The newspaper strips continue in to their third year (and were collected with those from 1981 to 1986 in a hardback edition a few years back). For the sake of logistics, I’m saving these up in to batches for coverage in this blog (it wouldn’t exactly be practical to have one episode per day, interspersed with the weekly progs). As the main place squaxx in the eighties would have seen the stories would have been when they were reprinted in specials and annuals, I’m saving them for after each year’s annuals. For some reason I thought that covering 52 individual stories would take less time than covering an annual. I was wrong. So I’ll try to speed through these episodes, just highlighting things I think interesting. Hopefully I’ll get back on the prog-a-day schedule tomorrow, but I reserve the right for the publishing to get more sporadic when annuals, specials and things like this are involved. All stories, unless otherwise noted, are written by Alan Grant and John Wagner and drawn by Ron Smith.
New Year Party has neighbours of the hosts of said party complain about the noise. Charitably, Dredd gives the hosts one warning to tone it down. Partygoers look on Dredd as a killjoy. Things don’t go well…
Road Block is a quick gag strip – Dredd commandeers a sheet of strengthened plastex carried by two construction droids to form an invisible barrier (well, invisible if you’re not looking for it) which halts a fleeing vehicle.
Comin’ Quiet takes Daily Star readers through half of the six types of bullets as Dredd investigates a break-in at the Silter Factory (I have no idea what the Silter Factory produces). The bullets are ricochet, heat seeker and armour piercing, for hte record.
Citizen Went takes an early 21st century person from suspended animation through Mega-City One and to the Cursed Earth in ten panels. Would probably have worked well earlier in the Daily Dredds run as an introduction to the world of Judge Dredd.
Werewolf at Large Almost contemporary to Cry of the Werewolf in 2000AD, this one came first and concerns a scientist, Professor Shane Lawney (not Lon Chaney) who has created an elixir to turn him in to a werewolf. If only somebody had told Cassidy… The punchline will probably make the grailquote…
Midjudgement has shades of the group of gangsters trying to come up with the perfect crime at their regular monthly meetings, though this one is a lower class of thug, who are even less subtle as their brute force plan to gang up on the judges falls at the first hurdle (that hurdle being ten perps against Judge Dredd).
Killjoy of the Year goes to show that you should never make assumptions. The publishers of video magazine Homes & Slabs gets the results of their competition (as per the title of this story). You can guess who won and while they’re vacillating on how to let the lawman know, Dredd turns up. Afraid that he’s somehow found out about the award, they hide on the ledge, which crumbles away and the pair fall to their deaths. And Dredd was only there to let them know that a pirate vid-mag distributor had been caught. Leaving a message for them with the robot receptionist he spots a piece of paper with the news about his Killjoy of the Year win and practically smirks: “Nice to know I’m appreciated!”
Just Another Day seems like another strip that would have been better-placed early in the run as an introduction to Mega-City One. There’s some classic Dredd scenes represented – Dredd arrests the victim of an armed robbery (as the victim was already wanted for fraud) and a juve gang is on a fun run in a distinctly Hellfire Club-style vehicle.
Invasion Earth goes all Future-Shock as an alien attack fleet arrives to conquer Earth (the champion is small enough to be picked up in Dredd’s fist).
Benny the Bat has a bat burglar get interrupted by a random crime blitz. The resident of the apartment sleeps through the burglary, shoot-out with the judges and the crime blitz.
Mo-Pad has a large number of incidental deaths as the drivers of a mo-pad crash in to the queue for apartments in a new block (which they had intended on joining). They end up getting a long-term place to stay. (The iso-cubes).
Kidnap and paying kidnappers are both illegal in Mega-City One, so (after saving the victim) Dredd arrests the victim’s husband… I wouldn’t swear to it but I have a feeling the husband is a portrait of John Wagner.
Neo-Luddites an anti-robot rally by the titutular group is broken up by Dredd (along with a bunch of bones). Poetically the leader’s life is about to be saved by robots placing them in a life-support machine. Dredd calls a halt to this, pointing out that the (still conscious) leader’s beliefs prohibit use of advanced machinery (the leader recants).
