pat Mills, perhaps best known for his anti-authoritarian themes, wrote Dredd – the ultimate authority figure – as an unambiguously heroic character. This thread of moral complexity has deepened over time, as these intended figures of authoritarian satire have earned their writers’ respect as potentially heroic characters. This thread was most evident in the recurring Democracy storyline, as Judge Dredd acceded to democracy activists and put the Judges to the vote of the populace in a referendum whether to retain the Judges as the government of Mega-City. Characteristically, most of the population couldn’t be bothered voting, but of those that did, the majority voted to retain the Judges.

 

This moral complexity is also apparent in the heroic self-sacrifice of the ideal Judges, such as Dredd, sworn to uphold the law and protect Mega-City. Dredd himself has consistently accepted the potential sacrifice of his own life to protect the citizens or even a citizen of Mega-City One (and even the residents of the Cursed Earth or anyone looking to the protection of the Law). The life of a Mega-City Judge is somewhat monastic, even deliberately Spartan (as in modelled on Sparta). After years of training, their duty is entirely to uphold the Law, enduring constant danger of death, typically without personal relationships, certainly without personal riches or reward or even retirement – as the practice of Judges is to retire from active duty with the Long Walk, a quintessentially American Western image of leaving Mega-City and roaming the Cursed Earth, to bring law to the lawless.

 

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Often Dredd is characterized as a fascist, with some – dare I say it? – justice (and indeed dangerous tendencies in that direction), but ultimately I would argue that he is not a fascist (and Mega-City One is not totalitarian) in the strictest sense. Dredd and his Mega-City One are undeniably authoritarian – part of a police state that is almost casually brutal and draconian in its enforcement of law – but Dredd would seem to be a little too legalistic to be a true fascist and lacking the definitive characteristics of historical fascism.

 

MEGA-CITY LAW – 10 REASONS WHY JUDGE DREDD IS THE GALAXY’S GREATEST COMIC (AND DESERVES ITS OWN SCREEN UNIVERSE):

(1) APOCALYPSE WOW!

(2) SCI FI FANTASY KITCHEN SINK

(3) REAL WORLD SATIRE (OR HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE SEXUAL OLYMPICS)

(4) FUTURISTIC DIRTY HARRY (OR DO YOU FEEL LUCKY, PUNK?)

(5) MORAL COMPLEXITY (OR JUDGE DREDD DIED FOR YOUR SINS)

(6) THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE UGLY AND THE WEIRD

(7) THERE WERE 800 MILLION STORIES IN THE MEGA-CITY

(8) ROGUES GALLERY

(9) DIVERSITY OF GENRE AND TONE (OR HOW THE DAY OF CHAOS TORE MY HEART OUT)

(10) THE TAO OF DREDD (PLATO’S REPUBLIC AND HOBBES’ LEVIATHAN)

Bare-Assed and Half-Baked Ideas: Freezer Pillows

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BARE-ASSED AND HALF-BAKED IDEAS: FREEZER PILLOWS

Yesterday, I introduced my bare-assed and half-baked ideas – which is fortunate as today I only have limited time for a post. I commenced my half-baked ideas with my long-standing dream to live in a house lit by lava lamps – perhaps not very practical although you’d have to admit it would be funky (and it is also symbolic of the quixotic nature of my bare-assed and half-baked ideas, which is my quest to live in a lava-lamped world).

However, tonight’s post is a practical home idea, particularly if you live, like I do, somewhere it gets hot and humid in summer. The heat I can tolerate – it’s the humidity that gets to me, walking around with a perpetual meniscus of sweat and waking up from the bed’s sweaty caress. And it especially gets to me when sleeping at night.

 

"Oh - the humidity!"

“Oh – the humidity!”

 

The idea is this – freezer pillows! It’s not my original idea – I’m not sure from where I obtained it, other than the usual internet osmosis. (Ah, osmosis! Where would we be without it? Buying a gym membership is fitness by osmosis, even if you don’t go to the gym. The mere act of sitting in a library, or having textbooks on your desk – even if you only use them as a pillow for a nap – is study by osmosis). However, I have adopted it as my own, with the fervor of a religion. Before I lay my head down to sleep, I place my pillow in the freezer. Obviously this needs a suitably sized freezer and space within it, but come on! What else are you going to use it for – freezing food?! Where are your priorities? Mine is a cool head at night. Believe me, the experience of a frozen pillow is orgasmic (arguably better, as it makes you less hot and sweaty).

