Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length
 

Author Topic: Judge Dredd: The hero or villain issue  (Read 3588 times)

PsychoGoatee

  • Member
  • Prog Stacking Droid
  • ***
  • Posts: 970
  • Drokk!!
    • View Profile
Judge Dredd: The hero or villain issue
« on: 22 August, 2010, 06:07:25 AM »
I sometimes see people say that Dredd is the villain. I saw this mentioned elsewhere but didn't want to derail that topic. What are people's thoughts on that, Judge Dredd, the hero or villain thing? Of course it varies wildly depending on the story or the era, but the overall character encompassing everything he's done, how would you describe him?

For one thing, I disagree with those who flat out say he's a villain, because that discounts all the stories where he's a clear cut hero. It was mentioned in I think Thrill Power Overload, how The Cursed Earth and Day The Law Died early on defined that important part of Dredd, where he's a freakin' hero.

Of course, there are also those stories where he kills or otherwise does serious harm to sympathetic good people who are focused on. Even though I don't like to define Dredd as a villain, I'll admit he's the villain in those stories, though I'd prefer to say antagonist.

For example in Chopper stories he's certainly an antagonist, but I don't think he's a villain there, even if we do care about the character he's against.

As for his usual throwing people in the cubes for long stays for hilariously minor offenses like having sugar or whatnot, that never makes me think of him as a villain. For one thing it's usually played for laughs, but I just chalk it up to collateral damage. We know superheroes like The Hulk will throw a car through some poor barber's shop or something in a fight, but Hulk is still the hero.

So, if I had to pick either hero or villain to define Judge Dredd, I'd pick hero, even though it's not that simple. While it might be too easy, I think the best answer is to say he's an antihero. Which he is, a protagonist we sympathize with who doesn't have all the usual attributes that make a hero.

Also to nerd it up a bit, in D&D character alignment Judge Dredd would be lawful neutral. :D Oddly enough on the wiki defining lawful neutral it even says "Examples of Lawful Neutral characters might include a soldier who always follows orders, a judge or enforcer that adheres mercilessly to the word of the law, a disciplined monk". Sounds about right.

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 22 August, 2010, 06:10:45 AM by PsychoGoatee »

Colin YNWA

  • Member
  • CALL-ME-KENNETH!
  • *****
  • Posts: 14387
    • View Profile
Re: Judge Dredd: The hero or villain issue
« Reply #1 on: 22 August, 2010, 07:08:53 AM »
This is a thorny old subject and I have in the past sat on the Dredd is a bad guy fence. Its of course not that simple. The trouble is there's a thing that good historians do which is to not judge people from the past by modern standards and that's what I've done in the past. Any number of Roman Emperors (to use an example as this is the context I learnt this in) judged by todays standards would often be regarded as evil, they did some terrible things. That however completely removes them from their context.

Dredd falls into a similar situation by todays standards he's a evil bastard. The simple facts of the matter is he's a great supporter of a totaliatarian (by my understanding of the term) facistic system that has frequently oppresses the rights of its citizens and still does. That Dredd has softened in his hardline attitude does not take away the fact he still is a strong believer in that system. On top of all that however he has also committed mass genocide showing no remorse at the time and a very limited degree afterwards. All of that judged by todays standards its a pretty easy conclusion to get to. Evil bastard.

However within the context of Dredd's world, up bringing, indeed conditioning the context of those opinions and actions needs to be viewed in a different light and its dfficult to make the call from our perspective. Its clear that his actions are very often heroic and brave, but people can do heroic and brave things for bad and terrible reasons or motivations. So for example people have sacrificed their lives killing innocent people believing they are defending thier religion. Within the context of their beliefs their actions are brave and heroic, to my eyes they're evil bastards. So its very difficult to call as a reader Dredd's context being a work of fiction.

So I enjoy him as a fictional character with a fascinating world and the ethical context that puts him in and try not to come to conclusive judgements anymore and just enjoy each story and the questions it creates as it comes and the reflections and satire that provides of the real world.

Its 7am and I've been up since 4.30 with the little 'un so there's every chance this all makes no sense!

PsychoGoatee

  • Member
  • Prog Stacking Droid
  • ***
  • Posts: 970
  • Drokk!!
    • View Profile
Re: Judge Dredd: The hero or villain issue
« Reply #2 on: 22 August, 2010, 09:06:47 AM »
I agree with a lot of what you're saying, and I definitely try to put Dredd into the context of his crazy brutal futuristic world when judging him, pun intended.

