Judge Fear’s Big Day Out: Edited By Michael Carroll
Reviewed By Tarn Richardson
In 1977 Britain, revolution was in the air. The Sex Pistols were singing about Anarchy in the UK, inflation stood at 16.5%, unemployment was at 5.5% and technology was on the cusp transforming our lives with home computers, robots and user-powered cars (sadly, C-5 never did take off though).
Against this backdrop, the slyly political, shrewdly subversive and hugely entertaining sci-fi British comic 2000AD was born, a comic which enjoys as much popularity today as it did 44 years ago. And central to the comic’s success has been the mainstay of the publication; Judge Dredd, a futuristic police officer who is judge, jury and executioner in the claustrophobic post-nuclear world of Mega City One.
Why Judge Dredd worked so well and still works well, is because what it did was take the themes and concerns of modern life and ratcheted them up to 100 in a science fiction future; mass anarchy and disaffection, unemployed at 99%, technology invading every aspect of life.
Whilst a merciless fascist, dispensing justice as ruthlessly as the judges rule the city and the people within it, Dredd’s heroism and unyielding determination to keep rule-abiding citizens safe has garnered him cult status, two films (one terrible, one marvellous) and a number of novels – not to mention helping to keep 2000AD afloat during the ‘difficult 90s’. But what he has never enjoyed is a book of short stories – until now.
Fundamentally, Judge Fear’s Big Day Out shouldn’t work, just like any written word adaptation of the Judge Dredd universe shouldn’t really. Dredd, or as ‘Old Stoney Face’ as he has come to be known, is a visual comic book character, laid down in illustration and panels and bubble speak. However, what Judge Fear’s Big Day Out shows is the power of the written word when delivered by the hands of talented writers.
Judge Fear’s Big Day Out is a smörgåsbord of stories from Mega City One, some hilarious, some gruesome, some terrifying, others deeply moving, but all terrifically written and keenly compiled by frequent 2000AD contributor Michael Carroll. Judge Fear’s Big Day Out provides to the reader an even deeper appreciation of the complexities of life within Mega City One, both as a judge but also a citizen living under the constant fear of crime and those trying to protect people from criminals. It provides colour, insight, depth, added perception beyond the comic, not to mention the voices of a whole host of new writers who will rarely get the opportunity to add their take on Mega City Life in comic book form, seeing as there’s only one slot for a Judge Dredd story each week in 2000AD (although the Judge Dredd Megazine gives readers another five each month).
The stories are short enough to devour in a tea break or a twenty-minute rest on the sofa, but each pack enough action, adventure and emotion to leave you pondering for the rest of the day. And there are a LOT of them. Rebellion, the publisher, have been very generous, unlike judgement by Dredd and his fellow judges.
And whilst there are some stories here which feel vaguely reminiscent of previous Dredd stories from the comics (the title story ‘Judge Fear’s Big Day Out’, for example, is essentially a replay of Judge Death’s encounter with almost blind Mrs Gunderson after Necropolis – Mega City One was taken over by the Dark Judges and Sisters of Death: read Necropolis!), there’s so much talent on show here that every story has plenty for even the most discerning fan of Dredd to celebrate.
For too long comics have been regarded as the lesser poorer cousin of the written word medium (entirely incorrectly – read Watchmen, Dark Knight Returns or, on-brand, Dredd’s Chaos Day, for proof) . Perhaps Judge Fear’s Big Day Out will help to elevate both Dredd and 2000AD to a more recognised and celebrated literary position among the truly great stories and publications of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries – and a wider audience too. Which can only be a good thing for everyone involved. Just don’t tell Dredd – comic book selling is illegal in Mega City One.
Judge Fear’s Big Dday Out
A shopping mall where droids sell organs harvested from street trash…
A murderous imaginary friend…
A psychotic composer drafting music from pain…
All in a day’s work for the Lawman of the Future.
Judge Fear’s Big Day Out and Other Stories gathers the very best short stories from more than a decade of the Judge Dredd Megazine, including stories by legends Alan Grant, Gordon Rennie and Simon Spurrier, among countless others…
Tarn Richardson was brought up a fan of fantasy and horror, in a remote house, rumoured to be haunted, near Taunton, Somerset. He is the author of THE DARKEST HAND series, published by Duckworth Overlook in 2015-2017 and republished by RedDoor in 2019. Comprising of THE DAMNED, THE FALLEN, THE RISEN, and free eBook prequel THE HUNTED, the books tell the epic story of Inquisitor Poldek Tacit, battling the forces of evil to the backdrop of World War One. He has also written the novels, RIPPED, and THE VILLAGE IN THE WOODS, to be published in 2020 and 2021. He lives near Salisbury with this wife, the portraiture artist Caroline Richardson, and their two sons.
Official Website www.tarnrichardson.co.uk