Brian Bolland
Brian Bolland

Everything You Need to Get Caught up on Judge Dredd Comics

Brian Bolland
Brian Bolland

If your knowledge of Judge Dredd is limited to the campy Stallone movie or a couple of comics you read in the ‘90s, you’ve only scratched the surface of what this sci-fi classic has to offer. With some advice from Douglas Wolk—comics critic, Dredd expert, and writer for the new mini-series Judge Dredd: Mega City Two—I've compiled everything you might need to know to get started with this surprisingly interesting and complex comic.

Who is Judge Dredd?

Joseph Dredd is a law enforcement officer in Mega-City One—a sprawling American metropolis in the 22nd century, spanning roughly from Boston all the way down to Charlotte. Dredd and his fellow officers are referred to as "Street Judges" because they have the authority to apprehend, sentence, and even execute criminals on the spot. He is the most famous and most feared Judge in all of Mega-City One, where crime runs rampant despite the zero-tolerance polices of its authoritarian government.

We’ve never seen Dredd's face and only learned his true origin after decades of comics. He is a clone of Judge Fargo, the first Chief Judge.

Dredd was created by British comics writer John Wagner and artist Carlos Ezquerra for the second issue (or “prog” as they’re called) of 2000 AD magazine in 1977. To this day, Wagner still writes a majority of the Dredd strips and has been behind many of the most beloved stories in the character’s history. There have been a number of artists involved in the comic over the years including Brian Bolland, Mike McMahon, Colin MacNeil, Steve Dillon, and many more.

It’s a comedy, police procedural, and sci-fi epic rolled into one

Most people with only a passing experience with Judge Dredd tend to think it’s a holdover of '80s-era right-wing revenge fantasies in the vein of Dirty Harry. However, even back then, it was actually a satire of those kinds of attitudes about crime and punishment. The Judges will often slap litterers and traffic violators with ridiculous multi-year prison sentences. Dredd himself is kind of a fascist jerk who delivers ruthless justice in a way that makes you question whether he’s even supposed to be the good guy.

This is a British comic about a dystopian America written primarily for a British audience, and it often has some Anglo-centric in-jokes and sight gags.The writers typically use a police-procedural plot structure to explore Dredd's futuristic world and socio-political landscape. In recent years, the tone of the stories have become more sophisticated in how they depict the politics and ethics of the Justice System in which Dredd operates.

The stories progress in real time and Dredd is now 70 years old

We’re so used to superhero comics existing in a state of arrested development, but, since its debut in 1977, Judge Dredd has progressed in real time. It began in 2099 and it is now 2136. Dredd himself is 70 years old. He's been on active duty for over 50 years and is much more world-weary and reflective than he was in the early strips. His fellow judges look at him a little differently now, too, like an old timer who may be past his prime.

About six years ago, Dredd was diagnosed with benign duodenal cancer. It’s not something that is referenced much in the current stories and it may not be life-threatening (especially with all the future tech cloning possibilities), but it seems to point to the fact that we may be reading the protracted end of Dredd’s story.

While the comics are structured as short stories—the 2000 AD editions are delivered in 6- to 8- page installments at a time—there is a very tight continuity and the events of one story will have a lasting impact on future stories. Although it’s pretty easy to jump into any Dredd story to enjoy the action, the more you read and become familiar with his world, the more you appreciate the way it's building upon what has come before.

He has an extended family (most of which are his own clones)

An early Dredd story involved his twin brother Rico (who was actually just another clone of Judge Fargo, like Dredd himself). Rico turned evil and Dredd was forced to kill him in a duel. In a story called "Blood Cadets," published in 2000, another Dredd clone joined the academy and took on the name Judge Rico to commemorate Dredd’s deceased brother. The original Rico was aggressive and antagonistic towards his brother, but the new Rico looks up to Joe, who is old enough to be his father.

In 2006’s Origins, Dredd finds a whole clan of mutant clones made from his “father,” Judge Fargo, living in the Cursed Earth, which are the wastelands between Mega-City One, Mega-City Two, and Texas City. Their existence completely changed his outlook on mutant rights and led to Dredd lobbying for a repeal of the anti-mutant laws, showing a glimpse of empathy that we hadn’t previously seen from him.

The original Rico had a daughter named Vienna who was orphaned by his death and has returned in recent years as an adult. Dredd is protective of her and even visits Vienna on holidays. She is the only person who seems to elicit acts of compassion from him.

