Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

Matching. It sucks. No, I don’t mean dating-internet matching, although I’m sure that has its painful moments. I mean job matching. I didn’t ‘match’ in my graduate program’s internship hunt. So now I’m going through a whole new round of interviews…it’s pretty stressful. Times like this I feel like I need the process to be sped up. Times like this I appreciate Judge Dredd. Okay, I know what you’re thinking- Dredd? That terrible Sylvester Stallone movie from the early nineties? Ick, right? But wait, my friend- like so many experiences you may have had at the movie theater of late- don’t you realize that what you see on the big screen might not reflect the quality of the actual book? Actually, I liked Stallone AS Dredd. I even like Rob Schneider as his tag-along companion. It was a good cast job…just not a great movie. Not even sure what went wrong really. Can’t dwell too much on it, either…head hurts… The setting for Dredd (or 2000 A.D. as Dredd’s original comic was titled) is one of the best developed for a character, I think. It’s comparable to Star Wars, Dune, and other science fiction classics, where the idea was to have great characters, but first to have a great setting such that the environment the characters existed in made them seem real, alive (at least in the context of their world)…organic. Did you know that Dredd ages in real-time? Yeah, really- the comic has been in print since 1977. So Dredd has aged thirty plus years since his comic began. Now, the fact that Dredd is a genetically enhanced clone who is given rejuvenation treatment doesn’t exactly show his age…but yeah. Over sixty, these days. The basic premise behind Dredd is probably something most people know- it’s the future, life is hard, and in order to become more efficient and maintain order ‘judges’ are empowered with the right to carry out sentences on the spot- even death sentences. Of course, there’s a lot more to this setting than the core features I’m writing about here. Did you know there are undead judges from a parallel universe (aren’t there always evil, undead duplicates from a parallel universe?)? Judge Death, who freaks me the *&%$ out, lived in a parallel Earth with a history similar to Dredd’s and finally came to the conclusion that life creates crime. And therefore, life had to stop. Things got pretty ugly from there. But I digress. Now, 2000 A.D.’s backdrop is a pretty brilliant setting to explore issues surrounding the nature of justice. How much does society benefit from…well…a swift kick in the ass rather than a bunch of legal-mumbo-jumbo? On the other hand, when does authoritarianism go wrong and fall into the wrong hands? In one of my favorite Judge Dredd stories, Judge Cal (named after the insane and infantile roman emperor, Caligula) is appointed Chief Judge, becoming the most powerful man in Mega City One. Cal sets many numerous policies that Dredd and his companions are sworn to uphold- he even makes his goldfish deputy chief. Should you follow a law, just because it IS the law? Is order what hold society together- that is, it really doesn’t matter what laws are enforced, just that they ARE enforced? Or is it a matter of how just the law itself is? Stuff like this rolls through the pages of Dredd all the time. It’s the Law and Order of superhero science fiction. In a recent story, Dredd has started to advocate for ‘mutant’ rights, a particularly unpopular stance. Of course, mutants in Dredd aren’t spandex wearing superheroes. They’re awful, twisted deformed human beings who are cast out of Mega City One to live in the ‘cursed earth’ (a radioactive wasteland covering much of northern America, scorched during numerous international conflicts that went nuclear). Concealing a mutant child is a crime- after all, letting one radioactive baby stay could spike the chance that others will be born. Originally, Dredd was fair with mutants. Okay, maybe ‘fair’ isn’t the right word…impartial, at least. That is, he would be friendly, even kind to non-violent mutants. Still, if one tried to climb over the city walls- Dredd would shoot them dead. Why? Because it’s the law. This kind of disparity is what the comic is all about. Dredd may feel sympathetic towards mutants and the harsh life they are condemned to live- but he also rests comfortably on the knowledge that in order for human society to exist, order needs to be sought without hesitation or compromise. So, succinctly put, Dredd will kill you dead if it’s the law. Because without the law, society crumbles and that’s how nuclear wars get started. But yeah, recently, Dredd has begun to advocate for mutant-research and rights. So Dredd isn’t above changing the law- but it needs to be done the right way in order for society to exist. Through petitions, proposals, and time. In the meanwhile, everybody coming over that wall will get shot. Still, it’s interesting to see how even a character as hardened as Dredd change over time, in an authentic way. Another interesting tidbit- Dredd is currently diagnosed with terminal cancer. It’s just another bit that rounds out his character. Dredd might not have that much time left. He’s doing everything he can to leave the law and the judge system in better shape than it has been during his time. Really, just very dynamic storytelling in this book of late.