Monday, January 12, 2015

Judge Dredd in Future Ireland

After a visit to the Dublin Central Library, I was inspired to make this January the month of graphic novels and comics. I've been trying to read more lately, but I haven't been revisiting the comic book format, an old favorite. The Central Library has a sizable collection of graphic novels and comic compilations, so I grabbed a handful featuring some classic characters and dug in.

As it happens, I've been sharing and tweeting highlights over on my nerd content Twitter account, @Active_ate (

The first book is a collection of comics featuring one of my favorite comic butt-kickers, Judge Dredd. Back in Iowa, I snapped up handfuls of comics from the 1980s and 1990s, including a decent number of Judge Dredd issues. I didn't realize the character was created in the UK until I read the updates and letters segments in these US-released collections.
He originally appeared in the weekly sci-fi comic magazine 2000AD in short episodes. For the US releases, the episodes were stitched together into US-sized issues and released by Quality Comics and Eagle Comics, possibly to hide the non-American origins of the hero of Mega-City One?

Emerald Isle is a very interesting story arc for the Judge, given its setting in future Ireland and its disturbing IRA-Northern Ireland allegory. As usual for Judge Dredd, the book mixes biting socio-political commentary with black-as-tar humor for a very interesting and fun read.

The story begins when an ambassador to Emerald Isle -- Ireland in the future -- is assassinated in Mega-City One with a spud gun. Apparently bullets are too expensive for the future Ireland militia, so potato-shooters it is.

In the future, Ireland has been taken over by Brit-Cit -- future Great Britain -- after a government collapse. It has been turned into a provincial, rustic theme park with one large city covering the entire southeast coast, Murphyville.

The residents work in the entertainment industry and entertain tourists with their old-fashioned charm and endless potatoes. An underground group -- Sons of Erin -- dedicated to restoring Ireland to its former glory, plot to seize the country from Brit-Cit and shut down the Emerald Isle theme park.

The writers of the comic tried to give the Irish characters Irish accents, but things aren't quite right. I don't know if this was intentional or just the product of ignorance. The characters in future Dublin use words like "aye" and "wee" like someone from Northern Ireland today, but they also use current non-Northern phrases like "your man." Maybe all regional dialects have dissolved into one standard accent in the future, or maybe I'm just overthinking it.

The writers did throw in some interesting Irish-accurate touches. Dredd occasionally runs into singing dolphin mutants (because future) who narrate the story with words that fit into the tune of popular Irish trad standards like Cockles and Mussels. Also, the Judges take a shortcut up Leeson Street and through future St. Stephen's Green. Dredd hilariously runs over the only remaining shrub in the Green.
Needless to say, the Judge comes through. He throws the Sons of Erin hitman into a potato masher (they have been making artificial spuds out or rice since potatoes went extinct in the 2050s!) and makes a great joke on his way out of town.

This story arc was written in 1990-1991, when the Troubles would still have been raging. Before the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, bombings, kidnappings, and reprisals were still common throughout Ireland, and this material would have been quite topical. The obvious IRA overtones are a bit too spot-on, especially considering the state of affairs at the time.

I wonder what it would have been like to have read this as a kid in the UK or Ireland in 1991, when I would have been the target audience. The tone appears to cast the Irish (not just the IRA characters) in a negative light. The Irish judges are incompetent and drunk on the job, and the terrorists are ruthless, savage, and ineffective. I can't help but feel that the British writers had an axe to grind against the Irish. With what was happening at the time, I can't really blame them.

Even though it's a sci-fi/action lark, Emerald Isle is a very interesting product of its time. Recommended for diehard Dredd-heads and newbies alike!


  1. Quare fella is proper old Dublin slang. Read some of Sean ocaseys plays like Juno and the paycock and you'll come across a lot of the old slang. A quare fella is someone peculiar but has a few contexts.. Comic is hilarious

    1. Guess I need to hang out with more Dublin old-timers to hear a phrase like that! I had a good time reading it. Bad guy thrown into the potato grinder? Amazing!


Please leave a comment, we'd love to hear what you think! Comments are word verified to prevent SPAM.