Sunday, March 23, 2014

Pan-African Judge

What, another Judge so soon? You ain't seen nothin' yet. Last week was the tenth anniversary of the founding of the Pan-African Parliament (the 18th of March), so...

Here's the Pan-African Judge, anyway, based on the highly stylised work of artist Ajibayo 'Siku' Akinsiku. The story of the Pan-African Judges is a little more complicated than things seem. It's late on a Sunday night - let's go to Wikipedia:

The concept of a Pan-African Judge first turned up in a poster for the 1988 Judge Dredd Mega-Special drawn by Brendan McCarthy: the text said they had the hardest job of any Judge, "policing a society that mixes centuries' old tribal law and customs with high 22nd century technology. Applicants chosen for linguistic and diplomatic skills." The design would make a brief cameo at an international summit in the Judgement Day storyline but after that it would be replaced by a Siku design, starting with 1993's first Pan African Judges. In an article in Judge Dredd Megazine #238, Siku said he got the job after criticising the McCarthy design as too stereotyped: "I asked, why do people think all Africans run around in animal prints? [Editor] Dave Bishop challenged me to come up with something better."
In the same article, Siku referred to Paul Cornell's first Pan African script as being well researched but flawed in its approach - "imperialism, jungle safaris, that's the way Westerners see Africa". (The second Pan African strip was written by Siku alone and had Yoruba gods attacking the continent.) He did enjoy having a "token white guy" Judge. Cornell himself referred to his work as "a trudge", feeling it had too many competing ideas in one story and that his dialogue was "overblown"; he was happy, however, with his decision to deliberately show Islam and a Muslim Judge, as he felt the Judge Dredd universe was "a little too disconnected from the real world" by turning all the world's religions into the worship of Grud

[Your blogger would like to mention that the issue of Grud being a near universal deity is also addressed in another African-based judge system, of which more at a later date]

That's pretty much the basics of what you need to know. Two main PAJ stories, plus some supporting cast in John Smith's Devlin Waugh/Dredd team-up story Fetish, also illustrated by Siku and typically ker-razy high concept stream-of-consciousness stuff from Smith. But I fear that in having such iconic characters as Dredd and the musclebound Terry Thomas/Noel Coward/Freddie Mercury occupying centre stage we're treated once again to future Africa in a pretty colonial viewpoint, so it's hardly progressive. As far as I can see this is something still to be addressed satisfactorily, although Siku's involvement was promising, though it seems to have been a one-off. For myself I only have single episodes of all three stories - so I sort of get the gist of it, but none make a great amount of sense, even though Cornell's is the most straight-forward narratively speaking.

Hey look, I'm waffling on and did I mention it's late on a Sunday? Here's the illustration. 

And what does a Pan-African Judge look like? Well, green, gold and white, which is a nice, neutral scheme, and Siku's design is assuredly better than McCarthy's very Eighties neon Africa go. I'm not sure on the rhino horns on the shoulder pad, or the warthog tusks on the belt - hopefully they're bendy or something otherwise ouch every time you fall over, frankly. It's is worth noting that the suggestion remains that in different surviving African states, including some Islamic-based territories, the uniform changes, with turban-styled headdress, for example. 

If you've read down this far then thanks, but I also owe everyone including Siku an apology. Like a lot of my judge drawings this illustration was done years ago in short form - maybe ten years for this effort. It was only in Googling the chaps for colour references that I discovered that my composition here is based almost directly off a portrait by Siku.: oh, it's superior in every way, and I am officially embarrassed.  Mea culpa. 

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