The Science of Judge Dredd

Sparked by a (funny) question on the 2000ad message board:

Screenshot from 2000ad Message Board: Genuine question - does the lawgiver only eject casings on covers? I’m sure I’ve seen it before on covers but not that I’ve seen it in stripwork.

Posted by BPP

Genuine question – does the lawgiver only eject casings on covers? I’m sure I’ve seen it before om [sic] covers but not that I’ve seen it in stripwork.

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BPP

As someone with a passing interest in this stuff, I have considered this question. What I’m suggesting isn’t – by any means definitive – but it’s an explanation of why I draw things the way I draw them, but first, let me talk more generally about my approach to Dredd.

I would rather draw something that explains the story and gives an emotional punch more than something that is the actual science of the world. As, I think Russell T Davis said of the Sonic Screwdriver (and I’m both paraphrasing and unsure if he’s the right writer) nobody wants to watch a Doctor Who episode where he spends much of it figuring out how to unlock dozens of doors, so the sonic screwdriver just magically does it.

So let’s start with that stupid/amazing/vision-obscuring/visionary helmet. Designed by Carlos Ezquerra to look like an executioner’s hood, and refined and refined over the years by list of the giants of British Comics, including Mike McMahon, Brian Bolland, Steve Dillon, Brendan McCarthy, and you know, nearly every UK british artist has had a go.

What’s striking about Dredd’s helmet is just how malleable it is, how open to interpretation and how iconic each artist can make it. Here’s a fun link, Steve Green takes a bunch of Dreddworld helmet designs and renders them in 3d, including Brendan McCarthy outrageously flared helmet, which on first glance I’d’ve said you could never make in 3d, but it works really well.

Personally my helmet design probably comes mostly from Steve Dillon, but also – and hold on to your Dredd-hats – partly from the Stallone Dredd movie.

From Dillon the general Dredd shape, from Stallone movie various frills, but also an opening mechanisim at the back, as well as a little extra padding at the back of the neck…

Elements, I’ve always presumed that came from practicalities of wearing the damn thing.

I’ve banged on about my approach to Dredd’s uniform already, so if you’re interested, that is here.

Now, as to the science, I tend to think of Dredd’s helmet as delivering information directly to Dredd’s eyes/ears, essentially super-vision, a Heads up display – possibly fed from tiny cameras around the head (If you’ve ever used an oculus rift in its camera mode, you’ll see how cool that can look), literal eyes in the back of his head. Linked to his gun too, so it would be fairly possible for him to turn his head fractionally, but have accurate vision 180deg behind him and to fire at a target without missing.

I’d also imagine that helmet would reduce/increase the information feed to Dredd depending on what’s happening. Dredd on a bike gets a HUD that’s different to Dredd on the street. Dredd with gun out, will get information about targets that he can acquire and suggesions for ammo type. Once the gun is ‘hot’ it’ll switch to a simpler mode.

Vision augmented, and the same will be true of his auditory input. (And this may even have some sort of neural link directly to him (this, by the way, almost all falls under the heading of “fan wank” – ie, 90% of readers won’t care, but some – SOME LIKE ME – get really excited about shit like this)

NOW! On to the gun

Here’s how I see it: Dredd’s gun is essentially a super sophisticated 3d printer. It holds multiple ingredients for building multiple types of bullet.

The device is primed (usually through spoken command, though it will default to smartly identifying the type of bullet) theory: maybe cadets are trained to shout out the bullet type so other Judges can have a better situational awareness. Dredd shouts “Armour piercing”? everyone else goes with Armour Piercing.

(Again, this is very much fan wank – the real reason Dredd shouts out the bullet type is so the reader knows what Dredd has fired…)

Why the shells? Well, the real reason is: they look cool. The in-my-head reason is that some of the raw material (but not all) is held in cartridges, and so they eject after they’re spent.

The question I have is, is it like my colour printer : where if you don’t have yellow ink you can’t (for some reason) print black and white. If you lack ingredient X can you still use bullet Y that doesn’t use it, or is the gun out of ammo?

I suspect some ingredients are common to all bullet types (projectile types? is bullet the right word?)

But that’s it. Now you can just ignore all of this, because, let’s face it, it’s just my fanciful head canon, that I’m just as liable to ignore myself if there’s a more interesting way to draw it.

The one thing I can’t explain, is why the Judge Eagle would sometimes flip on to the wrong shoulder…

UPDATE: I’ve turned on comments if you want to pop your own “How does the science of Dredd work” theory in here…

3 thoughts on “The Science of Judge Dredd”

  1. Love this post! Love the idea of the HUD especially now Dredd has ‘bionic’ eyes… and the link to the gun, wow! Bit like robocop… but this explains why and how he is so accurate and deadly. It doesn’t explain the changing number of links to his badge though…

    1. Oddly, I think (again, in my head) one of the things that makes Dredd so good is he probably does ignore the hud more than most (or at least the AI suggestions it might make), knowing when to take the shot and knowing the perps he’s chasing are probable his secret sauce… (In the same way he never truly trusted the Birdie lie detector…)

  2. Cheers for the link to my stuff!

    I think when we were trying to come up with excuses/explanations for anyone complaining about vision on the helmet in Minty, we bunged in the HUD – although I’m sure it had come up before in the strip somewhere – We broadly thought maybe the red bit is like a one-way mirror too (or some shite)

    The helmet seems to go on OK without too much knocked out at the back, but looking up can be a bit of a chore.

    I don’t think we’ve had too many problems with people not being able to see out of them, although comic cons aren’t quite as rough as the Big Meg (unless you count that one when Stan Lee was being mobbed)

    One thing we added which doesn’t make much sense is having the gun slide back when firing – considering the scope is on the back too.

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