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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Legends Revealed #385

Welcome to the three hundredth and eighty-fifth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, in honor of the release of the new Judge Dredd film, this is an all-Judge Dredd edition of Comic Book Legends Revealed! Learn the origin of the name “Judge Dredd,” discover the strange discrepancy in how early Dredd artists drew Dredd’s ethnicity and marvel at the great censored Burger Wars storyline.

Click here for an archive of the previous three hundred and eighty-four.

Let’s begin!

Dredd3D is out today, so let’s talk Judge Dredd!!

COMIC LEGEND: John Wagner named Judge Dredd after the reggae artist Judge Dread.

STATUS: False enough for a False

Judge Dread (born Alexander Hughes) was a famous English ska and reggae musician.

Taking his name from a Prince Buster song called “Judge Dread,” Dread became a popular (if controversial) musician, best known for his sexual innuendos in his songs (the BBC banned many of his songs).

So obviously John Wagner used this fellow as his inspiration when he invented Judge Dredd, right?

Not exactly. Close, but not exactly.

As you may or may not know, John Wagner created the character now known as Judge Dredd at the request of 2000 A.D. editor Pat Mills, who wanted new character for 2000 A.D. Wagner came up with his pitch, which was a mixture between Dirty Harry, Rollerball, Death Race 2000 and Fahrenheit 451.

As for the name, it was actually MILLS who first used the Judge Dread name. Here’s Mills, from an excellent piece on his blog (which you can read here) with the details:

I had previously created a black magic serial for 2000AD, entitled “Judge Dread“. I had taken the name from a popular Jamaican reggae band at the time. The hero was a kind of occult Doctor Who, with the visual image of Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee. My Judge Dread, famous for being Britain’s last “Hanging Judge”, had sentenced to death many of Britain’s most notorious and vicious murderers. I wrote a first episode where the Judge and his companions pursue a group of black magicians who are holding a sabbat at Stonehenge. It ended with a sensational revelation: Judge Dread discloses he last met the leader of the Satanists when he stood before him in the dock at the Old Bailey; and sentenced him to be hung from the neck until dead!

John, now reviewing this script for me, felt such an occult story did not fit into my comic of science fiction stories and recommended I ditch it. I agreed and, as the title was going spare, he asked me if he could have it for his cop story, to which I also agreed. Later, we changed it to “Judge Dredd” to avoid complaints from the reggae band.

Wagner actually did not get to debut the character (nor did the artist who designed Dredd, Carlos Ezquerra, get to drew the character first) as Wagner temporarily left 2000 A.D. over a separate monetary dispute unrelated to Dredd. This is partially why Judge Dredd did not debut until the second issue (or “prog”) of 2000 A.D, drawn by Mike McMahon and written by Peter Harris (although re-written by Mills)…

Thanks to the legendary Pat Mills for the great information! And thanks to commenter Onion3000 for suggesting I look into this one a few years back!

Check out some Entertainment Urban Legends Revealed!

Did Aaron Spelling Pay Luke Perry’s Salary Out of His Own Pocket on 90210?

Did “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” Come About Because of a Misheard Lyric?

Did Singin’ in the Rain Have a Series of Bizarre Voiceovers?

Did Henrik Ibsen Write an Alternate Happy Ending to A Doll’s House?

Click on any and all of the above links to find out the answers to each of the questions!

COMIC LEGEND: Early Judge Dredd artists drew Dredd with different ethnicities.


When Ezquerra originally designed Judge Dredd, he amazingly based the character’s face on none other than Sylvester Stallone, the guy who would later somewhat infamously play Dredd in a movie

When I first started to draw Dredd’s face, he was based a little bit on Sylvester Stallone (whose movie Rocky had been released around that time in the summer of 1976.) I felt that Judge Dredd would be a man of few words and Stallone’s Rocky Balboa was a good contemporary model. I also decided to give him some large lips, to put a mystery as to his racial background.

Story continues below

(Commenter Instant Justice notes that Ezquerra has since said that he mentioned the Stallone bit as a lark in reference to then current film and did not really use Stallone as an influence)

That last bit about Dredd’s racial background ended up causing an interesting piece of confusion in Dredd’s early depictions. Mike McMahon relied heavily on Ezquerra’s designs for when he drew Dredd, and McMahon simply presumed that Dredd was black, so he drew Dredd as such.

