Mike McMahon provides the cover for the second Judge Dredd Annual which has a very green theme going on (border, gloves and boots, rooftop gardens and jetpacking perp’s visor).
The contents page continues with the McMahon artwork as Dredd and a cohort of judges (what is the collective noun for judges, anyway?) stand outside the Hall of Justice.
Judge Dredd in Anatomy of a Crime! by T.B. Grover and Mike McMahon. We got a slice of life view of Mega-City One in Unamerican Graffiti, when we met Marlon Shakespeare’s family, seeing his (illicit) pass-time and his parent’s bizarre hobbies. This time we meet Bub Jones, whose hobby was eating, while his wife Joanne’s hobby is spot-welding (which she considers more sensible than eating). As you can guess this tale details the events leading up to the committing of a crime (and being a Judge Dredd story, the capture and punishment of the lawbreakers concerned). Bub starts the day full of optimism, looking forward to getting in to shape to compete for Mega-City Fats the following year. As often happens in the Mega-City, his hopes and dreams are crushed – initially by his wife (who claims he doesn’t even need a bellywheel), then by Big Lard Ringner – who is so fat that he has front and rear bellywheels! In a moment of rage he smashes a window, but that’s all it takes to get a criminal record. When Dredd arrives on the scene he arrests the owner of the shop whose window got smashed (for attempting to make a citizen’s arrest). The actual capture is over with one shot as Dredd shoots Bub’s bellywheel out from under him, causing him to fall over, stranded (guess he did need it after all). McMahon paints this in full colour – with the emphasis on colour – no murky greys or browns here! We’ve gotten in to prime McMahon citiblock territory, though we only get one view of a block in this story – there’ll be more in other stories later in the annual. Tom Frame’s lettering has a few spots of colour, though throughout narration boxes and word balloons have colourful borders in red, yellow and blue. This gives a nice effect, and it’s a shame it isn’t kept up in later annuals (or in the present day now that most new stories are printed in colour).
Justice Department Data File: Otto Sump is standard filler – nothing you won’t know from having read Sob Story and Get Ugly!
Frank Brash presents on MCTV… The Judge Dredd Interview. Will it end in the interviewer being arrested? Will the rest be filler? Yes, and yes, as it happens. It’s entertaining enough – possibly more entertaining if you weren’t immediately familiar wit the sources of many of the quotes used.
Are You a Megamind? A 15-question multiple answer general knowledge quiz, set by Synthi-Flakes. If you’ve read the stories, this is pretty easy – if you’ve missed some it’ll be more challenging. I tried it on one person who had only read a few of the stories before this era and they got 35 points, putting them in the middle 30-50 points category (out of a maximum 75).
The Mean Machine Goes to Town! by Alan Grant and Robin Smith. There’s a lot going on in this one. It’s Mean’s birthday and the rest of the Angel Gang have given him the key to a safe deposit box in a Texas City Bank. Mean headbutts his way into the city, watched by the rest of the Gang from outside, through binoculars. When he gets to the bank, it’s closed, so he headbutts his way in (er, just assume that whatever Mean does, he does by way of headbutting, alright?) Security guards try to stop him, he repells them (guess how?) and the staff at the bank bring his deposit box to him, but it’s in a time-locked safe. He gets in to it and is still eating through the contents – a box of Mutie Tray, reference to Milk Tray – when the Texas City Judges turn up and arrest him. Pa Angel predicted all this would happen and planned it as “a boy ain’t a man less’n he’s done time”. The punchline of the story is that the judges themselves are hoping Pa Angel doesn’t leave it too long to bust Mean out, as they’ve had to rebuild the wall of the cell four times already. The story is good, bringing back some great characters without going to the lengths of, I don’t know, raising them from the dead, or explaining that they weren’t really killed, even though it looked like they were, or something like that… I like Robin Smith’s later artwork, though I’m afraid I’m not liking it so much here. There’s very much a feel that he’s drawing other people’s characters, as we often get in stories by unfamiliar artists in annuals.
Complimenting the Mean Machine story is Superbad!! (the double exclamation marks were part of the title). It’s a two-page selection of pictures from the Fink story presented in the form of the Angel family album (along with the family portrait by Dave Gibbons).
As trailed in a Nerve Centre, Je suis a Loi! (“I am the Law”, to you) is a feature on overseas reprints of 2000AD stories – one in Forces Weekly Echo (for British troops), others translated into French, Spanish or German. Some are coloured or the pages put together to make spreads. Publications include L’an 2000 (French Canadian), Cimoc (Spain). Series include Perro de Estroncio (Strontium Dog in Spanish), Guerras en la Mente (Mind Wars), Survie (Flesh), Les Heros de Harlem (The Harlem Heroes).
