Cover Image: I am the Law: How Judge Dredd Predicted Our Future

I am the Law: How Judge Dredd Predicted Our Future

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I am the Law is a comprehensive reflection on the satirical futuristic 2000 AD comic strip Judge Dredd.  It picks themes and characters from the strip and demonstrates their relevance and portentous nature in relation to western society.  Individual freedoms, surveillance, right to protest, and democracy itself are all examined through the prism of Judge Dredd.

The writing is thoughtful and the referencing ferocious, but sometimes the tone can become preachy and lack a little self-awareness or sense of humour.  I enjoyed the critique of the Dredd stories and their dark mirror reflection in U.K. / US politics and society more than direct social commentary on successive governments.  If you are a fan of 2000 AD then it is an enjoyable read, as long as you are willing to chew through some sermonising and ‘law and order’ rhetoric on the way. Topical given recent Casey review of Metropolitan Police.
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This was a really interesting read. I love 200AD and this book did not disappoint. The table of contents give you a brief summary of what was in each chapter. That was super helpful. I also love this quote, "He's (Dredd) no mere policeman, he is the embodiment of a police state."

4 stars
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The character of JudgeJoe Dredd has been the most successful creation of British comics of the last 5o years. This book compares events within Dredd's 22nd century fictional landscape with developments in our own world during the same period. Has Dredd influenced our world or have we influenced Dredd?
A thought provoking read.
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I Am Law is an instructing read, unlike anything I have ever read before. It combines fact and fiction in an uncanny comparison that makes you question every crime you read or see, whether it be real or not. The fact that the book can easily go from the fictional world of Judge Dread to a real-life report remarkably easy shows that there is much we can do within society, yet the author remains unbiased through it all. Overall, despite it being a heavy read, it was fascinating, and I would recommend it to anyone interested within both real and fictional crime.
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There is an elephant in the room in Michael Molcher's brilliantly argued and researched book comparing the current state of policing politics with Mega-City One's most famous son (and its not just shouldn't Judge Rico also just be called Judge Dredd). There are two elephants though one is small and is easily hidden behind the first elephant. Molcher admits that the ultra-violent kids comic is fundamentally a satire, and expertly parallels real-world developments in law enforcement, often extrapolating them for comic or gory effect. Why then should we be surprised that in a hypermediated and securitised state that something that was a joke in 1980, wouldn't become actual policy in 2020? The direction of travel, despite Black Lives Matter and Defund The Police has only been one way,

The other, smaller elephant, is that as his subject is broadly British law and police policy, and that the comic he is talking about is 45 years old, to what extent did or do the people involved in said policy engage with Dredd and 2000AD. It's more than likely that some of them, particularly on the police side, may well have been fans. There is talk about the tricky balance of a satire having a hero in Dredd, and Wagner and Grant in particular trying to alert their readers that Dredd may not be a hero. Do the law and order, anti-protest politicians see Dredd as a positive role model in policing? Do they not get the satire? This is sadly not addressed though  Molcher is very good at reinforcing the negatives of emulating Dredd, not least the population drop in Mega-City One on Dredd's watch now being one-twentieth as when it started,

This is a minor issue, and one probably outside of the scope of the books remit (and as much as I would like to know if Jack Straw or Priti Patel were Dredd fans I doubt they'd answer). I Am The Law is a fascinating read as it uses Dredd to illustrate various conundrums in modern police policy. There isn't much new here, either as a history of Dredd, or that of the carceral state if you know about these things, but I can certainly see it as a gateway into the politics for a comics reader. It's also just a really good read, for something which is politically dense and researched it was hard to put down (in a similar way to Douglas Wolk's 'All The Marvels' I kept treating myself to one more chapter). I am no Dredd expert but know enough particularly of the early funny stuff to get by, but I think he does a great job even if you know nothing. An edifying if slightly depressing read as we slowly watch this place turn into Brit-Cit.
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My introduction to Judge Dredd was via the 1995 Stallone movie. I quite liked it, to be honest. As someone who wasn’t familiar with Ol’ Stoney Face and living in the pre-Internet age, I had no idea of the ‘sacrilege’ committed when Dredd removed his helmet. I loved the dystopian setting and the action sequences. It was only much later, while reading the novelizations by Dave Stone and David Bishop that I started getting a hang of the world of Dredd. In parallel, I was also working my way through Mack Bolan, Able Team, and Phoenix Force – the Holy Trinity of American action-adventure paperbacks where brave White American men stabbed, mowed down, and blew up thousands of people because the “Godless commies” wouldn’t want Mom’s apple pie. 

And I cheered them on. 

