Sunday, January 26, 2014

Oz Justice

It's Australia Day today. Happy Birthday, modern Australia.

Like New Zealand, Australia's day of celebration is a complicated thing indeed - there's the celebration of a young nation's good fortune and existence, and then there's the question of nationhood itself, and the need to acknowledge that national identity carries a hell of a lot of baggage with it, as any ex-colony might with an intact indigenous population, not to mention generations of recent immigrants creating greater diversity, more questions.

I did two illustrations of Judge Zemiro for this post, but have left the alternative one (where she's soundly thrashing a Cronulla-style flag-draped, KFC-helmeted yobbo) off. It wouldn't be right. And I got her feet wrong again, anyway.

Judge Zemiro's my creation, although Australian ("Oz") Judges exist in the Judge Dredd world, wearing the uniform depicted here. I'm not sure we've seen a female Oz Judge yet, much less one who isn't obviously Anglo-Saxon. Wait. I do remember one - I think he was supposed to be Aborigine, and like all Oz Judges he was depicted with a beer can in his hand. Classy, guys.

I have a love/hate attitude towards Oz Judges and their depiction, really. On the one hand they're portrayed as being carefree, less hung-up than Dredd and his Mega City compatriots, and in general their justice system seems heavily weighed along the lines of 'fair go to all', which is as good as you'll get in Dredd's world (or as bad, if you're Dredd of course). On the other hand, the Oz Judges are viewed through the lens as the other world judges, that of the strip's British creators. This means that the Judges of Oz nod heavily towards exported Australian culture - particularly that of the 80s, when thanks to Neighbours, Kylie Minogue and Crocodle Dundee, Australia was, for a time, huge. And it's all so bloody twee!

It could be worse, of course. Oz could have got the "so-sollee" treatment Japan/Hondo City got in its introduction to the series, or the Pan Andes Conurbs with its lazy, corrupt judges, or Murphyville with its happy-go-lucky, loikes-a-drink Ju- oh, I see. So, yes, Australia gets off lightly, but then the touch is light as well. As I mentioned above, its Judges tend to be a little bit unimaginative (a clue: the first Oz Judge co star in a Dredd strip is "Judge Bruce")for such a fascinating country, and three outings its Judges haven't strayed far at all from the Paul Hogan boiler plate they all seem to be based on, which to my mind says a lot more about the strip's writers than the future Australia. File under: Mostly Harmless, and not that interesting.

Interesting, though, is how I'd describe the very angular Oz Judge uniform. Board shorts aside, it's a lot more practical than the shoulder-heavy northern hemisphere Judge uniforms, and one assumes it's in a fabric which is both durable and breathes really really well, because there's a lot of black there, missus. Brendan McCarthy seems to have designed it again and there are some notable touches - a badge which appears to reference the Sydney Opera House (turn it the other way around and flatten its base and you almost get the shape of Australia!), and there's not a lot of green on it, despite it being one of Australia's noted national colours. This actually works in its favour because not only should yellow and green never be seen, but it removes the costume from the usual accusation critics lay at the Dredd world international judges of them being based too much on national costumes, flags (Ireland, Scotland, Japan) or just novelty hats. McCarthy did well, really, and debuted the design some months before the Dredd epic Oz actually brought in the Judges themselves. I'm not sure if he was living in Australia at the time (as he did for a while, working design on one of George Miller's aborted Mad Max sequels), but I'd mark it a success. It also has a great profile

Like Australia itself, really. Great place. Interesting country, nice people, beautiful landscape, and not bad neighbours to have at all. Happy Australia Day!


  1. Brendan McCarthy also worked on the awful "Time Guardian" movie, which was made here with Tom Burlinson and Carrie Fisher. The bad guys had the McCarthy-esque fins on their headpieces. A friend of mine has one of the original robot costumes in his kitchen.

    I agree with you on the superficial portrayal of each culture's Judges as stereotypes, but from my memory that was rife across entertainment in every nation, including our own, so I don't blame them. One can only hope they have developed them into fully rounded three-dimensional cultures since then.

    As always, I loved any uniform designed by Will Simpson, which was primarily the South American ones.

  2. For Ozzie Day I went to the zoo (natural enough decision). Saw rain... not so much on the animals, Australian or otherwise...

  3. Jamas - rain? Rain?! We nearly washed away this afternoon - it was chucking down this end of Wellville. That chimp house at the zoo will be fair humming now, I should think.

    Mr G... ah, yes. You can see McCarthy's dabs all over the last reel of Coneheads as well (I think spotted it before I knew what I was looking at in fact), and he was involved with ReBoot too, wasn't he?

    I wouldn't hold your breath on the Dreddverse developing the other megacities much. Those are stories for other posts, but the South Am (Ciudad Barranquila) judges did return in an interesting Megazine short series by Gordon Rennie. Unfortunately the very fine Will Simpson style judges had been dealt to by Carlos Ezquerra (I loved their look as well - the revision is quite inferior) in a PJ maybe story. Carlos should have been better but wasn't, and his revisions got picked up by the artists (Dave Taylor? I can't remember) in Rennie's 'Regime Change' of which we'll hear something later this week!

    Did Will S do any other Dredd designs? He did a week or two of Oz, didn't he?

  4. I mostly remember his work on the Rogue Trooper reboot (War Machine), but I am sure he did more Dredd. He has a very practical and logical approach to uniforms, giving them layers to make them look extra cool.

  5. By memory I think he did Curse of the Spider Woman (well regarded by some) and one of my favourite one-shots of the 90s, The Gipper's Big Night, a bleak but moving short about some mutants scaling the City Wall only to encounter Dredd on the other side. The layered look on the CB uniforms sells them, for sure - straps and pads that make them look pimped out and garish (I'm racing ahead though!) Happily, Simpson's version is the one Mongoose Games have adopted as their style for their 28mm range. So it's not just you and me :)