Of course, the book being black and white, it wasn’t exactly evident (far from it).

Later artists drew Dredd as if he was white and when he began appearing on covers it became evident that he was intended to be white…

And that’s how he’s been depicted ever since.

Pretty funny stuff.

Thanks to Everything Comes Back to 2000 A.D. for the scans. And thanks to Colin Jarman and Peter Acton’s Judge Dredd: The Mega History for the Ezquerra quote (and thanks to Ezquerra for giving them the quote).

COMIC LEGEND: A classic Judge Dredd story has been banned from being reprinted because of its usage of trademarked characters.


Reader Dan K. suggest that I feature this one years ago, but it was not until reader Lane commented about it the other week that I was actually compelled to actually do it.

In 1978’s progs 71-72, John Wagner told part of the Cursed Earth storyline with artist Mike McMahon depicting “Burger Wars”…

As you can see, they just flat out WENT for it…

In Progs 77-78, writer Chris Lowder and Brian Bolland then took on the Jolly Green Giant…

2000 A.D. received legal threats and since the United Kingdom’s “parody” defense was not nearly as good as it was in the United States (and even here, parody law in 1978 did not resemble modern parody law at ALL. Just ask Mad Magazine) they agreed never to reprint these particular stories.

As an added bonus, they even did an APOLOGY for the Jolly Green Giant, which is hilarious…

Thanks to Dan and Lane for the suggestion and thanks a TON to Mark Latus for the scans (check his site out here for more scans).

Okay, that’s it for this week!

Thanks to the Grand Comics Database for this week’s covers! And thanks to Brandon Hanvey for the Comic Book Legends Revealed logo!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is cronb01@aol.com. And my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/brian_cronin, so you can ask me legends there, as well!

Here’s my new book, Why Does Batman Carry Shark Repellent? It came out this week! The cover is by Kevin Hopgood (the fellow who designed War Machine’s armor).

If you want to order a copy, ordering it here gives me a referral fee.

Follow Comics Should Be Good on Twitter and on Facebook (also, feel free to share Comic Book Legends Revealed on our Facebook page!). If we hit 3,000 likes on Facebook you’ll get a bonus edition of Comic Book Legends the week after we hit 3,000 likes! So go like us on Facebook to get that extra Comic Book Legends Revealed! Not only will you get updates when new blog posts show up on both Twitter and Facebook, but you’ll get original content from me, as well!

Also, be sure to check out my website, Urban Legends Revealed, where I look into urban legends about the worlds of entertainment and sports, which you can find here, at urbanlegendsrevealed.com.

Here’s my book of Comic Book Legends (130 legends – half of them are re-worked classic legends I’ve featured on the blog and half of them are legends never published on the blog!).

The cover is by artist Mickey Duzyj. He did a great job on it…(click to enlarge)…

If you’d like to order it, you can use the following code if you’d like to send me a bit of a referral fee…

Was Superman a Spy?: And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed

See you all next week!


This was in IDW’s November solicitations…

“This luscious, oversized hardcover volume collects as many Brian Bolland-illustrated Judge Dredd stories as THE LAW* will allow! (*Seriously, there’s one we can’t publish. Ever.)”

That answers that question!

You didn’t publish the best part of “Battle of the Burger Barons”. After Ronald kills the employee for not properly wiping down a table properly, he says, “Everything’s disposable at MacDonalds, including the staff!”

I forgot these Dredd stories were set in 2099 in New York. A shame (well, more a blessing, probably) that we didn’t see Spider-man 2099 or Ravage 2099 in some sort of crossover. But Judge Dredd/Doom 2099, written by Warren Ellis? THAT I would have paid significant money for…

And yes, I used “properly” twice. Whoops.

“Giants aren’t Gentlemen” was an “Island of Dr. Moreau” parody where a mad scientist (who looks like Colonel Sanders) creates an army of mutants that resemble popular advertising mascots. Green Giant was the only company that threatened a lawsuit, and as a result, 2000 AD published the “supplement” seen above.

And this may be obvious, but the title is a play on P. G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves & Wooster novel Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen.

This new Judge Dredd movie sucks unless the Jolly Green Giant shows up at the end.

