Did you hear? There's a Judge Dredd TV series coming, and even though we don't know when it'll arrive it's cause for excitement. With that in mind, and given Dredd's 40-year long history, we've put together a list of essential reading to help you prepare for the impending TV adaptation - just in case you only saw Dredd and the other film nobody talks about.
Complete Case Files Vol 1, £15
Judge Dredd has been around for forty years, but one of the great things about it is that everything has passed in real time. That means none of the confusing convoluted timelines other comic publishers, and no rolling retcons to keep everyone young and invigorated. That makes it easier for new readers, and if you want to get reading Judge Dredd all you need to do is pick up the first Case Files volume - covering every Dredd story published within a year of his first appearance in 1977. [Buy it here]
The Cursed Earth (Uncensored), £18.66
Mega City Two has fallen victim to a deadly virus, and while Mega City One's scientists have developed an antidote they are unable to safely land within the city. So it's up to Dredd and a team of Judges to take the antidote across the radioactive remains of the USA (dubbed the Cursed Earth) and avoid the many dangers that lie within. This story is infamous for depicting the likenesses of many fast food mascots, who sued 2000AD as a result. Thanks to a change in European law, concerning parody, the offending pages can finally be reprinted in their original glory. [Buy it here]
The Cursed Earth is also available in Case File Volume 2, but without those offending pages.
Judge Dredd Classics: The Dark Judges, £23
No Dredd-based reading list would be close to complete without the Dark Judges, undead judges from a parallel Earth who consider all life to be a crime. There aren't many recurring villains in the series, but the Dark Judges come back time and again to haunt Dredd and try to destroy all life on his Earth. This collection features three stories, all reprinted and coloured by IDW in recent years. It's got a load of Dark Judge stories, including Judge Death's introductory tale and its sequel that introduces Fear, Fire, and Mortis. [Buy it here]
The Complete Case Files Volume 5, £14.18
This list is going to be more than just a list of the case files, but Volume Five should have a special place in any fans' heart. It features the Block Mania and Apocalypse War arcs. In the former Dredd has to deal with city-wide riots, after Mega Block residents all seem to lose their minds. Apocalypse War features an invasion by the Soviet Union's East Meg One, and a lot of destruction. [Buy it here]
Dredd was already a fully formed character when he arrived in 1977, and with the linear nature of his stories we never actually got to see where he came. We picked up bits and pieces, but Origins (2006-2007) was the first time we saw things exactly how they happened. Told as a series of flashbacks during a mission to the Cursed Earth, Dredd recounts the formation of the Judge system, the creation of him and his brother Rico, the Atomic Wars that followed, and the status quo following the Judges instituting martial law over Mega City One. [Buy it here]
The thing to remember about the Judge Dredd comics is that the world is not a nice place, and Dredd is no hero. He's the tool of a fascist police state. The people are aware of this too, and Democracy is a selection of stories featuring them attempting to reclaim that right. From pro-democracy marches to a referendum on whether to reintroduce full voting rights. They weren't all told in conjunction though, and since you can't buy any pre-2002 issues digitally you'll have to grab a few case files volumes. Luckily those books are more than worth the money:
Volume 9 (Letter from a Democrat - Prog 460), Volume 11 (Revolution* - Prog 531-533), Volume 13 (A Letter to Judge Dredd - prog 661), Volume 14 (Tale of the Deadman - Prog 662-668), Volume 15 (Nightmares* - Prog 702-706), Volume 16 (The Devil You Know and Twilight's Last Gleaming* - Prog 750-756).
* These are the most important stories, if you don't want to end up buying six books.
Tying into the seemingly-never ending Democracy storyline is America. Different people have different life experiences in Mega City One, but they all have to deal with the Judges. America showcases just how brutal the Judge's regime actually is, even if they are doing what they're doing to try and keep people safe. [Buy it here]
Tour of Duty, £20
Dredd is known for having focused on the mutant rights in recent years, but that didn't go down so well with the populace of Mega City One (or a number of the Judges). Enter Dan Francisco, the new anti-mutant Chief Judge who has the good will of the people on his side, who exiles Dredd and begins a campaign against mutant residents. This arc is also notable for revealing that MC1's mayor is also a serial killer in disguise. [Buy it here]
Case Files Volume 14, £16.58
In addition to one of the stories from Democracy, the 15th year of Judge Dredd is notable for featuring Necropolis. It focuses on the aftermath of Dredd's resignation in Tale of the Deadman, with the Judges ordering Kraken (Dredd's clone-brother) to assume his identity and avoid city-wide chaos. Kraken then falls under the influence of the Sisters of Death (who gave the Dark Judges their powers). They use him to free the Dark Judges, and linked MC1 to the alternate universe known as Deadworld. MC1 is transformed into the Necropolis, and all life is outlawed as a result. It's up to the Judges to return order. [Buy it here]
The Batman/Judge Dredd Collection, £12.09
What happens when the Joker manages to cross dimensions and is granted supernatural powers by Judge Death? Batman quickly follows and is forced to team up with Judge Dredd, which doesn't go so smoothly thanks to differing opinions on capital punishment. But with the Joker dangerous enough without any powers, they need to put a stop to his superpowered rampage of destruction. [Buy it here]
Day of Chaos
The Murphy's Law of Judge Dredd stories, where everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Revenge-seeking Soviets, the Dark Judges, that serial killer mayor I mentioned before, and more. Basically all hell breaks lose, and a ridiculous number of people die as a result. It happens a lot, and you'd think the Judges would be better prepared. This is a big story, which spanned 48 issues of 2000AD, so you'll need two books to get through the whole story: Day of Chaos: The Fourth Faction, and Day of Chaos: Endgame.
Dredd: Urban Warfare, £13.48
We're never going to get a sequel to 2012's Dredd, which breaks many of our hearts, but at least 2000AD isn't letting it die. Over the past few years it has released a number of one-shots and mini series set within the same universe. Inside is Top of the World Ma-Ma (a prequel to the film), Underbelly (a day in the life of Dredd, dealing with mutant trafficking), and Uprise focussing on the Judges trying to quell riots while trying to deal with corruption and brutality within its own ranks. [Buy it here]