Another Dredd clone is Dolman, who went out on his own after quitting the Academy. He was forced to get a face change to protect Dredd's identity and he pops up from time to time. Dolman has become close with Vienna, who treats him like a little brother.

There are more clones of Dredd/Fargo out there that we continue to meet over time such as Judge Kraken (a rogue clone created to overthrow the judges), Nimrod (a genetically enhanced clone), and others.

He has a long tradition of working with tough female judges

Dredd has had a number of tough female partners over the years, from Judge Anderson of Psi Division to Judge Hershey (both had their own spin-off titles for a while). The comics have always presented these female judges as working on an equal playing field with Dredd and they have, in some cases, been his superior. Judges are prohibited from having sex and Dredd is as cold as they come, so there have never been any romantic entanglements. (Well, except for one time when Judge Galen DeMarco took him by surprise.)

Judge America (Ami) Beeny is the daughter of an activist who was killed because of an order given by Dredd in perhaps the most celebrated Judge Dredd story ever, America. In Cadet, one of two sequels to that story, we see Beeny rise quickly through the ranks, becoming a full judge by the age of 15. She is a prodigy in the Justice System and Dredd has championed and defended her progress, even when other Judges feel uncomfortable taking orders from a young girl. Although she does not blame Dredd for her mother’s death, her goal is to reform what she sees as a problematic system from the inside.

Over 80% of the population of Mega-City One has just been wiped out

In Day of Chaos, the most recent major storyline which ran through 2000 AD progs 1743-1789, Sov City (the Soviets) unleashed a deadly virus called the Chaos Bug in retaliation for the devastation they suffered during the classic "Apocalypse War" story from 1982.

In addition to the Sov City attack, a serial killer who has been posing as the mayor goes berserk and the genocidal Dark Judges are set loose. As a result, 87% of the population of Mega-City One are killed and a terrorist attack on the Academy of Law takes out almost every cadet.

Things are now a hell of a lot worse in the world of Judge Dredd, and future story lines must deal with the aftermath of the disaster(s).

There are now two publishers putting out Dredd comics

Historically, British publisher 2000 AD has been in charge of all things Dredd, publishing stories in 2000 AD magazine as well as Judge Dredd Megazine. They usually collect individual storylines and include them in their own graphic novels, although these are often hard to track down in the states. Digitally, most volumes are available in Kindle format and 2000 AD has an app in the iOS Newsstand where they sell affordable volumes of every single Judge Dredd story they’ve ever published.

In 2013, American publisher IDW began putting out their own monthly Judge Dredd comic written by Duane Swierczynski plus spin-offs like Douglas Wolk’s Mega-City Two and a Judge Dredd: Year One mini-series. The IDW books draw upon what John Wagner and company have established in the 2000 AD books, but the stories are set back in 2100 and it looks like they aim to establish their own unique continuity.

Where to start reading

There are a lot of Dredd stories out there and, in the past decade or so, they’ve become sophisticated in how they continually build upon what’s come before. It can be intimidating to figure out how and where to jump in. Douglas Wolk has probably the perfect prescription on his blog, where he gets into a lot of critical detail on each storyline.

This is the gist of Wolk's recommendations:

If you want to sink your teeth into classic Judge Dredd, the best place to start is Judge Dredd: Complete Case Files 05. This is a black and white, phonebook-sized collection of strips from 1981-1982 that include important classics like "Judge Death Lives" and "The Apocalypse War."

For recent Dredd stories where things get richer and more interesting, you probably can’t go wrong with the America trilogy. It’s considered a turning point in tone for the series; however, it doesn’t actually feature Dredd himself that much within the story. It’s hard to track down a print collection of this in the States, but you can buy it digitally from 2000ADonline or get a Kindle edition.

Judge Dredd: Origins is a recently released collection that finally lays out all the pieces of Dredd’s origin that have been hinted at for decades. You can get it in book format or digitally via 2000AD. Appropriately, Dredd creators John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra reunited to tell this story.

Meanwhile, IDW is aiming for something of an “Ultimate” Judge Dredd, in which their comics are free of the past couple of decades of continuity and have started fresh with a younger Dredd and Judge Anderson solving cases in Mega-City One. This is still very early into its run, with three volumes of the main series currently available.


Previously in this series I've helped you catch up on everything going on in the X-men comics and in Batman comics.

