On this day, 26 January 1980: 2000AD and Tornado (Prog 149)
On this day, 26 January 1980 … the crooked silhouette of a Judge appeared at the top of a shadowy stairwell. At the risk of incurring his galactic wrath (I mean not to mimic you, Oh Mighty One, merely to remind fellow Earthlets of your prophetic space-sagacity), this is what Tharg had to say in his editorial to 2000AD Prog 149:
‘BORAG THUNGG, EARTHLETS!
‘Many Earthlets have written to ask what has happened to Art Robot Bolland, as he has drawn no Judge Dredds for such a long time. The answer awaits you on page 3 of the Prog – the first instalment of Judge Death, a special 3-part story. I, Tharg, believe this to be some of the best, most sinister artwork ever published. I await your reactions.
‘SPLUNDIG VUR THRIGG, THARG’
And so, just short of 2000AD’s 150th issue, Judge Dredd’s Big Bad made his debut. Another major character, Judge Cassandra Anderson, would appear for the first time the following week. Death has been a truly terrifying and fascinating villain and enormous credit must go to legendary script droid John Wagner for his conception and for charting his ghoulish storyline over the last 36 years, and also to Brian Bolland without whose perfectly-pitched artwork on this opening story (and its 1981 sequel Judge Death Lives), the initial impact might not have been the same. Thank you also Steve MacManus, Tharg’s earthly representative in the Nerve Centre hot-seat during this, a period rightly hailed as the comic’s golden age, for recognising and facilitating such genius.