The setting of Judge Dredd has developed considerably over the course of 43 years as a number of storylines have contributed significant recurring ideas to the mythos. Many though not all of these have been multi-part storylines, including "epics" originally serialised across tens of progs.
For brevity's sake this list does not include every first or last appearance of every single recurring character, item, theme or narrative conceit in the setting, only the most significant, or those which are less so in and of themselves but which first or last appeared in a significant story. There are of course a significant number of major spoilers throughout the entirety of this page.
Major storylines of the 1970sEdit
- The Robot Wars (progs 9-17): The Mega-City One Judges face an uprising by the city's robot workforce, led by carpenter droid Call-Me-Kenneth. Though "Robots" in prog 9 is a standalone prologue, the main story spans progs 10-17, making it notable as the first multi-part serialised Judge Dredd story, a precursor to the future epics. Also the first of a great many stories to feature robot villains.
- The Academy of Law (progs 27-28) introduces the original Judge Giant as well as the eponymous academy and the field assessment for graduating Judge cadets.
- The Return of Rico (prog 30): Joe Dredd's clone brother returns from Titan seeking revenge for being apprehended 20 years earlier. This story is the first appearance of Rico Dredd; although he is killed at the end his legacy would continue to influence the setting and characters for many years afterward.
- The Luna One sequence (progs 42–59): Various episodes from Dredd's tenure as Judge marshal of the eponymous city, leading an international coalition of Judges who enforce the law on the moon. In addition to Luna One itself, Texas City and the Sov Block were indirectly introduced to the setting through the appearance of members of their Judge forces.
- The Cursed Earth (progs 61–85): In a plot lifted from the sci-fi novel Damnation Alley a team of Mega-City One Judges led by Dredd, accompanied by punk biker Spikes Harvey Rotten, delivers a vaccine across the Cursed Earth to save Mega-City Two from an outbreak of the 2T(FRU)T virus. Where Luna-One had been a series of stories, this was the first true epic storyline with a single plot spanning 25 episodes. Also the first appearance in real-world terms of Robert L. Booth.
- The Day The Law Died! (progs 89–108; prologues in 86–88) recounts the assassination of Chief Judge Goodman and the subsequent hundred-day tyranny of the insane Chief Judge Cal. The second epic, and the first of many to feature a where Mega-City One and the Judges are brought to the brink of destruction; the first appearance of Cal, another villain whose influence would outlive the character by many years; the first and second on-page death of a Chief Judge; the introduction of the Kleggs; the construction of the massive walls around Mega-City One's borders.
Major storylines of the 1980s and 1990sEdit
- Judge Death (progs 149–151): The first and for some time only appearance of both Dredd's archenemy Judge Death and his longtime ally and friend psi-Judge Cassandra Anderson, setting the stage for many future classic storylines and spinoffs.
- The Judge Child (Progs 156–181): In the third epic, and the first major story since The Cursed Earth to depart from the confines of Mega-City One, Dredd and Barbara Hershey lead a team of Judges across the galaxy to find Owen Krysler, marked as the future saviour of the city by a dying psi-Judge. Besides Krysler and Hershey, notable characters introduced in this arc include McGruder, The Angel Gang and Murd the Oppressor.
- Judge Death Lives! (Progs 224–228): First appearance of the other core members of the Dark Judges and of Deadworld. Judges Fire, Fear and Mortis free Death and embark on a killing spree in Billy Carter Block before being banished back to Deadworld and vanquished by Dredd and Anderson. An online poll in 2005 voted this the third best story 2000 AD ever printed.
- Block Mania (Progs 236–244): An extended prologue to The Apocalypse War wherein Sov-block agents drug Mega-City One's water supply to induce an outbreak of mass violence across the city. Besides the setup for the next epic Block Mania also features the death of the first Judge Giant and the introduction of recurring villain Orlok.
- The Apocalypse War (Progs 245–267 and 269-270): The first story with truly dramatic and permanent effects on the entire setting: the destruction of half of Mega-City One and the death of 400 million citizens at the beginning of the eponymous war, and the subsequent total annihilation of East-Meg One at its conclusion. Storylines using the lingering effects and consequences of the war as a central plot element continue to appear over thirty years later, including Day of Chaos, an epic in its own right which similarly upends the status quo on a grand scale. Also notable for the death of Chief Judge Griffin and the foundation of yet another enduring villainous legacy in the form of War Marshal Kazan.