Which begs the question – in this age of global warming, where are the freezer pillows and sheets? The refrigerated equivalent of electric blankets, which we plug in at night for a cool flow? Surely, it would be more energy efficient than air-conditioning, as it would just need to cool the surface – as opposed to the entire airspace of the room?

 

O yes, baby!

O yes, baby!

 

READ MORE BARE-ASSED AND HALF-BAKED IDEAS

Introducing My Bare-Assed and Half-Baked Ideas (or My Dream to Live in a Lava-Lamped World)

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INTRODUCING MY BARE-ASSED AND HALF-BAKED IDEAS (OR MY DREAM TO LIVE IN A LAVA-LAMPED WORLD)

 

This is where I get stark naked for everything else – my bare-assed and half-baked ideas too random for the rest of the blog. My mind moves in mysterious ways – and believe me, it can get a little weird in here (unless I let it out to play from time to time).

 

Yeah, that's pretty much how my mind works. You should see my subconscious!

Yeah, that’s pretty much how my mind works. You should see my subconscious!

 

So this is where the flotsam and jetsam of my mind washes ashore – sacred kings of celebrity, post-apocalyptic job criteria, animal nightclubs, dancing bees, freezer pillows and my dream to live in a house lit by lava lamps. And they’re just the things that were floating by on my immediate stream of consciousness…

 

 

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A LAVA-LAMPED WORLD

 

So for starters, it is my dream to live in a house lit by lava lamps. Of course, I’m joking and I’m serious (which, incidentally, is the default setting of my mind). After all, it would get a little…trippy, transcendental even. Although, that’s kind of the point – I half believe it would transcend time and space. (My theory is that the Tardis in Doctor Who was powered by lava lamps – or at least the writers were). And you’d have to admit – you’d want to see it too.

 

Or if not a house, at least a lava-lamp wall. Like a whole glass wall of your lounge room, bubbling away…

 

However, why think small? Let’s get larger. A lava-lamp lit nightclub – a club lit entirely by lava lamps, or lava-lamp poles, or lava-lamp walls? Or a lava-lamp lit hotel for funky tourists? Perhaps my dream is to live in a lava-lamped world? Although when you think about it, we do. The sun is just one big thermonuclear lava lamp, with its million-degree bubbles of plasma driven by nuclear fusion – bubbling up from the core to the surface.

 

And the Goddess said – let there be funk!

 

This is also pretty much how my mind works (from Heart and Brain by Awkward Yeti). Go heart, go!

This is also pretty much how my mind works (from Heart and Brain by Awkward Yeti). Go heart, go!

 

READ MORE BARE-ASSED AND HALF-BAKED IDEAS

Fantasy Girls – Top 10 Girls of Comics: (3) Lois Lane & Mary Jane

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FANTASY GIRLS – TOP 10 GIRLS OF COMICS: (3) LOIS LANE & MARY JANE

 

As we count down to our truly iconic top three girls , it is not surprising that they are all from DC Comics (but perhaps that they are all brunettes). Where rival Marvel Comics is arguably more prolific, DC Comics is more iconic, primarily due to its prominence in the so-called Golden Age of Comics – from which all our top three originate.

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Few female figures in comics are more iconic than Superman’s love interest, Lois Lane, who has endured as a core part, indeed even the heart, of the Superman mythos – and has followed the Man of Steel through his screen incarnations in film and television.

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But surprise! She’s tied with a Marvel redhead (and another superhero love interest) – Mary Jane (“MJ”) Watson, and of course, ultimately Mary Jane Parker or Mrs Spiderman. She may not be quite as iconic as Lois in wider popular culture (outside of Marvel Comics fans) but she certainly has better appearances in comics art. Of course, it helps that Mary Jane is canonically a model (and actress) by profession – and perhaps even more that comics artists seem to be enamoured of redheads. (It would be easy to compile a top ten girls of comics from redheads alone). What cements her place in this tied entry in third place is her famous catchphrase, possibly the most famous line of any female character in comics, which was her very first line to Spiderman himself as Peter Parker when he sees her for the first time and is stunned by her striking appearance:

“Face it, Tiger! You’ve just hit the jackpot!”

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FANTASY GIRLS GIRLS OF COMICS

TOP 10 GIRLS OF COMICS

TOP 10 GIRLS OF COMICS (SPECIAL MENTION)

TOP 10 GIRLS OF COMICS (HONORABLE MENTION)

 

 

Mega-City Law – 10 Reasons Why Judge Dredd is the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic: (4) Futuristic Dirty Harry (or Do You Feel Lucky, Punk?)

