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.!/FutureShockd


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…

Dredd Chrysalids page 6

And there we have it. I’m gonna blog an almost redundant post after this one, that just puts all six pages together (including corrections I’ve done along the way – mostly minor things, but they all count). In the end, I’m fairly happy with it. Esp that last panel, it feels right to me. I might be wrong, but you know, whatcha gonna do?

I’d sent the script to a number of writer friends, back when I’d harboured ideas of pitching it to Tharg, and I got two responses about that end: dredd shouldn’t lose, this feels like dredd losing and the other (from a dredd writer) I like that dredd loses.

In the end, my gut tells me the ending with Dredd forgetting is the one that works.

I’ll post the script in a few days so you can see how much I varied it after the fact.

“But, PJ, Why DIDN’T you submit it to Tharg?”

Well, reader, I’ll be honest, I didn’t feel I had the chops neccessary to get a Dredd script accepted – even if it was brilliant (which I might not be, I dunno…) it felt like I needed to write a bunch of stories – of any sort – before I could expect to waste Matt’s time with a read of my script. Esp since I’m only playing at being a writer, I may never write again (though, maybe — I’ve two other Dredd story ideas that, like this one, have sat in the back of my brain for a long time, that maybe could do with a spit and a polish and some pencils… maybe NEXT christmas… we’ll see…)

Anyway, hope you liked it, please let me know – I’m not being paid for this, so the only positive I get is feedback…!

Now, on to the pencils and greywash…

Dredd Chrysalids page 1

I’ve had a Dredd script on my hard drive for over a year, from an idea that’s over a decade old, and it’s just been sort of … sitting there… so I decided yesterday that, sod it, I’m never gonna polish it enough to expect 2000ad to print (let alone submit it to them for their consideration) so what I’d do instead is just pencil and letter it and post it here, hoping to get it all finished for xmas, so here’s page one lettered up along with behind the scenes commentary…

Ok, I’ll not post the script up, not until it’s all done, but here’s the layouts (which are largely impenetrable by anyone but me, and get more vague as they go along) page 1, as you can see, maps pretty close to the final pencils.

Lettering by me, using Evil Genius font from Blambot (home of many fine, fine fonts). Normally I’d ask Jim Campbell to letter any of these stupid ideas and I’ve no doubt he would’ve done a much better job than my hamfisted approach – but it’s nearly xmas and who wants to do unpaid work at this time of year? (Apart from me, apparently…)


And here’s the raw pencils for page 1… Scanned and tidied, added panel borders, resize a couple of things, made panel 2 push into panel 2 to just force the readers eye a bit to that panel (I had planned to have Dredd’s head here jut out of the panel, but that would have made it hard to place lettering)

I printed a template out in Clip Studio that shows me the safe area and some guidelines for drawing some standard panels, then pencil on that – I don’t pay too much attention to getting the borders exactly right as I take this into to clip studio and add panel borders digitally, ordinarily I’d then print that out – with the panels as blacklines and the pencils as a light cyan colour (ie a ‘blueline’ pencil) and ink over that, but since I won’t be inking this …

I decided to greywash it instead

And that’s it for page 1. If anyone fancies paying me to ink this page and owning the original artwork, you’re more than welcome to contact me at