Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Future of the Fourth- er, Force

By which I mean the police force, armed forces, judiciary and legislature. Anybody looking at the title above expecting something to do with George Lucas should quickly move on. Today is July 4th, so what better date than to present another hastily-scribbled Judge from the world of Dredd? This time it's the daddy state of them all, Mega City One.
I’m currently re-reading Judge Dredd: America, a mid-era (circa 1990) miniseries that launched the magazine and provided a reboot to the idea of Joe Dredd as a force of implacable justice, administered brutally and dispassionately. In its first three pages it reminds the reader twice that America is dead, and Mega City One is all that remains. Such was the premise of the first episode of Judge Dredd back in 2000AD Prog 2. It wasn’t long before we heard about a Mega City Two (stretching across the opposite West Coast of the continent), a smaller Texas City (nee Mega City Three, before its secession), before a global network of city states small and large were introduced in the series. Most have a Judge and justice system paralleling that of MC-1’s, and many of the uniforms are clear adaptations (the notable exception being that of future Japan, Hondo City, which retains the silhouette but somehow looks far more visible and practical.) It’s an odd quirk of the strip, because the Mega City One Judge uniform is a strange thing indeed. Modelled in part after the character of Frankenstein in Death Race 2000 (a Pat Mills ingredient, I assume), but designed by a European (Catalan) artist, the mighty Carlos Ezquerra, it’s notable for eschewing many of the trappings of other international Judge uniforms. First, it’s really not that nationalistic: eagles are an American symbol, but not uniquely so, and the stars and stripes are largely kept to the badges (breast, belt buckle – very early strips toyed with a trio of stars at the edge of one shoulder pad); there’s red, but no white or blue. Compare that to the Emerald Isle judge, effectively wearing a tricolor, or Brit-Cit’s quasi-Carnaby Street-meets-Trafalgar Square ensemble and it’s positively muted. Which isn’t to say various artists haven’t upped the ante of outrageous proportions and scales over the years – especially the wonderful Mike McMahon, who opted for a lean Dredd inside improbably large pads and boots to impress the scale. It worked. The makers of the new Dredd movie have opted for a more realistic look, something we could expect from what appears to be a ‘twenty minutes into the future’ setting (the original strip opted for two hundred years). It’s less imposing, but bulkier and looks harder. It’s matte instead of shiny – even the badges look dulled, and Dredd’s own helmet looks battle worn. It harkens back to the Frankenstein look, or that of a motorcycle cop, or a riot policeman. In short, it’s a real world take as opposed to a heightened gladiatorial look, the same played on and emphasised in 1995 by the Judge Dredd movie costume design by that most lurid of designers, Gianni Versace. Like Dredd's creator John Wagner I’ve warmed to the new look. It’ll be great for the big screen, allowing a lot of speed and movement, with no shoulder pads to get stuck in doorways, slow down bike pursuits, and no great chain to give feisty perps something to hang onto. I like it’s practicality and functionality, and I like the silhouette. So here it is – a re-booted vision for the future.

No comments:

Post a Comment