Mutants (Judge Dredd storyline)

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"Mutants in Mega-City One"
"Tour of Duty"
PublisherRebellion Developments
Publication date"Mutants in Mega-City One"
20 June – 11 July 2007
"Tour of Duty"
26 August 2009 – 14 July 2010
Title(s)"Mutants in Mega-City One"
2000 AD #1542–1545
"Tour of Duty"
2000 AD #1650–1693
Main character(s)Judge Dredd
Creative team
Writer(s)John Wagner
Artist(s)Colin MacNeil and others

Mutants are the subject of a number of stories in the Judge Dredd science-fiction series published in British comics 2000 AD and the Judge Dredd Megazine. Mutants are genetically-flawed, physically deformed people who are the subject of prejudice and apartheid in the 22nd century. Although they have appeared in Judge Dredd since the strip's earliest stories in 1977,[1] a major story arc beginning with "Mutants in Mega-City One" in June 2007 and ending with "Tour of Duty" in July 2010 dealt specifically with their struggle against apartheid in Dredd's city, Mega-City One.


Mutants are de novo mutations created by radiation or radioactive contamination following the Atomic Wars in 2070. Their genetic mutations (which are inherited by their children) cause them to exhibit bizarre physical deformities. They first appeared in 2000 AD #4 (1977), described as raiders from outside the city, in the "wilderness from the Atomic Wars." Another early issue revealed that mutants have been banned from the city, on grounds that "[they] hate ordinary people because they themselves are warped".[2] However "The Cursed Earth" (1978)[3] explained that mutants were actually the victims of irrational prejudice by those fortunate enough to be unaffected by the disaster — normal people, or "norms." As a result, all mutants were deprived of citizenship and expelled from Mega-City One, Judge Dredd's city on the east coast of America, and forced to live in the radioactive wasteland outside the city, the inhospitable and lawless Cursed Earth. There they remained for sixty years.

Due to the ban on citizenship, mutants were prohibited from entering the city, and those who attempted to enter by scaling the city walls would be arrested and expelled, or killed resisting arrest. They would usually feature in stories simply as hostile criminals for Dredd to fight, but some stories set in the Cursed Earth would also show them in a more sympathetic light, as victims of unjust oppression by future society (or sometimes more directly as victims of crime). Initially mutants were mainly used in fight sequences in action stories, but as the years went by, and the tone of Judge Dredd stories matured to appeal to a wider audience, stories featuring mutants increasingly emphasized the injustice of their plight, and the harsh, uncompromising enforcement of the anti-mutant laws by Judge Dredd and the Mega-City Justice Department (for example "The Gipper's Big Night," (1991)).[4]

As time went on, the Mutant Segregation Act (named in prog 603) was shown to cover people who had contracted a gene-altering virus,[5] dwarfs,[6] and people who had even the slightest genetic abnormality, if they were screened by someone in a bad mood.[7] Psychics were exempt as they were forcibly drafted in Justice Department's Psi-Division. Under Mega-City law, any norm who harboured a mutant was himself guilty of a crime and liable to strict penalties. Since a normal woman could still give birth to a mutant child, the parents of mutated offspring would sometimes go to great lengths to conceal the birth (or, at least, its abnormality) and raise their child in secret.[8] Detection of a mutant foetus in a routine pregnancy scan would result in mandatory abortion;[9] detection of a mutant birth would result in the parents being forced to choose between exile to the Cursed Earth, the "euthanasia" of the child, or the mutant being deported to Cursed Earth farming camps.[10]

The other mega-cities of Earth are assumed to treat mutants in the same way, though they are rarely mentioned. In the first appearance of Texas City, however, the city was shown enacting "mutant clearances," indicating that mutants had been allowed to be citizens until 2102. A Texan judge said the reason for this was simply "Texas City will walk tall again without them uglies!" Unlike Mega-City One, they were specifically sent at gunpoint to "new homelands across Lake Louisiana". However, mutants could have permits to work in legal "danger parks" where they were exploited for the purposes of entertainment.[11]

