Great British Comic-Book Characters: Judge Dredd Lives!
Iconic British anthology comic 2000AD has been administering thrill power to the masses since its inception in 1977. It not only succeeded in presenting to the world seminal characters like Judge Dredd, Zenith and Nemesis the Warlock, but also helped launch into the spotlight some of the greatest British writers and artists in comic book history, luminaries such as Brian Bolland, Pat Mills, Alan Grant, Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, and Simon Bisley. American comic book companies like DC and Marvel have been mining these outstanding British talents to great effect since then on titles that include Watchmen, Batman: The Killing Joke, V For Vendetta and many, many others too numerous to mention.
1975 and Kevin Gosnell, an editor at IPC Magazines commissioned the freelance writer Pat Mills, who had previously created weekly adventure comic Action, to develop a new science fiction based anthology comic which he hoped would ride on the wave of popularity of forthcoming Sci-Fi blockbuster movies. Pat Mills brought in another freelancer, John Wagner as adviser and together they began to create characters for the new publication. The futuristic sounding name of 2000AD was then chosen, with the failure rate of new comics in the UK at a high, no-one ever expected the title to ever last past that date. How wrong they were… thankfully.
The debut issue of 2000AD hit the British newsagents on the 26 February 1977, consisting of a line up of four separate stories, Harlem Heroes, Flesh, M.A.C.H 1, and 50’s British Science Fiction icon Dan Dare who was revived from ten years in limbo after his original home publication Eagle Comics shuttered in 1967.
There was another character who also made his first appearance in the new anthology comic, he would go on to be one of only two characters to appear in nearly every issue of 2000AD since its inception (the other being Dredd.) Tharg The Mighty was created by Pat Mills as the fictional editor of the comic, an alien who hailed from the planet Quaxxann in Betelgeuse, Tharg writes the comics introduction, answers questions from its readership (whom he originally referred to as ‘Earthlets’) and gives out prizes to readers who suggested stories and sent in artwork (prizes could be given in pound sterling or Tharg’s own currency of galactic groats.) Tharg would oversee the ‘Thrill Power’ quotient of each comic and led a team of creative robots who supplied the art and stories for each issue (with each robot resembling their real life counterpart.)
2000AD creator Pat Mills’ writing had a strong anti-authoritarian vibe and attitude that was popular amongst his legion of readers and fans, but he also noted the effect that more authority based characters had on his readership after the creation of the Dirty Harry inspired maverick cop One-Eyed Jack by fellow 2000AD creator John Wagner for Valiant Comics, a boys adventure publication which ran between 1962 and 1976. This character was the beginning blocks of Britain’s biggest ever comic book export, the uber violent, no nonsense lawman of the future… Judge Dredd.
Dredd made his first appearance in Prog #2 of 2000AD, a tough cop who resides in the dystopian futuristic metropolis of Mega City One. Initially designed by Wagner and named after an abandoned horror strip character created by Pat Mills about a hanging Judge named ‘Dread.’ Spanish artist Carlos Ezquerra was tasked with visualising the character, and based his first designs on the the movie character Frankenstein from the 1975 cult hit ‘Death Race 2000.’ Dredd has gone on to appear in every single issue of 2000AD since that time. In 1983 he broke into the highly lucrative comic book market in America with his own series simply titled ‘Judge Dredd’ which consisted of reprints of his earlier adventures in 2000AD. In 1990 Dredd received his own title in the UK, ‘Judge Dredd – The Megazine’ written by his creator John Wagner.
Judge Joseph Dredd is the most celebrated and feared of Mega City’s Judges, tasked with bringing the law to the innumerable criminals in the teeming metropolis, literally Judge, Jury and executioner, with the power to instantly dispense justice as he sees fit. Patrolling the streets on his Lawmaster motorcycle, which comes equipped with machine guns, a laser cannon and an artificial intelligence that can pacify crowds and perform other innumerable tasks. All judges come equipped with the Lawgiver sidearm, designed to only recognise its parent Judge’s palm print and able to fire six different kinds of ammunition, including armour piercing and heat seeking rounds. Dredd and his brother Rico were cloned from the DNA of Chief Judge Fargo, Mega City’s original Chief Judge, and the name Dredd was given to them by Morton Judd the genetic scientist who created them, to “instill fear in the populace.”
Dredd continues to dispense justice in 2000AD and The Megazine in the UK, and has been the star of two movies, the much maligned “Judge Dredd” from 1995 starring Sylvester Stallone, and the more recent (and a hell of a lot better) “Dredd” portrayed by New Zealand actor Karl Urban (which I reviewed right here)
Tharg’s Catchphrase Dictionary:
Tharg the mighty not only brought fantastic characters and thrill-power to the universal masses, but also his own dialect which most 2000AD die-hards (myself included) use on a regular basis. So to induct those Terrans that have never spoken Quaxxiann, we proffer a list of his most widely used and popular catchphrases and their Terran translations.
“Borag Thungg Earthlet” – Greetings Human.
“Zarjaz” – Excellent.
“Krill Tro Thargo” – Honoured by Tharg.
“Florix Grabundae” – Many Thanks.
“Nonscrot” – Someone who doesn’t read 2000AD.
“Scrotnig” – Exciting or amazing.
“Squaxx Dek Thargo” – Friend of Tharg.
“Splundig Vur Thrigg” – Goodbye.
‘Florix Grabundae’ to everyone who has followed this series so far, and in our next instalment we will be looking at the other classic characters that make up the UK’s biggest selling comic, especially personal favourites, Nemesis the Warlock and Rogue Trooper. So until that time, have a ‘Zarjaz’ day and ‘Splundig Vur Thrigg’ fellow ‘Squaxx Dek Thargo.’
2000AD, Judge Dredd, Harlem Heroes, Dan Dare, M.A.C.H 1, Flesh and Tharg are copyright: Rebellion 2015.
Posted on August 8, 2015, in Comics and tagged 2000 AD, Dan Dare, Flesh, Great British Comic-Book Characters, Harlem Heroes, john Wagner, Judge Dredd, M.A.C.H 1, Pat Mills, Tharg The Mighty. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.