On this day, 16 November 1985: 2000AD (Prog 444)
On this day, 16 November 1985 … Jumping forward in time, here’s a rare look at a 2000AD from the mid-1980s, and an opportunity to acknowledge the work of the great Bryan Talbot on Nemesis the Warlock, Jose Ortiz’s run on Rogue Trooper and Massimo Belardinelli as the saving grace on an otherwise tough-to-endure Mean Team. It also includes a terrific Brian Bolland poster
But the jewel in this particular prog is the one-off Judge Dredd tale ‘Love Story’, a brilliant, hilariously-written and beautifully-drawn John Wagner/Alan Grant and Ian Gibson creation. Bella Bagley is the lovestruck citizen overwhelmed by an infatuation for stony Joe, and while she has all the best lines this is ultimately a story that contributes greatly to the formation of the Dredd that we know and love today. One of the great things about Dredd is that he is so rich and complex a character yet one of limited vocabulary and thoroughly predictable, restrained range of action and motivation. This story is a masterclass in how to write such an iconic part: like a sculptor chiselling away at what shouldn’t be there to uncover the shape of the figure within, Wagner and Grant define Dredd’s character by what he doesn’t say or do rather than what he does.
This story can also be read as a metaphor for the problematic nature of the unfathomable love we (the fans) have for what essentially a cold, heartless, brutal fascist – the antithesis of life, freedom and democracy. Even though Judge Dredd represents a world and a way of life that would be completely and utterly wrong for us, isn't there a Bella Bagley in all of us, deep inside, who wants to be the one to darn his socks and polish his gun? I remember leaving the cinema after the first time I saw Dredd the movie and trying to justify to myself why I had enjoyed it so much. I haven’t yet come up with a comfortable answer, other than it appeals to my shadow. Perhaps there is a safety net, in that the world of Judge Dredd is fantastical fiction that allows us Bellas to embrace the dark side, to take pleasure in uncompromising, punitive lawgiving and a strong, unyielding figure of cold justice, without having to worry about what might happen if he were real. But then … what happens when fantasy becomes reality?