5 Records Black Panther Has Already Broken

Black Panther isn’t just a success—it’s a phenomenon. Based on the Marvel Comics character created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the movie has already grossed well over $1 billion at the worldwide box office, and it’s not exactly slowing down, remaining at the top spot for a fourth weekend. It’s currently the seventh-highest grossing movie of all time at the domestic box office, trailing heavy-hitters like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Jurassic Park, and Titanic.

It’s also a huge win with critics and audiences, as it currently holds the best Rotten Tomatoes score for a Marvel movie, beating out The Avengers, Spider-Man 2, and Iron Man. With all of the praise and money pouring in, we’re taking a look at five records Black Panther has already broken.


February has typically been seen as a soft month at the box office, especially where blockbusters are concerned. But in 2015, Deadpool changed all of that by taking in a record $130+ million over its Valentine’s Day weekend debut. While that was a record at the time—and even more impressive for a movie with an R rating—Black Panther left that total in the rearview, taking in around $202 million in its first weekend in theaters. That was good enough for the highest February weekend of all time, but that’s not even all of it.

The movie’s $75+ million Friday was the highest ever February debut and the biggest opening day overall for a solo superhero movie—exceeding the likes of 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises and 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. It also holds the record for the biggest February preview day ($25.2 million) for its late-night Thursday screenings before its official Friday premiere.


Chadwick Boseman in 'Black Panther' (2018)
Disney/Marvel Studios

In 2017, director F. Gary Gray’s The Fate of the Furious took in an impressive $1.2+ billion at the worldwide box office, with $226 million of that coming from the United States. For a while, that was the biggest box office win for an African-American filmmaker both domestically and internationally. But after its opening weekend, Black Panther was already at $200 million, and after the President’s Day holiday that came immediately after, it had amassed another $40.176 million—easily giving director Ryan Coogler the crown of helming the highest-grossing film for an African-American director (and cast) in the United States (even when adjusting for inflation). And before its run is over, it will certainly top Furious’s worldwide total.


Not even a galaxy far, far away could stand up to Black Panther. Star Wars: The Force Awakens used to hold the crown for the highest-grossing Monday at the box office with $40.110 million but was topped by Panther’s $40.176 million.


Added to that, Black Panther now owns the Marvel record for the highest-grossing Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, as well as the best first Marvel week overall, coming in at $292 million, compared to The Avengers’s $270 million in 2012. It also topped every other Marvel movie’s second weekend with $108 million and only trails The Force Awakens for the best second weekend in history.


Black Panther came out of the gate strong with the biggest debut for a solo superhero movie ever at $75.81 million. Then, after 27 days in theaters, it topped them all, becoming the highest-grossing solo superhero movie in U.S. history, beating out the $534.8 million held by The Dark Knight Rises. This means it topped all the other Iron Man, Captain America, and Spider-man solo movies on the character's first attempt. It still has some work to do to topple the $623,357,910 of The Avengers, but nothing is off the table at this point.

However, these numbers don’t take inflation into account. So while it trounced Spider-man’s 2002 domestic take of $403 million, you’re comparing it to ticket prices from 16 years ago. In reality, Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man would have made $637 million today—and that Avengers total would jump up to $705 million.

Myles Aronowitz, Netflix
10 Super Facts About Jessica Jones
Myles Aronowitz, Netflix
Myles Aronowitz, Netflix

Jessica Jones is back! After a more than two-year wait, fans of Marvel's rough-around-the-edges superhero-turned-private eye are celebrating the arrival of her Netflix series' second season (and binge-watching it accordingly). Here are 10 things you might not have known about the character.


In 2001, writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Michael Gaydos created Jessica Jones for MAX Comics, an imprint of Marvel. As the star of the comic book series Alias, Jones was the first character created for the new publishers, which allowed for more explicit content than its parent company.

Born Jessica Campbell, she got her superpowers when her family was in a tragic car accident with a military vehicle carrying radioactive chemicals; Jessica was the only survivor. After several months in a coma, Jessica was adopted by the Jones family. Shortly thereafter, she discovered that the chemicals had given her special abilities, including super strength, resistance to physical injury, and the power of flight (though she never quite mastered that one).