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MEGA-CITY LAW – 10 REASONS WHY JUDGE DREDD IS THE GALAXY’S GREATEST COMIC: (4) FUTURISTIC DIRTY HARRY (OR DO YOU FEEL LUCKY, PUNK?)

 

Judge Dredd is a futuristic Dirty Harry. What’s not to love about that?

 

Dystopian, post-apocalyptic SF satire might be the foundation of (and set much of the tone for) the storyline of Judge Dredd, but Dredd himself as futuristic Dirty Harry is the core of the story, and certainly for the action in it.

 

DirtyHarry

 

The origins of the character as Dirty Harry ‘tough cop’ are not too surprising, given that it coincided with the period of the Dirty Harry movies from 1971 to 1988 (the comic itself starting between the third and fourth movies, The Enforcer and Sudden Impact) – Dirty Harry of course being San Francisco Police Department detective Harry Callahan played by Clint Eastwood.

 

Dredd himself is stylistically and visually reminiscent of Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry – the height (and the lanky frame, particularly in the original art – although other artists have added the characteristic musculature of heroes in comics), the stoic expression (with the helmet visor substituting for Eastwood’s squint), the laconic wit and the whispered menace (at least as far as one can tell from his minimalist mouth movements). Anyone who doubts the dominant influence of Dirty Harry need look no further than the name of the city block where Dredd resided (that is, slept between street patrols) as ‘block judge’. The names of the city blocks are generally derived from the twentieth century and typically have some humorous, narrative or thematic significance, subtle or otherwise – Dredd’s block is Rowdy Yates, the name of Clint Eastwood’s character in the TV western series Rawhide.

 

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Even Dirty Harry’s catchphrase term for criminals, punk (as in “Do you feel lucky, punk? Well, do you?) is adapted by Dredd. Judge Dredd typically calls perps (or perpetrators) “creep”. For that matter, the visual style of the Mega-City population, and particularly its criminal underclass, tends towards punk – or in the term of TV Tropes, the apunkalypse. Above all, Dredd shares the predominant character theme of Dirty Harry as driven by duty and an instinct for justice. For Dirty Harry, that instinct for justice tends to come up against those pesky legal rights and technicalities (“I have a right to a lawyer!” his adversary Scorpio smarmily declares in the first movie), whereas for Dredd, it is embodied by the Law and himself as agent of the Law, hence his catchphrase identification with it. It helps that Judge Dredd was cloned from Fargo, the creator (Of course, there’s arguments against operating on an ‘instinct’ for justice, not least that while such an instinct may be readily vindicated in a fictional narrative, it is less so in real life).

 

Judge_Dredd_01

 

However, it’s not just Judge Dredd who is a futuristic Dirty Harry, but also Justice Department itself and all the Judges. They all operate as police, judge, jury and executioner, passing sentence when arresting (“assaulting a Judge – two years”) – although the death sentence is exceptional in Mega-City and the sentence is usually a term in the cubes (isolation cubes or iso-cubes). Of course, very few of them are as competent as Dredd – and quite a few are downright incompetent or ineffectual. Even worse, some of them are corrupt (Dredd’s own clone-twin Rico for one) or operate more like the Magnum Force in the second Dirty Harry movie of that name, renegade cops outside the law.

 

Whatever the case, Judge Dredd has the potential not only for black comedy and satire, but also shares the same scope as Dirty Harry for action, drama and morality play. Speaking of which…

 

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MEGA-CITY LAW – 10 REASONS WHY JUDGE DREDD IS THE GALAXY’S GREATEST COMIC (AND DESERVES ITS OWN SCREEN UNIVERSE):

(1) APOCALYPSE WOW!

(2) SCI FI FANTASY KITCHEN SINK

(3) REAL WORLD SATIRE (OR HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE SEXUAL OLYMPICS)

(4) FUTURISTIC DIRTY HARRY (OR DO YOU FEEL LUCKY, PUNK?)

