If you only know Judge Dredd from his goofy 1995 cinematic outing starring Sylvester Stallone then you’ll be very surprised to see how much of a monster his comic book counterpart actually is. Even the hyper-violent 2012 movie Dredd, in which the titular character leaves swathes of criminals in bullet riddled gory mess on the floor, pales in comparison to what he gets up to in the comics.
First appearing in the second issue (or “Prog” in their parlance) of 2000 AD in March 1977, Judge Joseph Dredd has since appeared in over 2200 weekly Progs, received his own spin-off “Judge Dredd Megazine”, had his own newspaper strip, two movies, and a handful of video games.
In the subsequent 40 years as well as your standard criminals he’s fought robot rebellions, interdimensional death obsessed monsters, corrupt foreign powers, corrupt domestic powers, and even Xenomorphs and the Predator. He’s been shot, stabbed, blown up, and had his eyes gouged out by futuristic vampires.
Despite all that however, Dredd himself is often the biggest a**hole in the story...
10. Executing Surrendered Criminals
Judge Dredd first appeared in Prog 2 of 2000ad however that wasn't supposed to be the case. He was actually supposed to appear in the very first Prog the week before.
A story was written and drawn by series creators John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra all ready to go. It opened with a bang too, quickly establishing the cruel authoritarian world Dredd lived in. We're told that the Judges of this world have complete authority to sentence criminals how they like, they are judge, jury and executioner. This is brought into stark relief when, after foiling a robbery, Dredd commands the surrendered criminals to get down on their knees, whereupon he sentences them to death and shoots them in the back of the head.
The image of the protagonist coldly executing people in such a way was a hell of a way to open this new comic and really showed what a bastard Dredd was right from the get go. Unfortunately, 2000AD's target audience at the time was young children and this was considered inappropriate by the publisher. Dredd's debut was pushed back while a replacement story was created, and Dredd was mostly shown killing in self defence thereafter.
Fortunately that original story was later reprinted in Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 01 and it's well worth checking out.