Hailing from 1978, four episodes of Judge Dredd that have never been reprinted due to legal issues finally see the light of day. They form less than a fifth of this 25-part epic, and the other episodes have been reprinted many times (most recently in Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 02) but The Cursed Earth saga is finally available as a whole in a deluxe new volume.
A year after the launch of 2000AD, Judge Dredd was still trying to find its feet. Initially created by John Wagner, 2000AD editor Pat Mills took on the task of developing and world-building. Dredd takes a team across the Cursed Earth, the radioactive wasteland outside the city walls, on a desperate mission to get medical supplies to Mega City Two, on the opposite side of America.
As if Mega City One isn’t bizarre enough, here’s the first real glimpse of the madness outside the walls, with Dredd encountering dinosaurs, crazed robots and the last president of the United States, trapped in suspended animation.
Along the way the strip pokes fun at some well-known icons, which is where the trouble started. There’s no attempt to disguise Ronald McDonald, the Jolly Green Giant, the Michelin Man, Colonel Sanders and many more. But somehow 2000AD dodged a legal bullet. As John Wagner mentions in his introduction, it was a risk borne of an arrogant ignorance that simply wouldn’t be taken these days.
Unfortunately the memory cheats slightly. Yes, I’ll say it – the whole Cursed Earth epic isn’t as good as we all want it to be. Nostalgia’s a powerful thing. Of course, it’s certainly not bad as such: Brian Bolland‘s art is, as always, fantastic, and Mike McMahon is just beginning to emerge from his original aping of Dredd creator Carlos Ezquerra. While the writing’s fun, Dredd has still to emerge as the iconic character he would become.
However, the package itself is superbly put together. Pages have been painstakingly scanned, cleaned, and printed at the size they originally appeared – almost all of publisher Rebellion’s reprint material is designed to uniformly sit by side but with the volumes fitting the current standard 2000AD size formats, meaning that much of the larger early artwork is shrunk to fit. Not so with the Cursed Earth. Like the recent Dan Dare deluxe editions, this is printed a decent size, on clear and bright art paper. These pages never looked better!