Fast forward a few years later. I’d read the Dredd novelizations, and also started going through the Warhammer 40,000 books. I’d also had developed a more critical view of the world and beginning to understand that the over-the-top nature of the Imperium in WH40K and the super-authoritarian yet super-chaotic Mega-City One were not meant to be taken at face-value and that the writers were cautioning us about what could happen if we went down a slippery slope.
A few more years later, I am a little bit wiser (though my wife would not agree) and realize that the Dredd stories, Garth Ennis’ MarvelMAX Punisher run, and WH40K were meant to satirize the state of the world. I also realized that Mack Bolan was not meant as satire but played sttaight. 
All of the above is a really long-winded and self-centered way to segue into the topic of this review – Michael Molcher’s I AM THE LAW. A book that brings together the Dredd storylines and the socio-political milieux in which that storyline was written. The book’s written by Mike Molcher, 2000AD Brand Manager, who has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Dredd-verse as well as deep, first-hand knowledge of UK politics. 
The book’s organization is very interesting. Each chapter is named after something or someone in the Dredd-verse. The name signifies the theme of the chapter. For example, the chapter titled UnAmerican Graffiti is about graffiti lampooning authoritarianism. The chapters alternate between the relevant Dredd storyline and the real-world events that almost mirror it. For example, the chapter titled “The Return of Rico” starts with vignettes of Dredd’s ‘evil twin’ brother Rico and from there proceeds to connect that storyline to the idea of dirty cops. 
Over the course of the 16 chapters, we are given a front-row view of the collapse of democracy [as in the concept that people’s choices matter, not the political system], and how the Dredd storylines have been influenced by this collapse and have, on occasion, even predicted the collapse. Molcher helpfully points us to some of the utterances of Ol’ Stoney Face that can serve as slogans for the powers that be – e.g., “You can’t trust the people” from the America storyline. 

The thesis of the book is that power only begets more power. In Dredd’s world, the awesome weapons and limitless resources that the Judges have concentrated in their own hands in the name of keeping the Mega-City One residents safe has done the opposite – as evidenced by the Block Wards, Chaos Day, and the Apocalypse War. Similarly, in the real world, making police forces similar to military units and increasing their budgets while school-teachers have to pay for supplies out of their own pocket have resulted in mass shootings, increased levels of lethal crimes, and movements likes “All Cops are Bastards”. Yet, both in Dredd-verse and in the real world, the powers that be refuse to understand the data and insist on prolonging the vicious cycle. 
When this book gets the inevitable second edition, I’d like Molcher to delve into the more recent storylines, especially the Judge Smiley and Maitland storylines. I’d love to read his analysis of Judge Smiley flat-out telling Dredd “We’re fascists” and how Maitland’s plan to wipe-out crime could fare in the real world.
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I am the Law is a non fiction break down of not only how Judge Dredd started out, but also the history of the comics that went before. If you are a fan of the graphic novels then this might be something for you. I always thought it was based of of American politics and antics, but soon learned that it originated in the U.K. I found this a very interesting read and can recommend it to history as well as Judge Dredd fans.
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On record as a huge fan of Judge Dredd from a very early age

As much an institution for people my age as Coronation Street was for my parents, Judge Dredd has been the constant that was with us all our reading lives, from the very early days, to the bombastic 80’s, to the thinking 90’s, and onwards from there, but the nature of who Judge Dredd is and what he represents wasn’t really a thing I considered in my younger days, and like many, I just read vicariously and thought nothing more of it.

“It couldn’t happen in real life” was the thought that went with it.

Except it could…

And it did…

All the time…

This book is a gathering of the various points of Dredd through the years and a compare and contrast between what was in the comics pages and what was happening in the real world.

Spoiler: there wasn’t much constrast between the comics and the real world.

What this book does is encourage the thought between the things that we considered too far fetched to be true, and the very real danger of how things were being done in the world, and more importantly, how they continue to be done even now.  What makes this different is the hundreds of citations given to the references that are brought in comparison to what happened on the page versus what happened in real life.

Hundreds of citations.

This is the law writ large, where every thing that we saw as satire was in fact someone referencing something that had already happened, or worse, someone making something up that couldn’t have been true, only to find out that not only was it true, but it was more extreme than their comic-book version of it.

This isn’t easy reading, it’s not a collection of panels from the comic with references to what happened in real life, and the prose is dense, pages upon pages of closely packed text littered with references, but what it is, is fascinating.

I would recommend this to anyone who has ever enjoyed Dredd, but moreso, I’d recommend this to anyone who ever thought they understood Dredd, because the insights in here are both intriguing and disturbing, and that was everything that Dredd was ever supposed to be.

Thanks again to Netgalley and Rebellion for the free advance copy in return for an honest review.
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I Am the Law: How Judge Dredd Predicted Our Future, by Michael Molcher, is an excellent example of using popular culture to analyze societal issues, in this case authoritarian government and its enforcement arm.

