Judge Joe Dredd is a comics character whose strip in the British science fiction anthology 2000 AD is the magazine's longest running (having been featured there since its second issue in 1977). Dredd is an American law enforcement officer in a violent city of the future where uniformed Judges combine the powers of police, judge, jury and executioner. Dredd and his fellow Judges are empowered to arrest, sentence and even execute criminals on the spot. He was created by writer John Wagner and artist Carlos Ezquerra, although editor Pat Mills also deserves some credit for his early development.
Judge Dredd is amongst the UK's best known home-grown comic characters. So great is the character's name recognition that his name is sometimes invoked over similar issues to those explored by the comic series, such as the police state, authoritarianism and the rule of law. Judge Dredd was named the seventh greatest comic character by the magazine Empire.
When Pat Mills was developing 2000 AD in 1976, he brought in his former writing partner, John Wagner, to develop characters. Wagner had written various Dirty Harry-style "tough cop" stories for other titles, and suggested a character who took that concept to its logical extreme, imagining an ultra-violent lawman patrolling a future New York City with the power to administer instant justice. Mills had developed a horror strip called Judge Dread but abandoned the idea as unsuitable for the new comic; but the name, with the spelling modified to "Dredd" at the suggestion of sub-editor Kelvin Gosnell, was adopted by Wagner for his ultimate lawman.
The task of visualising the character was given to Carlos Ezquerra, a Spanish artist who had worked for Mills before on Battle Picture Weekly. Wagner gave Ezquerra an advertisement for the film Death Race 2000, showing the character Frankenstein clad in black leather on a motorbike, as a suggestion for what the character should look like. Ezquerra elaborated on this greatly, adding body-armour, zips and chains, which Wagner initially thought to be over the top. Wagner's initial script was rewritten by Mills and drawn up by Ezquerra, but when the art came back a rethink was necessary. The hardware and cityscapes Ezquerra had drawn were far more futuristic than the near-future setting originally intended, but Mills decided to run with it and set the strip further into the future.
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