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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.
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!
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.
(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!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. 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).
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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)…
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See you all next week!
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