No comic book character has been as misunderstood and maligned by American pop culture as Judge Dredd. While it is very likely that most Americans believe that British entertainment only includes Ricky Gervais, The Beatles, and a bunch of stage plays from the early 1600s by William Shakespeare, the English have been quite busy in the entertainment industry. One part of that industry, comics, is where one of the most iconic antiheroes dwells: Judge Dredd.
Unfortunately, Judge Dredd’s big splash into the public eye failed horribly in 1995, when Sylvester Stallone portrayed Dredd’s chin flawlessly, but was able to do little else to save the movie from being one of the top 5 worst movie adaptions of a comic book. With Dredd 3-D, some people (that have never picked up a 2000AD or Judge Dredd comic book) may wonder why they should give this judge, jury, and executioner a second chance. I don’t wonder at all, which is why I tried to put together a costume and instead present this breakdown of why Judge Dredd is so damn awesome.
One factor that must always be remembered about Judge Dredd is that he is, first and foremost, an exaggeration of law enforcement and a running gag on America’s foreign policy. This stance has been slowly buffered in more recent years, but is always applied for some good, old-fashioned Judge Dredd enforcement, complete with blazing guns and bloodied fists. Dredd upholds the law, even when he doesn’t agree with it, which is maybe once every twenty years. This could have to do with being born as a clone and brought up with the law being embedded into his brain at every possible moment and graduating from the Academy of Law.
Judge Dredd is a ruthless law enforcer, but there’s a reason for that: the world he occupies is two steps in the can. Most of the land above water is comprised of nuclear wasteland after the Great Atom War. The world’s populations are sequestered in Mega-cities, cities made up of 700+ story towers called Blocks, housing hundreds of thousands of people.
The majority of the population are unemployed due to the omnipresent automation, so people find alternate uses for their time: following popular culture, eating, and mostly violence–violence that needs the cold chin of justice to bark, “HALT!”
Say, speaking of…
Out of all the physical features of Judge Dredd, nothing is more pronounced than his giant chin, a chin that Bruce Campbell and Jay Leno still have yet to equal. Some would think that it is the core of his law enforcement powers, like Samson’s hair or Michael Strahan’s tooth gap, but it really is just symbolic: the most awesome, in-your-face (literally) symbolism in comics.
Dredd’s chin, or his use of it, serves as his stance on life: stout, immovable, unbreakable. No matter what the circumstance, from a purse snatcher to the Fourth World War raining down on him, Dredd’s chin is stuck out in defiance as he tells criminals and armies alike, “I am the law!”
Remember the days when you were a young, imaginative child, playing Cops and Robbers in the backyard? Remember when you started getting really imaginative and pretended that your gun wasn’t shooting regular bullets, but scorching lasers one moment and heat-seeking nuclear missile-dragons the next? That gun is Judge Dredd’s Lawgiver.
Whether drawn as a small ray-gun or a giant hand-tank, the Lawgiver’s design was relatively the same. The gun is matched via palm recognition to the Judge who carries it , so any criminal attempting to use the gun without chopping off Judge Dredd’s hand and sewing it to their own palm would be met with a crippling, if not deathly, explosion. In regards to ammunition, there are plenty of types, most able to be loaded by merely turning a big dial on the gun because, in the future, dials mean “automatic”: standard “bang-bang” bullets, heat seekers, bouncing rubber ricochet bullets, flammable rounds, armor piercing, explosive, exorcist bullets, and even stunners (when Judge Dredd is feeling moderately content in a day.)
What would you get if you merged the technology of a James Bond car and the firepower of all the Batmobiles combined with the artificial intelligence of K.I.T.T. from Knight Rider, and then put the whole thing on two wheels? You would have the transportation of choice for Judges, the Lawmaster.
This tankcycle (because motorcycle just doesn’t do it justice) is what Judge Dredd uses to cruise around the different blocks of Mega-City 1, upholding the law. The firepower of the bike includes twin machine-gun bike cannons, crowd suppression grenades, and, because this is the future, a laser. The Lawmaster can be controlled by its Judge by voice command, and even has an artificial intelligence that is as hard on crime, if not harder, than Dredd himself.
A lawman this badass needs some badass villains. Luckily, Mega-City One and its surrounding areas and dimensions were able to comply, because a violent future needs ultra-violent villains to stand out a little more. Some villains are just psychotic, like serial killer PJ Maybe. Others are more politically violent, like President Booth and Judge Cal.
Then there are the Dark Judges.
These judges are peacekeepers themselves, just in a dark, parallel dimension known as Deadworld. The leader of the pack is Judge Death, whose philosophy that living is a crime inspires the Dark Judges to kill by burning, disintegrating, scaring, or just good old-fashioned heart-crushing. With his dark apostles, Judge Fear, Judge Fire, and Judge Mortis, Judge Death has fought against life at every chance, once leading to the deaths of 60 million people in the Necropolis story arc. With a body count like that, Judge Dredd was forced to return from exile to counteract their law with his own.
When dealing with body-jumping spirits of mayhem like the Dark Judges, bullets and bombs can only do so much. Luckily, the writers introduced a type of judge that uses brains: Psi-Judges, most notably, Judge Cassandra Anderson.
Judge Anderson not only has all of the weaponry that Judge Dredd has at her disposal (except, luckily, the giant chin), but she also has psychic powers that warn her of dangers, see the future, read minds, attack the mental states of enemies, and send spirits into empty alternate dimensions.
Unlike Dredd, however, Anderson has a sense of humor (and not in the dry, ironic way), is emotional (even though a turnip is emotional compared to Dredd), and doesn’t always agree with the Justice Department (almost unheard of for Dredd). Still, the two come together as one of the most platonic his/her duos that even fan-fiction respects.
As Close to a Love Interest as the Law Allows
Surprisingly, Judge Anderson was never Dredd’s love interest. The only love interest Judge Dredd has is for the law. Still, a man can only defend himself against women for so long until breaking down. That breakdown occurred when Dredd began to work with former street judge Galen DeMarco, who kissed Judge Dredd. Dredd responded with his own version of lewd behavior: he neglected to report Judge DeMarco for judicial misconduct.
This led to a spiral of emotion that caused Dredd to call DeMarco by her first name, Galen, and look the other way at DeMarco’s minor infractions when she resigned from the Justice Department and became a normal citizen.