The first full year of weekly newspaper strips (it later went daily which is why we generally think of them as a daily strip, and that was the name given when they were collected in a hardback edition a few years back).
Target Chief Judge – this is a bit of a strange one from John Wagner, Alan Grant and Ron Smith (the same creative team behind every strip this year). Chief Judge Griffin (again, his name is not mentioned) is the target of “an assassin’s bullet” (actually three homing missiles) as Griffin is about to leave Mega-City One on a mission to the Lunar Colonies – I’m wondering if this is Luna City One or some other colonies. Two of the missiles get shot out of the sky while a Judge Collier sacrifices his life to stop the third missile reaching Griffin. The weapon that fired the missiles is discovered, the assassin long gone. There’s no follow-up.
Face Change starts off outside the Sector 500 iso-cubes (Sector 500 is also known as The Fleapit and was destroyed in a nuclear strike during the Apocalypse War – but the nickname isn’t mentioned here and the Apoc War is still some way off). Zilch McKay is going to go straight, he’s learnt his lesson spending twenty years in the iso-cubes. To celebrate and to start his new, honest life he goes to a face-change parlour to get a new face. This is the first row of panels. The lower half of the story is where his plan falters. He doesn’t have enough to pay for his new face, having failed to account for twenty years of inflation, and goes berserk, assaulting the parlour sales assistant. Having fallen in to old habits he heads for his old hangout for safety – where Dredd is already waiting for him – an open and shut case, and Zilch goes back to the iso-cubes, along with a punchline from Dredd.
Pleasure Island takes the newspaper readers in to space as Dredd investigates a murder on an orbiting holiday camp. Under Mega-City law no mega-citizen may refuse a lie detector test, though (as Dredd predicts) the threat of the lie detector flushes out the murderer, leaving by jetpack. One he’s been captured it turned out to be the camp jester – whose name, Ho-De-Ho, is a reference to popular sitcom of the era Hi-De-Hi and it turned out he didn’t take criticism very well – another punchline finishes this one: “But she said I wasn’t funny – ” Dredd: “I got news for you, pal. You’re not!” Thinking about it one of the characteristics of the (weekly) daily Dredds is that they often ended in a punchline, even more so than the weekly prog stories.
Spy in the Sky – we’re still in the era where newspaper readers are being introduced to concepts that have become background features of the prog strips and this time it’s the turn of spy in the sky surveillance cameras. CCTV was probably pretty prevalent by this point, though this has (what we would now call) a drone element added. A bank robber (well, it’s that style of heist even if it isn’t actually a bank) is foiled when Justice Department Control saturates the area with SitS. For three weeks running it ends in a quip: “Your trouble wasn’t spy in the sky, creep – it was PIE in the sky!”
Mutant Ventriloquist – the name given to this explains the set-up of this story for those familiar with the style of 2000AD / Judge Dredd stories. The secret of Mega-City One’s top ventriloquist is that he has a second face which he hides under his shirt, and does the voices. Dredd uncovers the secret, clued in by the second face itself who was fed up with spending the last quarter century cooped up under the shirt and called the judges while the ‘ventriloquist’ slept. The newspaper readers briefly saw the Cursed Earth in 1981 (when somebody else was exiled there for ten years) but this is the first mutant we’ve seen, and that mutants are banned from the city.
The Leaper re-uses a line from the weekly prog as a mega-citizen threatens to leap (“Don’t do it citizen! Littering the streets is an offence!”) The new element is the running commentary from judges on different levels reporting how far he’s fallen, before an H-Wagon catches him in a cling-net. Dredd does, of course, arrest the mega-citizen, charging him with public nuisance, breach, wasting Justice Dept time…
The Apartment. The apartment in question is fully automated, including anti-grav airbeds and computerised backscratchers. When Dredd turns up at the door the resident panics, terrified that Dredd has found out about a jaywalking offence. Not wanting to be taken locked away from his apartment he tries to kill the judge, which goes as well as you’d expect when a pampered mega-citizen tries to kill Mega-City One’s top lawman. Turns out Dredd was at the wrong apartment (so he’s not infallible). Dredd ponder on how it shows every citizen has something to hide – though I’m pondering it also shows how stupid some citizens are – attempted murder of a judge is going to carry a much higher sentence than jaywalking – I’d expect jaywalking may just have had a fine.
