The first appearance of Judge Dredd
March 5, 1977
Forty years ago, in early March 1977, the second issue of the sci-fi comic anthology 2000 A.D. was published.
Printed using letterpress on cheap pulp paper, in black and white - save for a color cover and a two-page color insert - by publisher IPC magazines, 2000 A.D. hardly seemed like a publication that would in time be a game-changer not only in the world of British comics, but in comics worldwide.
[With only informal distribution systems in place in 1977 to sell UK comics in the States, no one in America was 'hip' to 2000 A.D., so it would be years before its roster of antiheroes would become known in that country.]
Debuting in issue two, in a five page story called 'Judge Whitey', was a futuristic cop who patrolled a dystopian New York City. The cop's name was Judge Dredd.
The entire 'Judge Whitey' strip can be read here.
According to Pat Mills, the 2000 A. D. editor (who began conceiving the character in 1976), the 'look' of Judge Dredd was the result of the unique vision of artist Carlos Ezquerra:
This is Carlos’ view of his first visualisation: “Dredd was so successful because he was a little ahead of his time, particularly in the fashion sense. I drew him before the 1977 punk boom of black leather and chains, and well before the heavy metal movement, which he typified. I have always believed that successive generations went to the opposite extreme of its predecessor. In this case I thought the peace-loving, flower-wearing hippies would be superseded by a spiteful, black anarchic generation. The Dredd generation.”
Mills' friend Dejan Kraljacic had an insightful description of the character:
Dredd is American. But in the right way. A very convincing future in which you can feel the stamp of the author. By comparison, American superheroes seem compromised. Dredd is more radical, more punk rock, more on the edge. But he’s too alternative-tough for America and not artistic enough for Europe. For our taste, the art is too realistic and too simple, compared to European styles, which have more backgrounds, more details, more mystery. Such as the art of Moebius which is very cool, very seducing.
I really think Dredd is Great Britain; a reflection of Britain’s unique identity, neither American or European.
They are entertaining reading, as they cover the evolution of the comic and its featured characters, and Mills' struggles to carry out his vision of 2000 A.D. despite interference from meddling senior editors.
For another take on the creation of the Dredd character, from writer John Wagner, check out this BBC website article.