Judge Dredd badges are not that odd as such — I’m the proud owner of the best part of a dozen of various different styles — but the one we’re featuring today is a little unusual because it’s fairly rare, and it’s rather large.
But first, a bit of a preamble (it wouldn’t do at all to have the preamble in the middle or at the end, would it?). The first glimpse of the Mega-City One Judge badge came in 2000AD issue #2 (Dredd’s only appearance in issue #1 is a teaser panel) as part of the logo:
Here’s a closer look at the badge:
Though over the years the badge’s shape has evolved — thanks to different artists giving it their own take — its main elements have remained mostly unchanged. The two biggest differences are the eagle’s talons, which never actually made it to the actual character design, and the word “Judge” across the front rather than the Judge’s name. That aspect was part of the original design, but it really only appeared in Dredd’s co-creator Carlos Ezquerra’s very first Dredd strip, “Bank Raid,” which was actually rejected and didn’t see print until a feature in the 1981 Judge Dredd Annual. Mike McMahon drew the first published Dredd story, and the badges in that tale very definitely feature the Judges’ names because that was part of the plot.
However… The very first panel in prog #2’s Dredd was actually taken from Ezquerra’s scrapped “Bank Raid” story. And take a look at his badge!
Ezquerra’s first Dredd strip to see print was in prog #5. We only get one good look at Dredd’s badge in that one, on the very last panel:
On a related note, keen-eyed Dredd fans might also have spotted that the badges in some of the other early Dredd strips have been tinkered with, most notably in progs #6, #7 and #8, where it looks as though the name was amended to read “Dredd” by someone other than the strip’s actual artist.
My favourite variation on the Judge badge is still Robin Smith’s design that appeared on the back of the early Judge Dredd Annuals:
This was the design used for the tin Judge Dredd badge that came free with 2000AD issue #300 back in January 1983…
… and also for the plastic, pin-backed badge that came free with issue #9 of The Complete Judge Dredd (the gold paint is very worn on mine — I must do something about that one day).
I used the same design back in 2006 when I was commissioned to create a 3D sculpt of the badge by Termight Replicas, which came out looking rather nice even if I do say so myself:
For those interested in such things (and, indeed, for those not interested in such things), here are some never-before-seen pics of the development process showing how I turned a flat image into a contoured 3D model:
Sadly, the Termight Replicas badges have long since sold out and are no longer available, but for some years now Planet Replicas has been creating excellent Dredd badges, including a range based on specific artists’ styles: they’re well worth checking out.
There were a lot of other tweaks to the judge uniform, one of which was attaching the badge to the uniform’s left shoulder-pad. That makes sense: you really don’t want a big shiny metal badge bouncing around on your chest when you’re chasing a perp through the streets of Mega-City One. The 2012 Dredd movie did something similar, fixing the Judges’ badges to their chest-plates (and dispensing entirely with the chain).
A more stylised version of the badge appears on the cover of some releases of the DVD, and pretty striking it is, too:
Naturally for promotional purposes this image boasts the name “Judge Dredd” rather than just “Dredd.” It’s an unintentional call-back to the original badge design, but there’s no need for an actual Judge to have the word “Judge” on their badge because, well, it’s clear that they’re a Judge. The only exceptions ever made are for Judges whose surname is “Judge” but I don’t think there’s been too many of them. If any.
Maybe the Department of Justice just won’t permit someone with the surname “Judge” to become a Judge, because if someone is calling out to them, “Judge Judge!” then Judge Judge would be unable to resist quipping, “I heard you the first time.”
Hmm. We’re getting side-tracked so let’s just put a pin in that idea (a pin tipped with a deadly fast-acting poison!) and move on.
Long before the Judge Dredd DVD was released, the movie was made available for rental on VHS. (Another interesting note of trivia: the final major Hollywood movie to be released on VHS was A History of Violence, based on the graphic novel drawn by Vincent Locke and written by a certain John Wagner… co-creator of Judge Dredd!) Our local video store here in [address redacted for reasons of security, and possibly shame] occasionally displayed promotional items for the bigger movies, and one of them was this badge:
One would need to be Andre the Giant’s bigger, huskier sibling to be able to wear this on one’s chest: it’s 214mm by 300mm, and made of sturdy cardboard.
By way of comparison, here’s the promo badge alongside the Termight Replicas badge, and a book chosen completely at random:
The promo badge was kindly donated to me by the woman in the video store after I casually mentioned about a hundred times that I would really, really like to have it, please.
I actually lost the badge for a good decade or so, and I was convinced I’d managed to throw it out by accident during a fit of redecoration, but it recently resurfaced in a forgotten box of goodies (the same box in which I found my Steve Dillon pages).
The excellent 2012 Dredd movie again went with a different design for the badge, but I rather like it:
Finally, in a rare instance of self-promotion, over on yer Uncle Rusty’s proper website you can (if your system is able to run Adobe Flash) create your own totally free customised Judge badge using my Badger software! I never got around to creating a version in the style of the Stallone movie, but there are still plenty from which to choose, including a Judge Death badge of which I’m rather fond. Here are just three of them:
Update: Thanks to Sheridan and Mac Macmac for supplying corrections to the history of the Robin Smith-designed badge!
Dredged from the depths of the internet comes this image of a rare pre-production 1995 Judge Dredd movie logo, which suggests that they might have gone for a very different look for the badge.
I wasn’t going to mention this, but I figured that if I don’t then a lot of people will helpfully point it out to me, even though I spotted in when I bought prog 2 back in 1977. Let’s go back to the original Judge Dredd logo…
… and this time, we’ll zoom in on the J instead:
Yes, that’s a silhouette profile of Judge Dredd’s face hidden in the logo!