|First Appearance||Judge Whitey|
Judge Joseph 'Joe' Dredd, a Senior Judge Class 1 in the Street Division of the Mega-City One Justice Department, is the primary character in the Dredd universe. A clone of the acclaimed 'Father of Justice' Eustace T. Fargo, Dredd is the most feared and renowned of the Judges in Mega-City One, famous worldwide due to his exploits.
Dredd is every bit as hard as his chiselled, rugged appearance: stern, grounded and with a mind like a clenched fist. He has virtually no personal life outside his role as a judge and no friends in the truest sense of the word. That said, Dredd has been shown to have deep reservations about the system he upholds on occasion, doubts that become more pronounced as he grows older. Because of this, there are rare times when he has made exceptions to his beloved Law and has exercised discretion and even displayed compassion towards those whom he has genuinely believed to have deserved another chance.
Despite this, many of his fellow judges and nearly all the millions of citizens he polices consider him to be a ruthless and unbending dispenser of The Law and a stone-cold killer when required.
In extremely rare moments, Dredd has been shown to have a soft spot for certain people, more often than not children, including his niece Vienna from childhood through to adulthood, the psychic Novar and the youth who saved his life out in The Cursed Earth radiation wasteland beyond the city, Yassa Povey.
Dredd works hard to suppress his emotions, rarely expressing joy, sadness, anger or desires such as lust and revenge. Not to say he has never felt said feelings or thirsts, but these things get in the way of his resolution to the law. A law in which he has frequently found himself doubt more and more over the years, at one point even retiring and taking the the Long Walk out into the Cursed Earth, but this was only temporary, his obligation of justice saw to that. In his old age Dredd has begun showing signs of regret, remorse and perhaps most damning of all, doubt.
Dredd's judgement is not about what's fair or how he feels, but firm and to the rule, so stringent in this he even wrote a book on it. This is not to say his judgement is infallible, his actions at the climax of the Apocalypse War that led to the complete annihilation of East-Meg One and all its inhabitants, were undoubtedly fuelled by some kind of desire to get back at those who had brought so much destruction to his city. Ramifications for those actions haunt him to this day.
Perhaps one of the reasons for Dredd's coldness is the tragedy that frequently befalls those close to him, for example Red, a pilot that fell victim to a cannibalistic virus, Spikes Harvey Rotten, who went out in a blaze of glory trying to be a hero, or the aforementioned Yassa Povey, who ended up getting his eyes burned out by the walking corpse Nausea. Perhaps most notable of these was his own brother Rico Dredd, whom Dredd was first forced to arrest and ultimately shoot down when left with no other choice. Death has taken the lives of many of Dredd's brothers in arms over the years, his former tutor Morph, gunned down on the street, his surrogate father-figure Judge Clarence Goodman, murdered by a cabal of corrupt SJS Judges, Jack, blown apart by insane Mek-Troopers, Giant, killed by the Sov-Agent Orlok, Dirty Frank, who put a gun to his head and took his life or Lopez, a Judge who died under Dredd's own orders. In spite of a short life-span being common in the part of a Judge, it is clear it affects Dredd, despite his reluctantly to show it. Lopez especially, who's badge he stills keeps in his draw. Its due to this that Dredd so frequently pushes away those closest to him, such as his nice Vienna or his long abused robot Walter, both from wanting to protect them, but also a selfish desire to not be hurt himself, as in spite of his demeanour, his actions or even history, he is still a man.
Dredd's two closest relationships past perhaps Rico and Walter, are with the once joyous Psi-Judge Cassandra Anderson, and former Chief Judge Barbara Hershey. For a time Anderson, seemingly, was the only person Dredd would make time for, and the two undertook many missions together but eventually Dredd began to push her away. After the pair met and defeated a strange deity calling itself Satan together, Dredd apologised and the relationship was, in sorts, repaired. This lasted a good while, though in their current day, it seems as if they have yet again drifted from one another, with the two rarely interacting any more.