Now it finally makes sense why Stallone looked the part of Dredd so well. I’ve also never understood why that movie was crapped upon as the classic Dredd material I’ve read was also sorta serious, sorta goofy, and had a bunch of weird side characters.

Anyone denying that Stallone did a great job as Dredd is either a Stallone hater or giving into peer pressure about hating the film. The “I AM THE LAW” scene was pure Dredd.

And, on the inevitable subject of helmet removal, get over it. Actors use their eyes to act so certain changes must be made in the move to a different medium. Or didn’t you notice how super-heroes somehow lose their masks by the end of the film in every super-hero blockbuster?

@Red Comet

There are plenty of examples of actors never needing to remove facial covering and still convey the character they are portraying. David Prowse as Darth Vader as a perfect example. The guy that played the Predator. Also, Hugo Weaving never took his Guy Fawkes mask off in the V for Vendetta adaptation and he was still able to act convincingly.

You’re missing the point of why Dredd never takes off the helmet.

Carlos Ezquerra has since retracted the statement about basing Dredd’s face on Stallone, he said that he only said it to a member of the press for a laugh after the film screened in ’95.

Dredd was based on David Carradine in Death Race 2000 and Clint Eastwood.

@Red Comet

Stallone is just not capable of projecting authority or even intelligence – two vital Dredd traits – and he also can’t do black humour. Stallone can only play down-at-heel/innocent men on the run type characters who are ordinary, in other words himself.

Dredd has always been based on Clint Eastwood, John Wagner even agrees, Dredd is Dirty Harry.

The apology to General Mills is pure gold!

Thanks for the info about Ezquerra’s more recent correction to his original statement, Instant Justice!

By the way, if anyone feels they need to be set straight on who Carlos based Dredd – not Stallone – on you can ask him personally on his facebook page:


No problem Brian, I wish I could send you the interview in which he said it but I can’t find it, if I do I’ll pass it on.

Cool, thanks!

the Stallone movie gets slated because despite the great production values it simply sucks ass.

Stallone’s Judge Dredd movie would have been a lot better if they took Rob Schneider out of it. He’s the one I blame for ruining it, not Stallone. As for the helmet, Stallone said he wanted to keep it on, but the producers insisted on it coming off, they paid big bucks for him to star in it, so they wanted to be able to see his face.

“Stallone said he wanted to keep it on”

If you believe that you’ll believe anything. I’ve read those early scripts and the helmet is always off. They went out of their way to make anything but a Judge Dredd film and Stallone signing on was the only reason that film got made, it was his choice about the helmet besides they could’ve easily gotten aorund it by casting Stallone in both Joe and Rico roles – they are meant to be identical clones – tand hat way Dredd could’ve kept the helmet on and Stallone could’ve run around as Rico too.

So: ‘Judge Dredd’ WAS named after the reggae artist ‘Judge Dread’… but by Pat Mills, not John Wagner!

I think I asked you about this a couple of years ago, thanks Brian!

Judge Dread who in turn was named after the song Judge Dread by Prince Buster (1967)


I think I asked you about this a couple of years ago, thanks Brian!

Oh did you? I couldn’t find it in my notes (but as you note, when we start talking years back, it is a bit more difficult to keep track ;)). I’ll edit that in!

“The guy that played the Predator”

Except much like the super heroes Red Comet mentions, The Predator did take his helmet off toward the end of the movie.

I may have to check out that IDW collection that Jeff mentions up there. “Dredd” has had some great artists, but Brian Bolland is one of my favorite artists period.

Add my vote for Stallone. I read Dredd when he first came out (I used to make parody Judge Fred comics and sell them, to kids at school). For me, Dredd was always one step from comedy. For me, Stallone nailed it. My only gripe was that the lawmaster didn’t look heavy enough (it wobbles when driven at the end). But that’s pretty trivial.

As for the new movie, I couldn’t stop laughing at the trailer: the corny fake Dirty Harry voice is like something from a comedy sketch show. But I guess it’s not aimed at me.

You obviously haven’t seen the film.

“If you believe that you’ll believe anything.”

Yikes, lol. I’ll believe a lot of things, and not believe a lot of things, what Stallone said sounds reasonable to me. Even you say that the earliest drafts of the script had the helmet off, so that sounds to me like it predates his involvement in the project, probably an edict from the producers, knowing they were going to get a big star. It doesn’t sound unreasonable to me for Stallone to have said, “hey, can I keep the helmet on for most of the movie?” And the producer saying no, I don’t see what’s so out of this world unbelievable about that.

