There are moments I worry about the portrayal of the character of Judge Dredd, to many he’s seen as a hero, someone to be praised and lauded. But at the heart of the Dredd stories should always be a reminder that he is a fascist in a totalitarian state. Dredd becomes ‘heroic’ when viewed in the circumstances of the crazy city of Mega City One and the adversity he faces. This is classically and fundamentally shown in The Cursed Earth saga, where we see flashes of empathy and understanding in the soul of the character, this is what stops him from just being a killer with a badge.
In Prog (Issue) #661 of 2000AD I came across an interesting narrative involving a young child addressing a letter to our anti-hero. In this letter he asks a myriad of questions, all of these questions revolve around the Judges powers of authority and the morality of the decisions that they make on a daily basis. These questions asked with innocence strike at the heart of the characters of Mega City One’s finest and bring much needed perspective of the readers and fans of Dredd.
We need to ask these questions when we engage with the comic strip and remember that Dredd’s society is a warning to our own. I equate this short story with a classic Dredd title – America. It isn’t content to just accepting the world of Mega City One but asks the reader to engage with it and actively disagree with it.
Eventually the child is murdered by a man who is crazed and believe’s giant Pineapples are out to ‘juice’ him. It’s a comedic and typically grotesque and macabre way to end a life in the Dredd strip and it’s not something that you see coming. This seems to answer the question of Why Megacity One needs Judges, but we find out that the lunatic’s mental condition was caused by the Judges bashing him over the head with their daysticks during a peaceful march regarding democracy.
It’s a chicken and egg scenario
So who do we blame? Brilliantly writer John Wagner allows Dredd to have the final word – he gives Dredd the power of uncertainty. Removing again the machine like image of Dredd as the unswaying, cold, hard figure of the law. Making him a believable character capable of eliciting empathy from the reader .
I absolutely love Dredd stories like this, introspective and fast paced with an edge of dark humour.