Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Don't even think it!

So I've talked many times about Judge Dredd, but now I'm feeling guilty that I've
barely paused to mention 2000 AD's greatest female character, and foil to the man himself, Judge Cassandra Anderson.

OK, so clearly there's an argument to made for one H Jones, but frankly I think that's wrong, partly because Anderson has had so many more adventures, and partly because at least some of those adventures have been more entertaining than (if not as sophisticated as) Ms Jones's own. I'm not sure at what point Alan Grant took over from John Wagner as the key writer on Anderson, but by God he's done a good job of using the character to say something. Sure, there are elements of Anderson as eye candy, and elements of her as a tough-girl in the classic 2000 AD tough-guy tradition, but her character has always been more interesting than that.

From the start, let's consider who she is. She's a telepath who works for the most draconian law enforcement system in the world. You'd think a lot of her time would be spent mentally hunting out would-be criminals and arresting them before they can do their nefarious deeds, in a Minority Report style. In fact I'm surprised that I can't think of a single Dredd-related story where this has come up.

Perhaps the reason is that Anderson (and most of her fellow Psi Judge's) personalities won't allow it. They're all a bit highly-strung, and to some extent, nice people. Anderson being a telepath is sensitive to the wrongs of the justice system in a way that Dredd can never be, unless enough small children write him letters about their defective parents. And that's essentially what all Anderson stories are about. How can you be a tough Judge when you're a nice person?

Like Dredd, Anderson has had many artists to give their spin on the character. Some show her whimsical side better (see the panel by Mark Farmer above), some her sensitive side (Ranson, naturally), some her sultry side (remember when Steve Sampson was all over Anderson?), and of course there's creator Brian Bolland, who made sure she was beautiful, rebellious and strong (2000 AD strong, that is, not Image comics strong). And let's be grateful is was Bolland who was given the task, knowing the results then-Dredd stalwart Mike McMahon would have produced...

There's something astonishing about the ugliness and beauty co-existing in that panel. Or perhaps I'm too philistine to appreciate McMahon's semi-cubist approach. Anyway, here's a few more scenes capturing the essence of a good Anderson yarn, using lesser-known Anderson artists partly because that's what I have to hand, and partly to make the point that she's genius in anyone's hands, as long as Grant is at the helm:

Waking up in bed with a cuddly Judge toy. You know, because she's quirky and needs substitute love, since Judges aren't allowed the real thing.

Using her psychic powers. You know, because she's a Psi-Judge.

Questioning the system, you know, because it's wrong and Anderson can see that.

Doing the Judge thing, you know, because she's an action hero.

Crying, you know, because she's sensitive, and is trapped in a system that she kind of hates, but kind of respects because people like Dredd are essentially good people who save lives.


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