Rico Dredd

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Rico Dredd
Rico.jpg
Rico Dredd (drawn by Mike McMahon)
Publication information
Publisher Rebellion Developments
First appearance 2000 AD prog 30 (1977)
Created by Pat Mills and Mike McMahon

Rico Dredd is a fictional character in the Judge Dredd comic strip in 2000 AD magazine. He is the brother of Judge Joe Dredd, the strip's eponymous lead character. He appeared as the main antagonist in the 1995 film adaptation "Judge Dredd" and was portrayed by Armand Assante .

Appearances[edit]

Rico first appeared in "The Return of Rico" in 2000 AD #30 (1977), written by Pat Mills and drawn by Mike McMahon. This story was retold in 1995, when Mills was asked to write an extended three-episode version of it to coincide with the release of the 1995 film,[1] in which Rico appeared. As well as introducing the character of Rico Dredd, the 1977 story also revealed Joe Dredd's first name. (As the first editor of 2000 AD and the commissioning editor of the Judge Dredd strip, Mills had also given Dredd his surname, which originally had been going to be "Judge Dread."[2])

Although Rico was killed off in his debut story, he occasionally recurs in flashbacks, most extensively in the story "Origins" (2006–2007) by John Wagner. His term of imprisonment on Titan is also a major plot point in the audio play Judge Dredd: Trapped on Titan.

Alternative versions of Rico from parallel universes also appeared in the novel "Dread Dominion" (1994) by Stephen Marley, in which he played a major role, and in the comic strip story "Helter Skelter" (2001) by Garth Ennis (in which he appeared as part of an ensemble cast of villains).[3]

Rico Dredd's badge reads "Dredd." (Picture by Mike McMahon.)

Badge[edit]

Although in the original story, Rico was depicted wearing a judge's badge with the name "Dredd" (see image, left), some artists in later stories have erroneously drawn him with a badge labelled "Rico" as though it were his surname. This error was also included in the script to a story by writer Gordon Rennie.[4] This is possibly based on confusion with the character Judge Rico, whose surname is Rico and whose badge therefore bears that name (see image here).

When Michael Carroll wrote an e-book novella about Rico in 2014, he dealt with this issue in the story. In an interview with Irish Comic News he explained: "My argument has always been that Rico’s badge should show his surname… like every other Street Judge in Mega-City One. Why should he be the only one to have his first name on his badge? ... But Gordon’s story “Judgement” makes a plot-point of Rico temporarily wearing a “Dredd” badge in order to fool Judge Kenner into thinking that he is Joe … So I had to make a choice. In my re-telling of the relevant scenes from “Judgement” I omitted the part about the badge-swap. So far, no one has complained!"[5]

Character biography[edit]

Rico Dredd (2066–2099) was the "clone brother" of Joseph Dredd, which is to say that they were both cloned from the same genetic source, in their case Chief Judge Fargo.[6] Their growth in the cloning tanks was artificially accelerated, so that within 16 months they emerged with the physical development of children aged five years. They also had their brains electronically induced with knowledge and training which greatly surpassed their apparent physical age, so that they could immediately begin training in law enforcement.[7] Rico was removed from the cloning tanks twelve minutes before Joe, and so he habitually referred to Joe as his little brother (or "Little Joe").[8]

At the Academy of Law Rico consistently demonstrated higher levels of skill than Joe, and he graduated at the top of their class in 2079, with Joe coming second.[9] During his time as a cadet, he requested to join the older cadets in restoring order to the streets of Mega-City One in the immediate aftermath of the Atomic Wars of 2070. Rico and Joe served with distinction, and were personally chosen to take part in the raid on the White House to depose President Booth (who had usurped his office and had started the War).[10]

However, following an injury during a training mission in the Cursed Earth, Rico began to become more aggressive, underhanded, and determined to prove himself better than Joe. After graduation, Rico began engaging in criminal activities, including extortion, assault and racketeering. Joe suspected that this was the result of exposure to radiation when Rico was injured on a training mission in the Cursed Earth.[11] Rico himself had considered this in his early years but discounted it. In his opinion, Justice Department was itself a corrupt, absurd agency and this meant it didn't matter if he lined his own pockets. He considered it a farce that the 'good' judges like Joe were using just as much brutality as he did.[12]

