Judge Dredd Annual 1986

Like my first, my second Judge Dredd annual has a Carlos Ezquerra cover though this one’s much more blue than the last one.

Following Ezquerra, Robin Smith provides the contents page artwork, showing Dredd stalking the ruins of a Mega-City One wasteland (with some kind of large red sun in the background?

Judge Dredd: John Brown’s Body by T B Grover and Carlos Ezquerra. Dredd and his latest rookie are split up – Dredd takes out two perps while the rookie chases after a third (the John Brown of the title), who he catches and leaves cuffed to a pedway handrail. Returning to Dredd he reveals where the perp is to an explosive reaction from Dredd. The narrative switches to Brown, intercut with a scene where we find out the reason for Dredd’s reaction – Hayte Street has one of the worst crime rates in the city. Keeping to ‘show not tell’, we’ve already seen Brown attacked by juves before getting his jacket, legwear and footwear stolen by a passing couple. In short order his googles, false teeth and even underwear are stolen before an ambulance turns up – though funny how loss of false teeth and loss of clothes seem to go hand-in-hand in Mega-City One (though in The Great Plasteen Disaster one megacitizen was left naked on a thoroughfare when his plasteen clothes disintegrated while an onlooker’s plasteen teeth disintegrated evan as they were laughing at them). Oh, and that ambulance – well, it’s a white hovervehicle with a red cross on it, but it’s occupied by organleggers, not ambulancemen – the last thing Brown had stolen was his body. And so the rookie fails (in Dredd’s words: “In style!”) – a neat tale of the perils of taking a routine assessment to become a judge (not to mention being arrested by a rookie). I have one tiny criticism of the story – how could the rookie be expected to know about the high crime rate on Hayte Street – the addition of six words could solve this “Didn’t you read the briefing – ” before “it’s got one of the worst crime rates in the city!” Can you tell that this bothered me when I first read it in 1985? That’s my 2020 solution, anyway.

Judge Dredd: A Beginner’s Guide repeats things which long-term Squaxx already know – though there is a stat about the post-Apocalypse War city still having over 1000 million miles of roadway. For comparison, the present day USA has just over 4 million miles of roadway – though those roads are mainly on the ground (apart from a few double-decker freeways), and as we know from Judge Souster’s sacrifice, some areas might have eight or more roadways at different levels in the Mega-City (Souster jumps off of one roadway, slices through four more, impacts on a fifth and there are two or three below even that – and that’s not even touching city bottom. Don’t you love analysing the demographics of fictional places far beyond what the creators of those places were expecting? Other than that there’s not much to say about this four-page feature – it’s a re-hash of past stories (though of course first time I encountered this I hadn’t read the stories in question, so this must have been the most complete image I had of the strip’s history). Not for the first time I’m wondering whether John Wagner was intending any parallels when he wrote about a carpenter who was killed but then resurrected in an improved form to lead a revolt against an oppressive regime only to leave Earth once and for all in a ball of light (I’m describing Call-Me-Kenneth, not Jesus).

Judge Dredd: A Fistful of Denimite (or so says the contents page and title – there’s a judge who appears in the first few panels, but we don’t see their badge and the only named judge is Anderson). Not credited but the art is by Ian Gibson. Anderson is called to the scene of a death – the murder of a nightwatchman. They’ve been dead too long to pick up any latent psychic readings, but there’s another clue – a torn fragment of denimite from the perp’s jacket. Even better, it has some blood on it, giving Anderson a much clearer reading. Following intuition to an amusement park and after a brief chase through a hall of mirrors the chaser and chasee end up on a rollercoaster (though I do wonder why Anderson didn’t just wait on the ground for the perp to reach the end of the rollercoaster). When the rollercoaster starts dipping, whipping and flipping that denimite jacket fails the perp once again as it rips, leading to his death by falling (or at the very least, serious injury). In comparison to this year’s 2000AD annual story, Gibson has spent a lot less time on this story – as well as being in black and white except for some greyscale paints or inks, this has much less detail than when Gibson spends time on work. Unlike with a few Emberton stories I don’t think this is down to concentrating on a music career (Gibson was staying up night rehearsing and playing in a band, and rushing off comic pages to pay the bills) but more to spending more time on that afore-mentioned 2000AD annual story and probably working on book three of Halo Jones.