Walter the Wobot, Fwiend of Dwedd: Woad to Wuin by G.P. Rice and S. Kyte (the same creative team behind the 2000AD Annual’s Strontium Dog story). This one doesn’t have the spot colour which cheapens and plagues non-Judge Dredd Annual stories. This is bizarre, operating on a different level of humour to what appears in the standard adventure-driven strips – so in that sense a fairly normal Walter story. The title character has received a note from Rowena, last seen on the Moon, who has been sent to work in a Cursed Earth saloon run by his owner’s son, but is being treated as a slave. Walter has rushed to try to rescue her but finds the Cursed Earth more difficult to traverse than expected. If that’s the plot, then most of this story is side-plots, including one involving an un-named pair of chancers based (very, very heavily) on Bob Hope and Bing Crosby’s characters from the “Road to…” films, the Robo-Riffs, a bunch of nomadic renegade robots with a very arabic(!) appearance, who want to blow up the township of Ruin for the oil beneath it and finally a love triangle involving another robot called Roger, who works with Rowena. It’s not fantastic, but there have been worse humour strips…
Reprint of Judge Dredd: Judge Whitey – the first Dredd tale, art credited to Carlos Ezquerra, no script credit given. Which is a bit odd, as, other than the first page, most of the artwork is by Mike McMahon. Also, the genesis of who wrote this story was given in the previous year’s annual, so why not credit the writer here? If nothing else, this reprint shows how much McMahon’s artowrk has developed in the intervening four years.
The Mega-Times: Morning Edition. Six whole pages of filler, though I’ll forgive it as we’ve had quite a bit of original story already, including all the pages of fully-painted McMahon artwork. It’s jam-packed with in-jokes and pop-cultural references, making great use of the Mega-City One tradition of naming cityblocks after famous people (there’s also a letter questioning whether East-Meg cityblocks are named after Second World War Russian victories).
Judge Dredd in the Vampire Effect by T.B. Grover and Mike McMahon. Off the top of my head, I can’t remember what the third Dredd story is in this prog, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this is going to be my favourite. I’ve also had the privilege of seeing the entire original pages at an exhibition just short of twenty years ago at the Victoria and Albert Museum. No, I can’t find out any more details about the exhibition (though no doubt it was mentioned in the pages of 2000AD or Judge Dredd Megazine at the time, which was surely how I knew about it in the first place). If I find out more I’ll update this post. Anyway – a Deep Space Exploration Vehicle crashes as it returns to Mega-City One, smashing through City Bottom and releasing one of the collected specimens into the Undercity. The creature which escaped is an energy vampire, feeding first on a toad, then on larger and larger creatures until it get to graduated to half-humes, mutants and troggies. The attention of Justice Department is attracted when some of the Undercity dwellers try to escape the vampire by digging their way out to the city above. Once they establish that the vampire grows the more energy it gets (and have a chat with the professor who tried to smuggle it in to the city – just before he dies) the judges unsuccessfully try to freeze it. The hovering heavy weapons vehicles are the style that we’ll see more of in the first two episodes of Block Mania, in two or three months time. Dredd has more success luring it to a K Class Attack Craft at the Spaceport by firing a high-energy laser at it which they use as bait while switching off all power to the sectors they travel through. Eventually even this is for nought as the original plan to launch the craft fails when the vampire drains electricity from the ship’s power system. Nothing but adaptable, Dredd orders the blast doors to the hangar closed so that when the cooling system fails and the reactor overheats and goes nova (the creature effectively dying through over-feeding). So, great set-up with a number of logical avenues for the judges to try, some of which look like they’re going to succeed but then fail for believable reasons. One thing of particular note is that – other than the first and last pages – every set of two pages is designed to be read like a centrespread – left to right across the top of the spread, then down to the next row of panels. Like centrespreads there are loads of splash panels making full use of this format – just a shame they’re not actually spreads, as some detail gets lost in the gutters. p.s. continuity fans – Professor Dick Parker was kept at the same intensive care unit featured in the Otto Sump’s Ugly Clinic story a year ago – Marcus Welby General Hospital. Oh, and I think I first encountered this story in the Titan Collection of painted Judge Dredd stories, a by Mike McMahon.