- City of the Damned (Progs 393–406) concludes the storyline begun in The Judge Child Quest. Dredd and Anderson travel in time from 2107 to 2120 and discover that Owen Krysler (or rather a clone thereof), far from saving the city, is actually the cause of the predicted disaster; they travel back in time and kill the clone in order to avert the horrifying future. The origin of Dredd's oft-mentioned bionic eyes after he is blinded in the future and the first appearance of time travel which would return as a plot device in several future stories.
City of the Damned was originally drafted as a longer epic but the creative team got tired of it before its intended conclusion was fully scripted or drawn and brought it to an earlier climax. Its serialisation started and ended either side of the new year; after its conclusion the rest of 1985's progs saw no major stories published.
- The Chief Judge Resigns (prog 457) and Letter From a Democrat (prog 460): The former story introduces Thomas Silver as the new Chief Judge, a character who goes on to have a major impact on the long-running democracy storyline in the following years; the latter is the genesis of that storyline, and one of the first stories to introduce the more mature and overt social commentary that are now just as common in Dredd strips as the older focus on humour and action.
- Bug (prog 534) is the first appearance of then-juvenile serial killer Phillip Janet Maybe. He would become one of the longest-lasting recurring villains who wasn't a Dark Judge, outfoxing the Judges and cheating death numerous times over the next twenty-nine years.
- In Oz (progs 545–570) Dredd travels to Australia ostensibly to arrest a fugitive Marlon "Chopper" Shakesphere, but his true target is Morton Judd. The character of Chopper, with two prior appearances to his name, would return again several more times including in his own spinoff series. The Judda and the events surrounding them would also be referred to in future comic stories and other franchise material. Also a precursor in the longer term for the later proliferation of Dredd clones - and in the shorter term, sets up Kraken's future importance in Necropolis and the storylines building up to it.
- Young Giant (progs 651-665) introduces Judge Giant's son who would go on to be a recurring supporting character just like his father, and would even serve as the main protagonist of the Judge Dredd strip for part of the epic Necropolis in Dredd's absence.
- The Necropolis sequence
- The Dead Man (progs 650–662) was not initially clarified to be a Dredd spinoff, and was serialised alongside continuing Judge Dredd storylines for its entire duration. The young Yassa Povey guides a mutilated gunslinger with no memory of his past through the Cursed Earth, with the latter eventually revealed as an amnesiac Joe Dredd who was attacked by the Sisters of Death. The the first step in setting the stage for Necropolis.
- A Letter to Judge Dredd (prog 661): Dredd receives a letter written by a child who has been killed as an indirect result of the Judges' suppression of a pro-democracy demonstration, causing him to seriously question the entire ethical basis of the Mega-City judicial system. This sets up Tale of the Dead Man which aloing with these other stories serve as an extended prologue to Necropolis.
- Tale of the Dead Man (progs 662–668): Dredd's crisis of faith prompts him to resign after Kraken's rookie assessment . Dredd's Long Walk detailed in this storyline leads up to The Dead Man itself and Kraken's assumption of Dredd's identity in the city marks him as the true protagonist of the Judge Dredd stories in progs 650-660.
- Countdown to Necropolis (progs 669–673): Several short prequels to Necropolis, not featuring Dredd.
- Necropolis (progs 674–699): The Dark Judges and Sisters of Death take over Mega-City One, using brainwashed Judges including Kraken to massacre 60 million citizens. Dredd himself is not a central character for half of the episodes, a unique situation among the epic stories; otherwise notable for the (un)death of Chief Judge Silver, the return of both McGruder and the Dark Judges, the first direct appearance of the Sisters of Death and the death of Kraken. Like the Apocalypse War before it, the Dark Judges' rule would have lasting effects, referred to in subsequent stories for years afterward.
- The Devil You Know (progs 750–753) and Twilight's Last Gleaming (progs 754–756): Long-running tensions between the totalitarian Judges and the increasongly popular movement for the restoration of democracy at last come to a head, and a referendum is organised. When the day comes the apathetic population mostly don’t bother to vote and the majority of those who do favour keeping the Judges in control. A pro-democracy march of almost two million protesters heads for Justice Central, but violence is averted when Dredd convinces them that the referendum was fair.