For those who come for the comic history, there is plenty here of interest. While specific strips are used to illustrate a real-life issue, we are still presented with a nice perspective on the comic itself. Some works are primarily about an aspect of popular culture and only mentions its relationship to the world within which it is created, this one is truly a blending of the two.

The strength of the volume is in how we see the changes in policing and, by extension, the so-called justice systems in the UK and in many parts of the world. From turning police departments into the paramilitary arm of white supremacist governmental policies to labeling anyone who disagrees with the powers-that-be as essentially disposable, we see how as things got progressively worse, the comic took it even further, until reality caught up.

Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in either comics or policing issues, as well as those involved in any multidisciplinary area that even remotely touches on popular culture. There is a lot to learn here about how to blend the disciplines.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.
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Really interesting book! My partner has always loved Judge Dredd so I thought I would have this arc as some research. Not a typical graphic novel but interesting to read and taught me something! Now I can hold a conversation about Dredd and actually know what I'm talking about! Must read for all fans :)
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My thanks to both NetGalley and the publisher Rebellion for an advanced copy of a book that looks at the history or a famous comic book character and shows how the book visionary in its outlook, and how depressingly right it was in many ways. 

When I was growing up my family lived in the Bronx, a part of New York City that was considered, at least by most media a hell zone. Gangs ruled the streets, trash was piled up to the third floor, the President of the United States had told the city to go to hell, and the police were all corrupt and or unable to do their jobs cause criminals had more rights. Soon movies like The Warriors would start to show these images, it was only safe to get to Coney Island if you were in a gang, or baseball wielding clowns would chase you. Or New York was only good to be a prison, that people wanted to escape from. The idea of society breaking down, the government being unable to handle the most basic of needs, and strikes stopping the country was also affecting our neighbors across the pond. And into this chaos of punks and hooligans stepped a hero, a Judge, who fought for the law. I am the Law: How Judge Dredd Predicted Our Future, by comic historian and writer Michael Molcher is a look at this popular character, and how the writers and artists seemed to see where this love of law and order would take us, from neighborhood beats to a fully militarized army without any accountability.

Judge Joseph Dredd was created in our world by writer John Wagner and artist Carlos Ezquerra, in about 1976 and brought to live in the second issue of 2000 AD comic magazine. Dredd is a clone, created as an law enforcement and judicial officer with the ability to stop, arrest, sentence and execute lawbreakers in Mega-City One, over 100 years from now. Dredd is rare in comics in that his character ages, a year worth of comics is a year in his time, and after almost 50 years of stories Dredd has seen a lot. And been responsible for quite a lot. Judges pretty much rule all, making all decisions of value and merit, and Judges have the right to police for crimes, protests, any actions that can be considered disruptive, or counter to the status quo. This includes policing of the human body, from mutants, to body transformation, even being obese. The comic has being a satire, always been ahead of the current trends, showing the changes in policing from the seventies, to the feeling that police are an occupying army in their own hometowns. 

The book is not at all what I expected, and I really found it quite fascinating, and different from what I expected it to be. Not a biography about Dredd more a memoir and a comparison of what the comic started as, what it became and how society almost mirrors not just the storylines, but the tactics, emotions and Orwellian thought that have become such a part of law enforcement. Molcher used plenty of examples from both our history and from the Dredd comics to show the slow changes, and how sometimes fiction is not as scary as the real world has made it. The writing is very good, with plenty of research and lots of thoughts to mull over and contemplate, while looking at Dredd stories through different eyes. The feeling from most of the creators that Dredd was not the hero of the piece, but the villain, really stopped me. I know that the Dredd I am familiar with is not the same as in the British comics. American Dredd is more a 80's action hero, the only man who can get justice, and not a cog in an oppressive machine, that creates more situations that lead to death, than it tries to solve. 