Black Atlantic introduces the polluted wasteland on the other side of Mega-City One from the Cursed Earth as well as re-introducing the anti-smoking laws of Mega-City One. It also introduces to everybody, squaxx and newspaper reader alike, that Mega-City territory extends five hundred kilometres out – though this has been extended to six hundred kilometres
Annual Swim – this is the story where Brit-Cit was named for the first time – in Judge Dredd, anyway – not sure what the timing was like with Robo-Hunter. Barney is my friend – just checked – the last episode of Day of the Droids (where Brit-Cit was first mentioned in Robo-Hunter) had a cover date of 23rd August 1980 so this strip is merely the first time Brit-Cit was mentioned in a Judge Dredd context. When Brits appeared on Luna-1 they were called the Brit Territories. The 17th annual Black Atlantic Swim is a race from Brit-Cit’s West Sector to Mega-City One. A year after we saw the Mega-City Flying Squad (on zipper bikes) we see the Brit-Cit Flying Squad (the real-life flying squad being named for having jurisdiction across the metropolitan area of London and not having to respect inter-divisional boundaries). Anyway, that’s the continuity out of the way – this story is about the first apparent successful crossing of the Black Atlantic in seventeen years as competitor forty-seven manages to get to a slip-way outside the walls of Mega-City One. To be turned back by Dredd for carrying fifty-nine pollution-based diseases. I hope he informed the Brit-Cit Flying Squad to pick up the swimmer!
Litter Bug shows the lengths to which Mega-City One Justice Department will go to to catch a litter bug, analysing a dropped candy wrapper to determine the mega-citizen who dropped it. I imagine that before the Apocalypse War the Justice Dept is not so stretched. For Wilful Littering the perp is sentenced to sixty days, so maybe that jaywalking offence may have had a custodial sentence.
Sponts – not only introduced to newspaper readers but also introducing a new organisation – Sponts Anonymous. A self-help group to try to aid spontaneous confessors in resisting their urges to confess to crimes they haven’t committed, all seems to be going swimmingly at a group meeting until Dredd chases a perp right in to the centre of their meeting hall. For seconds they resist, telling themselves they see no judge – but no good, and when one spont confesses, four hundred follow. In Dredd’s words – “It’s gonna be a busy night.”
B.U. When I was writing out the list of stories I’d be covering from the index page of the collection the initials B.U. confused me – turns out they stand for Bachelor of Unemployment – because with an 87% unemployment rate much of Mega-City One’s education sector is dedicated to unemployment. The antagonist of this particular tale finds that having graduated it is likely to be twenty-two years until they get to use it to take a post in unemployment administration. Fortunately (as far as the robo-tutor is concerned) the B.U. also qualifies the mega-citizen to be unemployed. Upset that he spent a whole three months (in the speed-teach machine) for nothing, he gets a face change to kill and take the identity of somebody with a job. Unfortunately for the perp he didn’t bury the body of the victim deep enough.
An Open and Shut Case concerns Grubner’s 24-Hour Hyper-Mart celebrating one hundred years of continuous opening. Predictably, being a Judge Dredd story, you know it’s going to be closed by the end of the strip. The main attraction is finding out how and why it’s going to be closed. Is it going to be because the celebrations are causing an obstruction? Nope! Is it because a battered cockroach staggers out of the shop and is spotted by Dredd? Yep! On the bright side, it did make a century, and at least it only got closed down for fumigation – presumably it will reopen after having been cleaned.
Slattery has a tortuous route to get to the punchline, depending on the name of a getaway driver, Roland Slattery. First time I’d have read this in the mid-eighties I probably wouldn’t have gotten the pun about “flattery will get you nowhere”. That’s all you need to know about this story.