Colin YNWA

  • Member
  • CALL-ME-KENNETH!
  • *****
  • Posts: 14387
    • View Profile
Re: Judge Dredd: The hero or villain issue
« Reply #3 on: 22 August, 2010, 09:17:35 AM »
Thank god someone else has posted. "mass genocide" errr I'm retracting that one. I'm not even sure it was genocide, well it wasn't as its defined. He was guilty of the slaughter of 2 billions people the vast majority of whom were inncoent civilians. Thats not actually genocide but still qualifies him as an evil bastard by todays standards.

Greg M.

  • Member
  • Battle Hardened War Robot
  • ****
  • Posts: 3049
  • My mind is on the spoons!
    • View Profile
    • The Beat of His Own Drum
Re: Judge Dredd: The hero or villain issue
« Reply #4 on: 22 August, 2010, 10:25:09 AM »
I think it is fair to say, as I believe Wagner does, that Dredd varies between being a fairly good guy and a fairly bad guy, encompassing all points in between. Whilst I have only just returned to 2000AD after a 5-6 year hiatus, the impression I am getting is that Dredd is currently leaning more towards 'fairly good guy', though I expect the trick is to never let him go too far in either direction. I could be wrong, but I also reckon Dredd at his nastiest is more a product of Alan Grant than John Wagner, Grant wanting to write Dredd as increasingly grotesque satire (hence their famous disagreement about whether he kills Chopper at the end of Oz, and hence the awful, awful Judge Anderson story where he agrees with nuking children who are simply leaving the city.) On another thread, I said I reckoned Dredd is at his worst between 'City of the Damned' and 'Hitman', and while there are plenty of heroics in this era, there is also a real sense of pettiness and vindictiveness in him at times. 'Oz' in particular is interesting, because you get both sides at once in the same story, possibly a reflection of Wagner and Grant's disagreement about the direction to take him in. But for me, it is the 'Revolution' story which really shows Dredd at his most unpleasant - the dirty tricks he employs to victimise the Democratic Marchers are unworthy of him, and he knows it. Of course, one of the best things about Wagner's writing is the way that developments like this aren't swept under the carpet (apart from that Anderson story, but what could anyone do with a car-crash like that?) but act as catalyst for character growth - Dredd's crisis of conscience gives us 'Letter to Judge Dredd' and his resignation in 'Tale of the Dead Man', creating one of the most exciting eras in the strip's history.

SmallBlueThing

  • Member
  • Bionic Fingers
  • *****
  • Posts: 6003
  • Wants to eat you.
    • View Profile
Re: Judge Dredd: The hero or villain issue
« Reply #5 on: 22 August, 2010, 10:40:43 AM »
There's a fantastic, and hilarious, example of Dredd's dichotomy in one of my favourite strips, 'cry of the werewolf' part 4: on confronted with the troggees, dredd fires his lawgiver, scaring them away. In the first panel he thinks "Pathetic scum. People whove sunk as low as the hole they live in. Got no time to help 'em." Brilliant piece of misdirection as to dredd's heroism, because in the very next panel, in which he's seen in closeup, grimacing and dripping from his helmet as if his very sweat were coming through the metal, such is his rage, he thinks "Even if i did, i wouldnt!"

Never fails to make me laugh.
SBT
.

beta

  • Member
  • Sub Basement Sewer Unit
  • *
  • Posts: 51
    • View Profile
Re: Judge Dredd: The hero or villain issue
« Reply #6 on: 22 August, 2010, 10:51:27 AM »
He's just some guy, yknow.

Dredd acts (when well written), in a strictly utilitarian way. It simply his job to stop the world from falling to pieces, and the politicians and beaucrats can sort out the mess.  He is the "Napolean" figure, immune from being judged by usual moral standard as long as he, in return, drags the world forward.

That said, dredd's late developing humanity and his willingness to judge his own actions has become an interesting aspect of the character.  

Good guy trying hard in a bad system.


Richard

  • Member
  • Evil Cyborg
  • ****
  • Posts: 2350
    • View Profile
Re: Judge Dredd: The hero or villain issue
« Reply #7 on: 22 August, 2010, 11:57:21 AM »
I don't agree with the "genocide" point above. He blew up 5 cities in "Judgement Day," but they were infested with zombies and they would all have died anyway, so it wasn't really his fault. He also blew up East Meg One, but that was in self-defence. As he said at the time, "You shouldn't start wars if you can't take the consequences!"