- America (Judge Dredd Megazine vol.1 #1–7): Dredd's philosophy is explored when democracy activists resort to terrorism. The most significant of those thinly spread stories which portray Dredd as a straight-up villain rather than an anti-hero; the first appearance of America Jara and Bennett Beeny, another pair of characters whose future legacy would be felt for a long time after their deaths; the introduction of the pro-democracy terrorist group Total War who would return several times including later major storylines.
- Judgement on Gotham: A one-shot crossover published by Fleetway and DC, recounting a reluctant alliance between Dredd and Batman when Judge Death and Mean Machine Angel travel between dimensions to Batman's world. Recieved three sequels: Vendetta in Gotham, The Ultimate Riddle and Die Laughing. Besides the unusual occurrence of an inter-company crossover being entirely canon (at least on the Judge Dredd side), Judgement on Gotham is also a notable example of the flanderisation of Judge Death to a more comical character during this period.
- Judgement Day (progs 786–799 and Megazine vol.2 #4-9): The second and longest of three crossovers between Judge Dredd and another long-running 2000 AD strip, Strontium Dog. Dredd reluctantly allies with time-hopping Mutant bounty hunter Johnny Alpha to defeat Sabbat the Necromagus, who has travelled back from 2178 to 2114 to raise the dead and destroy the living world. The heavy casualties experienced by the Judges in the battle against Sabbat's zombies would prompt the development of the Mechanismo robots. The destruction of Mega-City Two and Sino-City One would also be referenced in future material.
- The Mechanismo trilogy
- Mechanismo (Megazine vol.2 #12–17): Chief Judge McGruder orders a test run of ten prototype robot Judges intended to fill in for the heavy casualties of Necropolis and Judgement Day. Dredd's skepticism proves justified when several of the robots run amok.
- Mechanismo Returns (Meg vol.2 #22–26): Mechanismo unit Number 5 is accidentally re-activated and goes on a rampage, killing many citizens and Judges before vanishing.
- Body Count (Meg vol.2 #37–43): The rogue robot resurfaces, and Dredd clashes with McGruder over the development of Mechanismo mark 2 - going so far as to lie about his climactic confrontation with Number 5 to discredit the new model. This conflict of ideas and personality between Dredd and McGruder and the Chief Judge's increasingly erratic behaviour would be a major element in future stories culminating in Wilderlands.
- Inferno (progs 842–853): Escaped prisoners from Titan - led by a returning villain, ex-Judge Grice - briefly take over the city and force the Judges into exile in the Cursed Earth.
- The Wilderlands sequence
- Conspiracy of Silence (progs 891–894): After a meeting with Hershey and other senior Judges to discuss removing McGruder from office, Dredd discovers that the Mechanismo project has continued in secret - and conversely McGruder discovers Dredd's deception regarding the climax of Body Count. First appearance of Judge Laverne Castillo, at this time serving as McGruder's assistant; she would become another recurring sidekick to Dredd in future stories.
- A short prologue (Meg vol.2 #57) recounts Dredd's dismissal from Justice Department and arrest when Chief Judge McGruder reveals his deception.
- In The Tenth planet (Meg vol.2 #58-62) McGruder and Castillo visit the settlement on planet Hestia, with the colonists proving unimpressed by the Chief Judge's paranoid behaviour. Dredd accompanies as a prisoner, due to be deposited on Titan during the return trip to Earth, but undermines McGruder when he saves a touring party from the threats of Hestia's hostile environment while the mark 2A Mechanismo robots prove ineffective.
- Wilderlands (progs 904-914 and Meg vol.2 #63-67): This story initially recounts the same events in both 2000 AD and the Megazine, as McGruder's ship crashes during its departure from Hestia leaving the Chief Judge, her entourage and several prisoners (including Dredd) stranded in the hostile wilderness. The two storylines diverge when the party splits with Dredd and Castillo pursuing different routes to recovery.
- Parting Shots (Prog 915) and Farewell To The Chief (Meg vol.2 #68): McGruder cancels the Mechanismo program and declares that the next Chief Judge will be voted in by other senior Judges, her last acts before resigning. This brings an end to the subplot regarding McGruder's, and although the Mechanismo robots would occasionally appear again in a supporting capacity they would not be at the centre of a major plot again until the late 2010s.
