In 1991, comic book history was made when John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra’s indomitable Judge Dredd, arguably the UK’s most popular comic character and the scourge of Mega City One’s crime problem met up with the Gotham Goliath, Batman. The 64-page comic was an instant hit, and the Strong Arm of the Law and the Caped Crusader ultimately dimensionally jumped from one reality to the other in a total of four crossovers between the Fleetway character and DC Comics’ finest.
Those stories have rarely been unobtainable or out of print since, but here’s the latest reprinting of the first two tales which were first published in 1991 and 1993.
In the stories, neither Dredd nor the Bat particularly like, nor trust each other but gradually learn to respect each other. There is, of course, the obligatory fight between the two, with nobody clearly winning so as not to alienate any particular fanbase which tends to be the downfall of crossover project between publishers, along with each company demanding equitable page counts for their characters.
The artwork in Judgement on Gotham is particularly striking. The story gives British artist Simon Bisley full dramatic and creative rein to indulge his talent for fully painted artwork, reminiscent of the late Frank Frazetta. His characters are stylised, his Batman lean and pointed with his cape seeming to have a life of its own, constantly in motion - while Dredd is a stockier, solid, body armoured block.
The two accidentally come into contact when Judge Death and the Mean Machine dimensionally jump to Gotham to wreak havoc. Death and Machine are the perfect candidates here to let Bisley draw a nightmarish scenario, particularly when The Scarecrow and his latest fear inducing toxin also become involved. Naturally, it’s not all death, destruction and beat downs, some humour is also woven effectively into the tale – particularly when Scarecrow tries to terrify Judge Death.
The second of the two stories is presented in a more traditional comic strip format, drawn by Cam Kennedy. Vendetta in Gotham has Dredd appearing back in Gotham, unexpectedly attacking an unaware Batman. Meanwhile, the Ventriloquist is loose and is planning to bomb a children’s gala benefit. The plot is grim, Dredd’s motivation is surprising, but still there’s room for a little lightness in the form of the communication problem with the Ventriloquist’s dummy. We’ll say no more than that for those of you who have the enviable joy of discovering these stories for the first time.
There are a further two encounters between Batman and Dredd titled The Ultimate Riddle and Die Laughing (no prizes for guessing the villains involved in those tales). Hopefully these two will similarly be reprinted soon for a fresh audience.
2000 AD DIGEST: BATMAN/DREDD: JUDGMENT ON GOTHAM/VENDETTA ON GOTHAM / WRITER: ALAN GRANT, JOHN WAGNER / ARTIST: SIMON BISLEY, CAM KENNEDY / PUBLISHER: 2000 AD / RELEASE DATE: MAY 4TH