Judge Dredd himself was prepared to treat mutants decently when he met them in the Cursed Earth, so long as they behaved themselves. In early issues Dredd believed mutants were inherently hostile to norms [12] but would rather avoid conflict in the Cursed Earth, feeling that "those crazy devils" "deserve pity... not vengeance".[13] He came to realise mutants weren't all "crazy and evil" early into The Cursed Earth.[14] If able, Dredd would provide aid to any Cursed Earth mutant that called on the law for aid. However, any who entered his city were automatically criminals, and had to be dealt with accordingly and without compassion.

In 2006, early episodes of the story "Origins" (2006–07) introduced Randy Fargo and his family, mutants who are distant cousins of Judge Dredd.[15] Dredd was unaware of their existence until he met them in the Cursed Earth in 2129. After the Fargos helped Dredd in his mission, they parted on amicable terms. However they would soon return to the Judge Dredd strip in 2007. "Origins" heralded a turning-point in the treatment of mutants by writer John Wagner, and indeed by the character Dredd as well. Instead of making brief appearances in the strip to emphasize the science-fictional setting, mutants became the focus of a new storyline which explored Dredd's shifting attitude towards the issue of mutant rights, which began in 2007 with "Mutants in Mega-City One."

"Mutants in Mega-City One"[edit]

In "Mutants in Mega-City One" (2007),[16] Judge Dredd concludes that the anti-mutant laws are unjust and should be repealed, having given serious thought to the issue for the first time in his life as a result of meeting his mutant relatives. He persuades Chief Judge Hershey to put his motion to a vote before Mega-City One's ruling body, the Council of Five. While the vote is pending, however, Dredd is still obliged to enforce the very laws he seeks to repeal. When a normal couple discover that their newborn baby is a mutant, they abscond rather than face the Mutant Catchers, who will force them into exile in the Cursed Earth desert. They find refuge with other mutants in a safehouse run by sympathisers, where they hope to live in secret. However Dredd is searching for them, as absconding with a mutant child carries a mandatory sentence of three years.

In the course of his investigation, Dredd (and through Dredd, the reader) learns from another citizen about some of the terrible consequences of the city's prejudice against mutants. When the citizen's family was discovered to have been hiding his mutant younger brother for twelve years, the whole family was incarcerated for their crime, while the child was deported from the city to a mutant internment camp in the Cursed Earth. Unable to cope, the child died, and his body was fed to the pigs, mutants not being considered worthy of a decent burial. This is the first mention in Judge Dredd of mutant camps for city-born mutants, which would later be stated to be compulsory until the mutant became 16 – after that, they are supposedly free to leave if they choose.[17]

Dredd eventually discovers the safehouse where the couple he seeks is hiding, and arrests everyone present. The normal citizens are imprisoned, and all of the mutants are deported to a mutant camp in the Cursed Earth. Meanwhile, the Council of Five unanimously votes against reforming the law. As a result, when Randy Fargo and some of Dredd's other mutant relations arrive at the city gate to visit him, Dredd is compelled to deny them entry to the city, and they are forced to turn back.

"Mutants in Mega-City One" was immediately followed by "The Facility" and "The Secret of Mutant Camp 5,"[18] in which Dredd tours Mega-City One's mutant camps in the Cursed Earth, and discovers that standards of care in the camps have sunk to a shockingly low level. His investigations uncover criminal neglect and appalling abuses, including starvation, torture and outright murder. Alarmed by Dredd's discoveries, Chief Judge Hershey becomes slightly more sympathetic to Dredd's new views, and orders an improvement in standards at the camps. Nevertheless, no change of general policy is forthcoming.

The above stories contained obvious references to Guantanamo Bay detention camp and to the Nazi extermination camps. (They were also the first stories after the end of the "America" trilogy to feature Cadet America Beeny.)