- The Candidates and Voting Day (progs 916-918) serve as a post-script to this storyline, covering the the internal election announced in Parting Shots. Hadrian Volt is voted in as the new Chief Judge.
- The Pit (progs 970–999) covers Dredd's tenure in Sector 301, an isolated area of the city that has become notorious as a dumping ground for corrupt and incompetent judges, where he is appointed Sector House Chief in order to clean it up. Introduced the popular character Judge Galen DeMarco, the closest thing Dredd has ever had to a love interest, who would go on to get a solo series.
- The Doomsday Scenario (progs 1141–1164 and 1167, Megazine vol.3 #52-59): The last and longest epic before the turn of the Millennium and the first series to depict the same story from two different viewpoints concurrently from start to finish. One thread is from the perspective of Galen DeMarco, now a civilian, during crime lord Nero Narcos' brief reign over Mega-City One after he deposes the Judges with a robot army. The other story covers Dredd's trial for war crimes by East Meg One survivors and after his escape, his efforts to sabotage Narcos' robots with the aid of Brit-Cit Judges. In the aftermath, the death of Chief Judge Volt opened the way for Hershey's first term.
Major storylines of the 21st century (cleanup in progress)Edit
- Helter Skelter (progs 1250–1261): Dredd and Darien Kenzie battle an invasion from an alliance of alternate universes where Dredd's greatest foes were victorious, led by none other than Chief Judge Cal.
- Blood Cadets (progs 1186–1188) introduced the second Judge Rico; Blood And Duty (progs 1300–1301) Saw the return of Dredd's niece Vienna Pasternak; though introduced some time before she didn't become a proper recurring character until after this story. With Vienna's reintroduction and the new Rico's arrival, Dredd was given a family and several new plot points for future stories, including the Justice Department creating a large number of Dredd clones and Dredd's problems with trying to connect with his niece.
- Judge Dredd vs. Aliens: Incubus (2003 special and progs 1322–1335) pits Dredd against the Xenomorphs from the Alien movie series, with mutant terrorist Mister Bones breeding an army of them in the Undercity to attack Justice Department. The second intercompany crossover between Rebellion and Dark Horse Comics (after Predator Vs. Judge Dredd), which unlike the Batman/Judge Dredd series was published within the pages of 2000 AD itself.
- Terror (progs 1392–1399) and Total War (progs 1408–1419): Agents of Total War smuggle twelve nuclear devices into Mega-City One and threaten to detonate them unless the Judges leave the City. A standard thriller plot made more significant through explorations of Judge Dredd's extended family, including Vienna and a Dredd clone, Nimrod.
- Blood Trails (progs 1440–1449): Following on from elements of Total War and Gulag (where Dredd led a mission to free Mega-City One POWs from the Sov block), Anatoli Kazan (a clone of the War Marshal from The Apocalypse War) attacks Dredd by targeting Vienna. In the aftermath of the story, the Kazan clone was cut loose by East-Meg Two and claimed political asylum from Mega-City One, leading to future appearances in mjaor storylines such as Trifecta and The Small House. Also recounts how long-time recurring character Judge Guthrie recieved the injuries that would lead to him becoming a cyborg and retiring from his full street duties.
- Origins (progs 1505–1519 and 1529–1535; prologue in 1500–1504): A series of flashbacks that clean up many of the retcons and inconsistencies introduced by different writers' interpretations of pre-2099 history, including details of Fargo's life and his establishment of the street judges, Dredd's childhood in the 2060s, the Atomic Wars and the final disintegration of the United States. A framing narrative woven between these stories centers around the recovery of the absent body of the entombed Chief Judge Fargo, and includes the death of both Fargo and Robert Booth.
- Mutants in Mega-City One (progs 1542–1545) is the first in a series of short stories in which Dredd campaigns to change the apartheid laws prohibiting mutants from entering the city. The backlash from this controversial campaign results in Chief Judge Hershey being voted out of office and replaced with Judge Francisco, and sets up the events of Tour of Duty.