Child Prodigy has shades of the Albert Sherman story as a child genius uses their intelligence to commit crimes. Rather than punish the child, Dredd enrolls them in the Academy of Law (its own kind of punishment).
Ugly Clinic introduces the ugly craze to newspaper readers, encapsulating Get Ugly in to two panels (it misses out a lot of detail, obviously). This is post-Ugly Tax and the antagonist of the piece has paid for their ugly treatment with the proceeds of murder. Following a lead to a busy (ugly) nightclub, Dredd uses vanity to reveal the culprit by faking a prize for the ugliest man in the club (the prize is life in the iso-cubes).
Happy Man A mega-citizen is happy. We can’t have that. Neither can Judges Nathan and Dredd, and order a crime blitz on the apartment. The mega-citizen still has a smile on their face. Running him down to the Grand Hall of Justice, they strip him, search him, take skin, hair and tissue samples, pump his stomach and take him to interrogation. He smiles through it all and Dredd lets him go (his being innocent and all). In the mega-citizen’s words: “Been a pleasure. Have a nice day.” and in Dredd’s: “A genuinely happy citizen! Take a long hard look at him, Nathan. You may never see his like again!”
Antiquities a standard chase scene for seven panels, followed by the last panel reveal of what the stolen goods are – 20th century relics (including a tin of beans, a rubik’s cube, sink plunger and E.T. toy.
The Elopement a simple gag strip – Dredd comes across a lover attempting to elope with his beloved – but as this involves a ladder stretching over seven storeys there are a few hurdles…
Bionic Bliss I like this one, and it isn’t a direct re-packaging of any story we’ve had before (though there’s an element of how even innocent mega-citizens are afraid of the judges). Paul and Paula Wildebeest married in 1955 and are now celebrating their ‘bionic wedding anniversary’, placing this story in 2105. The thrust of the strip is how Dredd turns up, they panic and have to be treated by an emergency med-wagon, the gag being that Dredd was there to pass on the Chief Judge’s congratulations. Continuity-wise there’s a run-down of notable events the Wildebeest’s have lived through together: eight wars (I can think of four we’ve seen depicted, if we include the Volgan Wars and the Post-Atomic Civil War from that McMahon cover in addition to the Atomic War itself and the Apocalypse War); several planet-wide catastrophes (search me); riots and plagues. I’ve not read all of the pre-2099 books yet – the various ‘Year’ series and the Judges novellas, but no doubt some of the events in those could fit in to these definitions…
Fortune Teller has Dredd pull the voice-print trick on a disguised ‘fortune teller’ – actually a known felon whom the judges had lost all trace of. Sentenced to thirty years for twelve counts of fraud and deception, plus the murder of the ‘real’ fortune teller, this perp was due to be released in 2135 – seven years ago in current Dredd continuity. The final panel gets in the old joke of a fortune teller’s tent being “closed owing to unforeseen circumstances”. Thinking about it, voice prints haven’t seen a lot of use since their first appearance…
Elixir of Life – we’ve had various villains named after Frankenstein in the past, but this un-named Professor (conceivably named Lazarus) more closely follows the plot of Mary Shelley’s book, in bringing a dead person to life – body provided by Justice Department. Unfortunately the Prof hadn’t told Justice Dept what he wanted the body for – otherwise they wouldn’t have sent Strangler Fitch!
Grey Flannel Con George C Parker was a 1930s conman who ‘sold’ popular New York landmarks to dupes – most famously the Brooklyn Bridge. The new ‘owners’ would often then try to charge tolls on places that they didn’t actually own. That’s the basis of this story, though one of the dupes strangely looks more than a little like Boy George – guess it highlights the original 1983 publication date of this strip.