Desperadoes of the Cursed Earth – text: Jack Adrian, art: Dave Gibbons. This is a text story, which I believe had a sequel that will feature in the first Judge Dredd Annual I owned, a few years later. The pacing is a bit off for my tastes. Some perps are crashing mid-way across the Cursed Earth (this takes up three pages), they al survive but have a stand-off away from the wreckage of the strat-bat while they argue over whose fault it was (one page), enter a Cursed Earth settlement, the most violent of the perps killing one person and taking another hostage – the village ‘leader’, JM (two pages) and then the story is resolved (one page). A few elements are hinted at but not explained, which made me theorise over what was going on, distracting from the action – such as the ‘bad perp’ having eyes in the back of his head. Did this mean he was a mutie? An alien? A cyborg? If he was a mutie, what was he doing in Mega-City One to pull off a heist in the first place? We got the impression they were escaping from something but didn’t find out it was a heist until after the first three pages – which meant during those pages I was left thinking “I get it – they’re going to crash – can you get it done with so we can continue with the story?” I don’t want you thinking I didn’t like this story, because I did – I just think that the preamble with the descending strat-bat took too long. I’m also pleased with myself that I managed to work out a mystery about this story, though I was given a visual clue. JM, the closest thing the settlement has to a leader, is about 60 and has white hair. The protagonist (one of the perps, but a ‘good’ one because they don’t believe in killing) reckons that JM may be old, but could still throw a mean punch. The ‘bad’ perp makes a statement “The fools seem to have made him their leader. Can’t figure out why.” This is on the same spread as a hand shooting a gun. The gun has a familiar shape, leading me to pause a moment and double-check what those initials were. JM? It’s only Judge Minty! Judges from the three mega-cities who had taken the Long Walk even got mentioned in the recap of what the Cursed Earth was, for those readers who needed to be told what the big desolate wasteland the strat-bat was about to crash in to was. It’s been ages (a week or so) since I posted a link to the fan-film of Judge Minty so here’s another one – currently on 991,673 views – perilously close to a million!
The Judge Child Journey is a nice little recap of the Judge Child saga with a rough ‘starmap’ showing where the different stops on the quest were. It’s still filler though.
Also filler is Easy Riders, a recap of motorcycles in pop culture by Brian Burrell (no, I’ve no idea who that is either – motorcycle journalist or film reviewer, I’d imagine). It focuses on three films, only two of which I’ve seen. The Wild One, Electra Glide in Blue and Mad Max. The article also mentions CHiPs, but doesn’t rate it much, as TV was too tame in those days (no Sons of Anarchy, for instance).
Max Normal, the Pinstripe Freak (He’s Dredd’s Informer!) by Kelvin Gosnell and Jose Casanovas (this might be the first time Casanovas’ full name has been credited). The plot: Max finds out about a new game in town, attends and finds out it’s an illegal robot fight but can’t go to Dredd with the information as then he’d be arrested for attending an illegal robot fight. He goes to Walter, who single-handedly pacifies the organisers of the fight in the middle of a packed arena and calls the judges. After encountering Walter (who denies any involvement), Dredd bumps in to Max Normal outside who acts strangely and also avoids any involvement. As far as Dredd is concerned, they “have the ring-leaders, and that’s what matters”. Plot-hole wise, Max hasn’t usually had to explain to Dredd where he gets his information from, and even if it was a bit shady – that’s what you expect of your informers – non-shady people don’t come up with the kind of information that law enforcers need. If it’s so easy for one vending machine robot (using riot foam) to catch illegal fight organisers in the middle of a stadium filled with hundreds, maybe thousands of spectators, why wasn’t the Mechanismo programme introduced decades earlier than it is? Another of those enjoyable stories that doesn’t stand up to any scrutiny if you think about it. Luckily my mind can switch gear – but it gets bored if it’s in low gear all the time…
Hall of Infamy! We’re told that this is a room next to the Hall of Heroes in Justice H.Q (hasn’t been called that since Cal’s reign). Let’s pretend this later gets re-named the Black Museum. In this Hall are Mr Buzzz, Ma “Green Fingers” Mahaffy, Call-Me-Kenneth, Harry Carmen (the one who kidnapped Vienna), The Kneon Knights (sic), Elvis the Killer Car (why is a perp from Luna 1 commemorated in the Mega-City One Hallf of Infamy?), Wild Butch Carmody (the same), Professor Milton D. Frankenstein, The Solar Sniper. This feature also makes mention of a Judge’s Dozen as they were all tracked down by Dredd. There are nine of them.
Justice Department Data File: Judge Hershey – a double-page spread using the Brian Bolland star pin-up from a few months ago.
Reprint time: Judge Dredd: The Brotherhood of Darkness. This gives credits to Malcolm Shaw and Mike McMahon and makes no mention of the seeming inconsistencies brought about by the subsequent introductions of Mayor Amalfi and Mayor Jim Grubb. Though to be fair, London currently has a Lord Mayor of London (largely ceremonial), a Mayor of London (has some power over local transport and a few other things) and Mayors of the local boroughs – so put me down for some vague hand-waving in that direction. This is the story which has a few Kevin O’Neill bits of scenery drawn into the background. I almost certainly mentioned this when I covered whichever early prog this appeared in.