In "The Spirit of Christmas,"[19] Dredd again confronts the Chief Judge and demands a second vote on repealing the mutant laws, threatening to resign if she does not support him. As Dredd is the city's most famous and feared judge, Hershey bows to this threat and agrees to schedule another vote, hoping that enough senior judges can be persuaded to change their minds.

Although "Emphatically Evil" (2008)[20] was primarily a story about serial killer PJ Maybe (and Beeny's first case following her promotion to full judge), the mutants story continued as a subplot. Public opinion is radically against Dredd's proposed reforms, with polls showing that 96 percent of the city opposes relaxing strict controls on mutants. While anti-reform protests erupt into riots on the streets, the Council convenes to debate Dredd's motion. Although Dredd is absent from the meeting, not being a member of the Council, he has earlier met with the members to try to change their minds, saying "I believe in justice, and an injustice has to be righted, no matter how inconvenient."[21] However it is not Dredd's logic but his threat to resign which ultimately carries the vote in his favour.

Following the vote, the story "...Regrets"[22] depicts Randy Fargo's return to Mega-City One with his family, this time invited by the Judges as guests of honour. As relatives of Chief Judge Fargo (the founder of the Judge System and Dredd's clone father), their tour of the city attracts much media attention, and controversy. Although the Mayor of Mega-City One gives them all honorary citizenship, feelings are still running high amongst the population, and talk shows are full of heated debate about the merits of Dredd's law. Public opinion becomes slightly more favourable after Jubal Fargo gives his life to rescue a four-year-old child from kidnappers, and the Fargos return to their home in the Cursed Earth. However mutants' rights still continue to arouse strong passions.

"Mutie Block"[23] reveals that mutants are being admitted to the city following strict selection processes, and being given segregated accommodation in Norma Jean Baker Block. Anti-mutant protests are still continuing, and mutants are targeted for violent hate crimes, the murder rate for mutants being 3,600 percent above average. Official government policy is to actively discourage mutants from entering the city by giving them demotivational speeches on their arrival and offering cash bribes in exchange for relinquishing their claims to citizenship.

In "Backlash" (2009)[24] senior, hardline judges begin a campaign to elect a new chief judge who will repeal the new pro-mutant laws. Their chosen candidate, Judge Dan Francisco, survives an assassination attempt by mutants. In spite of Dredd's discovery that the assassination was secretly orchestrated by anti-mutant activists in order to increase support for their cause, Francisco still defeats Hershey by a landslide.

"Under New Management"[25] shows Francisco's first day in office as the new chief judge. He replaces the entire Council of Five, prohibits mutant immigration, and institutes a policy of exiling the mutants already in the city to new townships in the Cursed Earth, unless they agree to compulsory sterilisation. The new deputy chief judge, Judge Sinfield, assigns Dredd to oversee the operation, with Beeny as his assistant. This story acts as a prologue to "Tour of Duty," which started in the next issue.

"Tour of Duty"[edit]

"Tour of Duty" (2009–10)[26] was the longest Judge Dredd story ever published up to that point, running for 46 episodes and 285 pages. It tells of Dredd and Beeny's mission in the Cursed Earth, overseeing the resettlement of mutants exiled from the city.

Dredd's assignment effectively amounts to exile from the city, to keep him out of the way while Francisco and Sinfield implement their policy of mutant segregation. Similarly, Hershey has been posted to a position on another planet.