(5) MORAL COMPLEXITY (OR JUDGE DREDD DIED FOR YOUR SINS)

(6) THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE UGLY AND THE WEIRD

(7) THERE WERE 800 MILLION STORIES IN THE MEGA-CITY

(8) ROGUES GALLERY

(9) DIVERSITY OF GENRE AND TONE (OR HOW THE DAY OF CHAOS TORE MY HEART OUT)

(10) THE TAO OF DREDD (PLATO’S REPUBLIC AND HOBBES’ LEVIATHAN)

 

Mega-City Law – 10 Reasons Why Judge Dredd is the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic: (3) Real World Satire (Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Sexual Olympics)

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MEGA-CITY LAW – 10 REASONS WHY JUDGE DREDD IS THE GALAXY’S GREATEST COMIC: (3) REAL WORLD SATIRE (OR HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE SEXUAL OLYMPICS)

 

Despite being futuristic and post-apocalyptic, the satire in Judge Dredd is firmly grounded in the trends of our present world (much like Futurama, which it resembles in this respect).

 

Firstly, it originated (and to a large extent still continues) as a British satire of American culture and society, or in the words of Adi Shankar, a satire by “an anti-establishment British comic anti-establishment comic about post-apocalyptic America”. After all, 2000 AD has its American tongue firmly in its British cheek when it depicted the American Judges in uniforms resembling fetishistic motorcycle leathers (inspired by Death Race 2000 – and uncannily similar to the post-apocalyptic fashion of Mad Max). They are also emblazoned with American iconography, notably the American flag and eagle, that is distinctly over the top – not least their eagle shoulder-pads, which while visually awesome must be functionally impractical.

 

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There’s more tongue in cheek as Mega-City Judges ride computerized and heavily armed motorcycles, naturally enough designated as Lawmasters, and dispense justice with their multiple-choice ammunition guns termed Lawgivers. (Although eerily life imitated art in 1980’s Reaganesque America, with a nuclear missile design named Peacekeepers).

 

Although Lawgivers and Lawmasters aren't immune to malfunction

Although Lawgivers and Lawmasters aren’t immune to malfunction

 

However, Judge Dredd extends to far more general satire – with the cultural, political, social and technological issues of British and Western society since the 1970’s taken to extremes (or turned up to Eleven) in the twenty-second century, not least in the bizarre fashions and fads of Mega-City citizens. As mentioned previously, those occasionally bubble up into destructive consumer fads, for what must be the overworked consumer protection division of Justice Department.

 

Couch potatoes! One actually rose to become CEO of Mega-City's largest corporation...

Couch potatoes! One actually rose to become CEO of Mega-City’s largest corporation…

 

Of course, Mega-City citizens have a lot of time on their hands with their 90% unemployment rate – which leads to bizarre job vacancies as human mannequins or ‘furniture’ for the rich elite, job riots prompted by the advertisement of those few vacancies and moonlighting or working more than one job as a criminal offence. Although a lot of that time must be spent in grappling with the law, either in direct criminal activity (one of the few sources of gainful employment or at least occupation) or in just coping with the sheer volume of draconian laws in Mega-City. For example, caffeine and sugar are prohibited as illegal addictive substances – with dealing in sugar as an obvious comics-friendly substitute for cocaine.

 

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Obesity? In Judge Dredd, the so-called ‘Fatties’ take it to extremes of belly-wheels, competitive eating and literal tonnage. Speaking of strange competitive sports, the twenty-second Olympic Games are full of them, not least with actual sex as competitive event. Of course, that’s not just your average sex, that’s Olympic sex – highly trained and skilled performance akin to figure-skating. Personally, I’m a proponent for sexual Olympics in the present (as opposed to unofficially between all the athletes in the Olympic village, which is notorious for it) – or at least an immediate return to the pure athletic nudity of the classical Olympic Games…

 

MEGA-CITY LAW – 10 REASONS WHY JUDGE DREDD IS THE GALAXY’S GREATEST COMIC (AND DESERVES ITS OWN SCREEN UNIVERSE):

(1) APOCALYPSE WOW!

(2) SCI FI FANTASY KITCHEN SINK

(3) REAL WORLD SATIRE (OR HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE SEXUAL OLYMPICS)

(4) FUTURISTIC DIRTY HARRY (OR DO YOU FEEL LUCKY, PUNK?)