Before Jessica Jones arrived on Netflix in 2015, showrunner Melissa Rosenberg had originally developed a series based on the superhero for ABC in December of 2010. The pilot, which was originally called A.K.A. Jessica Jones, featured references to Tony Stark and Stark Industries, and acknowledged the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Unfortunately, ABC passed on the series in 2012. A year later, Netflix partnered with Marvel and Disney for four new live-action TV series and a mini-series. Rosenberg was brought on to develop, produce, and write a new version of Jessica Jones, which joins the Marvel/Netflix roster of TV shows, including Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and The Defenders, a team-up miniseries.


Krysten Ritter in Jessica Jones
David Giesbrecht, Netflix

Jessica Jones made her first appearance in Alias #1, as a former costumed superhero who left her post to become a private investigator. Alias ran for 28 issues between 2001 and 2004. Co-creator Brian Michael Bendis originally made the story’s protagonist Jessica Drew, a.k.a. Spider-Woman, but created Jessica Jones instead, “Which is good,” Bendis told USGamer, “because had we used Jessica it would have been off continuity and bad storytelling.”


Jessica Jones went to Midtown High School in Queens, which is the same high school Peter Parker attended. In fact, Jessica had a crush on Parker while they were classmates. He believed they had a special connection because both of them had lost their families under random and tragic circumstances. After Peter Parker became Spider-Man, Jones (not knowing it was Parker) saw the web slinger protect their school from the evil Sandman, which inspired her to use her superpowers for good. 


David Tennant and Krysten Ritter in 'Jessica Jones'
David Giesbrecht, Netflix

Jewel was the identity Jones adopted for her first attempt at being a costumed superhero, and she didn’t do much to make a name for herself. It wasn’t until she came under the mind control of one of Daredevil’s foes, Zebediah Killgrave (The Purple Man, who is portrayed by former Doctor Who star David Tennant), that Jones saw any real action. Ordered to kill Daredevil, Jones arrived at the Avengers Mansion, where she battled the Scarlet Witch, Iron Man, and Vision. Fortunately, she was spotted by her longtime friend Carol Danvers (Captain Marvel), who took her to safety. After another several months in a coma, Jones was watched over by S.H.I.E.L.D. and eventually regained her mind and identity with the help of some psychic therapy, courtesy of the X-Men’s Jean Grey.  


The super-pair met when Jones donned the hardened vigilante identity Knightress. After dealing with the supervillain the Owl, Jones and Cage had a drunken one-night stand. They then started to have an on-again/off-again relationship. Then she became pregnant with their daughter, Danielle, who was named after Daniel Rand (Iron First), Luke’s best friend.


Mike Colter as Luke Cage in 'Jessica Jones'
Myles Aronowitz, Netflix

After marrying Cage, Jones joined the New Avengers and changed her superhero name to Power Woman as a tribute to her husband’s superhero identity, Power Man. But due to the stress of the job and the potential threat to their new family, the pair left the New Avengers and started a new life. Cage later started up another superhero team called the Mighty Avengers, but Jones, annoyed and irritated with her husband, opted not to join because she wanted to raise Danielle instead. 


Bendis followed up the success of Alias with The Pulse in 2004. It centered on Jones taking a job as a “vigilante analyst" with The Daily Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson. Working alongside reporter Ben Urich, Jones was tasked with uncovering the true identity of Spider-Man, but ultimately discovered that the Green Goblin was really Norman Osborn (which did not sit well with Osborn).


During Marvel’s Civil War, Iron Man and Captain Marvel confronted Jones and Cage about registering with the authorities under the Superhuman Registration Act, which enforced a “mandatory registration of super-powered individuals with the government.” Unwilling to register, Jones and Cage were forced to go underground. 


James McCaffrey, Krysten Ritter, and Rachael Taylor in 'Jessica Jones'
David Giesbrecht, Netflix

Jones’s longtime friend Carol Danvers was originally going to appear in an early version of the TV show. Her character was scrapped and replaced with Trish "Patsy" Walker when the series moved from ABC to Netflix. Marvel then decided to feature Carol Danvers as the star of her own feature film, Captain Marvel, which is due in theaters in early 2019. Oscar-winner Brie Larson will play the title role.

“Back when it was at ABC Network, I did use Carol Danvers," showrunner Melissa Rosenberg explained. "But between then and when it ended up on Netflix ... the MCU shifted, and it also shifted away from the universe in the [comic] book ... But as it turned out, Patsy Walker ended up being [a] much more appropriate fit with Jessica. It was better that her best friend was not someone with powers. It actually ends up being a really great mirror for her.”


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