Judge Dredd Annual 1985: He is the law in Mega-City!

Judge Dredd looks a bit green around the gills in this portrait while the almost full-length pic of the lawman does a jazz hand while firing in this Carlos Ezquerra cover. Meanwhile a ruddy Mega-Cityscape merges in to big Dredd-head’s helmet.

On the other side of the front cover, Carlos Ezquerra is back to present the contents page as Dredd collars (literally) a punk with a spraycan.

Judge Dredd in The Big Bang Theory by TB Grover and (surprise) Carlos Ezquerra. As the title suggests, this one starts with a bang – an entire citiblock blows up in the very first panel! Inset panels show the effects this has on the surrounding sector (similar, but not as in-depth, as nuclear explosions we’ve had in the past – usually illustrated by Ron Smith). The next page sees Dredd in charge of the aftermath, asking “What kind of maniac would do something like this?” The story wastes no time in telling us when the question is answered by a message over the radio telling Dredd to get over to Morgan Fairchild Block. If you remember, we’ve seen the Morgan Fairchild Flamingoes juve gang in Rumble in the Jungle – the same story which introduced the Manta Prowl Tank. Unfortunately I didn’t single out that gang at the time so you’ll have to take my word for it that they were one of the gangs fighting the Y-Bobs… Remember King Albert Sherman who planted five bombs around the city to blackmail the Chief Judge in to agreeing to his demands? Demonstrating the ability by setting of a nuke in the Cursed Earth? This is like that, but starting off by actually killing 60,000 or more mega-citizens. That’s not the only divergence from the earlier story though, as this one gets assassinated by the relative of one of the victims. The insurance policy the bomber had was that they had to send a coded signal to the bombs every hour on the hour. Luckily the judges have 55 minutes after the assassinations. McGruders wastes no time – the apartment being thoroughly searched, orders given to follow any possible lead: the bomber’s birthplace; friends; acquaintances; known haunts; a zoom-tube ticket stub. That’s the first four minutes since the assassination. The first device is found in a maintenance duct found from that ticket stub (by a nose-shaped electronic drone) quickly followed by another in the water-tank of a club which had kicked the bomber out earlier. McGruder had discounted the idea of a device being hidden in the bomber’s own block but when Dredd realises that the bomb would only detonate if the bomber had already died a search of the block discovers the last bomb – with four minutes to spare. A bomb disposal judge is on the scene within a minute, but the remaining three minutes is not enough time to defuse it – RIP Judge Scobie.

Justice Department Data File: Dekker – the filler begins! Illustration by Kim Raymond – shame we didn’t get to see more of Dekker – there aren’t the frequent appearances coming up that Judge Giant got.

Mega-City 1: Destruction of a Megalopolis / New Sector Locations. The first part is a run-down of the Bob’s Law story while the second is a more detailed map – the original story only revealed that Central contained Sectors 1-20 and the North West Hab Zone contained 301-305. This version specifies (continuity alert!): East – Sectors 21-108; South – 109-160; West – 161-240; North – 241-300.

Top Thrills… 1977 – 1984. Remember the voting coupons? Which were the subject of a feature in this same year’s 2000AD Annual? And revealed that Judge Dredd’s top vote in a given week was 50%? Well, this feature specifies which Dredd story achieved the highest share of the vote in each year – and shockingly none of them are 50%! The highest figure is 49%. Disgraceful misreporting in the 2000AD Annual. Top stories were The Return of Rico, The Cursed Earth, The Forever Crimes, The Judge Child (specifically episode 16 – the Cursed Earth didn’t single out an episode), Un-American Graffiti, The Apocalypse War, Shanty Town and finally The Haunting of Sector House 9. I’m surprised Cry of the Werewolf isn’t in there – though it would have been up against some strong competition when it ran. Oh, and 1984 hasn’t finished yet.

Judge Anderson: The Mind of Edward Bottlebum by Grant/Grover and Emberton. Other than a brief appearance in the Graveyard Shift, this would have been my proper introduction to Anderson. It plays in to the usual myth that those with schizophrenia are both violent and have split personalities – that aside, interesting bits of this story where Anderson draws out the afore-mentioned split personality include the presence of a waste recycling plant in the sub-basement of a citiblock in Sector 4 and the tiny size of the cubes in psycho cubes – around the size of a toilet cubicle from the looks of it (and not an accessible cubicle). Not a recipe for quick recovery! There’s lots of psychic running around in the mind of the perp in this one.

Reader’s Art Special: Quick Draw the Law! The usual collection of pop cultural figures as judges, including Desperate Dan, Robert Crumb’s Keep on Truckin’ image, Ernest Errol Quinch and Eddie (Iron Maiden’s mascot, specifically the cover from Killers).

????? Compu-Interrogation – all those question marks are part of the title of this crossword (though having only ‘across’ answers). Having escaped being marked by pen or pencil for thirty-six years, I’m not about to fill in this crossword now, so treated the clues as a straight-forward quiz. Can’t remember if I got any wrong, but if I did it’d be the vague answers like ‘snow’ or ‘rain’ for the question “Weather control used to ensure that this was rare.”

Don’t Hold the Front Page… Dredd’s got it covered! Nine covers from the previous three or four years, breaking down as follows: Brian Bolland (3); Ian Gibson (1); Mike McMahon (1); Ron Smith (2); Carlos Ezquerra (1); Cam Kennedy (1); covers featuring speech balloons (7).