(5) MORAL COMPLEXITY (OR JUDGE DREDD DIED FOR YOUR SINS)

(6) THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE UGLY AND THE WEIRD

(7) THERE WERE 800 MILLION STORIES IN THE MEGA-CITY

(8) ROGUES GALLERY

(9) DIVERSITY OF GENRE AND TONE (OR HOW THE DAY OF CHAOS TORE MY HEART OUT)

(10) THE TAO OF DREDD (PLATO’S REPUBLIC AND HOBBES’ LEVIATHAN)

 

 

 

Mega-City Law – 10 Reasons Why Judge Dredd is the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic: (2) Sci Fi Fantasy Kitchen Sink

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MEGA-CITY LAW – 10 REASONS WHY JUDGE DREDD IS THE GALAXY’S GREATEST COMIC: (2) SCI FI FANTASY KITCHEN SINK

 

At its core, Judge Dredd may be dystopian or post-apocalyptic satire, but it is even more so a playground of science fiction tropes and everything associated with them – playing with virtually every signature trope (as well as a substantial number of works) of science fiction. If it’s a trope of science fiction, Judge Dredd either has played or can play with it, particularly given the storyline’s episodic nature and anthology of writers (and artists).

 

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Aliens – that definitive trope (or collection of tropes) of SF ever since they invaded Earth from Mars in H.G. Well’s War of the Worlds? They are regular through routine space travel in Judge Dredd and even ghetto (or zoo) residents in Mega-City or elsewhere. Some of them are hostile and dangerous to humans, while others are more friendly to humans (even where humans are hostile and dangerous to them). Of course, we’ve already mentioned robots, the reason for 90% unemployment in Mega-City 1 (and quite frankly, better potential citizens than the human residents, although robots are not legally citizens). Clones? Judge Dredd IS a clone (along with some other Judges). Mutants? A substantial part of the world’s population (and probably the majority of its animal population) is mutated from the radioactive wastelands.

 

Okay, the mutant I understand, but Jimmy Carter?!

Okay, the mutant I understand, but Jimmy Carter?!

 

Time travel? Both to the future and past, although not too regularly for either as it has only recently been engineered and the Judges are wary of temporal effects or paradox. Interdimensional travel on the other hand is more common. And there’s still more exotic tropes. Apes genetically engineered for greater intelligence? They’re resident in the appropriately named Apetown ghetto within Mega-City. Dinosaurs recreated through genetic engineering? They roam the Cursed Earth after the Atomic Wars let them loose from Dinosaur National Park – well before Jurassic Park!

 

Where's the check, Jurassic Park?

Where’s the check, Jurassic Park?

 

Indeed, Judge Dredd goes well beyond SF tropes into fantasy kitchen sink territory. Although it remains predominantly science fiction and tends to rationalize its fantasy, it does venture into many fantasy and magic tropes, because why not? It’s fun and it keeps its fantasy tongue firmly in its science fiction cheek (or is that the other way round?). A major source of its fantasy tropes are its Psi-Judges, albeit with psi short for the characteristic ‘scientific’ terminology of psionics (not psychic – that’s just for New Age hippies!), but Judge Dredd has quite happily featured actual magic, demons, vampires, werewolves and zombies in outright fantasy terms or at most a bare veneer of SF. So for all those who enjoy their fantasy or SF tropes, the world of Judge Dredd has something in it for everyone…

 

anderson

 

MEGA-CITY LAW – 10 REASONS WHY JUDGE DREDD IS THE GALAXY’S GREATEST COMIC (AND DESERVES ITS OWN SCREEN UNIVERSE):

(1) APOCALYPSE WOW!

(2) SCI FI FANTASY KITCHEN SINK

(3) REAL WORLD SATIRE (OR HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE SEXUAL OLYMPICS)

(4) FUTURISTIC DIRTY HARRY (OR DO YOU FEEL LUCKY, PUNK?)

(5) MORAL COMPLEXITY (OR JUDGE DREDD DIED FOR YOUR SINS)

(6) THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE UGLY AND THE WEIRD

(7) THERE WERE 800 MILLION STORIES IN THE MEGA-CITY

(8) ROGUES GALLERY

(9) DIVERSITY OF GENRE AND TONE (OR HOW THE DAY OF CHAOS TORE MY HEART OUT)

(10) THE TAO OF DREDD (PLATO’S REPUBLIC AND HOBBES’ LEVIATHAN)

Mega-City Law – 10 Reasons Judge Dredd is the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic: (1) Apocalypse Wow!

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MEGA-CITY LAW – 10 REASONS JUDGE DREDD IS THE GALAXY’S GREATEST COMIC: (1) APOCALYPSE WOW!