Although Chief Judge Francisco favours exiling the mutants to the Cursed Earth, he nevertheless insists on doing so with some concern for their welfare, authorising increased expenditure on building the Cursed Earth townships, which initially were expected to be cheap shanty-towns. In this respect he is opposed by his Council, who are dismayed at what they see as his wasteful spending of the city's limited budget. Eventually, Deputy Chief Judge Sinfield resorts to illegally drugging Francisco with a mind control drug and persuading him to resign, thereby becoming acting chief judge.[27] Sinfield immediately begins a crackdown on mutants, introducing automatic loss of citizenship and exile from the city for all mutants convicted of any crime, however trivial.[28] The mutant population diminishes from two million to 170,000.[29]

Under Sinfield's rule, criminal organisations exploit the newly vulnerable mutants: they are used for slave labour in exchange for having faked citizenship papers, but whenever they work their debts off, the judges are tipped off about them. A new line in "vi-zines" (magazines featuring real torture) is created for mutants, helped by Justice Department being uninterested in crimes against mutants. Back in the Cursed Earth, suicide rates go up among the mutants who had to return home. However, for a brief time it is legal for mutants to work in pornography – helped by a mutant performer winning Mega-City One the gold medal at the World Sex Championships. Sinfield bans mutant pornography, solely due to his own distaste for it.[30]

Exasperated with Sinfield, Dredd eventually decides to run against him in another election. However, in order to attract enough support to mount a serious challenge, Dredd is forced to compromise his mutant rights stance. Instead of promising a return to Chief Judge Hershey's policies, Dredd has to settle for returning to Francisco's.[31] However, before the election can take place, Sinfield's crime is uncovered and he is arrested. Francisco returns to office and appoints Dredd to the Council of Five.[32]

Mutant townships[edit]

Due to the events in "Tour of Duty", many mutants now live in one of four townships in the Cursed Earth. These are policed by only a few judges: the bulk of policing is done by mutant deputies, who have limited police powers.

Thanks to Francisco's actions, the townships ended up being better places to live in than Mega-City One. They were less crowded, less crime-ridden, and having a few more civil rights, such as jury trials unless a judge passes an instant sentence. (Initially, the juries were meant as a short-term measure to reduce pressure on the scant judge numbers.) This has caused anger in some parts of the city, disgruntled that the mutants are getting a better life than 'normal' people; some elements in Justice Department also feel that the townships are allowed to be too liberal.[33]

After the near-destruction of the city in Day of Chaos, the townships voted to send aid: forty thousand mutant volunteers, commanded by Judge Rico.[34]


This is a list of the stories which make up the 2007–2010 storyline following "Origins." All stories written by John Wagner, except where otherwise noted.

  • "Mutants in Mega-City One" (art by Colin MacNeil, in 2000 AD #1542–1545, 2007)
  • "The Facility" (art by Colin MacNeil, in 2000 AD #1546, 2007)
  • "The Secret of Mutant Camp 5" (art by Colin MacNeil, in 2000 AD #1547–1548, 2007)
  • "The Spirit of Christmas" (art by Colin MacNeil, in 2000 AD #2008, 2007)
  • "Emphatically Evil: The Life and Crimes of PJ Maybe" (art by Colin MacNeil, in 2000 AD #1569–1575, 2008)
  • "...Regrets" (art by Nick Dyer, in 2000 AD #1577–1581, 2008)
  • "Mutie Block" (art by Kev Walker, in 2000 AD #1600–1603, 2008)
  • "Backlash" (art by Carl Critchlow, in 2000 AD #1628–1633, 2009)
  • "Under New Management" (art by Carl Critchlow, in 2000 AD #1649, 2009)
  • "Tour of Duty" (four episodes written by Gordon Rennie, two by Robbie Morrison, and one by Al Ewing; art by Colin MacNeil, P. J. Holden, Mike Collins, Paul Marshall, Cliff Robinson, Jon Haward, John Higgins and Carlos Ezquerra, in 2000 AD #1650–1693 and #2010, 2009–10)

Collected editions[edit]

Some of the stories have been collected into trade paperbacks:

  • Tour of Duty: The Backlash (written by John Wagner, unless indicated, 272 pages, September 2010, ISBN 978-1-907519-23-9) collects:
    • "The Streets of Dan Francisco" (art by Rufus Dayglo, in 2000 AD #1520, 2007)
    • "Fifty-Year Man" (art by Patrick Goddard, in 2000 AD #1536, 2007)
    • "Mutants in Mega-City One" (art by Colin MacNeil, in 2000 AD #1542–1545, 2007)
    • "The Facility" (art by Colin MacNeil, in 2000 AD #1546, 2007)
    • "The Secret of Mutant Camp 5" (art by Colin MacNeil, in 2000 AD #1547–1548, 2007)
    • "The Spirit of Christmas" (art by Colin MacNeil, in 2000 AD #2008, 2007)
    • "Emphatically Evil: The Life and Crimes of PJ Maybe" (art by Colin MacNeil, in 2000 AD #1569–1575, 2008)
    • "...Regrets" (art by Nick Dyer, in 2000 AD #1577–1581, 2008)
    • "The Edgar Case" (art by Patrick Goddard and Lee Townsend, in 2000 AD # 1589–1595, 2008)
    • "Mutie Block" (art by Kev Walker, in 2000 AD #1600–1603, 2008)
    • "Mutopia" (written by Al Ewing, with art by Simon Fraser, in 2000 AD #1611–1612, 2008)
    • "Backlash" (art by Carl Critchlow, in 2000 AD #1628–1633, 2009)
  • Tour of Duty: Mega-City Justice (June 2011, ISBN 978-1-907992-39-1)
    • "Under New Management" (art by Carl Critchlow, in 2000 AD #1649, 2009)
    • "Tour of Duty" (John Wagner's episodes only, in 2000 AD #1650–1667, #2010, #1674–1693, 2009–2010)

Mutants in related series[edit]

Mutants, and their persecution by normal humans, also feature prominently in the series Strontium Dog, a series which also appears in 2000 AD and is written by John Wagner. There are two crossover stories which link these two series together in the same world (though this link is ignored outside of crossover stories). In "Top Dog", the first crossover, Dredd discovers Alpha is a mutant and remarks he's just "adding to your crimes".

Durham Red is a spin-off from Strontium Dog, which portrays interplanetary war between mutants and "norms" in the distant future.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 2000 AD #4: "The Brotherhood Of Darkness" and #22: "Mr Buzzz"
  2. ^ 2000 AD #22
  3. ^ 2000 AD #61–85
  4. ^ Megazine vol. 1 #10
  5. ^ 2000 AD #603: "Curse of the Spider-Woman" part 1
  6. ^ Judge Dredd Annual 1987: "Judge Dredd and the Seven Dwarves"
  7. ^ 2000 AD #1542–1545: "Mutants in Mega-City One"
  8. ^ 2000 AD #485–488; Megazine vol. 3 #70: "Atlantis" and "Ten Years"
  9. ^ Megazine vol. 1 #5: "America"
  10. ^ 2000 AD #1542-3: "Mutants in Mega-City One"
  11. ^ 2000 AD #160-161: "The Judge Child"
  12. ^ 2000 AD #22
  13. ^ 2000 AD #65, first and last pages
  14. ^ 2000 AD #66
  15. ^ 2000 AD #1505–1519 and 1529–1535 (2006-07)
  16. ^ 2000 AD #1542–45
  17. ^ 2000 AD #1546
  18. ^ 2000 AD #1546 and 1547–48
  19. ^ 2000 AD #2008
  20. ^ 2000 AD #1569–75
  21. ^ 2000 AD #1572
  22. ^ 2000 AD #1577–81
  23. ^ 2000 AD #1600–03
  24. ^ 2000 AD #1628–33
  25. ^ 2000 AD #1649
  26. ^ 2000 AD #1650–1693 and #2010
  27. ^ 2000 AD #1666–67, 1674 and 1677
  28. ^ 2000 AD #1674
  29. ^ 2000 AD #1691
  30. ^ Judge Dredd Megazine #292 and 294
  31. ^ 2000 AD #1690
  32. ^ 2000 AD #1693
  33. ^ Megazine #312-313
  34. ^ 2000 AD 1789

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Major Judge Dredd stories
Succeeded by
Day of Chaos