I certainly don’t have any reason to take your word over his about it being his choice or not his choice. It’s largely irrelevent to me anyway because I didn’t have a big problem with it being off. Now whoever decided to hire Rob Schneider, that’s who I have a big problem with.

I wouldn’t expect you to take my word but I don’t believe Stallone said don’t remove the helmet either and definitely not at the time – he’s way too ego-driven and vain for that.

Stallone had a lot of power on that film: directed re-shoots – without Danny Cannon – and was present in editing right to the end. I’d say if he really wanted to keep the helmet on – not featured in the script – he could’ve pushed for a different script, the same way Arnie had a choice of script. The film script was written to fit a Stallone archetype: an innocent man accused of something he didn’t do goes on the run; ultimately a hero figure not Judge Dredd, more Demolition Man.

Just out of seeing the Movie, that ABSOLUTELY ROCKED. Can understand why the Brits were going on about it last two weeks.. Dang thats one kick ass non-stop dark bullet-fest. Haven’t read Dredd in a long time but I’ll be picking up IDW’s comic based on that.

If I didn’t ask you if Judge Dredd was named after the reggae artist, I intended to. And that counts just as much, right?

Cool stuff. Glad to see that Burger Wars stuff after it got mentioned a little while ago.

I can’t believe that no one’s commented on the single funniest aspect of this batch of legends. Go back and look at the Jolly Green Giant bit. In the color panels, the first vertical panel shows a big green man as does the third vertical panel. But, smack dab in the middle, where the character introduces himself as the “Jolly Green Giant,” he’s NOT green. He’s quite Caucasian (and it’s NOT because of “lighting”).

I hear nothing but good things from the new Dredd movie, even from people who don’t give it a high score the complaints seem minimal. I can’t wait for it to be released here.

If it were published today, I am guessing that the Burger Wars story would still be an accurate parody what is going on today.

@Chris Tolworthy

I think the Lawmaster in the Stallone film suffered from having regular width tires. It made it look like a regular motorcycle, just a bit wide.

Though I recall reading that the film didn’t have a choice. Using the wide tires of the comic book resulted in a bike that wouldn’t turn?

@mikey fox
If it was published today it would be a documentary.

The odd thing is I never noticed it was spelled ‘Dredd’ until this last week. Even when the movie came out and I saw all the things about the old comic, If you asked me, I would of said it was spelled ‘Dread’.

Man, I don’t notice things very well, do I?

Have to admit, I’m not impressed with the new movie despite a good performance from Karl Urban. It seemed like just another action movie, no real humour to it, which rather misses the point of Dredd-that it’s a satire. I rewatched the Stallone version afterwards, and for all its faults it feels a lot closer to the source material, to me.

Let’s not forget, Stallone was nominated for Best Actor for Rocky, and apparently won a Best Actor award for Cop Land, so it’s not like the guy can’t act.

Anyway, if I did ask about Judge Dread, it would have been around the time I asked about Topper Headon from the Clash, because I’m sure ska/reggae influences on London Calling were on my mind at that time. The musician Judge Dread is pretty cool, from the couple of tracks I’ve heard.

And as scary as that Ronald MacDonald character is, it’s still not as scary as the actual Burger King character that company was using a few years back. Yeesh!

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We know that Dredd 3D was a massive failure in this country and has been completely written off, but nobody seems to realize that the movie was #1 box office in the UK. That’s not surprising. It brings to mind the Tintin situation. The Adventures of Tintin movie was a flop in America because virtually nobody here even knows who the hell Tintin is; however, the movie was a huge success overseas. Everyone here says that there will never be another Tintin movie just because it wasn’t a hit in the US, but just look at the overseas numbers. (The only thing holding back the sequel is Peter Jackson’s commitment to the Hobbit trilogy.)
The elitism in this country is really annoying, to just write something off because it didn’t do well here, completely disregarding overseas popularity. Guess I’m just ranting, but I think it’s a good point.

Dredd is still in cinemas, people can still see it and spread the word.

I liked the old Judge Dredd movie. Then again, I also like Howard The Duck. Chalk it up to me being a kid when I saw them, I guess.

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Timothy Markin – Well said. Totally agree with you.

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