Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Staying on track

As is my way, I've decided to start a bunch of new modelling projects before the other fifty are finished. Over the next few months I've planned to make a selection of old, beaten-up vehicles for my Imperial hive city, Kruenta Karoliina Arx Rotunda.

Actually, 'plan' is too strong a word, as, on that front, I'm probably a lot more like Heath Ledger's Joker than Christian Bale's Batman.

"I'm a dog chasing cars. I wouldn't know what to do with one if I caught it!"

But with a little luck, in the coming weeks, some of those chased cars (and perhaps other vehicles, both wheeled and tracked) will be prepped, painted and posted here.

So with that in mind, it was pure luck that while visiting a friend last week, I happened to walk past a small enclosure full of rusty, old tractors.

I particularly like the way the first machine has oxidised heavily on its (now unused) tracks, but the rust gradually fades further up the vehicle, revealing the original paint job, before getting thicker again near the top. It looks to me like the rust is at its severest in places on the vehicle most exposed to, or most likely to trap, water. Also worth noting is how the (presumably heavily oiled) piston in the bottom picture has sustained no visible damage whatsoever, whilst the rest of the vehicle is completely battered.

Although I'm intending to vary the degrees of abuse I add to my vehicles, these pics are pretty close to the kind of thing I've got in mind.

Therefore if everything goes according to those plans I'm unable to make, look out for at least some of this deterioration appearing in my forthcoming projects.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Dredd. Judge, jury and executioner... But isn't there something missing?

In the established Judge Dredd comic mythos, the titular character and all his fellow Judges are part of the Mega-City One Justice Department. An all-encompassing government body that runs law enforcement, homeland security, foreign affairs, and pretty much anything of note pertaining to the future East Coast of North America.

International peacekeeper Dredd from Regime Change, with art by Eva De La Cruz

But the story wasn't originally conceived with such an expansive Justice Department.

Back when the strip first launched it carried the tagline 'lawman of the future', yet for anyone who has more than a passing acquaintance with it, they will also have heard the phrase 'judge, jury and executioner' used in its context. I can't remember when this was said, or by who, and I've wholeheartedly failed to find any historic reference to it in reprints of the old comics, but I remember growing up in the 70s and 80s and it just kinda… pervading... the stories. I might be wrong, and after sifting through hundreds of pages of reprints looking for it, I'm certainly beginning to doubt myself now, but if there's one thing my childhood anti-hero has taught me, it's stubbornness and the misplaced belief that I am always right. Okay, that's two things, but the point is, I'm going ahead with this post anyway.

So now that I've firmly established that this phrase was part of early Dredd lore, let's look at it a little closer. Judge, jury and executioner. Those three roles, as intimidating as they sound, are all secondary to Dredd's real role. The job he does first and foremost, the one that puts him in constant physical danger, is that of policeman. He's out there looking for crimes to solve and prevent, just like a regular cop. When he's chasing someone down, being shot at, investigating clues and generally doing all that leg work, that's the cop part of his job. Only a tiny percentage of a case will be spent by him weighing up legal options, sentencing perpetrators and, if necessary, carrying out punishment.

This is especially true of the earlier stories

Yet (at least in my recollection) those other three roles were often used to define Dredd. Why is that? Could it be something to do with the original structure of the Justice Department?

It's a rarely discussed fact that in Dredd's early days there was a whole set of background characters that we no longer see. Characters that, when used as a backdrop for Dredd, gave his judicial powers all the more relevance. Back when the strip first launched, Dredd and the Judges weren't the only law in Mega-City One. There was still a regular police department at work in the city.

A Judge is targeted leaving a Police Department in an early story

Dredd was one of only a handful of elite cops with those extra powers of judge, jury and executioner. He and the other judges were called in when a situation became too much for the regular police to handle.

Commuter robots prove too tough for the police in an early Dredd epic

So perhaps 'cop' was left off that job description because he was surrounded by cops. Because being a police officer was the entry-level criteria for him and all his associates. It was the attributes of judge, jury and executioner that stood him apart, not just in the eyes of his readers, but also, crucially, in the eyes of the other characters in the story. Both citizens and police alike would see him as an elite specialist.

If the original set-up were as it is today, where all police work is done by Judges, then Dredd's early contemporaries wouldn't have been quite so in awe of him. There would have been less to stand him apart. He's just another Judge. Another member of the ubiquitous police force. Granted, he's particularly tough and resolute, but then he represents a system which relies on being tough and resolute. Whereas back at the beginning, by being a special cop among regular cops, everyone got the juxtaposition that highlighted Dredd's distinct credentials. His judicial status ranked him apart from his regular police contemporaries.

But the strip started to change fairly quickly. Instead of Police Department buildings we got Sector Houses, and it wasn't long before regular cops had simply disappeared altogether. The Justice Department grew and grew, eating up functionality, from pathology, to technological research, weapons development, military conquest and nearly all aspects of running a state (and its colonies) in the 22nd Century.

Colony Judges take a hit in The Corps, drawn by Paul Marshall & Donnie Cox
The role of the Judges expanded from being a kind of SWAT team on steroids, to the institution we see in stories today, more like an unelected, quasi-fascistic government. The original role of Judges, as a crack squad of beat cops with special powers, became a department, the Street Judges, within the greater organisation.

But they never lost their relevance.

You'd be forgiven for thinking that a system that encompasses nearly all governmental activities would routinely employ at least a few career politicians, but in Dredd's world this does not seem to be the case. The early veneration for the original frontline Judges has remained. Thus most (but not all) of the successful Chief Judges have cut their teeth through at least some work on the beat; cadets failing aspects of their training will probably be barred from the ranks of Street Judges but may still have opportunities to enlist in other departments; and being moved from the Street Judges to another department is often seen as a demotion.

Judge Castillo explains why she's no longer on the streets, with art by the iconic Carlos Ezquerra

So, although the Judges are now so much more than they were at the beginning, the role of a Street Judge - a cop combined with judge, jury and executioner - still has resonance today. Not just to us, the readers, but to the in-story characters as well.

That is, of course, provided judge, jury and executioner ever had resonance in the first place.