Here in the United States of America, our heroic traditions are built on the backs of Caped Crusaders and Men of Steel. Other nations have Musketeers, Ultramen, Silver-Masked Saints, and more, while Great Britain’s greatest comic star might just be a man named Joe… Joe Dredd. Your Major Spoilers Retro Review of 2000 AD Prog 2 awaits!
Writer: Peter Harris
Penciler: Mike McMahon/Carlos Ezquerra
Inker: Mike McMahon/Carlos Ezquerra
Letterer: McGowan Miller/Jan Shepheard
Editor: Tharg The Mighty
Publisher: IPC Magazines
Cover Price: 8p / 10 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: £9800 / $12,000.00
Release Date: March 5, 1977
Previously in 2000 AD: A creation of one of IPC Magazines editors, who accurately realized that a new era of science fiction stories was about to erupt, 2000 AD launched in the spring of ’77 with a high-profile revival of ’50 British rocket jockey Dan Dare. Because of its weekly schedule, though, the book featured a number of strips, including M.A.C.H.-1, a UK take on The Six Million Dollar Man, a futuristic sport combat strip called Harlem Heroes (Yikes), and epic time-traveling-cowboys-farming dinosaur meat story called Flesh. This second “Programme” arrived a few days before the death of Joan Crawford, but nearly a quarter-century before the date of the last feature: The introduction of Judge Dredd!
As you might expect, there’s a bit of First Installment Weirdness to be had in this story. First off, rather than the 2099 start date that has become part of Dredd’s canon, this story is dated the year 2000. Legend has it that the editors of this magazine chose the title partly because they never thought the strip would last that long. These days, the publisher is said to keep the name as a badge of honor to remind us all that they DID. It’s also explicitly set in New York City, rather than Megacity One, but given that Megacity One is basically the entire eastern U.S., we can easily write that off as NYC being a “neighborhood” in MC-1. Either way, a band of petty idiots, led by the vicious Whitey, prepare to square off with the law enforcement officer of the future, a man who is empowered as policeman, judge, jury, and if necessary, executioner.
The despicable Whitey not only celebrates killing a Judge, but he also steals the fallen lawman’s helmet and badge of office as macabre trophies of his kill. The launch of 2000 AD was the spiritual successor to a previous IPC book called Action, which gained some heat for its graphic violence, but this story sets up the creators’ central Judge Dredd premise: Violence, but in the service of justice. With Alvin being viciously bumped off, the stage is set for the future of law enforcement… No, wait, that was Robocop. The stage is set for the Toughest Lawman of them all to balance the scales of justice after the crims send Judge Alvin’s body back to headquarters on his own bike.
That’s just disrespectful.
Chief Judge Goodman is prepared to rain hellfire and heavy artillery on Whitey’s head for offing a Judge, but Judge Dredd is prepared to handle the matter all by himself. This story predates the election of PM Margaret Thatcher, whose premiership created a right-wing government that inspired the dystopian future tales of V For Vendetta and Marshal Law, was still in the future, but just as Dredd’s creation presaged the post-Star Wars science fiction boom, this debut story presages those fictional authoritarian worlds.
Dredd’s sentence for Whitey’s goons is death without chance of parole, but Whitey gets special treatment. As a Judge-killer, he’s a special case, and will be given the worst punishment that the year 2000 and/or 2099 has to offer: THE FREEWAY!
Whitey will spend the remainder of his days lying, as Neil Young once told us, by the side of the road with the lorries rolling by, a sentence that will try his sanity for as long as he lives. As for Dredd, he knows that he might one day be in Alvin’s shoes, but as the perfect distillation of his world, he not only isn’t worried, he cannot think of a better way to go.
For those of you wondering, yes, this page is the only one in this story that has color, as 2000 AD was only mostly black-and-white. The use of spot color, monochrome tones, or the occasional page in full-color was a hallmark of British comics in this era, and it’s honestly very strange to me as a reader. Then again, they also had long-running comics called The Beano and The Dandy, so the United Kingdom’s comic audiences were reading a whole different strain of graphic media. Regardless, 2000 AD Prog 2‘s Dredd first appearance is an energetic story that gets its point across in just a few pages, setting the stage for four-and-a-half decades of adventures in the future, earning 4 out of 5 stars overall. Thanks to the grade of newsprint used in these early issues, high-quality copies of this issue are hard to find, somewhat like the Spirit Sections of the ’40s and ’50s, so if you find yourself a copy, I recommend you snap it up, as even reprints suffer from degradation of the pencils and grey tones.
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2000 AD PROG 2
Dredd's debut is fast-paced, engaging and well-drawn, introducing one of the most iconic not-quite-heroes of The Bronze Age in style.