A Breach of the Law. More world-building done first in the newspaper. The Atlantic Tunnel runs for 5000 kilometres from Mega-City One to Brit-Cit. Protesting is not illegal in Mega-City One, and Dredd shows no feelings on the right to protest, one way or the other – until the protesters break the law. The protesters are making pretty unreasonable demands to be honest – at least one is threatening not to stop blocking the Eastbound level of the tunnel until the Black Atlantic is blue again. Even with future-tech and the entire resources of Mega-City One (while neglecting everything else) I’d imagine something like that would take multiple decades, if it’s even possible at all. One of the protesters has a bomb and threatens to breach the tunnel wall. Dredd’s solution is to close the flood barriers to seal the protesters in so that the bomb will only harm them. Then he reverses the condensation filters so that the filthy waters of the Black Atlantic start to pour in. Once they get decontaminated they’re going to be serving six years each in the iso-cubes…
Mega-City Fats. Big Lard Ringner and Mega-City Fats make a reappearance, having previously appeared in the Judge Dredd Annual 1982. Winning the title Mega-City Fats, Ringner topples during the victory parade, injuring loads of mega-citizens as he rolls downhill. His sentence for doing that damage? A two-year diet (in the iso-cubes).
Max Normal. We’ve seen Walter but a more welcome addition to the newspaper strip is Dredd’s informer. It isn’t always plain sailing for Max as a tip he gives Dredd (and is paid for) doesn’t go through as the nervous would-be bank robber pulls out at the last moment. Dredd demands a refund, though does it just as Max is about to pot the first-ever ten thousand break in the Northern Sector’s Shuggy Finals.
Stormy Weather introduces a craze to Mega-City One – and one which hasn’t been seen in the prog. Personal Weather Machines are like localised, portable Weather Control devices. As usually happens when new crazes unfold, problems arise closely followed by laws regulating them. The problems are lightning striking innocent bystanders and cyclones causing disruption and damage while the law is the Personalised Weather Act, forbidding use of weather machines in public places.
Megathon starts with some statistics – four million people take part in the annual Cross-Mega-City Marathon, taking a fortnight and covering 1600 kilometres – everything is taken to extremes in Mega-City One! Though one person is sick of the sound of the pounding that happens every year as it runs (pun intended) past his house (even though they’re jogging, not running). So sick of the sound that he blows up one of the rockrete roadways, killing hundreds, including those pushed forward by those behind.
Think No Evil is the debut of Psi-Division in the newspaper. A precog gives Dredd twelve minutes notice of a hold-up while a telepath allows Dredd to find those who escaped from a captured perp.
Criminal Heights – another week, another craze, this one is Block Climbing, undertaken by blockeers (like mountaineers, not to be confused with blockers – residents of citiblocks). This one is already illegal by the time we see it, and some blockeers climbing Ed Hillary Block are unceremoniously dragged from the block by hooking their safety rope and lowering them to the ground. Next craze: bungee jumping (not mentioned by name, this real-world craze had just made it in to international consciousness in 1982, three years after being ‘invented’ by the Oxford University Dangerous Sports Club).
Last Resort – we’ve had mutants, robots, psychics and now it’s the turn of aliens in Mega-City One. We find out a few tourist facts on Mega-City One – the West Wall is one kilometre tall and (as an alien tour guide points out, while it was built by “mad tyrant” Judge Cal, it was not demolished by Justice Department). When the aliens get in the way of Judge Dredd the tour guide also shows us the Alien Penitentiary…
Jason Kribbs is In! Another week, another craze. This one involves the titular character moving his office desk out on to the walkway to get some ‘fresh air’. Being Mega-City One, eight office sectors (interesting so some sectors are residential and some given over to business) are clogged with office workers out on the walkways by the time the judges arrive. Trying to move them on, they identify the person who started it who responds by pointing out that a 97-year old by-law protects his right to work in a natural surrounding. Dredd points out that ‘fresh air’ in Mega-City One is pretty subjective but he remains. There’s nothing for it but a crime blitz on Kribbs’ apartment, revealing eighteen misdemeanours – enough to put him away for two years and discourage the other office workers from exercising their rights.
