Dredd Vs….. Part 1
Dredd Crosses Over
What is the purpose of the crossover?
Is it the thrill of seeing your favourite characters facing off against one another? Shoehorned into a contrived scenario? Playing off each others strengths and weaknesses? Does it matter that it (usually) has no bearing on the ongoing development of those characters. Little bubble universes soon ignored save for the lingering thrill of seeing big characters who would not (and probably could not) usually meet, teaming up and fighting each other to a stand still.
So. Onto Dredd.
For the purposes of this article, I’m not including Dredd versus crossovers.No place here for “Cursed Earth Koburn”, “Missionary Man” (am I alone in not missing him in the slightest?) “Shimura”, “Hondo City Justice” / “Inaba”, “Devlin Waugh” (as awesome as the Sean Phillips drawn one-off was), “Armitage” or even “Flesh” / Satanus. Besides, I might need inspiration for another write up, so I’ll just bank the Dredd versus stuff for emergencies🙂
I’m also discounting “2000AD’s” early attempt at a cohesive universe, e.g. reference to Mega City One in early “Ro Busters” and references to “Harlem Heroes” in JD’s own strip, plus Garth Ennis’s love letter to B&W era Toothy (to quote Matt Smith)”Helter Skelter”
I’m sticking with team ups and meetings from differing time lines (Alpha’s time line kind of / sort of / maybe fits in with MC1s, but doesn’t really. But I am including him because this is my article and I’ll change the rules as I want).
Why do publishers print crossovers? Dredd’s profile in the US can probably be best described as “cult”. I’m not going to get into reasons why here, but matching him with more famous properties is only going to help his profile. No matter how forced or contrived these meetings might be.
Our friends (:)) at IDW, the current US Dredd licence holder have a distinct interest in raising his profile, see this typo riddled missive from a few weeks ago :
and this isn’t their first attempt. But more on that later.
Where did this all start? Well let’s take exhibit 1 : “Judge Dredd / Strontium Dog Top Dogs” Both 2000ad / Fleetway properties (this was 1990). The characters share creators, both very popular, it’s an easy win.
Appearing in the 1991 Judge Dredd Annual, and written by John Wagner and drawn by Colin MacNeil. Too short perhaps, but sharply written and beautifully drawn and featuring Wulf Sternhammer before his death. I remember getting so excited about this, reading it and rereading it. I still absolutely love it, two of my favourite characters facing off.
The plot goes like this: Alpha goes to MC1 on a time job to pick up a murderer on the run. Of course, bounty hunting is illegal in MC1, and at the time, so were mutants. Two strikes against Johnny, and worse luck old Stoney Face is on the case.
Short, sharp, lots of fun. No winners – but a score draw. A rematch was probably inevitable but a few years away yet. For me, it’s still the best Dredd crossover. MacNeil’s art is fantastic.
However, before he could meet the former John Kreelman again, in 1991 Joe was distracted by a run in with a man who dresses as a flying rat.
If you are as old as I am, you might have heard of this.
I’m not sure what DC were going to get out of this, but the various publishers of 2000AD (Maxwell Communications / Fleetway at the time) are always keen to get a presence in the States for their authoritarian, law enforcing, stoney faced property.
Initially proposed as an Alan Moore / Brian Bolland project, before being handed the Wagner / Grant writer team with Alan Davis as proposed artist (a dummy run was published as “Bat Mugger” in prog 585). But that was before Simon Bisley rose to prominence on the back of “Slaine the Horned God”, then the choice of artist became moot.
The one shot had spectacular art, and unusually for an inter company crossover, it was kind of in continuity (for Dredd anyway), though the events therein haven’t been mentioned since. Played largely for laughs, it was a (brief) riot and very much in the 2000AD vein rather than the more conventional DC idiom.
Death breaches the dimensional wall after the events of “Necropolis” and wreaks havoc in “modern day” (at least 4 universe shattering crises ago) Gotham. The aforesaid flying rat fetishist inadvertently visits MC1, bumps into Joe and Cass’ with the inevitable outcome.
Cass’ and Bats’ head back to Gotham to get Death, hot on their heels – Old Stoney Face. In the meantime, Death has teamed up with Scarecrow ( Scarecrow????) and is wreaking havoc around the city, culminating in a massacre at a rock concert before he is “put back in his box”.
Hugely successful, at the time it was seen as Dredd’s “in” to the US and I’d suggest helped get the 1995 “Judge Dredd” film off the ground (you win some you lose some). Bats’ stock was particularly high at the time, and Bisley was a revelation, just coming off the back of the “Lobo” mini series for DC which helped the profile of the project in the US.
A sequel was inevitable, but it took longer than the shipping of 3As 2000AD figures (or the heat death of the universe, a similar time frame) to arrive. A few placeholder crossovers were published to keep the Joe / Bats conflict simmering, and we’ll get to those shortly.
In the meantime, the latest Dredd mega epic saw the return of the blank eyed bounty hunter from New Britain.” Judgement Day” was an excuse for Garth Ennis (from an idea dreamed up with John Wagner) to decimate the population of the Dreddverse and prune the mega cities, using a magically empowered nut from the future and a horde of zombies. But more relevant to the doggerel that you are reading, it saw the rematch (such as it was) between Dredd and Johnny Alpha.
The plot is pretty straightforward. Sabbat : necromagus and student of Murd the Necromancer (see Judge Child) is on the run from the future after committing atrocities across the galaxy, and heads to the 22nd century. The Galactic Crime Commission send Johnny Alpha back in time to eliminate him. Alpha arrives in Hondo City, crosses swords (or tendo staves and electronux at least) with Judge Inspector Sadu (see our “Man In Hondo”). After the initial misunderstanding they kiss and make up.
The whole world is at risk, so the remaining mega cities team up to attack Sabbat and meet to discuss how to “sort im ‘aht”. At the summit, both Sadu (who also has an axe to grind) and Alpha have a pop at Dredd – it doesn’t take a genius to work out who comes off worse.
The cities form a special attack squad with representatives from each city, led by Dredd, to attack Sabbat in his lair. Dredd, being Dredd, excludes Alpha. But Alpha gets himself onto the mission by taking the place of one of the other judges.
It certainly isn’t the best mega epic, but the fanboy in me took over and I just remember being sooooooooooooooooo excited about them meeting again . I loved the interaction between Johnny and Dredd’s world, even if the rest of the story was just about out doing the body count of “Necropolis”.
And then, there is this image :
I don’t think I need to say anything else.
(anyone reading this got the original page?)
So. So far we have Joe alternating between meeting mind reading mutants and weirdos dressing as small flying mammals. But there is more to Dredd crossovers than bounty hunters enhanced by dubious science or vigilantes driven by personal loss and psychological breakdown, as we will see in part 2.