Tomorrow’s Perp has a time traveller from the far future appearing in Mega-City One “to learn the ways of our savage ancestors”. As one mega-citizen points out, Judge Dredd is “just the guy to teach him”. The traveller correctly surmises that Dredd is one who keeps the law among the populace, though their perception isn’t quite so keen on recognising when they get arrested (for landing on a mega-citizen, Wizard of Oz style).
Block Park – Dredd chases a thief into a block park (you may have guessed that from the title). It’s not weather control, but Dredd uses similar tactics when the thief attempts to take a short cut by swimming through the lake (complete with robo-ducks). Does Dredd start swimming for it too? Nope, he orders the robot park-keep to switch the environment to mid-winter – icing up the lake and trapping the thief – nice!
Wisdom of Dredd recasts the Judgement of Solomon in a Mega-City One setting. Having created a theoretical Aarne-Thompson-Uther-Tharg index I’d be negligent not to mention that this tale falls in to the genuine folklorist Aarne-Thompson index (as tale type 926). The 22nd century spin is to have a wife survive being run over by a mopad only to have her head grafted on to the shoulder of her husband. When they petition Dredd for a divorce he decides the body can be split in half, killing both. They decide to put some work in to their marriage.
Concealing Information starts off with some narration in a curious style (sample: “Judge Dredd is a mean son of a gun… Show one sign of weakness and, buddy, you’re dead.”) It calms down about half way through and gets to the point – the perp being hunted is caught in his apartment and his wife lets slip that she’d warned him repeatedly. Dredd arrests her for concealing information – but you can guess that from the title given to this strip.
Electronic Nightmares almost presents us with a sector war (a large scale version of a block war) as Sector 1 has a bone to pick with Sector 3, who have been unrepentantly interrupting their electricity supplies. Dredd’s solution is, of course, to switch off all electricity to both sectors until they sort it out peacefully (it takes them less than five minutes).
Baldies An explosion at a hair removal foam company results in – well, you can probably guess from the title. It affects twenty square kilometres, leaving huge numbers of bald mega-citizens in such areas as Brynner Bypass (I understood that – because Yul Brynner’s a bald actor), Savalas Underpass (I understood that as well, because Telly Savalas is a bald actor) and Hagler Boulevard (erm… I had to look this one up – Marvin Hagler is a bald wrestler). Justice Department has two things to do here – the first is to save the mega-citizens from death and asphyxiation from the hot shavo foam, the second is to transplant hair to all the bald mega-citizens. Or as is encapsulated by the narration box at the end: “The Judges. The difficult they do at once… the ridiculous may take a little longer.”
Fly’s Head Revisited – originally presented as “Great moments in science No 3” has Dredd attempt to halt an experiment simultaneously transplanting the heads of a human scientist and a rad-fly (the rad-fly head gets big, the human head gets small). He arrives too late and the scientist (head on the body of the tiny rad-fly) escapes out of the window – Dredd leaves a message for the scientist to ‘buzz down to HQ’ as the average life span of a rad-fly is ten days and he may want his head transplanted back to his human body sooner rather than later.
Block War After almost witnessing a sector war a month earlier, we get a block war this time. A young judge tries appealing to the warring blocker’s common sense, and pays the price. Dredd resorts to threats and his fearsome reputation. That’s more successful.
Hit or be Hit revisits the theme of mob blitzers (the type whose contracts cannot be cancelled and who self-destruct when captured). It’s not just introducing daily newspaper readers to the concept though – it adds an interesting new twist – the blitzers are not given the identity of the person who paid the contract fee, and so when the target is killed the blitzers also kill the only witness, who is – you guessed it – the person who paid the contract fee.
The Price is Wrong Dredd interrupts a quiz show with his own question – how long has the contestant been conspiring with the show compere. Short but sweet.
Just Another Sniper dealing with a standard sniper, Dredd resorts to vaporising the body as it falls from a walkway through maximum power use of bike cannon – pretty sure we haven’t seen this before or since.