 

As I said, Judge Dredd is a futuristic Dirty Harry in a dystopian and post-apocalyptic SF satire

 

 

So fundamentally the foundation of Judge Dredd is dystopian or post-apocalyptic satire, although the world of Judge Dredd is more accurately post-post-apocalyptic (and so on, with additional prefixes) because recurring apocalypses are a feature of that world. After all, it’s hard to get more apocalyptic than an event called the Apocalypse War…

 

Spoiler alert - it has!

Spoiler alert – it has!

 

However, Judge Dredd is more than just dystopian, it is dystopian satire – in that it plays with virtually every dystopian or post-apocalyptic trope, mostly with tongue in cheek for black comedy.

 

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Of course, there are the standard earth-shattering tropes. The apocalyptic event that definitively shaped the world of Judge Dredd was the so-called Atomic Wars of 2070, perhaps not surprisingly for an event written in the heightened Cold War tension of the 1970’s and 1980’s (which thankfully turned out to be the last gasp of the Cold War before the Soviet Union ended not with a bang but a whimper). Interestingly, reflecting more recent times, the apocalyptic weapons of choice moved from nuclear war to biological terrorism – what the Apocalypse War started, the Chaos Bug all but finished.

 

O 2000 AD! What have you done to Judge Dredd's - and my - Mega-City?!

O 2000 AD! What have you done to Judge Dredd’s – and my – Mega-City?!

 

 

However, at least at the outset, the world of Judge Dredd was curiously one of the most populous post-apocalyptic settings, due to the huge conurbations or mega-cities with populations in the tens or hundreds of millions that survived the Atomic Wars because of their missile defense systems. Of course, most of the world outside those cities was laid waste, although some hardy (and mostly mutant) inhabitants live even in these radioactive badlands. The United States essentially separated into its three surviving mega-cities, on each of its coasts around the former heartland of the country, now the Cursed Earth. Judge Dredd’s home city is Mega-City 1 on the coastline of the toxic Black Atlantic, a megalopolis seemingly based on a New York that merged with other cities and swallowed up the Atlantic seaboard from Canada to Florida. It was matched by Mega-City 2 on the West Coast and Texas-City on the Gulf. The Soviet Union (or rather a neo-Soviet Union or Russia) similarly separated into East-Meg 1 and East-Meg 2, which remained opposed to the American mega-cities.

 

And so you have a world that is both post-apocalyptic and overcrowded, with the world’s population crammed into mega-cities that are themselves socioeconomic dystopias within the larger global and environmental dystopia. In its glory days, Mega-City One consisted of 800 million people, housed in city blocks that resemble vertical towns of 50,000 people or more. This overcrowded city would be dystopian enough in the best economic climate. However, Mega-City 1 has an unemployment rate that is variously cited but is at least 90% due to automation and robots.

 

The overwhelming majority of the population of Mega-City 1 therefore live in welfare dependency, prone to crime and violence out of sheer boredom and breakdown – crime and violence which is further compounded by the capabilities of future technology. A primary illustration of this is the recurring block wars that would break out between bored city block populations in full urban warfare – one of my favorite characteristic images of Mega-City were block warriors so absorbed in block war that they are still fighting each other as they plummet to their deaths off the city block.

 

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In short, few things are more dangerous to the citizens of Mega-City 1 than themselves. I have two favorite quotes from the comics that illustrate the citizenry of Mega-City 1. The first is from one of the perennial consumer fads that sweep Mega-City 1, usually to destructive effect – in this case, genetically engineered vaguely sentient plant lifeforms marketed as pet ‘couch potatoes’. (The consumer protection division must be one of the most overworked parts of the Justice Department). It emerges that these couch potatoes can exercise a form of mind control – the potential threat is initially dismissed at it only affects those of the most basic intelligence, but as Judge Dredd drily observes “in other words, two thirds of the population”. The second is from two citizens fighting each other in their own block war as a mushroom cloud rises from the city’s southern sectors (in the opening nuclear shots of the Apocalypse War). Personally I’m somewhat proud that one of them had the momentary presence of mind to stop fighting and observe that “they’re using the big guns down south” (before the other characteristically tells him to shut up and they both resume their fighting).

 

All this has resulted in political dystopia – the authoritarian police state of the Judges (although I would argue that it is not totalitarian or even fascist in the strictest sense, at least in Mega-City 1), a system of government that has almost universally spread across the world (at least to the extent that we can see it). In Mega-City 1, the Department of Justice combines all branches of government, as well as the police and judiciary or in that popular phrase – judge, jury and executioner (although Mega-City justice generally does not involve the death penalty). Summary justice? Try instant justice – as they deliver their sentences at the time of arrest. The perfect symbol of this political dystopia was the Statue of Justice towering over the Statue of Liberty.

