Friday, May 23, 2014

Pan Andes Judge

STOP!! Llama Time!

Sorry. No, really, I'm truly sorry. I don't even pronounce the word that way. It was cheap and stupid. I'm a weasel.

Heyyy, speaking of cheap and stupid, here's the Pan Andes Judge from 2000AD's interesting early 90s era. Now, the Pan Endes Conurb, a vague approximation of a conurbation encompassing Bolivia (hence this month's spot for the judge) and Peru, goes back in the Judge Dredd strip to the mid-Eighties. Back then in the story The Wally Squad, the P-A.C is simply a maginal foreign locale with criminal crime lords mentioned in hushed tones and a thriving market in organ-legging. For some reason, maybe because when Dredd visits Ciudad Barranquilla in the story Banana City and finds the place corrupt, brutal and just devoid of hope, Old Stony' Face's eventual arrival in the Andes region was given a different spin on the old South American cliche meter.

What sort of spin, you ask? Well, okay then. Pan Andes Judges are not only corrupt, they're also lazy and gluttinous. And unhygienic - flies follow them around in the strip (okay, they follow Dredd too, but sheez) And they have names like Fernando and Guacamole and speek like theees - it's hilarious, possibly. Of course, that's the script talking, by Sonny Steelgrave, aka Alan Mckenzie and John Tomlinson. You can wave a lot of this away as gonzo mid-Eighties Dredd fare oddly transported into the early Nineties courtesy of six painful installments. On the other hand, 'Steelgrave' brought with them one of Dredd's great artists, the indefatiguable Ron Smith. Now, Ron Smith is a brilliant, significant but sometimes overlooked Dredd artist. He did other strips for better or worse (including a misjudged stiny on the misjudged reboot of Rogue Trooper), but Dredd's his triumph, and so many of Dredd's big stories have Smith in them - Judge Child, Black Atlantic, er, City of the Damned...

I'll get to the point: Ron Smith is a fast and effective artist, and his Dredd's a distinctive and recognisable style. I think he's pretty good at different ethnicities in a way that some of his contemporaries and followers just didn't go out of the way to being. And he for his sins does brilliant grotesques, too - the whole Otto Sump and Uglies stories owe their look to Ron Smith. Do you see where I'm going with this? In the Pan Andes strip The Sugar Beat Ron does a tour de force on Steelgrave's script. Memorable characters - like these guys:

And this guy:

And this guy:

And their boss:

It LITERALLY ain't pretty. If you're wondering, the lazy stereotypes don't begin and end with the judges but also the scrap-happy, ugly greengo-hateeng civilian population. The strip ends with Dredd having put all of the judges into custody (corruption etc) and staying to do the job of keeping the law himself because, heh, those silly foreigners can't be trusted to do the job themselves. Ho ho! Freeze-frame, roll credits. In short, you could arguably pull this sort of crap in 1982, but by 1995 you'd think thing would have moved on a little bit. And despite being a major figure in the illegal sugar trade in Dredds world, we never ever see the Pan Andes Conurb ever again.

I don't know if I've improved things by having my guy ride a llama; but I can't have made things worse, could I?