Yesterday marked the anniversary of the creation of the Nevada territories, so why not mark it with a picture of a Vegas Judge?
Yes, they have judges in Vegas, and yes, Vegas exists in Dredd’s world. Or rather, both did. We can thank Pat Mills for both via his epic The Cursed Earth, which is a lot more anarchic and disjointed than its reputation might otherwise suggest. Like The Judge Child Quest it’s essentially a line of small adventures for Dredd and cohorts en route to a greater destination – in The Cursed Earth that destination is Mega City Two, and Vegas is, as you might expect, pretty much right on its doorstep, the penultimate obstacle to the completion of Dredd’s mission of mercy. It even shares the MC-2 skyline of floating debris.
Like a lot of the places in the story, Vegas in Dredd’s world is none too subtle. The implication is that this is a smaller city that had a judge system modeled on its neighbours, but organised crime being the very bedrock of the place, the mobs take over the justice system itself, turning the whole place into a parody justice, where the condemned take part in life or death games to clear their name, and citizen and Judge onlookers alike place bets on the outcome. It sort of fits the wonky and black satire of the Dredd strip, but as I say, it’s laid on pretty thick with its ‘God-Judge’, gangster machine guns and vintage cars, cod Mafioso accents and characters like ‘Judge Fingers’. Mick McMahon brings it to life in his early, sketchier Cursed Earth style, but it’s a short life, and the location and its judges once put right by Dredd don’t bother the main strip (nor indeed the Dredd World map) for nearly thirty years. Even Garth Ennis forgets to nuke it in Judgement Day.
The Vegas Judges eventually returned in the climax to John Wagner’s My Name is Death and its follow-up The Wilderness Days, itself a rehabilitation story in bringing back seminal undead baddie Judge Death for some genuinely despicable exploits during his wanderings in the Cursed Earth. Fraser Irving is on art duties here, and it’s rather spectacular; grim and ghoulishly funny in places. Once Death makes it to Vegas Wagner overturns the rather pat (sorry) decision of Mills to have had Dredd effect a change to Sin City’s moral heart, and the Mob have reasserted itself. Of course, with Death now there and his own living nemesis (not Dredd) in pursuit you can’t expect a happy ending. And so Vegas gets the nuke that Garth forgot to drop, and is officially no more.
My Vegas Judge uniform is an amalgam of McMahon’s original with Irving’s curvier modifications. You never actually see their helmets – perhaps they’re a rare judge system in not having one, but I’ve taken inspiration here from a jackpot machine in McMahon’s strip that looks like an existing helmet may have been put to less law-abiding function.
So there you go. I didn’t intend to be covering the Vegas Judge, but I had this pencilled from the days of Irving’s story being serialised, so it’s finally done.