Rookie Test. A rookie judge, out on assessment with Dredd, cuffs a perp who has surrendered. He doesn’t get sent to Titan (as far as we know) but does still do time. Short and sweet though I’ll have to keep an eye out for if Dredd uses violence against any perps who are already in custody…
Collapse of a Protest takes a 22nd century approach to the preservation of ancient ruins. The Parthenon has been shipped over from Greece in the late 2080s but the structure is unsound. After an arch collapses, Dredd signs the demolition order, prompting a protest. The protest itself causes further collapses. In Dredd’s words: “Shift the stiffs, book the living… and get rid of that old junk!”
The Wedding – a bride approaches Judge Dredd, asking him to conduct her wedding ceremony, something which he is legally empowered to do. As the bridegroom goes to place the ring on her finger, Dredd’s suspicions are alerted. Confirming that it was stolen the previous day, the couple run – he gets five years, she gets one year for running (making her complicit, even though she didn’t know it was stolen until that point).
Alien Control. More aliens and a visit to Alientown – I don’t remember having seen this in the prog at this point, so another newspaper debut. Alientown is a run-down area containing multiple blocks filled with aliens, some of which have papers, the rest of which are illegal aliens. On this round of crime blitzes over ten thousand are deported. The punchline of this story though, is that an apparent fire hydrant is in fact an alien.
The Mega-Vision Song Contest – the entry by Sector 44 has a song about “love’s cuffs” as the song’s theme is of the singer falling in love with Judge Dredd. Dredd gets involved when the backing band are dressed as judges “impersonating a judge is illegal”. The singer, upset, claws at Dredd – “assault!” then the audience start throwing food at the judge, prompting fifteen hundred further arrests… Another typical day for the judge.
Good Guy (also called Unfortunate Birthday). A billionaire wishes to give away his fortune to help others. Overcome with generosity he picks up a few million in creds and throws them out of the window. Causing a disturbance in the street below (or possibly a riot, depending on your definition). Dredd’s definition is “an illegal disturbance”. I wonder if he remained a philanthropist once he got out of the iso-cubes?
Matter Transporter concerns an inventor who has created the world’s first wrist-worn matter transporter. The clues are in the very first panel but are easy to miss – the ‘Doc’ has an artificial foot and hip. He also has an artificial nose, but that isn’t so obvious. Dredd arrives at the first public demonstration and fills in the gaps – the machine wasn’t perfected yet, so the doc used the imperfect machine to penetrate bank vaults, but left a few body parts behind as he tried to beam out – the same body parts that match the bionic parts. As the doc tries to escape arrest, Dredd fires, damaging the wrist-worn device. This time the body part left behind is a little more significant than a nose – nothing like decapitation in a Saturday-morning newspaper comic strip!
Fire Bug has a perp on the run setting fire to the apartment he’s hiding out in rather than let the judges take him in alive. It’s not just the one apartment that catches ablaze though – the entire block starts to burn. While the firefighters are tackling the blaze, Dredd crashes through the window to arrest the perpetrator, though first has to save his life. When the perp asks why Dredd saved his life, he responds: “Because nobody escapes from justice, creep – and you’ve gotta lotta justice coming your way!”
Flower Power – the latest craze (and another that doesn’t appear in the weekly) is Fashion Flowers. These are seeds which are planted on a growth medium sprayed on the body, resulting in flowers (and other plantlife) growing on the body. Surprisingly there’s no emergency laws passed, or even arrests made – instead the ‘antagonist’ is taken to the kook cubes when his para-schizoid delusions cause him to think he has become a garden, afraid of garden pests, alternating between fear of caterpillars and love of butterflies (somebody needs to educate this citizen on the growth cycle).
The Undercity – we’ve had a few visits to the Cursed Earth, a couple to the Black Atlantic now it’s time to visit another of Mega-City One’s hinterlands – beneath the modern streets. When a perp tries to escape in to the undercity Dredd doesn’t even bother to pursue, merely waiting next to the maintenance cover. Five minutes with the rats and other denizens (not troggies or muties but the ones who “talkee likee this”) and he escapes from the undercity into Dredd’s custody, and is grateful for it. It’s not as impressive as Steve Dillon’s depiction of the undercity from the following year but more realistic – this looks like an old city which has been concreted over and a new city built on those foundations.