One for the Road has a drunk eschew the advantage of having a computerised car drive him home by pouring alcohol into the car which has the curious effect of making the car drunk as well (pretty sure alcohol-fueled cars don’t work that way). Unfairly the driver gets three years while the car gets life.
Power Tower Remember that time that Power Tower blew? Ron Smith reprises his depiction in one panel as a lawbreaker tries to blackmail the city under threat of recreating the volcano. Fortunately for the city, the moment his ransom demand of a million creds is handed to him and he’s led to a transport outside he walks away from the detonator, allowing for an easy arrest.
Vigilantes Dredd deals with some vigilantes who have formed a lynch mob to kill some muggers, leading a a bit of instant justice from the judge and an excuse to say “There’s only one law in this city. I am the law!”
Escaped Loony Remember that time a perp left the detonator in the hands of a judge, taking away all leverage? Hint – it was two paragraphs ago! This is another tale of perp stupidity as an escapee from a psycho cube tries to evade recapture by visiting a face change clinic. The disguise doesn’t work, but why not? In a future-shock style twist we find out in the last panel – he got the perfect disguise – but on the wrong side of his head!
Baffin Island Ambassador – I had to look this one up, as I had no idea where Baffin Island was (it’s an Canadian island in the arctic). Said ambassador is victim of an attempted assassination attempt by the Baffin Island Nudist Liberation Front and barely survives, in much the way that Lips Lazarus barely survived – i.e. head in a jar. The ambassador complains. Dredd gives him short shrift, firstly for ignoring Justice Dept guidelines about leaving the embassy unprotected and secondly for being ungrateful. Presumably he has some form of diplomatic immunity, so escapes with the mere threat that the wheels on his head-jar cart could be taken away.
Tickled to Death Two kids buy a tickling machine from a joke shop and stick it on their dad while he’s asleep. He uncontrollably falls out of the window of their apartment and the whole thing is a set-up for Dredd to say “He was tickled to death”.
Charity Mugger No, not a slur on people who work for charities, but a mugger on a sponsored mugging spree (the charity, of course, Help the Victims of Muggings). The sentence is psycho cube observation.
Anti-Mugging Suit Depending on how it ties with the Guard-O-Ped story, this is either the second or third appearance of the anti-mugging suit (the first, I think, was a Max Normal story). This actually ends up with the suit being banned, so I suspect it appeared before the Guard-O-Ped story (which resulted in the suit being un-banned). It got banned after one enthusiastic wearer managed to kill three muggers.
I Bet These nine panels encapsulate the daily shorts perfectly – Dredd sentences a mega-citizen to six months for a minor misdemeanor – littering – and arrests another for using a figure of speech which, taken literally, is an admission of guilt for another – gambling. Use of 22nd century technology gets the mega-citizen off the hook, leaving a few panels for another figure of speech acting as a punchline (complete with a silent panel to act as a beat – pretty unusual in a nine-panel adventure strip). P.S. the two figures of speech are “I bet you make exceptions” and “I wouldn’t be on it”.
Mega-City Biter – no, it’s not the appearance of bite fighters in the daily but a compulsive biter, who’s served twelve terms in the iso-cubes but can’t stop himself biting upon release. Dredd gives him a final chance – put on a muzzle (though not before we get a memorable scene where the perp bites Dredd’s gluteus maximus). What was that I said about a silent beat panel last story? The beat lasts for two panels without dialogue this time!
Alphabet Killer Remember Aaron A Aardvark? This story introduces Aaron B Aardvark. Unfortunately he’s already dead on the slab in the morgue when we meet him. What’s more there’s a host of other Aardvarks accompanying this Aaron in the Justice Dept Morgue. The former Eric Plunket changed his name to be first in the phone book. The antagonist of this story also wants to be first in the phone book (or citizens’ register) but has decided to murder their way to the top instead of just changing their name. Punchline? The murderer’s name is Larry Whelk.