- The Tour of Duty sequence (progs 1649–1693) sees Judge Dredd posted out into the Cursed Earth to oversee the foundations of the Mutant townships. The corrupt Deputy Chief Judge Martin Sinfield manipulates Francisco so he can install himself as Chief Judge, and promptly becomes the target of repeated assassination attempts. Dredd is recalled from exile to lead the investigation into the attacks, which are traced back to none other than the Chief Judge's civil counterpart, Mayor Byron Ambrose. The townships would appear or be referenced in future stories including the end of Day of Chaos. This is also the second longest Judge Dredd storyline by the number of serialised episodes (when first published it was the longest, before being surpassed by Day of Chaos only a year later) and the most significant storyline to feature P.J. Maybe, who is revealed to have assumed the identity of Byron Ambrose long before the election.
- The Day of Chaos sequence (progs 1743-1789), the longest epic so far, recounts the failure of the Judges to stop a bioweapon attack orchestrated by survivors of the long-thought-vanquished East-Meg One, in revenge for its destruction thirty years prior. Probably the most significant story since The Apocalypse War (to which it serves as a sequel) in terms of its dramatic and lasting impact on the setting. The first epic where the ending is a decisive and inarguable defeat for Dredd and Mega-City One as 350 million citizens are killed by the "Chaos bug", cutting Mega-City One's population to barely an eighth of the level it had fluctuated around since the war. The tone and flavour of the narrative have changed accordingly: although comedy, action and satire have not been completely eliminated from the Judge Dredd formula a much greater number of stories published between 2012 and the present have adopted a much bleaker and more fatalistic tone resembling the last few stories of this sequence.
- The Trifecta sequence (progs 1803-1812): A crossover between the main Judge Dredd strip and two of its spinoffs, comprised of the stories Judge Dredd: Bullet to King Four (prog 1803), The Simping Detective: Jokers to the Right (progs 1804-1811), Low Life: Saudade (progs 1805-1811) and Judge Dredd: The Cold Deck (progs 1806-1811) with the three plot threads converging to a crossover climax in Trifecta (prog 1812). Judge Bachmann attempts a coup with the goal of instating theocratic rule over Mega-City one, backed by a brainwashed army drawn from Justice Department's undercover operations division, the Church of Simpology and lunar construction company Overdrive Inc. Her efforts are eventually thwarted by the combined actions of Dredd, undercover judges Jack Point and Dirty Frank, Justice Department accountant Maitland and Bachmann's predecessor Smiley. The actions of Smiley's black ops force and the deterioration of Dredd and Hershey's relationship would both become recurring plot points for several years afterward, culminating in The Small House. Aside from Smiley, recurring supporting character Sensitive Klegg was also introduced in this story arc.
- Dark Justice (2015 special and progs 1912-1921) sees the return of Judge Death over a decade after his last solo spinoff story in the Megazine, and the first story to feature the other Dark Judges since their brief and anticlimactic appearance in Day of Chaos. Dredd and Anderson battle the four Dark Judges aboard a spaceship, eventually capturing Fear and jettisoning Death, Fire and Mortis into space. This ending sets up the Dark Judge spinoff stories Dominion (Meg vol.5 #386-391) and The Torture Garden (Meg vol.5 #400-409), which together form the first complete story to feature the whole group rather than a single Dark Judge without Dredd or Anderson also appearing.
- Ladykiller (progs 1991-1998) is P.J. Maybe's last appearance; after thirty years of evading the law and cheating death this story ends when he is finally gunned down by Dredd.
- The Small House (progs 2100-2109) includes revelations regarding past events and longstanding characters which dramatically re-contextualize several major storylines going back many years, particularly The Apocalypse War and Trifecta, and brings an end to the Judge Smiley subplot which had been running in intermittent stories since 2012. Also features the deaths of Dirty Frank and Smiley.
- Machine Law (progs 2115-2122): Following the reintroduction of the new, more reliable mark 8 Mechanismo droids in Harvey (progs 2024-2029), this story brings them to the forefront when robot Judge Harvey is briefly and controversially appointed to the Council of Five. This story establishes the new robots as a permanent fixture which have featured in numerous stories since (though Patsy, the only current recurring robo-Judge character and indeed the only one since Harvey himself, was not introduced until later) and also features Hershey's resignation, Logan's appoint as Chief Judge and the death of Harvey.
- End of Days (progs 2184-2199):