Readers’ Art Special: Draw the Law! Any famous names? Not that I recognise. Roughly half of the pics are straight copies from published pics (I spot copies of Bolland, McMahon and Ron Smith) with one of the remaining three in an early Dredd style from the Robot Wars era.

Judge Dekker: The Rookie – text story time – not credited and I’ve had a look elsewhere and can’t find out who wrote this. I’m not entirely sure who provides the art – it doesn’t look unlike Kim Raymond’s work, though the ink washes give it a different look to the pen and ink we’ve seen in the prog. I was almost going to say that this short story opens with a pointless bit about Dekker’s partner being killed, but then I realised it is relevant, if not emphasised later on as perhaps it should have been. Dekker is assigned to handle the final assessment of a rookie. In case you think she hasn’t been on the streets long enough to be given such a task, the captain who assigns her also remarks on this (and yes, they are referred to as Captain Gurvitz and not Judge Gurvitz or Sector Chief Gurvitz, which is a bit unusual). Cadet / Rookie Judge Mitchell is pretty capable but has chivalry, a bit of a drawback in a judge. This first manifests when he suggests Dekker cover the rear exit of a sauna because it has a ‘men only’ sign on the door, and Dekker is a woman. Dekker goes in anyway, and orders the naked men there present to raise their hands above their heads, which they do – except for the person they chased in there, who raises a gun instead (that’s not a euphemism). A few weeks later and Mitchell is doing well with his assessment, until a murder comes up – something to test him. Unfortunately for him but fortunately for the narration, the murderer ends up being (spoiler) the 60-something year old mother of a murder victim for twenty years previous, killing those who murdered her son as they leave the iso-cubes. His hesitation at pointing a lawgiver at a 65-year-old woman leads to his death. Dekker has a bit of recrimination but is cleared and has Joe Dredd giver his old rookie a pep talk leaving her fine to take on another rookie in due course. The next rookie along almost shows signs of chivalry in a kindly manner to the old lady victim of some muggers – until she bashes one of the tied up muggers with her walking stick. In the grand tradition of Judge Dredd, the rookie sentences her to six months for premeditated assault. A nice cap to the tale and something must have struck me about it as I remembered this over the decades when that diary of a mad citizen story didn’t leave an impression with me.

Judge Dredd: Statue of Judgement – reprint time, this one coming from Prog 7 though with the addition of a credit card (written by M Shaw, drawn by M McMahon and with letters by J Aldrich). Anything strike me this time that I didn’t mention last time around? The perps (a mugging gang) recognise the siren of Judge Dredd. What, the sirens of individual judges have different sounds? Perhaps they’re like ringtone? I’d still like to know what the seven different settings on the (as yet unnamed) lawrod do though.

Mega-City Media Quiz – 10 questions. In charge of the questions was Rackle and I got ten out of ten!

Six of the Best – six Daily Dredd strips, which I cover by year from the collected editions which Rebellion brought out a few years ago (writing in 2021).

Judge Dredd: Crazy R Raiders by T B Grover and Carlos Ezquerra Starting off with a view of a Dan Tanna Junction-esque piece of Mega-City One infrastructure, this painted Ezquerra story explores the actions of a rogue Citi-Def unit, not that we’ve ever seen many examples of anything but a rogue citi-def unit – remember one of the stories that ran in 2000AD when I first started buying the prog was The Graveyard Shift. This one isn’t motivated by block mania or block war, but by going on an exercise to prepare to defend the city in case of a future invasion. Though they do this by blowing up Mega-City infrastructure and killing mega-citizens. Dredd posits a viewpoint on citi-def units at the wrap-up to the story (disarm them) to which we get a response from a med-judge that this would affect constitutional rights – I’m not sure, but I think the writers may have been commenting on the right to arm bears, or something? Something like that.

Justice Department Data File: Judge Anderson, showing a piccy from the recent debut Judge Anderson series, artwork by Brett Ewins. The fluff text recounts the events of said story, but also tells the reader to refer to the Judge Death Data File – could this be referring to that feature near the end of this year’s 2000AD annual? No!

Cover Special – The Law in ’84 reprints (in thumbnail size) the eighteen Dredd covers we’ve seen in 1984. Artist-wise we have Robin Smith: 2, Brett Ewins: 4, Ron Smith: 6, Steve Dillon: 2, Kim Raymond: 3, Ian Gibson: 1.

