First published in Judge Dredd Megazine #1 issues 1-12 in 1990-91.
Writer: John Wagner
Artist: Peter Doherty
With Necropolis over and Judge Dredd missing his anticipated return was something a little different to what we had seen before. Up until this point, Death was always represented in the main timeline as a single-minded psychopathic killer with all of the personality of Michael Myers but Boyhood of a Superfiend (also known as Young Death) was a pivotal moment in 2000 AD history that saw Death switch from a horror character to something more humourous.
It operates as an origins story revealing the full history of the young human Judge who would go on to become Judge Death and is presented in a way similar to Interview with the Vampire. However, the new funnier Judge Death was certainly divisive for fans and things would go on to get a lot worse before they got any better but the balance between horror and humour is still okay here. Think of it like Metallica’s Black Album, yes it was the start of their decline, but it still had a few bangers on it (substitute the terrible analogy with another band that you used to rate but don’t anymore).
John Wagner’s writing is typically fantastic and the art work, by Death-debutant Peter Doherty is some of the best the series had seen up until this point. So yes, while it may soften Death’s edges a little, Judge Death’s origin story ends up being a fascinating tale and one that you can’t miss if you’re a fan of Judge Death.
This story is focused on a hacker (which is 2000 AD’s pre-internet term for a low-quality journalist), Brian Skuter, who receives a very unexpected reply to an advertisement where he offers to ‘tell your story.’
Judge Death himself replies, looking to explain to the people of Mega-City One his motivations for, erm…., executing all of them. He explains to Brian that after the Necropolis, he hid among the dead, knowing that the Psi-Division wouldn’t dare risk their sanity delving in there. After two grave robbers disturbed his rest, he moved in with in with Mrs Gunderson, a nearly-blind widower who is renting out a room.
The story alternates between their present day conversation and Death reminiscing about the past. He reveals that he was once human, a young boy called Sidney on a world similar to Earth but where life was a little bit cheaper and their judges even more brutal. Even as a youngster he was a sadistic bastard, mainly thanks to being raised by his father, a dentist who liked to torture his patients. They went on to murder together before Sidney reported him to the Judges who, as a reward, allowed him to execute his dad.
Like we said, this story isn’t all fun and games. Anyway, this led Sidney into a career as a judge and this is where he developed a zero tolerance policy for crime, and a zeal for punishing every minor infraction with death. His explanation for this is that his method of justice leads to a zero repeat offending rate and, as fans will not need reminding of, the logical conclusion that all crime is committed by the living and that only the dead are innocent.
He went on to meet two sisters, the ones who would go on to become Phobia and Nausea. They were already crazy of course and their home was a temple of sorts devoted to death in all of its forms. It was here that he faced the one massive problem with his philosophy: who was he to judge the living when he was still one of them. However, they had a method for releasing his spirit from his body and that was the moment that Judge Death was born.
Unfortunately for Brian, the only publication that would print his story ran it as a tawdry tabloid piece, something that irked Judge Death enough to kill Brian and return into hiding but Brian’s corpse was enough to let Anderson and Dredd know that Judge Death was back in town.
Hiding in Mega-City 1. Fire, Mortis and Fear encased in plasteel cubes and locked into a secure vault.
Buy it now
If you want this, you’ll need to pick up one of the reprints of Young Death: Boyhood of a Superfiend. Physical editions are pricey as it is out of print but Amazon do a Kindle version.