His relationship with Hershey is similar but no less strained, Dredd met her alongside Judge Lopez during a mission to rescue the mysterious Judge Child, where she quickly proved herself a capable Judge. Frequently working with Dredd as she rapidly rose through the ranks, earning a seat on the Council of Five and eventually earning the position of Chief Judge. However this promotion proved to be the death of their relationship, with the two frequently butting heads over what was best for the city, with Dredd becoming disgusted by her increasingly dubious actions as Chief, and Hershey calling him out for his arrogance and short-sightedness, with Dredd's frequent threats of quitting if he did not get his way. Either compromise was made, or Hershey ignored Dredd and went ahead with her actions. In spite of this, they are friends, or rather the closest thing Dredd could still call a friend. His story with Hershey is not dissimilar to what he went though with McGruder, though perhaps less severe. McGruder's insanity led to her making many poor and rash decisions during her tenure, which quickly caused her to butt heads with Dredd. Eventually she was deposed and succeeded by Volt. During this time, McGruder's insanity had gotten so bad that she was scheduled for euthanasia. In one of the rare in instances of Dredd breaking the law, he broke McGruder out from her care home on the night she was scheduled for her lethal injection, and took her out in one last blaze of glory, rescuing some innocents from a band of Cursed Earth savages. McGruder was mortally wounded and died in Dredd's arms, giving her a better end than the city she worked so hard to keep living could have ever given her.
In final, Dredd is a nihilist who despises what he is, knowing full well that he and his legacy are just an image used to represent a system that will eventually tear itself apart, yet cannot bring himself to admit it. He is a increasingly reluctant and violent fascist force of nature that has likely claimed more lives than anyone else on the planet. He is a knowing tool, who has has no real pride for his city or its peoples, disdaining them for the stupidity, their flavour of the month fads and orangutan mayors, and is frequently surprised when he actually finds a good human being among the squalid mass. Dredd doesn't have a life, his attempts to do so almost always end in flames and so he upholds the law, because its the best thing he can do.
Birth and Training
After the attempted suicide of Chief Judge Fargo in 2051, it was decided to have him cloned to continue his lineage. Under the control of the Justice Dept's Head of Genetics Morton Judd, in 2066 Joseph Dredd and his brother Rico Dredd (the surname was chosen to instil a sense of fear among the citizens!) were 'born' at an accelerated age of five years old having been artificially created and incubated in a laboratory where during growth, their minds were computer programmed with language skills and all aspects of the law therefore allowing them to be immediately enrolled as cadet judges into the city's Academy of Law.
The Dredd cadets trained for thirteen years before graduating as full judges two years early on account of their exceptional progress in the Class of '79, the two of them at the top of their intake throughout with Rico (mere minutes older than Joe having been removed from the cloning tanks first) proving to be only slightly more skilled in areas such as marksmanship and combat fighting.
It was during their training in 2070 that the then President of the United States launched a paranoid nuclear attack on nations around the world he believed posed a threat to his rule and started what would become called The Atomic Wars.
In the immediate aftermath of the nuclear exchange and the worldwide devastation it caused, Rico and Joe were temporarily granted full judicial powers despite their young age under the exceptional circumstances and briefly left the Academy to join adult judges on the streets of the surviving Mega-City One where martial law had been imposed to deal with the total chaos and breakdown of society in the wake of the war. Here, they got a real taste of dispensing justice among the madness and had to shoot to kill for the first time. They both met Fargo in person together for the first time whilst part of a team sent to rescue him from a full-scale assault by Booth's loyal military forces, the crazy President realising that Fargo and his judges represented a continued threat to him. Since his suicide attempt years earlier, Fargo had been kept in suspended animation until able to benefit from new surgical procedures to repair the brain damage caused by his self-inflicted gunshot. Shortly afterwards Booth's remaining army was defeated and he was finally deposed and arrested by the judges of the Mega-City One Justice Dept for war crimes and it having been discovered that he secured his presidency via corruption and murder in the first place. Feeling unable to execute America's last president, the judges instead sentenced Booth to a 100 year period of punitive suspended animation and locked him away in the secure Fort Knox. Fargo too was also placed back into suspended animation after his health drastically deteriorated, meeting his clones one last time before doing so. Two weeks later, however, it was discovered that Fargo's frozen body had been mysteriously stolen from its facility without a trace.
Returning to complete their Academy training, cadets Joe and Rico underwent the standard Cursed Earth Familiarisation assessment commonly known as the Hotdog Run. During this, Rico was critically injured in a fall, to the extent that Joe thereafter believed it to have permanently affected Rico's mind and permanently twisted his personality. After Rico's physical recovery, the two made it together to rookie judge status and undertook their final street assessment, Joe under the supervision of experienced Judge Morph and Rico under Judge Kenner (who ended up being secretly murdered by Rico to stop him from expressing doubts as to his rookie's suitability!) Both Dredds passed this final test and were simultaneously awarded their black helmets and full eagle badges, being sworn in as new judges of Mega-City One and immediately hitting the streets to carry out the role they had literally been created for.
