Judge Dredd – The Cursed Earth observations
Being that Dredd3D just came out in the US after the UK premiere 2 weeks ago (special poster for Mondo by Jock, left) there have been numerous articles on which stories new readers should read up on should they want more from the character’s 35 year history. I thought it would be interesting to re-read one of the classics to see how well it held up today and see what others may be encountering for the first time.
‘The Cursed Earth’ is the first Judge Dredd ‘epic’, ie: a long form story recounting a significant event in the Dredd mythology. It ran from Prog 61 to 85 in 2000ad, way back in 1978 and coincidentally the premiere episode was also the first issue of the comic I ever bought as a child so I have fond memories of it.
Reading back through the collected edition was an enlightening experience though, all the art was present and correct, forever burned into my brain as I’d looked at it a thousand times as a child. The big shock though was the dialogue from writer Pat Mills, the man who started 2000ad and went on to write so many great strips for the comic but wasn’t Dredd’s main creator (that accolade falls to John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra). Baring in mind that this was the late 70′s and 2000ad was slowly reinventing what British boys comics could be, it’s interesting to see how the character has developed with age and return to a time when storytelling was a lot more simplified.
I’ve picked out a few choice panels which made me smile but probably wouldn’t appear in today’s version of Dredd. Only two artists drew the saga* – Brian Bolland, all clean lines and perfect anatomy, and Mike McMahon – a scratchy, rough style with the classic big booted look to his characters. Each are fan favourites and both helped define the Dredd uniform as we know it today. *(Dave ‘Watchmen’ Gibbons actually inked a couple of Bolland episodes too for the record).
The panel above is hilarious and unfortunately there are a lot more like it that turn up throughout the epic. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sylvester Stallone read this and took it as gospel for his performance in the 1995 version of the film. Of course, back in 1978 this was gung-ho Dredd and my 8 year old self probably thought it was great.
The image on the left above is from the opening splash page of the first episode, check that dialogue - wow - another spiky speech balloon too which usually meant the character was shouting. To the right of it, Dredd goes all Scooby Doo trying to solve the mystery of a vampire terrorizing a village. It turns out to be a trio of medical robots who need fresh blood for the body of the cryogenically frozen last president of the United States.
Some campy comedy in these two panels, Dredd wouldn’t be so polite in the top one these days and the little ‘speed roll’ thought bubble made me laugh. More often than not this kind of thing would be said out loud preceded by a, “only one chance!, got to…”.
Above is one of the cliffhanger end panels that they were so fond of back in the day and still have their place in today’s comics too. I love the fact that he’s about to be eaten by a Tyrannosaurus and he still has the time for a bad gag to round things off.
Two more final panels, the left one from the end of the first episode and the right from the penultimate part. Note the change in the character’s uniform and progression in drawing style by McMahon in just the space of 20 odd episodes. The rounded helmet has been straightened out and the chin is bigger – both artists really nailed their own takes on him during this run and helped iron out a lot of the creases in the original designs.
For a very enlightening insight into the creation of the character and the comic landscape at the time head over to Pat Mills‘ new blog as he goes into detail on the genesis of Dredd’s creation.