Thursday 6 September 2012

1983: JUDGE DREDD: THE US COMIC (Eagle Comics)

DREDD 3D opens in the UK this weekend (I'm going Saturday night... and I can't wait) so, to mark the occasion (albeit in the smallest of small ways), here's the launch advert for the JUDGE DREDD issue 1, published by Eagle Comics in the summer of 1983.

These colour, US-format reprints from Eagle Comics (a collaboration between IPC and Titan Books, borrowing the company name from the original incarnation of the British weekly) were the first time that most Americans had encountered ol' JD.

Eagle Comics took the original UK material, adjusted the page size (to make them taller, slimmer and  - of course - smaller overall) to fit the standard US format, removed the obvious recaps and chapter breaks inherent in the serialised British material and added colour for the first time.  Opinions vary about quite how well they achieved any of it.  

The Eagle Comics were distributed, via Titan Distributors (another part of the Titan empire), to British comic stores (and, I'm pretty sure, newsagents like WH Smith as well).  Titan Books were already issuing selected 200AD back catalogue material (in their original black & white) in album format but these could be pretty hard to find (not to mention pricy) outside of larger towns and cities.  

Eagle Comics expanded to add further titles assembled from Tharg's library: several JD limited series were released in different formats at different price points (THE EARLY CASES, CRIME FILE and THE JUDGE CHILD QUEST), as were limited series reprinting STRONTIUM DOG, ROBO-HUNTER, THE STAINLESS STEEL RAT, NEMESIS THE WARLOCK and a 2000AD anthology.

IPC's traditional business model purchased all rights to the original work, allowing them to syndicate, reprint and merchandise it to their hearts content without any additional payment to the original creators.  Uncomfortable with this arrangement, Titan's Nick Landau (also responsible for the FORBIDDEN PLANET retail chain - phew!) made additional payments direct to the original creative teams.

Faced with the problems of a UK-based company trying to do business - at a distance - in the United States, Eagle Comics shuttered after publishing 33 monthly issues of Judge Dredd.  The license transferred to Dez Skinn's Quality Comics who, in the pages of Speakeasy and other fanzines, announced ambitious plans for recycling the IPC vaults as well as adding new material.  Those plans petered-out pretty quick when Skinn quit the endeavour, ironically in a dispute over the quality of the finished product.

These shouldn't be confused with the two regular US JD titles, published under license, that DC Comics issued between 1994 and 1996.  JUDGE DREDD clocked-up 18 issues, JUDGE DREDD: LEGENDS OF THE LAW mustered 13.  Frustratingly, neither runs have - to date - been reprinted.

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