 

Judge-Dredd-America

 

However, the most important part of all this dystopian satire is the satire or black comedy. As a recent article in io9 argued:

 

“What do Judge Dredd, Mad Max and Adventure Time all have in common? They’re three of the best post-apocalyptic narratives we’ve ever seen. And they’re all slightly ludicrous, ranging from outright surrealism to mad social satire. In fact, the best post-apocalyptic storytelling is usually kind of ridiculous”.

 

Well, perhaps not THAT ridiculous...

Well, perhaps not THAT ridiculous…

 

The article goes on to argue that absurdism is a necessary feature of the best post-apocalyptic narratives. (Otherwise, you end up with something unbearably bleak and unrelenting – I’m looking at you, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road). I agree. Indeed, Immortan Joe from Mad Max Fury Road would slot in nicely in Judge Dredd’s Cursed Earth. (And as one of my favorite Youtubers, Bandit Incorporated, has pointed out – this is entirely possible in cinematic terms, as they’re both owned by the same company. How awesome would that be?). However, the article omitted two other of my favorite absurdist post-apocalyptic narratives – Futurama (although in fairness, it’s not characteristically a post-apocalyptic narrative, as its post-apocalyptic elements only occur away from the center of the stage, in brief flashbacks – or flashforwards) and the role-playing game Paranoia. The latter actually reminds me a lot of the world of Judge Dredd, although Mega-City One and its Justice Department are nowhere near as utterly dysfunctional (or as utterly played for black comedy) as Alpha Complex and Friend Computer in Paranoia…

 

The Computer is your friend - you commie mutant traitor!

The Computer is your friend – you commie mutant traitor!

 

So whatever your apocalypse or dystopia, Judge Dredd has it for you – and in just the right flavor of black comedy and satire.

MEGA-CITY LAW – 10 REASONS WHY JUDGE DREDD IS THE GALAXY’S GREATEST COMIC (AND DESERVES ITS OWN SCREEN UNIVERSE):

(1) APOCALYPSE WOW!

(2) SCI FI FANTASY KITCHEN SINK

(3) REAL WORLD SATIRE (OR HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE SEXUAL OLYMPICS)

(4) FUTURISTIC DIRTY HARRY (OR DO YOU FEEL LUCKY, PUNK?)

(5) MORAL COMPLEXITY (OR JUDGE DREDD DIED FOR YOUR SINS)

(6) THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE UGLY AND THE WEIRD

(7) THERE WERE 800 MILLION STORIES IN THE MEGA-CITY

(8) ROGUES GALLERY

(9) DIVERSITY OF GENRE AND TONE (OR HOW THE DAY OF CHAOS TORE MY HEART OUT)

(10) THE TAO OF DREDD (PLATO’S REPUBLIC AND HOBBES’ LEVIATHAN)

Mega-City Law: 10 Reasons Why Judge Dredd is the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic (And Why It Deserves Its Own Screen Universe)

POS-DREDD-PROP_original

 

MEGA-CITY LAW: 10 REASONS WHY JUDGE DREDD IS THE GALAXY’S GREATEST COMIC (AND WHY IT DESERVES ITS OWN CINEMATIC OR SCREEN UNIVERSE)

 

My first and true love in comics is not one of the ruling duopoly of comics (and even more so comic book movies), DC and Marvel Comics, nor strictly speaking a superhero comic (although it’s main character is arguably as much of a ‘superhero’ as Batman), nor even an American comic (although it is set there, albeit drastically transformed in the twenty-second century).

 

It is Judge Dredd, the most iconic character from the British weekly SF anthology comic, 2000 AD, ongoing since it was launched in 1977 – although ironically for its longest-running and flagship character, from its second issue, as the opening Dredd story was not ready for the first issue. Time has passed in the Dredd strip essentially in real time ever since, so a year passes in the comic for each year in real life – the first Dredd story in 1977 was set in 2099 and the present stories in 2015 are set in 2137 (an interesting feature as distinct from many American comic franchises).