As well as in "Revolution," I think he was also at his nastiest in the first "Kenny Who?" story, when he picked on an poor Kenny for no reason. But as someone pointed out above, this was during the Alan Grant phase, and once Wagner was solo on Dredd he seems to have resiled from that story with the sequel from the early Megazine (the one which didn't make it into the Case Files), in which Dredd lets him out of the cubes early. And 4 years after Revolution, Dredd put his life on the line to give the citizens a referendum about whether to restore democracy or not.

It all depends on which story you happen to be reading.

JOE SOAP

  • Member
  • CALL-ME-KENNETH!
  • *****
  • Posts: 15087
    • View Profile
Re: Judge Dredd: The hero or villain issue
« Reply #8 on: 22 August, 2010, 01:14:50 PM »
Dredd is an agent of the "state", Mega City One, which at it's centre operates under an extreme version of the agressive principle or "the big stick", the ability to use violence against you; it's function to preserve the cohesion of order. Now, depending on your persuasion, whether you're a statist or anti-statist, as all governed states have the agressive principle at heart to some degree, this can be a good or bad thing. From Dredd's personal point-of-view, he's not a hero, as such a notion of narcissistic self mythologising should not apply to a Judge/bureaucratic enforcer. To those who see him as someone who has risked life and limb to preserve them and theirs while in the course of doing-his-duty he may be viewed as a "hero" but Dredd's "Law" programming, subconcious emotional issues aside, conditions him to preserve the state and preserve the order of bureaucracy, altrusim aside.

Down through the years we've seen Dredd break with that "Law" programmming, a symptom of his single mindedness, a trait of the Fargo Bloodline that the-powers-that-be see as a strength rather than a weakness in the job of Judging, the ability to be decisive, and may be the central reasoning behind Dredd's escaping many diciplinary actions for his personal indiscretions over the years. The "Judges" latently see him as someone connected to the pure source of "Justice" and feel the need to trust that source, that Judgement, since their notion of justice is ultimately a fabricated one and any semblance of absolutist authority of the law cements their belief in what they do. They have mythologised the "Holy" Bloodline to a certain extent which enforces the monklike tendencies of the Judges and their continued replication of that Bloodline in old and new forms, so you could say Dredd's a "Hero" to them too.

Of course Dredd's own soul has grown over the years as his subconcious need for "family" has manifested itself thorough his relationships with Rico(s), Vienna, Fargo, Dolman, Nimrod, the Fargo Clan, Beeny, and his personal desire to preserve this "family" unit within the state while also serving his programming to preserve the state. This is the source of his conflict, whom does he serve, the family or the state? His efforts to integrate both, the "Family as Law" so to speak, has informed his judgement on the current state of rule within the City and the Cursed Earth.

So ultimately does this make him a Hero or VIllain? No, it makes him a human being, albeit one with a huge capacity for sanctioned violence and authoritarianism of course, but simplistic labels don't apply, neither do fabrications of "morality" and "justice", and it's the reason I still read Dredd and I don't read superhero comics.
« Last Edit: 22 August, 2010, 01:22:52 PM by Garageman »

The Corinthian

  • Member
  • Page Numbering Droid
  • **
  • Posts: 168
  • Gaze into the Fist of Pob!
    • View Profile
Re: Judge Dredd: The hero or villain issue
« Reply #9 on: 22 August, 2010, 01:28:13 PM »
Re: Grant. I recently re-read his 1989 story 'Politics'. This is about a pro-democracy film-maker who gets kidnapped by a far right terrorist group. They turn out to be a front for the Judges. In order to silence her, Dredd has her brainwashed and 'disappeared'.

It struck me that this is a degree of bastardliness on Dredd's part that transcends things like approving the routine tranquilisation of the population, or even suppressing the pro-democracy march. The latter did pose an existential threat to the Justice Department and making a display of breaking it up makes sense in terms of the logic of the authoritarian system (and the character of the incumbent Chief Judge). What happens in 'Politics' seems astonishingly petty and vindictive - it makes the Judges seem no better than a Pinochet/Galtieri-style banana dictatorship, and I think their system is more sophisticated than that.

But worse it makes Dredd seem utterly complicit it in a way that seems out of character. She's not an existential threat to Mega-City One and - more importantly - she hasn't broken any laws. It doesn't help that this is just a month away from 'A Letter to Judge Dredd', or that Grant basically retells the same story in an infinitely more sophisticated and affecting form a couple of years later in 'The Jesus Syndrome'.

(While I find Grant's kneejerk anti-authoritarianism a bit annoying, it's still less irritating than 'Twilight's Last Gleaming' and 'Helter Skelter', wherein the democrats are deluded self-serving wimps who can't measure up to a Real Man like Dredd. Though I can't help wonder if the voting computer that gave the referendum to the Judges wasn't the dodgy one that was fixed for Booth in 'Origins'.)