Jimps – almost an addendum to the story which ran in the prog this has a couple of perps try to steal money from a credit house by dressing as judges. As they leave they encounter Dredd and try to ride it out, trusting in their disguises to see them through. Unfortunately for them they’re overweight, slovenly and walk with slumped shoulders. Also they put their eagles on the wrong shoulders…
Emotion Machine more scientific discoveries, this time by Heath Rubix (the name no doubt a combination of W. Heath Robinson and Ernő Rubik). As most crime is committed by those with emotional problems (goes the argument of the scientist) his emotomax machine can control crime – not quite Death’s “all life is committed by the living so life itself is a crime”. Demonstrating this to Chief Judge McGruder and a panel of judges he makes just one mistake. Putting his assistant through a few emotions he starts with happiness, continues with hatred but is stopped by Dredd when he gets to guilt – as the assistant lets slip a few of the inventor’s secrets. A sentence of twenty-three and a half years later, at least McGruder is convinced that the invention has potential…
Last of the Mohicans The last blood descendant of the Mohican tribe produces a charter signed by George Washington proving that his tribe has the title to what has become Sector 14, in 2105 home to three million citizens. Makes a change from Cursed Earth tribes – though Dredd uses a technicality to deal with the situation (City Bottom belongs to Mega-City One, the Chief can have the Undercity).
Highest Building is the story of two billionaires who are competing to have the tallest building in Mega-City One. Conveniently they’re located right next to each other, in range for one to taunt the other when the latest addition makes their building the highest. Though also in range of a gun fired by the upset party. There’s even a punchline – the murderous billionaire only needed to wait as the momentarily tallest building didn’t have planning permission and is due to be torn down by Justice Department.
Manta Tank One of my favourite items from the Justice Department gets its newspaper debut (and this appearance might pre-date Ron Smith’s drawing in Bob & Carol & Ted & Ringo). The actual strip is about some perps holed up in an old building, whose idea of how long they can remain holed up is shattered by the arrival of said tank.
Mobile Muggery has a gang of perps hit on the idea of driving a bus, dosing up the passengers with sleep gas and robbing them while they’re unconscious. The only problem is that they run on time, which alerts Dredd’s suspicions. Turns out the last time it was on time was twenty years earlier – and that was also when it was hijacked.
Time Retrieval is the last appearance this year of Great Moments in Science (No 5) and explores time travel. The invention is a time retrieval system (you could probably have guessed that from the title) and the example given is to reach back in to prehistory and grab something from there (there doesn’t appear to be a great deal of control going on here). The something turns out to be a tyrannosaur, which promptly eats the doctor who invented the machine. Dredd is on hand to kill the dinosaur, though I really feel that Justice Department should vet these experiments prior to their public demonstrations…
So, quite a mix of stories this year. Quite a few are re-presenting ideas which have run in the progs and repackaging them in digest form. There’s quite a few which appear to take the Douglas Adams approach to humour – start with a punchline and work back to lead up to it. Can’t remember where I read that about Adams – it was probably either the commentary in the Radio Scripts or Neil Gaiman’s Companion to the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. It’s all good, though I’m looking forward to the era of extended daily stories. Despite generally being referred to as ‘Daily Dredds’, at this point all the strips ran on Saturdays only – the next stage is when the Saturday strip is around ten panels long while weekdays usually have a three-panel strip for a continuing story. The final phase is where the longer self-contained Saturday stories are replaced by the weekday-style three panels.
Grailpage: I promise I did look back through all the strips that had been published this year – though I ended up with the last one – mainly for Ron’s pic of a tyrannosaur. At a guess I’d say this may have been drawn after the Bob & Carol & Ted & Ringo story, as the dinosaur looks like Ron’s had lots of practice by this point.
Grailquote: John Wagner and Alan Grant, Judge Dredd: “I’m arresting you on five counts of murder, four counts of malicious wounding – not to mention two counts of fouling the walkways.” also, mega-citizen: “Sounds like a terrible orgy of violence going on in there!” Un-named judge (thought bubble): “Hmm… There’s Dredd’s bike. It figures.”