Mistaken Identity is another story where Dredd makes a mistake, but it prompts such fearful behaviour in the mega-citizen involved that hi-jinks ensue. In this case, Dredd doesn’t even arrest the citizen for running (though maybe that will happen once he’s released from medical treatment).
City-Def introduces us to the ‘highly-trained auxiliary soldiers’ of the Citi-Def units when those from Audie Murphy Block decide they need actual combat experience, and invade neighbouring Betty Turpin Block. The judges quell the block war (hinted at in an earlier strip in the newspaper) and arrest the ring-leaders – showing us sonic cannon, riot foam and stumm gas in the process.
Crime Time shows a daily spot on Mega-City One’s vid channels as information is requested by Justice Department on wanted perps. A mega-citizen in a bar spots the latest perp – Laze-Blaze Kelly and reports in, though at the cost of their lives (and everybody else in the bar). Dredd takes care of Kelly as he makes a break for it though the thanks by Judge Taylor on Crime Time fall on dead (rather than deaf) ears.
Apetown – I’ve already listed robots, mutants, aliens and cyborgs – now it’s the turn of the smart apes. It has been said that Wagner was fed up of the apes and so destroyed Apetown in the Apocalpyse War and the Ape Gang in the aftermath. So it’s curious that at the time the Apoc War was running the progs they were introduced to the newspaper readership. Personally I think intelligence-boosted apes are one of the unique selling points of Mega-City One, so I’m happy that they’ve been highlighted by recent writers on 2000AD and the Megazine (as of 2020 recent, not 1983 recent). This story shows that apes in MC1 are smart, but not hygienic. Also that they’re generally not very smart, leaving a labelled banana skin behind at a crime scene.
The Apocalypse War – this is the one – infamously 25 episode, 153 page mega-epic to ten panels. And preserving the punchline. It even gets in a new joke – the narration “Dredd himself accepted the surrender of East-Meg leader, War Marshal Kazan” with a panel showing Dredd shooting Kazan. The punchline was the one about getting the retaliation in first next time. The strip doesn’t mention that McGruder is the new Chief Judge (but then it never mentioned Griffin by name before now anyway). If it wasn’t for the following strips you might wonder why the war was even covered.
Un-Happy Returns – and the reason is because, as in the prog, many of the following stories are concerning the post-war Mega-City. Perhaps the undercity was introduced a month earlier so that the Sawney Bean Block Survival Club could be shown emerging from the place, having stayed down their when the war started? Either way, their joy at returning to civilisation is tempered when they see the mess above ground and a taster of the new life in the city (rations, anti-rad pills, sleeping rough, glowing areas, roaming gangs, fallout showers) and return to the under-civilisation below.
Moonz Boonz – where there are food shortages there are black marketeers ready to profit. This one runs in to food queue while trying to escape Dredd, dying in the ensuing crush. The food queue is arrested for killing him, though they’re overjoyed as they have to be fed while in the iso-cubes.
Criminal Error – time for a grim tale, reflecting some of those that took place in the prog. A perp flees in to a restricted radiation zone. Dredd takes precautions (rad-cloak and anti-radiation pills) but the perp has no such precautions. By the time Dredd catches up with the now sick perp he’s burning up. To protect the city from contamination, Dredd ends the perp’s suffering. I wonder what the casual newspaper reader made of this type of story?
Danger UX Nuke. Sector 403, home to Bob Oppenheimer Block was destroyed by Captain Skank’s attack on Mega-City one. During the reclamation project it was once again destroyed (along with the New Bob Oppenheimer Block, still being constructed) at the onset of the Apocalypse War. When an un-exploded warhead is discovered by a demolition crew the sector once more goes nuclear (though it’s not specified whether there’s a New New Bob Oppenheimer Block involved).
The Wall – those who fled the city during the war are now trying to get back in. Dredd declares that they forsook all rights as citizens when they abandoned the city to the invaders, though the continued attempts by those outside trying to get in through the shattered city walls lead Dredd to come up with a solution. The millions of displaced are to be offered food in return for rebuilding the wall. One ex-citizen bemoans that they’re building a wall to keep themselves out, though another points out that the job is so big it’ll last and last (is it churlish to point out it only took months to build in the first place – though that was under Judge Cal).