Lawmaster Road Test! by Harey Norton. I can only assume that this is a spoof of a late 1970s or early 1980s motoring journalist’s writing or presenting style, as otherwise it’s just boring filler, though the pic by McMahon is decent – though it’s strange to see somebody astride a lawmaster in a 20th century-style motorcycle outfit.
Ode to Dredd by Thompson/Smith. Right, this is definitely in filler territory now. The first page is a poem about Dredd (I can only hope it was sent in by a couple of readers – which would be clear if it had said “Words: Earthlets Thompson and Smith”, but it doesn’t. The second page has been bodged together from the Bolland picture that got used on a door poster from Titan, the back of Tony the Tap’s head (I think, from the first part of the original Judge Death story) and then a generic dingy alleyway.
Justice Department Data File: Max Normal – if you didn’t know who Max was before reading the story earlier, then this is a bit late in the annual!
Judge Dredd: Mega-City Rumble by T.B. Grover and Mike McMahon. Remember how I was raving about how great McMahon’s artwork was on the first story in this annual because it was so colourful? Well, this tale takes place entirely at night and is mainy painted in grey – and the artwork is still fantastic! There’s one page where the panel reading order is slighty confusing, but artwise, this is definitely McMahon’s golden age of artwork – particulary when it comes to pepper pot blocks, balconies, roof gardens and all! Anyway, the actual story is about block rivalries. Dredd and a team of judges break up a rumble between the Jimmy Clitheroe and John Wayne Blocks (John Wayne earlier having been mentioned in the Mega-City Times Morning Edition filler). To diffuse further tensions, Dredd orders every tenant to be dispersed to other cityblocks in the morning. In a perfect example of unintended consequences, this gives the blockers one night to settle all rivalries before their current block loyalties will mean even less than they already do. One resident of Clitheroe is an unemployed chemist who has constructed a powerful explosive and has calculated exactly where it would need to be set off to knock Wayne over so that it would crash into the Mega-Way. Unfortunatey for them, Dredd had a hunch there would be further conflicts that night and has taken a detour from his patrol, putting him in place to hear a spitgun ring through the night. To cut a long story short, most of the Wayners and Clitheroes are either dead or surrender to Dredd, except for one or two who are too far gone in their frenzied block hatred to care. One of the Wayners fatefully fires at the chemist holding the explosive. As they hadn’t managed to get it into the correct position, the block topples, but into Clitherhoe instead of the Mega-Way. That’s not all, as Citherhoe itself topples in to the block on the other side of it. And so on. Al told, the John Wayne, Jimmy Clitheroe, Sam Snead, Benny Hill, Indira Ghandi and Linda Carter Blocks are all destroyed, resulting in upwards of 201,000 deaths by the morning, and rising. Tragic, but still time for a witty retort from Dredd, because this is Mega-City One, after all. I’m just surprised that the architects weren’t arrested for lining up that many blocks where they could be easily knocked down… As with Anatomy of a Crime! (though not The Vampire Effect) Tom Frame has used colourful borders on some narration boxes and word balloons – in primary colours though smudges of purple in the navy blue and streaks of orange in the yellow give them a real painterly feel – like looking at brush strokes on a canvas. Additionally, the letters in the title have a white border but are in a transparent red, allowing the shapes of McMahon’s artwork to come through. I have no idea how this was accomplished in pre-computer colouring and lettering days, but I like it! I can’t emphasise enough how much I like the effect this colour gives to the printed page – in the words of one youtuber (on an entirely unrelated topic, so I won’t link to them) it really makes it pop. It’s often said that you only notice a letterer’s work when they get something wrong, as it makes it difficult to read or otherwise brings the audience out of the reading experience – well, I’m pleased to say that I’ve noticed the lettering on these two stories for all the right reasons! If any current letterers get to read this blog post, then please refer to this annual and steal style ideas!
Grailpage: there are so many to choose from and they’re mainy by Mike McMahon! I wish I could pick one of the ones from the Rumble story, but one page of Vampire Effect has most of things I like most about McMahon’s cityscapes – pepperpot blocks, doorways, balconies, those weird ‘visors’ some of the blocks get – everything but the roof gardens and seagulls (and if I squint I can imagine some plants throug one of the visors) – this is the page where the judge orders the citizens to clear the sector while the energy vampire looms behind them, engulfing people in the tween-block plaza. I’ve changed my mind – I’m going to give the joint-grailpage to one of the Rumble pages as well – the one where we first see all of the blocks lined up – it has a citizen pouring a drink on a balcony, a roof garden and the afore-mentioned Tom Frame painted borders on the lettering.
Grailquote: T.B. Grover, narration: “A mad hysteria grips block rumblers. Even the wail of bike sirens does not part them…” Judge Dredd: “Cease fighting! This is your only warning!” beat (firing) “You were warned!”