A book on comics that I didn't expect to bother me, or make me think so much. The book is not an easy read, nor one that should be taken lightly. Expecting a DK Illustrated Batman book, one will be confused. This is very scholarly on ideas about law enforcement, history criminal justice the media, and well comics. I found this book very intriguing, and wish for a lot more books like this.
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Thanks to the Rebellion, Mike, and NetGalley for the ARC. This is so well-researched. If you thought you understood Dredd, this book gives a new point of view that is essential. The final line of this book is a mic drop. I say that all the time.
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I am revising my review since the publisher has thankfully corrected the corrupted files previously uploaded to NetGalley.
I will never look at Judge Dredd the same way again. This book was not so much a novel as it was like taking a grad school course on how one comic critiqued, satirized and predicted the scary state of politics and policing int today's world. I have been a huge Judge Dredd fan since his early appearances in America, long after existing in Britain in 2000 AD. However, the version to appear in the US was rather sanitized from Dredd's original true form and purpose. While Dredd has always been an obvious satire of the "Dirty Harry" approach to policing, he still came off as being the hero, or at least anti-hero, fighting the criminals even if that meant strict adherence to "The Law" making even the minorest of offenses. What an eye opener it was to discover through this book that even his creators always viewed Dredd as a villain. What he stands for is satire and political commentary on how his sense of absolute justice is everything that's wrong with the world today. Though Dredd has always taken place in a futuristic America, the fascist rule of the Judges has really been a criticism of how fascist Great Britain was and has continued to be. I am the Law was a lesson not just of the origins of Judge Dredd but of how it didn't just satirize the UK and the world, but frighteningly predicted where policing and government policy would evolve to today.
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My Review 📖🖋
I am the Law: How Judge Dredd Predicted Our Future by Michael Molcher is, without a doubt, a fascinating and thoroughly engrossing read.
This without a doubt, is one of the most in-depth books on policing in Britain that I have ever read. Disquieting to the point of frightening. It may have a biased or negative aspect on policing, critical on governments past and present, but on that, you will have to make up your own minds. What I will say, is that from start to finish, this book is totally absorbing.
My word this book brought back some unpleasant memories from the 1970s, as I was inadvertently (or advertently on the odd occasion) involved in some of the violence mentioned in the book. (Not proud of any of it, by the way). Football hooliganism was the main issue for me, and the occasional picket line, but when you are of a young age, you tend to be very easily led.
In defence of the Police force at many of the football matches I attended, their job was difficult, verging on the impossible. Crowd control was often a joke as police officers were outnumbered, usually by several hundred to one in most cases. I am not saying they were all goodie-two-shoes, far from it, because there are bad apples everywhere. I have seen my fair share of vindictive PCs who would get their retaliation in beforehand. But I have seen them putting their bodies on the line to protect innocent bystanders.
There is a massive case that the media were heavily involved in fuelling the violence during the period. I am not talking about the Comics or books, but the news and papers. Their political and social editorials were the influencers of their day. Making heroes of some individuals such as union leaders etc, and villains of others, usually politicians and heads of police. Driving wedges between people of every class, race, colour, religion or national origin. They did not really care how they portrayed the violence or who was involved as long as it sold papers.
You could argue for a case that when Judge Dredd was first announced to the public in the 70s, it worked with the instability of law enforcement rather than actually predicting its future. Although as time progressed, you could see the subtle nuances creeping in as people became more afraid in their day-to-day existence. 
Police state, nanny state, whatever, things were turning and definitely not for the better. As far as most people were concerned, the criminal fraternity had crossed a line, and the Police force had followed suit. Police hard-line tactics were the order of the day; unfortunately, innocents sometimes paid the price.
It is easy to point the finger at Punk Rock, but what about the Mods and Rockers before that. The phenomenon that was Punk Rock just happened to occur when media was expanding, and more people had access to it. It was suddenly in your face like never before. Punk was lambasted, ridiculed, ostracised, and inevitably it would bite back.
The author has delved deep into the past and comes up with some startling facts and figures. The research is impeccable, and it is fascinating to look back on some of it, even if it is in anger. The details of some of those events which occurred during the 70s and beyond are indelibly printed in your mind. They are never to be forgotten.
Bringing things right up to date with Black Lives Matter and the latest demonstrations and riots, the author has covered pretty much the whole spectrum as things currently stand.
There is an array of footnotes pointing to other publications and references, which no doubt will prove useful to those doing their own particular research. The artwork in the book is of epic proportions, in other words, beautifully illustrated throughout. The end of the book also contains some further reading and has ideas and themes to explore.
As the book pointed out, Judge Dredd had come a long way from the heady days of Dixon of Dock Green. And I wonder what W.S. Gilbert would make of it all now, since the day he penned his immortal lyrics, "A Policeman's Lot Is Not A Happy One", from The Pirates Of Penzance.
I am the Law: How Judge Dredd Predicted Our Future by Michael Molcher is not just for fans of the legend Judge Dredd. This is about a slide towards authoritarian policing, the rise of the surveillance state and the politics within policing. More importantly, how and why it will affect the world today and in the future.
I do recommend giving this book a read, as it is well worth delving into. 
Thank you, NetGalley and Rebellion books, for the advanced copy.
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A fascinating look at a character who has been popular with me for decades, with attention to the social and political commentary at the heart of the visual narrative. I appreciated how this book shared intriguing ideas in accessible ways.
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Protected document so was unable to read this book unfortunately which is a massive shame as I’ve been a fan of Judge Dredd for over 30 years so was very interested in this.
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