Joe Dredd quickly made a name for himself on the streets of Mega-City One, taking down vicious criminal gangs and apprehending murderers, becoming a hero amongst the citizens. Rico Dredd, however, chose a different path and quickly became corrupt, bending then breaking the law to his own will and for personal financial gain. Rico's protection rackets soon resulted in more murder, this time witnessed by Joe who confronted his clone brother and, resisting from returning fire and shooting Rico, instead took him alive and arrested him for murder. The mandatory sentence for judges who break the law being twenty year hard labour on the judicial prison colony on Saturn's moon, Titan, Rico was shipped off-world and underwent the harsh 'Titan treatment': being surgically altered and fitted with cybernetic breathing and voice implants having had his nose and mouth sealed so that he could work manually mining rocks in the vacuum of space without the need for a cumbersome environment suit slowing him down.
These events failed to affect Dredd's own efficiency as a judge, if anything strengthening his resolve even further, and he continued to make his presence on the streets felt, his personal actions alone bringing down crime rates significantly in city sectors in which he was posted. Twenty years into his service he tackled the notorious judge killing criminal known as Whitey and his gang who had holed up in the derelict Empire State Building, sentencing the lawbreaker to imprisonment on the Devil's Island penitentiary located on a huge manmade island surrounded by highways full of non-stop 200 mile an hour traffic where criminals were effectively marooned (as told in the first Judge Dredd episode to appear in Programme 2 of 2000 AD).
After several more cases in which Dredd easily overcame a variety of lawbreakers, he was called upon to take out a rampaging carpentry robot named Call-Me-Kenneth, gone amok and indiscriminately killing citizens. Dredd disabled and virtually destroyed the robot, only for it to be rebuilt as part of an experiment to discover why it had malfunctioned and killed contrary to its programming in the first place. Accidentally reactivated ahead of schedule, Call-Me-Kenneth resumed his previous psychopathic behaviour and rallied an entire army of thousands of the city's various working robots to his cause of overthrowing and exterminating their humans masters, whom the robots referred to as being "fleshy ones."
This uprising led to the first Robot Wars, during which Dredd met the placid drinks vending robot Walter, a small servo-droid with a speech impediment caused by his abject terror when he thought his human masters would destroy him. Dredd and Walter successfully put an end to Kenneth's revolution and regained control of the city before Dredd tracked down and personally destroyed Call-Me-Kenneth for good this time. Dredd's heroic stature was cemented and along with several other loyal robots who had assisted Dredd, Walter in particular was rewarded with being officially declared Mega-City One's only free robot, granted full citizenship rights usually reserved for humans only. Despite his new status, Walter idolised Dredd and chose to remain at his side, becoming his personal servant and living with Dredd in his apartment along with Dredd's cleaner/landlady Maria.
In the aftermath of the Robot War, Dredd went on to assess Rookie Judge Giant, son of a famous Aeroball player from decades earlier (in arguably the first instance of a 2000 AD crossover event between separate strips, Giant Jnr.'s father having been the lead character in the comic's Harlem Heroes story). After a shaky start, Rookie Giant displayed exceptional courage and judgement in taking down a gang of child kidnappers and Dredd recommended he be awarded the title of full judge of Mega-City One; over the years that followed, Judge Giant became a valuable ally to Dredd, assisting him in numerous cases and saving his mentor's life.
Other cases saw Dredd defeat the fanatical Neon Knights, a gang of bigoted robot-hating thugs; thwart a plot to destroy the city by the mutated denizens of the abandoned Undercity beneath Mega-City One's streets called Troggies; apprehend and deliver justice to another corrupt judge called Gibson, a former Academy classmate of Dredd's who had been robbing and killing citizens whilst disguised as a criminal calling himself Mutie The Pig; battle Don Uggie Apelino and his Ape Gang, a bunch of sentient talking chimpanzees given intelligence by human genetic experiments and who took on the guise of 1930's American gangsters to commit crime throughout the Mega-City.
