He is the law! He is a big-screen action hero! And, from time to time, he is also a cartoony political metaphor. He is Judge Dredd, the 25 year old dispenser of comic-book justice. With a new Dredd film scheduled to hit theaters this weekend, Reason Senior Editor Peter Suderman looks at the character's politics and history in The Washington Times:
John Wagner, who co-created the character in 1977 and has penned many of his adventures since, has said that he created Dredd as a response to the era's rising British right wing. In the comics, Dredd plays judge, jury, and executioner as one of the Judges of Mega-City One, an overpopulated city surrounded by a desolate post-apocalyptic wasteland.
"He seemed to capture the mood of the age," Mr. Wagner told the BBC in 2002. "He was a hero and a villain."
But despite the character's left-leaning political origins, many of the early stories revolved around common conservative worries. Street crime, density, and joblessness haunt those tales, as do fears of mass madness.
To a great extent, the early Dredd comics are as much about Mega-City One, the sprawling future city he helps police, as about the character of Dredd himself. Many of the earliest Dredd stories can be read as dark comic riffs on lawlessness, economic despair and urban decay — the same fears and anxieties that helped launch conservative politicians like Mrs. Thatcher and Ronald Reagan into prominence in the 1980s.