I think Ezquerra is the definitive Dredd artist for me. More so than Ron Smith or Bolland or McMahon or whoever else you can care to mention. He captures the inscrutability, the slight swagger and determination of Dredd (as well as giving him a near comical chin). This cover of Dredd and Rico from the current epic ‘Tour of Duty’ is pure spirit of Judge Dredd. Absolutely brilliant!
Prior to my review of the first of the Judge Dredd Case Files, I thought it would be nice to look at some of the original concept art, devised by Carlos Ezquerra. He had the whole design nailed, didn’t he? That sketch with Dredd on the Lawmaster looks amazing – and it is interesting to note that the helmet that the Judge is wearing is more like a motorbike helmet, with visor. In the second picture, the helmet looks more like another of Ezquerra’s character designs – that of Johnny Alpha, Strontium Dog. The final design shown here is the blueprint for Dredd.
Judge Dredd Complete Case Files 01 review to follow in the next few days.
I think it was the cover (above) of prog 1633 that did it for me. That got my attention, and what followed from that was TWLB reacquainting itself with that fine institution 2000AD. A joy it is too.
I gave up on the comic in 1989, when other things became more important, because 2000AD had just got a lot less interesting. As I recall, Zenith was about the only thing keeping me interested, with Dredd and Strontium Dog leaving me cold (the latter due to the fact Carlos Ezquerra had been replaced by Simon Harrison on art). Also, Deadline and Crisis were titles catering more to my needs. So, after 8 years of reading and collecting 2000AD I canceled my subscription at Deer Park newsagents.
Cradlegrave is a comic strip. For the first 2 issues you would not see anything fantastical or horrific, other than the horror that can be other peoples lives, as Cradlegrave is set in the Ravenglade Estate (nicknamed “Cradlegrave” after the ‘ravenglade’ sign loses a few of the letters and an enterprising soul renames the estate).
It is set somewhere in Lancashire. It follows the story of teenage Shane Holt, who has recently been released from Thorn Hill young offenders institution. What you get is a well paced drama of a young man coming to terms with life outside of the offenders institution and trying to stay on the right side of the law, avoiding falling into old habits, and negeotiating that while keeping on the good side of best mate Callum;
The detail that goes into all this is superb (and the devil is in the details) – like Shanes mom, whose idea of a celebration of his homecoming consists of a few ‘tins’ of lager and a night in front of the television.
or the relative drama of Shanes dog imminently giving birth to pups, or Shanes attempts to keep his best mate, Callum, onside, but at the same time at arms length. Only slowly does information leak through about why Shane was in prison – for arson – and then at the end of the third installment, we get the first jolt, the first shocking moment. To say more would ruin it and I will say no more, but like the rest of these initial installments it is handled with superior skill – the writing of John Smith and the art of Edward Bagwell combine to give you a fully realized kitchen sink drama of a ‘rough’ estate in England with the blurry unease of terror creeping in from the edges. It is nothing less than superb, and I believe will rank amongst the best stories that 2000AD has ever hosted.
If it was just Cradlegrave, then I would be happy with my decision to try 2000AD once again. But there is more, with recent strip ‘Zombo’s bizarre mix of ‘Lost’ and a subservient, but lethal Zombie on a planet called ‘Deathworld’ providing humour,
gore and throwaway lines about clone love that give the story real depth.
Also, ‘Savage’, which is a long-running sequel to the equally long running ‘Invasion’ from the very early days of 2000AD (it appeared in the first issue, and the test pressing ‘prog 0’). In an alternate future, the ‘Volgans’ (an analogue of the Cold War era Soviet Union) are occupying Great Britain and the rest of Europe, and Bill savage is the leader of the resistance. The strip, one of the few in black and white, is a tense, gritty affair that pays tribute to the early days of 2000ad (and by association, other IPC titles of the time such as Action and Battle) while having a distinctive modern feel – gone are the Invasion tics and tropes of ‘giving the Volgans what for’, replaced with more subtle power plays, intrigue and bursts of graphic violence.
Slaine, after over 25 years of appearances in 2000AD, looks incredible in latest iteration, as ‘Slaine the Gong Beater’;
On top of all that, you need strong Judge Dredd stories to really make the title work, and in the recent ‘Sex Tournament’ strip ‘The Performer’,
and the powerful ‘Backlash’, you have both humour and strong political allegories that are not ham fisted, and for me, were some of the main attractions to the character and his world.
2000AD is getting something right – after the talent drain to the US in the 1980s and early 90’s that saw the likes of Alan Moore, Grant Morrison and Brian Bolland depart the title, the likes of John Smith and the (evergreen) Pat Mills prove that the UK’s longest running Science Fiction weekly is still providing the neccesary ‘Thrill Power’ to us Earthings.
TWLB will keep you posted on 2000AD from now, with reviews and comment.
astonishing, and disgusting, that a tabloid newspaper (The Sun) will scream the headlines before a verdict, and when the outcome does not suit the newspapers agenda, steadfastly refuses to cover it. Well, reading Lews post will probably (HOPEFULLY) put a lot of people right on that. Ron Smith was one of the main Judge Dredd artists for both 2000ad and the newspaper strip that ran in the Daily Star, which is, incidentally, one of The Suns main tabloid rivals.
The Executioner, 4 episodes, 2000 AD progs 291-294 (11/20/82 to 12/11/82). Story by “T.B. Grover” (Wagner & Grant), art by Carlos Ezquerra (source – http://www.2000ad.org/thrillpower/judgedredd1980s.html
‘Justice is done’
The murder of reputed crime kingpin Hebby Swarf.A mysterious hooded figure. A note left by the bosy simply reads ‘Justice is done’. Judge Dredd is on the scene and believes (correctly) that a vigilante is on the loose.