However, Dredd's most important confrontation during this era was the return of his brother, Rico. Having served his twenty year sentence on Titan and now disfigured by the surgery he was forced to undergo, Rico returned to Mega-City One in 2099 seeking revenge against the man who had apprehended him: his own clone brother, Joe. Setting a trap for Dredd in his own apartment and then holding him at gunpoint, Rico wanted Joe to know how much he'd suffered before challenging Joe to a final shoot-out, Rico knowing that he had always been quicker on the draw than Joe during their Academy days as cadets together. However, having spent the last twenty years toiling in the lower gravity environment of the moon of Titan, Rico's reactions had slowed... only a split second but still enough for Joe to get the drop on him - shot by Joe, Rico died in his brother's arms and Joe carried his sibling's body outside to the waiting authorities himself, past the gathered crowds of onlookers. The incident deeply affected Joe and he would forever feel regret at having been forced to shoot his clone twin.
Dredd soon found himself chosen by the Judge's Council to be new Judge-Marshal in charge of the law enforcement team posted on the Moon's combined American Mega-City colony of Luna-1, a six month secondment. During his time there, Dredd cleaned-up the colony, transforming it from being a largely lawless cesspit of corruption and crime into an industrious and lawful habitation made safe for its citizens, having encountered killer cars, the evil Moonie Corporation, the Luna Olympic Games and a short-lived war with Russian Sov-Block judges attempting to seize land along the way! At the end of his remarkable tenure, Dredd left Luna-1 in the safe permanent hands of his trusted former Deputy, Judge Tex of Texas City.
The Cursed Earth
Shortly after his return to the streets of his much-missed Mega-City One, Dredd was selected to lead a small team of judges in a mercy mission to deliver vital vaccine to Mega-City Two on the other side of the country on America's western seaboard, where a terrible plague was turning its own millions of citizens into kill-crazy psychopathic cannibals! Unable to make the journey by air due to Mega-City Two's landing ports having become overrun by crazed plague victims, Dredd was forced to travel by land across thousands of miles of radioactive wasteland created by the Atomic War of 2070... a nightmarish hell known as The Cursed Earth! Dredd personally selected and 'persuaded' criminal biker Spikes Harvey Rotten to join the mission on account of his knowledge of the terrain they would be travelling through from his days as a former gun runner.
Along the way through this hell on Earth environment, Dredd faced and fought many bizarre and dangerous foes the likes of which he had never encountered before in the city, and which tested even his considerable skills and abilities to their absolute limit of endurance. Dredd's journey led him into the path of venomous flying rats the Devil's Lapdogs; the crazed Brotherhood of Mutants led by Brother Morgar, who despised normal humans; robot vampires protecting the last President of the USA 'Bad Bob' Booth, the man who had initiated the nuclear war that forever changed the world thirty years previously; warring burger corporations battling for customers; genetically engineered dinosaurs let loose from an old amusement park including the savage and seemingly unstoppable black tyrannosaur, Satanus (another 2000 AD crossover event, Satanus's mother having been the tyrannosaur named Old One Eye who led the dinosaur revolt against time travelling humans in the comic's early strip FLESH, and later Satanus son Golgotha would appear in A.B.C Warriors); a mad scientist and his psychotic giant creations; and the Mafia 'judges' running Vegas City in a mockery of the law!
Midway through his journey, Dredd had lost several of the judges under his command but gained a new teammate in the form of Tweak, a super-intelligent rock eating alien taken from his home planet along with his family by human explorers and sold into slavery to a Cursed Earth plantation owner. Tweak had escaped too late to prevent his family from being shot dead and was being hunted down by the vicious Slay Riders who chased runaway slaves when Dredd intervened and saved him.
Eventually the remaining team reached Death Valley, the last major obstacle before reaching Mega-City Two. Here they encountered the Legion of the Damned, an entire army of reactivated robot Mek-Troopers left buried in the desert sand after the Atomic War thirty years previously and programmed to kill judges on sight! With only Dredd, Spikes and Tweak left standing having survived attack after attack for several days, Spikes was mortally wounded and went out in a kamikaze blaze of glory, taking as many of the war droids with him as possible before being finally shot down for good. Dredd and Tweak managed to create a diversion and escaped the robots on foot, each in possession of a crate of the vital plague vaccine on their backs but losing each other in a desert sand storm soon afterwards. With sixty miles of scorching desert to cross on foot, Dredd began to hallucinate and ended up crawling through the sand and close to death from dehydration and the intense heat. Refusing to give up, his iron will saw him reach the gates of Mega-City Two and he managed to drag himself to his feet and stagger inside before collapsing. After life saving medical treatment, Dredd awoke to learn that Tweak too had survived and reached the city, and the vaccine both had carried had been administered to stop the spread of plague and save Mega-City Two. On Dredd's orders, Tweak was returned to his home planet to live in peace and, after several days of recuperation, Dredd boarded a flight to return to Mega-City One the easy way, his deadly mission across The Cursed Earth finally accomplished.