Generally, I'm not sure that Dredd is either a hero or a villain - he is The Law!

Aaron A Aardvark

  • Member
  • Page Numbering Droid
  • **
  • Posts: 142
    • View Profile
Re: Judge Dredd: The hero or villain issue
« Reply #10 on: 22 August, 2010, 03:18:34 PM »
Nuking children, eh? Haven't read that one.

I was reading a book about Hiroshima and couldn't help thinking of The Apocalypse War; basically an unforgivable act but what would YOU have done if you had been Roosevelt/Dredd?

It's morally ambiguous.

On the other hand, when Dredd's being a bully, it just leaves a nasty taste.

Withnail's liver

  • Member
  • Page Numbering Droid
  • **
  • Posts: 120
    • View Profile
Re: Judge Dredd: The hero or villain issue
« Reply #11 on: 22 August, 2010, 04:12:21 PM »
I think it all stems from the fact that Dredd is a character with principals. That and the fact his system of principals are formed in a world and civil system different to our own.
 
He is charged with upholding the law- something he has no active control over (well until now, what with him being on the Council of Five I'm assuming he will get a say in the laws and "running" of the city).  Which he does mostly without question.

Mostly Dredd's principals coincide with ours and he appears sympathetic.  It is when he makes some form of stand for an issue that we also feel is "unfair", that he appears heroic (the recent mutant issue) and when his system of principals clashes with ours that he appears villanous (America and of course the whole democracy thing).

and stuff...
I have a heart condition.  If you hit me it's murder!

Greg M.

  • Member
  • Battle Hardened War Robot
  • ****
  • Posts: 3049
  • My mind is on the spoons!
    • View Profile
    • The Beat of His Own Drum
Re: Judge Dredd: The hero or villain issue
« Reply #12 on: 22 August, 2010, 04:27:32 PM »
Nuking children, eh? Haven't read that one.


Judge Anderson: Crusade, from 1997. In my view, one of the worst Dredd-universe stories ever, with Dredd, Hershey and Volt all wildly out of character, launching nuclear weapons at children who've chosen to leave MC1 and pose it no threat. Written by Alan Grant (!), probably the apotheosis of his anti-authoritarian stance, as The Corinthian suggests in a previous post.

Peter Wolf

  • Member
  • Bionic Fingers
  • *****
  • Posts: 9847
    • View Profile
    • Peter Wolf
Re: Judge Dredd: The hero or villain issue
« Reply #13 on: 22 August, 2010, 04:36:20 PM »
Nuking children, eh? Haven't read that one.

I was reading a book about Hiroshima and couldn't help thinking of The Apocalypse War; basically an unforgivable act but what would YOU have done if you had been Roosevelt/Dredd?

It's morally ambiguous.

On the other hand, when Dredd's being a bully, it just leaves a nasty taste.


Dropping 2 atomic bombs on cities is bullying on a very large scale.You drop a bomb on them and the enemy capitulates and i dont see what is morally ambiguous about it.

The allied forebombing of Dresden wasnt morally ambiguous but of course to some because it wasnt the Nazis who dropped atomic bombs then that makes the act slightly more "morally ambiguous".
Worthing Bazaar - A fete worse than death

The Corinthian

  • Member
  • Page Numbering Droid
  • **
  • Posts: 168
  • Gaze into the Fist of Pob!
    • View Profile
Re: Judge Dredd: The hero or villain issue
« Reply #14 on: 22 August, 2010, 05:27:59 PM »
Roosevelt was dead by the time of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was Truman.

On the whole, I think comparing the fictional deaths in 'The Apocalypse War' to bombings in the real world in which real tens of thousands of real innocent civilians really died is probably unhelpful when it comes to working out if Dredd is a hero or a villain. But I do think it's fairly clear that we're not supposed to admire or cheer Dredd for doing what he does. There's no insistence of 'Yay! JD kicking butt!'

Even as an 8 year old I felt there was what I'd now describe as a moral distance between the reader and the character both in that and other stories. It made it harder to identify Dredd in unambiguous terms as a hero. This is, of course, one of the reasons why Tooth was a much more intriguing and disturbing read than other comics.

Funnily enough, given that he did more to raise questions about the very notion of heroism in my innocent young brain than anyone else, it's Pat Mills who sees Dredd as primarily a hero and a human being. And it's Mills who provides us with this great quote: "You see, now Mek-Quake is a hero, he needs an excuse for his nauseating acts of sickening violence."