Meanwhile, an attractive woman (rendered with some great art from Carlos Ezquerra, really capturing the beauty of woman with a futuristic look) books a table at the ‘Highlight Rooms’, as the TV news plays out in the background with its depressing list of despair and death. Later on, at the Highlight Rooms, the woman explains that she is waiting for her husband, then slips out, as the hooded ‘Executioner’ to deliver justice to ‘Mr Beauty’, a racketeer, and his henchman.
Again, the calling card is left.
With the racketeer, Mr Beauty, and his henchmen dead, ‘The Executioner’ returns, plain clothed, to the Highlight Rooms. She explains to the Maitre D, as she leaves, that her husband will not be joining her for dinner. At the crime scene, Dredd leans (literally) on a witness to the vigilante murders. Despite the Judges being ‘Judge, Jury and Executioner’ in Mega City One, Dredds view of vigilante ism is clear;
‘Murder is murder, no citizen can be allowed to take the law into their own hands’.
The investigation quickly progresses with a photofit of the suspect for the Judges to work on. In another plot development we see that the woman (aka ‘The Executioner’) has 2 children. As they watch the news of the killing of ‘nightclub owner and suspected racketeer’ Jack Beauty, the son tells his mother that Beauty was one of the ‘skunks who’.. but his mother hushes him before we learn ‘what’ exactly.
In the City itself, the mood of the citizens is firmly with the vigilante, if we can believe the vox-pop carried out on the tv news. The mother / Execuioner makes her excuses to leave to tend to their fathers affairs. The son and daughter, visibly upset, wish those that caused their Fathers death, dead.
The mother, listening from behind a door, vows to make it so.
A TV poll shows only 1% of the population is against the actions of The Executioner. Following the photo fit breakthrough, Judge Dredd harasses a female judge, De Gaulle, who looks similar to the photo fit and could be the ‘perp’. She denies this accusation, and lie detector tests confirm that she is telling the truth. Dredd is called to a suspected Executioner slaying, but a clumsy ‘justice is dun’ note reveals it to be a copycat killing. The copycat proudly owns up to being the ‘executioner’ (which he isn’t), and for his trouble gets thirty years prison time.
Continuing her bloody retribution, The Executioner goes to ‘Chivo Bros Discount Depository of the Semi Dead’, where she books a suspended animaiton vault place for a Nicholas Tatum. As one of the Chivos Brothers recognises the name, the vigilante steps back and blasts him. Rafael Chivo, the other brother, realising that he is in grave danger, but fails to escape. He is knocked out, and when he regains consciousness he finds himself in a vault. Chivos is seen pleading that he did not kill Tatum, and the hooded figure agrees that he didnt pull the trigger, but he was responsible for the death of her husband. With that, she slams the vault shut, and Chivos is quickly overcome by liquid nitrogen fumes. Another ‘justice is done’ note is left at the scene.
The Judges find the bodies of Mo and Rafel Chivo. We learn that they were body sharks – so, like the other victims of the vigilante, they were ‘villains’. When Dredd is informed at the scene that rookie Judge had found the bodies, Dredd realises that the killer must have been a rookie at some point, as he had already checked all Judges as possible suspects.
Quickly, Dredds bike computer confirms it – the Executioner is a Blanche Kominsky, a rookie who was expelled for an illegal liason with a non-judge. She later married, and became Blanche Tatum. Her husband, Nicholas, had recently killed himself after getting into trouble with loan sharks. The financiers of the loan were Swarf, Beauty and the Chivos brothers. Elsewhere, the mother and children have a tearful farewell, with the mother ordering the children to go to their grandmothers. It seems as if the children understand that this may be the last time they see their mother.
Judge Dredd, on the trail of Tatum, runs a check on any other people who may have been involved in the loan deal – and Dutch Sagans name comes up. The story then cuts to Sagan, who, fearful for his life, tries to call a henchman, who is already dead at the hands of the Executioner. She catches Sagan, who tries to escape, just as the Judges arrive in force. Blanche Tatum manages to hold off the judges while she corners Sagan, and as he cowers, she kills him, completing her revenge.
As she emerges from killing her final victim, Dredd tells her that it’s all over, to which Tatum agrees. She is brandishing her gun. Dredd responds quickly, shooting her and Tatum drops to the floor.
We learn that her gun wasn’t loaded. She obviously wanted to die, having got her revenge.
This is one of the great Dredd stories in my opinion. Very much a product of the times, when vigilante fiction was mainstream with the likes of the ‘Death Wish‘ sequel and the ‘Guardian Angels‘ were a very real representation of people power, this tale retains its emotional power today. Not because it is epic in scale, which it isn’t (though Mega City One is still coming to terms with the aftermath of The Apocalypse War). It is because the story is small scale and a very human tragedy. It deals with a family torn apart by death. A woman and a mother gets her revenge, but pays with her life. What happens to the children? Is revenge a valid course of action in a world where there are self-appointed Judges, who dispense instant justice? The story is taught and tinged with sadness, such as in the scene at the Highlight Club where Blanche announces that her husband will not be joining her, or when the children are seen, clearly affected by the death of their father. The final twist, where Tatum is revealed to have no bullets in her gun when she confronts the Judges, is a sombre one. Why did she want to die? To be with her husband? Because she couldn’t bear her children seeing her in prison?
The art, from original Dredd artist Carlos Ezquerra, is wonderful, whether it is capturing the idiotic posturing of the ‘wannabe’ Executioner, the tragic beauty of Blanche, or the final desperate moments of Rafael Chivo and Dutch Sagan.
A dark and sombre tale, and in my view, a classic from 2000AD.