 

jd

 

Unfortunately, American audiences remain somewhat unfamiliar with (or unresponsive to) Judge Dredd, despite his American setting (albeit futuristic) and despite that he is effectively a quintessential American hero in the same vein as Batman – relying on superior discipline, training, experience, equipment and resources, except as a governmental lawman rather than a vigilante billionaire. (They even both effectively remain masked in their public identities, as Dredd never removes his helmet). This is despite his iconic status, particularly in Britain, and despite American audiences being familiar with many of the alumni of 2000 AD, as virtually every British writer (and artist) of note working in American comics started there (and indeed often in the Judge Dredd storyline itself) – Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, Mark Millar and so on.

 

Even more unfortunately, the most substantial introduction of American audiences to Judge Dredd was the 1995 film, although fortunately that particular horror is fading with time. This Hollywood travesty was particularly inexcusable, because the essence of Judge Dredd is ultimately very simple – Judge Dredd is a futuristic Dirty Harry in a dystopian (and post-apocalyptic) SF satire. How hard is that, Hollywood?! On second thoughts, this simple formula is probably too much for Hollywood to handle – when they couldn’t even have Dredd keep his helmet on throughout the film.

 

The recent 2012 film was much more effective in capturing the elements of the original comic (not least in keeping Dredd’s helmet on throughout the film), but not as effective in capturing an audience. In its own way, this is as unfortunate as the first film, particularly at a time when comic book movies are in such vogue (and dystopian or post-apocalyptic movies have always been popular) – because if ever a comic deserved its own cinematic or screen adaptation, it’s Dredd, especially when you consider the dreck (or drokk – Judge Dredd slang in-joke alert) that does get adaptations. Perhaps a television adaptation would have been better, as it suits the more episodic nature as well as longer arcs of the storyline. Whatever the case, here are my ten reasons why Judge Dredd is the galaxy’s greatest comic – and why it deserves its own cinematic or screen universe.

 

1704131-dredd

 

And on a personal blog note, I have loyally followed Judge Dredd weekly from when I was introduced to it in high school – and 2000 AD has otherwise filled in the backstory I missed with its collected editions (The Complete Crime Files) from the very first Dredd story. This will serve as the introduction to my new regular weekend feature, Mega-City Law, where I review either the history from the Complete Crime Files or the ongoing current storyline of Dredd.

MEGA-CITY LAW – 10 REASONS WHY JUDGE DREDD IS THE GALAXY’S GREATEST COMIC (AND DESERVES ITS OWN SCREEN UNIVERSE):

(1) APOCALYPSE WOW!

(2) SCI FI FANTASY KITCHEN SINK

(3) REAL WORLD SATIRE (OR HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE SEXUAL OLYMPICS)

(4) FUTURISTIC DIRTY HARRY (OR DO YOU FEEL LUCKY, PUNK?)

(5) MORAL COMPLEXITY (OR JUDGE DREDD DIED FOR YOUR SINS)

(6) THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE UGLY AND THE WEIRD

(7) THERE WERE 800 MILLION STORIES IN THE MEGA-CITY

(8) ROGUES GALLERY

(9) DIVERSITY OF GENRE AND TONE (OR HOW THE DAY OF CHAOS TORE MY HEART OUT)

(10) THE TAO OF DREDD (PLATO’S REPUBLIC AND HOBBES’ LEVIATHAN)

 

 

TV Tropes: Fantasy Kitchen Sink

What a bunch of weirdos

What a bunch of weirdos

 

TV TROPES: FANTASY KITCHEN SINK

 

Fantasy settings often follow a particular mythos. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings tended to follow a northern European (particularly Nordic) mythos (albeit infused with English Catholicism). Vampire and zombie fiction tend to have vampires and zombies respectively. And then you get fantasy settings which follow multiple mythoi, often to the point that all myths are true. Beyond that, you get this trope, in which anything goes – in terms of fantasy or mythology. As TV Tropes tells it, in this setting, fairies can be real – but then so can ghosts, vampires, werewolves, mummies, sea monsters, giant worms, superhuman mutants, aliens, time travelers, espers, angels, demons, God, other gods, eldritch abominations, magic, psi, chi and so on.

Such settings are common in episodic media such as comics (the DC and Marvel Universe for starters), role-playing games (Dungeons & Dragons, Rifts, Warhammer) and TV series – both animated (Adventure Time) and live-action (X Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Supernatural and True Blood). They are perhaps less common but still occur in more unified media such as film (Indiana Jones and Pirates of the Caribbean to some extent) and literature (the Narnia Chronicles for one).

And then you get other ‘kitchen sink’ settings – the similar Sci-Fi Kitchen Sink and Conspiracy Kitchen Sink…