Judge Dredd – more reprint, this time The Robot of the Year Show by John Howard and Ron Turner followed by the first episode of The Robot Wars by John Howard and King Carlos (featuring the first death of a carpenter). I always think that Police Bloodhound Robot is a bit oversized. Oh, and the space that filled the bottom half of the last page of Carlos’s episode (originally filled with stamp advert, naturally) is here taken by the Robin Smith Thrill-Suckers Reservation Coupon.

Mega-City One Examination Board. Rackle’s back envigilating the exam so time to get out the portrait of her by John Higgins. Loads of questions this time around over four pages and on different topics. Can I gain my General Certificate of Mega-Knowledge (a spoof on the General Certificate of Education Ordinary Level – popularly known as the GCE or ‘O’ level until replaced by GCSEs in 1988). This exam consists of four sections with five questions in each section. 1. History. I got four out of five (I correctly identified Chief Judge Fargo, and his nickname – Father of Justice, but didn’t identify which year he was appointed or died. 2031 and 2051 respectively). 2. General Science and Mathematics. Four out of five – my invigilator gave me half points for getting most of two questions right but not getting the numbers of years (the human body is broken down in to 109 constituents by Resyk and the adifax gland of the Stookie was discovered in 2059). 3. Geography. This time I got everything right, and more succinctly described the new sector boundaries (better than Judge Barratt, anyway). 4. The Law. Four out of five again, I didn’t know how far the city limits stretched in to the Black Atlantic (forty miles out).

A Second Six – more Daily Dredds. The blurb at the beginning says the scripts are by John Wagner (no mention of Alan Grant), art by Ron Smith and lettering by Tom Frame.

Justice Department Data File – Judge Death, the companion piece to that Judge Anderson data file, though curious in the same year that saw a similar file in the 2000AD Annual. As with Anderson, artwork is by Brett.

Walter the Wobot. As I recall, this was drawn some time before but was sitting around in a drawer for some time before ending up in this annual. We’ve certainly seen the pic of Walter appear a few times prior to this. It’s a ‘what if’ story according to the narration and starts with Walter hitting the skids without Dredd in the robot’s life. Taking inspiration from a video history of 20th century punk he takes his last memento of Dredd – some pyjamas – and wears them as if they were a ripped-up suit. Not the worst Walter one-page strip, but not the best either.

Judge Dredd reprints The New You face-change story from Programme 3 (just the four pages, not the back page, which wasn’t really part of the story anyway). Script robot was Pat Mills, art by Mike McMahon and lettering by John Aldrich.

Spot the Difference! Two pictures of Dredd and a set-up to search for the differences before and after Dredd confronted The Death Gang. The kicker is that there is no difference in the two pictures because “when Dredd goes into action nothing changes” – though this would have had more impact if the picture hadn’t been an Ezquerra image from The Apocalypse War showing Dredd’s uniform somewhat in tatters!

Another pic by Carlos (and also from The Apocalypse War) also frames the obligatory advert for the 2000AD Annual 1986.

Judge Dredd: Crime Call is uncredited but the artwork is by John Higgins. Despite being around since the early days of 2000AD, and providing painted artwork for Starlord I think this might be the first time John paints Dredd. Crime Call, we are told, is one of Mega-City One’s top vid-shows, giving megacitizens a chance to inform on their family, friends and neighbours. We follow one call handled by Judges Dredd and Slinger as they follow-up a kidnapping. The story switches viewpoints a number of times between the kidnappers and the judges, showing that one of the kidnappers is watching the show and is aware that they’ve being broadcast. Does this give them the advantage? Not really, the other kidnappers aren’t paying a whole lot of attention. The vid-watcher gets killed by the end, but the punchline is that he actually was the one to call in to Crime Call, wanting to be famous enough to risk imprisonment (death hadn’t been part of the equation though). Should have mentioned – it’s seven pages long, with a ‘standalone’ first page and the others comprising of three double-page spreads.

Grailpage: John Higgins, the one where the Crime Call cameras follow Judges Dredd and Slinger outside the kidnapper’s hide-out.

Grailquote: Med-judge: “You’re talking constitutional rights there.” Judge Dredd: “Rights can be wronged.”

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