Reprint! Judge Dredd: The Troggies by John Wagner, Ian Gibson and Mike McMahon. I re-read it but won’t go in to great detail as it’s a reprint from Progs 36 and 37. Hailing from the days before Dredd lore hadn’t been so firmly established the more interesting aspects of this are those that have been cast aside (though is this the first appearance of an undercity?) – Mega-City slang has a gronk (not related in any way to the metal-eating compatriot of Johnny and Wulf), sprugg, stronky, grudd (with two ‘d’s). Also, Dredd manages to restore power to a the Lexington Ave subway line and drive a subway train from the Bronx to Grand Central Station in ten minutes or less. I have no idea how possible this is (current transit time is about 25 minutes, but that involves driving at a slow enough speed to be safe for passengers, and also stopping at the stations in between).

We’ve had filler, we’ve had reprint, now it’s time for the text story. Tales of the Cursed Earth: Fog Devils 2 written by Jack Adrian with spot art by Eric Bradbury. Eight pages, about four and a half of which is text and of course the first time I read this story I was reading it in isolation, as this was my first year getting 2000AD annuals and so my Judge Dredd annual. That thing about time travel from last year’s original Fog Devils gets ditched and the survivors of that story instead arrive at another secret scientific establishment from before the war and encounter a deluded robot instead of 19th century fops, as may have been expected. There’s a twist as one of them is forced to reveal that they’re a mutated human being (Krysty’s preferred term for what the narrator called a mutie).

After that text story set in a Cursed Earth facility we don’t stray too far for Judge Dredd in Tarantula by TB Grover and Carlos Ezquerra. If you don’t like seeing spiders eating people or sharp objects being plunged in to eyes then you really won’t like this story! The giant spiders of the title are attacking bisoon (were there any cattle of that breed in the ABC Warriors story on Mars?) but Dredd is around to investigate a murder. World-building – judges get to do a tour of duty as a circuit judge – ‘bringing the law to Mega-City One’s Cursed Earth outposts’. While boasting about the amount that passes through the processing plant, the branch manager reveals (indirectly) that each bisoon produces about two tones of ‘slab’. The alleged murder is by a mutated human being (a mutie scout) whose story of a tarantula as tall as forty men is not believed. Obviously he’s telling the truth and there’s some great action sequences in the Cursed Earth desert as Dredd combats it. Lots of trademark red and white stripy vehicles from King Carlos, as well as (what I’m going to call) Carlos Crackle – the jagged lines around figures in the foreground of some panels.

Arms Buyer’s Almanac 2106. Technically filler, but I love it. Once again – for others this may be a reappearance of items they’ve seen before but for me this is the first time I’d encountered many of the vehicles, weapons and other things. New to me at the time: lawrod (from the Statue of Judgement and also known as a scatter gun – a fact which passed me by); the long gun (seen in the Judge Child Quest); stub gun (Apocalypse War and Shanty Town); beam gun (that ‘war’ on the Moon); zipper bike (seen on the moon and in that Flying Squad story in a previous annual); Justice 2; limpet pod (from Trapper Hag); the Manta Prowl Tank (first appearance: Rumble in the Jungle) and the cling net. Not so new: judge’s helmet; pollution meter; birdie; hover camera; radiation cloak; riot foam; holding post; anti-rad slugs. Unsure (as I may have had my toy, though this would have been my first encounter in the Judge Dredd context): K2001 Land Raider and Killdozer (from the original Cursed Earth story and known collectively as the Modular Fighting Unit). Art by Ian Gibson.

Don’t Get Quizzical with me, Creep! I got most of these correct except for stumbles over the six types of shot fired by the lawgiver (as it hasn’t always been consistent over the years).

Dredd’s Dozen (Daily Dredd) – to be covered in a round-up of Daily strips from the year in my next post.

Justice Department Data File: Arnold Stodgman. Nothing new, the usual, culled from the Requiem for a Heavyweight story (possibly featuring some new weights for other contenders, but maybe even those appeared in the original story).

Reprint – Judge Dredd: The Academy of Law by John Wagner with art by Ian Gibson and Mike McMahon from Progs 27 and 28. Around the time Ron Smith’s debut of glabellar lines on the helmet, this reprint has the eagle head that Gibson used to put above the noseguard on the helmet. This story was my introduction to everything Harlem Heroes.

Advert for the 2000AD annual and answers to the Interroscan and Judge Dredd quiz.

The last of the original stories, the annual is finished with Judge Dredd in The Eat of the Night! by TB Grover and Carlos Ezquerra. Food shortages still being prevalent in Mega-City One, two teams of competitive eaters (the guests being from Texas City) are eating mo-pads in this story. I have questions about this, not least of which is why it was such a big deal that Stodgman ate the ton when it looks like forty fatties have no real problem eating a 24-ton mo-pad (made from non-edible materials). Presumably this story was inspired by media appearances of Michel Lotito, who famously ate metal objects – including a full-size Cessna aeroplane.

The classic Judge Dredd annual back cover is provided courtesy of the Robin Smith Dredd badge adapted from the cover to Prog 262 (sans the bullet hole and blood drops). My copy of this annual has photo mounting corners around the badge to allow me to place leafs from a block of notepaper I had when I was nine years old while I traced the badge (probably putting my own name instead of ‘Dredd’, I’d imagine).

Grailpage: so many great Carlos Ezquerra pages in painted colour, but Ian Gibson contributed a cut-away of a Manta Prowl Tank spoiled only be being printed across two pages with much detail lost in the gutter. I wouldn’t say ‘no contest’ as I really had to think about it, but the tank wins.

Grailquote: TB Grover, Judge: “Never mind, Dredd. We can’t win ’em all.” Judge Dredd: “Maybe not. But I like to win the big ones.”

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