Top 10 Judge Dredd Stories

One of the best and biggest British exports to the world has been the weekly sci-fi comic 2000AD. To celebrate its 40th birthday later this month, I look at the best stories featuring its star, Judge Dredd.


Set mostly after the Atomic Wars of 2070, the population of the USA is contained within three enormous mega cities, one on each coast – east, west and the Gulf of Mexico – and each home to about a billion citizens. The only thing that prevents civilization from descending into chaos and destroying itself is the savage arm of the law. Called the Judges, they are the police and they are the military. 2000AD also features many other characters in totally different scenarios, but its main star is one particular Judge, Joseph Dredd, who serves in the huge Mega-City One that covers the entire eastern seaboard.

Created by Pat Mills, John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra, Dredd’s first appearance was in 2000AD prog 2 (5th March 1977) – the first issue had been on sale a week earlier. Dredd is, in essence, a motorcycle cop and his early character influences include Dirty Harry and even Frankenstein from Death Race 2000.

2000AD continues to influence science fiction writers around the world and it’s impressive list of contributors includes, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, Brian Bolland and Mike McMahon.

Here then, in no particular order, are some of the very best stories from 2000AD featuring Judge Dredd…

Judge Dredd Origins


(2006-07, progs 1505-1519, 1529-1535, graphic novel)
Writer: John Wagner
Artist: Carlos Ezquerra

Origins is one of the longest Judge Dredd storylines to run in 2000AD. For the 30th anniversary, creators John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra revealed the origins of the Cursed Earth and Mega-City One. Making extensive use of flashbacks, it tells the story of how the Judges rose to power and how the rest of America got nuked. We also get to see a young Judge Dredd, helping to safeguard the system in its early years.

Dredd and some other Judges venture out to pay a huge ransom for the long-lost body of the first ever Chief Judge, Fargo. Not surprisingly, it turns out there were a lot of cover-ups and corruption behind the creation of the Judge system. It’s set in 2129, Dredd’s debut story having been set in 2099.

Wagner explained to SFX magazine in October 2006, “There were many unresolved questions about the origins of the Judge system and some apparent contradictions that required sorting out… It’s a task I’d always shied away from because of the difficulty of making sense of it all while still telling a story that was worth reading – but I knew that sometime it had to be done, if for no other reason than my own satisfaction.”

The Cursed Earth Saga


(1977-78, progs 61-85, graphic novel)
Writers: Pat Mills, John Wagner
Artists: Mike McMahon, Brian Bolland

Judge Dredd must transport medical supplies across the radioactive wasteland outside Mega-City One, known as the Cursed Earth, battling monsters, mutants and war machines intent on trying to prevent him.

The first Judge Dredd story that was of any significant length is considered by many to the point when the Mega-City One lawman evolved into the star of 2000AD. We learn that Mega-City Two, located on the western seaboard of the continental USA, has been struck by a terrible plague. The spaceports are overrun with infected zombie types so Dredd must travel cross-country with a vaccine. Within this risky road trip story, subjects like slavery, genocide and war are tackled from a satirical standpoint all the while Dredd is relentless in his quest, stopping at nothing to complete his mission, despite overwhelming odds stacked against him. There are quirky incidental characters, each appealing for their own reasons and it’s all packaged together with gritty, stylistic artwork. This story firmly establishes Dredd as the hard case that we have grown to love.

The Dark Judges


(1980-85 progs 149-151, 224-228 and 416-427, graphic novel)
Writers: John Wagner, Alan Grant
Artists: Brian Bolland, Brett Ewins, Cliff Robinson

Essentially a collection of the first few stories featuring Judge Death – Judge Death, Judge Death Lives and Revenge – this graphic novel is a must-have for any Dredd fan.

Dredd’s arch enemy, Judge Death features more than once in this line up and this is the story arc where we first meet him. He is the leader of the Dark Judges, a sinister group of undead law enforcers from the alternate dimension of Deadworld, where all life has been declared a crime since only the living commit crimes.

Judge Death comes to Mega-City One to carry out the ultimate judgement against all citizens, but is stopped by the psychic Judge Anderson. Later, Death escapes with the help of three other Dark Judges (Judge Fire, Judge Fear and Judge Mortis) and Dredd and Anderson are forced to face them on their home territory.

He’s is generally a pretty nasty character and can kill just by staring at someone. This Medusa-like murder usually takes place as he hisses the phrase “Gaze into the face of Death…” Judge Death also possess superhuman strength plus the power to inhabit corpses and phase through physical matter.



(Judge Dredd Megazine 1990 vol 1, 1-7, graphic novel)
Writer: John Wagner
Artist: Colin MacNeil

An almost guaranteed entry in a list like this, writer John Wagner has said this is his favourite Dredd story and 2000AD editor David Bishop has called this “The best Judge Dredd story ever written.”

Told almost completely in flashback, the story is of America Jara, her friend Bennett Beeny and their tragic conflict between the Democracy movement and Mega-City One’s fascist police state. Beeny grows up and becomes a famous singer, America on the other hand becomes more disillusioned. She turns into a democracy activist and later a terrorist. The story is one of the most political Judge Dredd stories ever told.

In 1996 John Tomlinson commissioned a sequel, America II: Fading of the Light where it’s revealed that America and Bennett managed to have a daughter. Ironically it’s arranged for the five-year-old to be inducted into the Academy of Law in order to become a judge, reasoning that the Academy is the only place where she will be safe from terrorists calling themselves Total War, and that she might change the system from within.

Ten years later a third story, Cadet, followed Cadet Beeny’s progress through training, when Dredd supervised her during an assessed investigation. She did not hold Dredd personally responsible for her genetic mother’s death. She passed the assessment, and has since appeared as a supporting character in Judge Dredd stories not directly related to Total War.

Judgement on Gotham


(1991, standalone magazine)
Writers: Alan Grant, John Wagner
Artist: Simon Bisley

Judge Death, Dredd’s other-worldly arch enemy, manages to travel to Gotham City using a Dimensional Jump Belt and kills three innocents along the way. Batman defeats Death, who flees in spirit form, but among the remains of his host body, Batman finds the dimensional jump belt and he accidentally activates it, transporting him to Mega-City One.

Many purists will argue over the inclusion of this standalone graphic novel, but the artwork alone is reason to consider. That it’s supported by a strong story, fantastic cast and Batman breaks Dredd’s nose just adds to its awesomeness. Dredd and Batman square off as you’d imagine and hope for until at the very end Dredd gives just the slightest hint of respect that he now has for Bruce Wayne. Scarecrow and Psi-Judge Anderson add to an amazing story.

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