The Day the Law Died
Having only just returned from his journey, Dredd is almost instantly arrested by SJS Judges after being framed for murdering a newspaper editor and his photographer. While not putting up and resistance during his arrest and trial, Dredd was horrified at the thought of the surgical modifications he would be forced to go through on Titan and decided to fight against his sentence. Going into hiding in MC-1, Dredd was able to get information on who framed him from his informant Max Normal, who leads him to a robot designer named Chick Parker. Dredd breaks into Parker's home only to find him dead, and his killer to be a robot duplicate of himself. The fake Dredd robot then reveals that he was the one who framed Dredd and proceeds to try and kill the original, it fails however and is instead burnt out in a furnace. Fishing its head from the furnace as evidence, Dredd proves his innocence and sets out hunting for whoever it was that commissioned the robot from Parker in the first place.
Shortly after, Chief Judge Goodman fell victim to an assassination, in his dying words, he gives Dredd a clue that leads him find the SJS as the responsible party. After making this discovery however, he is shot by SJS Judge Quincy which leaves him in a coma for several days. During this time, Judge Cal, head of the SJS division, is instated as the new Chief Judge and quickly goes about setting a new tyrannical rule. Dredd eventually awakens from his coma and pieces together that Cal was responsible for the Dredd Robot, Goodman's death and the attempt on his life. He confronts Cal shortly after he instated his pet fish as the new Deputy Chief Judge, but is overpowered and sent for execution, only to be rescued by his former cadet Judge Giant.
Giant takes Dredd to a safe-house where he meets up with a group of Judge Tutors including Griffin, Pepper, Kelso, Schmaltz, Holbein and Clubman. Collectively they were planning to usurp Cal from his position. Dredd agrees to assist them, first storming a TV studio and sending a message out to the citizens to help in taking down Cal. Afterwards Dredd's group and the angry mob of MC-1 citizens storm the Grand Hall of Justice, but get as far as the doors before a large swarm of darkness covers the sky. Suddenly, massive reptilian aliens known as Kleggs begin descending from the sky en mass. The Kleggs slaughter much of the crowd and several of Dredd's Judges.
With his revolution in tatters Dredd goes into hiding as Cal looses his mind even more, instating the Kleggs as Judges and forcing the citizens to build a colossal wall around the city. At one stage, Cal decides to begin executing the citizens in alphabetical order. In order to stop this, Dredd assassinates Deputy Chief Judge Fish, causing Cal to loose heart. Cal promotes the Klegg leader Grampus to take the place of Fish before falling into a depression, which only deepens when nobody attends the funeral of Judge Fish. Grampus gathers a pack of Klegg Hounds to hunt down Dredd and his men, which leads the reptiles to their underground hideout. The unprepared Judges are massacred, and as Dredd and the few survivors flee in a road liner, Cal himself fires of a explosive sending the vehicle hurtling into the Underbelly. The combined efforts of the Klegg attack and the crash end up killing a majority of the Judges including Schmaltz, Clubman and Holbein. Stuck in the Underbelly, the surviving rebels (Consisting of Dredd, Giant, Griffin, Pepper and Kelso) encounter a hulking oaf named Fergee. After a savage beating from Dredd, Fergee surprisingly decides to help the Judges and leads them to the safety of his home.
While hiding out in Fergee's home, Dredd and the others deduce that Cal had ensured loyalty amongst the Judges through hypnosis, meanwhile Cal begins building large gas chambers, which he intended to use to poison the cities populace. Acting quickly, Dredd, Fergee and the others launch a final assault on Cal. They destroy his hypnosis tapes and begin shooting down the Klegg invaders. Cal flees to the peak of the Statue of Judgement and plans to activate the gas, only for Fergee to go out as a hero and toss both himself and Cal from the edge of the railing, causing them to hurtle down to their death. Afterwards a memorial statue is placed for Fergee and Griffin is instated as the new chief Judge.
- Dredd's face has never been shown. When he first took his helmet off in Prog 7 it was censored. Since then whenever he has taken off his helmet his face has been conveniently covered over. The only times his face has been shown was when he was either too young to have any distinguishing features or too scarred to recognise.
- It was originally intended in the earliest of strips that Dredd was non-white, however it was only artist Mike McMahon who followed up on this and the idea was dropped early on. The introduction of Judge Giant may have been inspired by this.