Monday, August 6, 2012

Hondo City Justice

When I was a teenager Hiroshima Day pretty much meant one thing: the bomb. A day of reflection and not a little dread about what we'd come to as a civilisation, and what measures our grandparents' generation had decided were necessary to take to end a global war. The fates of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were equally horrific and fascinating in my mind, as obsessed as I was with the Cold War I and my friends had grown up in, and the sci-fi adoption of the atom bomb as both a symbol of technological mastery and annihilation. In all of this, I don't think I considered once that for the nation of japan the destruction of those cities, followed by the surrender of the Empire in the following Month, a new beginning and new identity would rise. The Japan of our grandparents was something to fear - the topic of truly dreadful and despicable stories of wartime atrocity and the ghost of centuries of Yellow Peril scaremongering. For my parents Japan was a different thing again - the place where all our new transistor radios, microwave ovens, TVs and cars were being made. It was a place creating the future, for better or worse if you took into consideration the manufacturers of the West. And then for my generation Japan was the source of new curiosities - ninjas and martial arts, robots, cartoons and crazy sci-fi influences. It was the home of Akira. A fascinating country and people, with a deep and seemingly unfathomable pop culture. It seems somehow inevitable then that the world of Judge Dredd would eventually turn to a future japan, informed, as I see it, by all of the above.

Hondo City is the Japan of Dredd's world, a city that coves the entire chain of islands of modern japan and some parts beyond. Imperial, highly advanced in its technology and irresistibly designed, its Judge-Inspectors had their uniforms designed by Brendan McCarthy, interpreted in strip form by Colin MacNeill in the still-controversial Our Man in Hondo, and then, after a few visitations from the regular roster of artists, they were stream-lined and stylised once more by the pen of Frank Quitely into a version similar but far superior to the one I've done here. Our Man in Hondo is to me a rough story, given an unfunny 'Charlie Chan'-styled omniscient narrative (thinks a peppering of 'honourable's, 'so sorries' and the like), but things got a little better. On the whole though, the Hondo Judge stories which spun off into their own series (Shimura, Hondo City Justice) have struggled to really find their own identity outside of a very hackneyed version of Japanese pop culture. Giant monsters, yakuza, Judges turning ronin, mad science - it's all there, but sometimes it seems that's all there is. Any Dreddworld series needs more than cliche as its basis.
The Hondo Judges do look cool, though. Cooler than Mega-City One's, in fact. 

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