Dead Easy – looters take refuge in a ruined building and come across an open bank vault. One of the gang of looters, assigned to guard the door, lets curiosity get the better of them and joins the others – assuring them that the door doesn’t need to be guarded as he locked it. Weeks later their starved skeletons are found by a reclamation crew…
Teething Troubles – two mega-citizens part ways, one telling the other that they’ll see them Thursday, before jaywalking and causing a thirty-vehicle pile-up. Their ‘friend’ finds the 18 month sentence hilarious as he won’t be seeing him next Thursday now – laughing so hard his false teeth pop out and crash through a window. Now sentenced to 6 months, it looks like they will be seeing each other next Thursday after all. Although this makes me wonder just how isolating iso-cubes actually are. Over-think things? Me?
Test Failure shows a robbery that went wrong. The armed robber takes a hostage and threatens to shoot him. Dredd uses the patented move of using a ricochet shot to take out the robber, though then shouts at the hostage to go for his gun. The ‘hostage’ complies as it turns out he was a fake hostage. Punchline – Dredd had no idea this was the case, he was “just testing”.
Dream Police. A suspected jewel thief is put in custody following a tip-off (probably from Max Normal,. but not named). It looks like they’ll have to release him due to lack of evidence, but they’ve still got time to hold him for one more night so when he falls asleep the Dream Police are called in to wire him up to a dream machine. All the suspect dreams of is eating, giving Dredd the idea to run him through the body scanner, discovering that he’s eaten the evidence and they’re in his intestinal tract.
Muscleman has an overly-muscled man (you guessed that from the title, didn’t you) make a display on a Mega-City street, threatening all around and showing that even his muscles have muscles (as the image shows a bulge on one of the muscles). Fisticuffs with Dredd show that the usual punch-up doesn’t yield results for the lawman, though when Joe pistol-whips the strong man on the head a bruise (shown with a bulge on the head) acts as the punchline.
What’s Your Name? Dredd stops a citizen asking his name. The mega-citizen gives a smart answer “Chilblain, ask me again I’ll tell ya the same!” Dredd obliges by asking again, this time pointing a lawgiver at the cit. He does not get the same answer. Running a search with control and a strip search on the spot, this is a rare case of Dredd not arresting the citizen, letting him go with the words: “And next time just answer the question, huh?” Bob Edvals (Chilblain): “Y-y-you bet!”
Pet Volcano – does what it says on the tin – guest on a Mega-City One TV show has a pet volcano which is powered by a pseudo-nuclear generator and in a demonstration destroys the TV studio (killing two). When Dredd arrests the owner (who looks vaguely like Benny Hill – I don’t know if this is intentional) asks what the little volcano will do without him. Dredd painlessly puts it to sleep (by flicking it’s switch to off).
Professional Patient is about a citizen who wants to make a complaint. Giving their profession as a hospital patient, they’re upset that the robo-docs wont’ treat him any more (seeing as there’s nothing actually wrong with him). Determined to get back in to hospital one way or another he tries to shoot himself though is a lousy aim and shoots somebody else dead instead. Dredd assigns a new profession to him – prisoner.
Christmas Pardon – the last story of 1982 (though also reprinted with extended panels at the end of 1983). In a gesture of goodwill (and let’s face it , probably also to save on housing prisoners) Chief Judge McGruder (her name is mentioned, unlike previous incumbent Griffin) grants a christmas pardon to one prisoner in every iso-block. The lucky ‘winner’ serving sixty days for littering is handed their charge sheet. Can you see where this is going? Outside the iso-block they rip up their charge sheet and get arrested for littering – sixty days!
Grailpage: Ron Smith’s first depiction of the undercity gets my vote – such a contrast against Steve Dillon’s later depiction but still great.
Grailquote: John Wagner and Alan Grant, Zilch McKay: “But how did you know I’d come here?” Judge Dredd: “Faces change, habits don’t. Move!” Though these stories are packed with punchlines, including “But you told me it cost thirty-four thousand credits!” “That’s what it cost, honey. I never said I paid it!”