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Superman's Pal

Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 5,803
Subj: Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth - Uncensored (1978)
Posted: Sun Jul 10, 2022 at 05:28:42 pm EDT (Viewed 140 times)

If you're not familiar with Judge Dredd, it's a British comic serial that started in 1977 which takes place not only about 150 years in the future, but in the United States, where overpopulation has caused the entire east coast to merge into one continuous urban sprawl called Mega-City One. Street crime is so rampant that courts were abolished and police replaced with motorcycle riding Judges who roam the streets and not only stop criminals with extreme prejudice, but sentence and punish them on the spot. The most celebrated is Judge Dredd who has no tolerance for lawbreakers. It is generally so over the top that I view it as satire or outright comedy. Brits poking fun at American culture and dystopian sci-fi.

The serial ran in the weekly anthology 2000 A.D. so each story is about 6 or 8 pages long. "The Cursed Earth" was the first story to run more than 20 chapters. We find out that the west coast is Mega-City Two and between the two cities lies the Cursed Earth, a nuclear wasteland filled with the horrors leftover from World War 3. The Judges find out that Mega-City Two has been struck by a zombie plague. The zombies took over the MC2 airport and the airspace is also filled with the Death Belt, a constant storm blowing debris and giant killer rats, so MC1 can't send the cure via airplane so they are forced to send it by land across the Cursed Earth and of course they choose Dredd to lead the mission.

I said before this storyline was inspired by the novel/movie Damnation Alley. Where that story had the armored transport Landmaster, Dredd has the similar looking Land Raider. But it is supplemented by the Kill Dozer. Dredd recruits a frequent criminal called Spikes Harvey Rotten who is the best bike rider he knows, and offers him a pardon for undertaking the suicide mission. Dredd and Spikes lead the way with their Quasar Bikes. The Land Raider is manned by a bunch of spare Judges that can pop up as needed and sometimes be killed off, and a handful of robots that are barely used.

Each chapter takes us to a new piece of ruined Americana. The circuitous route takes them to Mt. Rushmore which now also features Jimmy Carter and the leader of the mutant gang who rules the area.

They discover a town where aliens from outer space have landed and been turned into slave labor. Dredd helps an aardvark looking alien named Tweak escape and he joins the team.

The reason why the collection I read is "Uncensored" is not for sex, violence, or language, but rather the unauthorized use of trademarked food mascots. Dredd and the team find themselves in the middle of the Burger Wars between Ronald MacDonald and the Burger King. Apparently the franchises have now become nation-states. Also near Fort Knox, Colonel Sanders runs a cloning lab which creates copies of the Jolly Green Giant. These chapters have not been reprinted since the original run due to a lawsuit by the companies, but somehow they got permission this time.

In Las Vegas they discover the Hall of Justice has been turned into a casino and all the Judges are corrupt. Everywhere Dredd goes he has to fix society's ills. He's also chased by a giant T-Rex that escaped from a theme park that clones dinosaurs. Did this predict Jurassic Park?

Along the way there is some world-building as they discover the last President of the U.S. who is responsible for WW3 and caused the Judges to take over. He's been in suspended animation ever since.

We learn a little about how Mega City One has a space program and has sent missions out to other planets which is where the alien Tweak came from.

The Judges and other characters get whittled away one by one until only Dredd is left to cross the Mojave Desert on foot after the vehicles have been destroyed.

Dredd comics were reprinted in the U.S. in the 80s by Eagle Comics and Fleetway. I used to frequent a comic shop in the early 90s and the owner offered me a steal on Dredd back issues, but only if I took the entire lot off his hands. Something like 50 issues for $20. I haven't read these old stories in years and I think I may have had a few Cursed Earth stories but never read the entire thing. This was a nice trip down memory lane.

I always liked Dredd but I don't think either of the movies really captured the over the top nature of the comics, or the satire. They played them more like straight action.

There was a movie adaptation rumored in the 80s I think with Chuck Norris that never materialized. I wonder how that would have been?

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