Rico's crimes started with allowing gangs to operate as long as they stayed 'quiet'. This soon escalated to allowing guilty perps to remain free, unjudicial relations and drinking, taking bribes from organised crime,[13] running blackmail operations, protection rackets, killing perps that had surrendered (and faking the charges) and brutalising innocent people to get 'confessions'. As he had a high clearance rate, Justice Department didn't look at him too closely.[14] Joe's efforts to persuade Rico to change his ways fell on deaf ears and much to Joe's distate, he found himself turning to Rico on occasion for information on underworld figures.[15] When Judge Kenner, Rico's former Assessing Judge, became suspicious, Rico secretly murdered him and dumped the body in a rad pit.[16] He started to live in an Oldtown apartment, flaunting his money and corruption.[17]

In the ebook The Third Law, Rico Dredd as narrator tells the reader that he was trying to enforce the law in a less remote fashion, allowing for mercy and accepting the citizens as they were; bribes are explained as a way of making sure the crime lords believed they controlled him and he wasn't the one ensuring they kept restrained. Sex and drinking are shrugged off as perks, and threats to Joe as being the result of drinking. Rico is implied to be an unreliable narrator and this calls his claims into question. Notably, he claims he couldn't shoot Kenner in case the bullets were traced and he used the rad pit to kill him, and regretted 'having' to kill him; the original strip shows him hitting Kenner with an incendary round, shooting his limbs, and mocking him as he dies, using the rad pit to dispose of the corpse.[18] The ebook Wear Iron is told in third-person and describes Rico's thoughts circa 2080: here, when he isn't telling his own story, he's callous, brutal, and sometimes bursts out in manic laughter. He remembers Kenner's murder fondly.

Eventually Rico allowed his brother to find out about his racketeering. When Joe witnessed Rico murder an innocent cafe owner who had refused to pay him protection money, Joe arrested him. Rico resisted arrest by opening fire, but the shots went wide. Given Rico's skill with a firearm, Joe would later posit the theory that Rico was trying to commit suicide by cop out of a deep disgust at what he had become, rather than trying to kill him.[19] In The Third Law, Rico reveals the shop owner was a chocolate smuggler he was shaking down and claims he had only meant to wound the owner to throw a scare into him. Rather than suicide by cop, Rico claims he just couldn't shoot his brother. Whatever his motive, Rico was sentenced to twenty years hard labour on the prison colony of Titan, where he grew to hate his brother. He was particularly angry that Joe didn't testify in his favour.[20]

(The twenty-year sentence means Rico should have been caught in 2079 but the Year One novellas have Rico active in 2080.)

While Titan would become the mandatory sentence for corrupt judges, in 2079/80 only a few were sent there and the majority were civilian prisoners from various mega-cities; early on, the "Titan treatment" of being disfigured and modified to breathe Titan's atmosphere was only done to prisoners as a punishment. Rico and a bus load of prisoners and guards were trapped on the moon after a hailstorm, with Rico helping get the survivors free. Corrupt guards began killing prisoners on their march to safety in order to preserve oxygen for themselves and Rico was left as the only survivor, after killing the remaining guards. While he was rescued soon after, the prison officials had him modified on spurious grounds: he'd survived on the moon surface and they wanted to discourage other prisoners from believing this could be done to escape.[21] For the rest of his sentence, he received 'personal' treatment from the guards: the lack of crooked judges in the early days meant any caught were put through hell.

While on Titan there he illicitly fathered a daughter, Vienna Dredd, with a reporter who was interviewing him.[22] He discovered a crashed escape pod with an alien prince inside and sent out the pod's escape signal; in exchange, he asked that the alien fleet destroy the Earth when they arrived. He only told the truth to Jude, the oldest Titan prisoner, but rumours of "Rico's Rock" containing a great treasure would circulate through Titan for decades. (When the aliens arrived in the 2120s, Dredd impersonated Rico to call off the attack)[23] Even in his early months, Rico - having worked out there was an anti-alien military base on Titan - considered selling out Earth to hostile aliens in order to escape.[24]

After serving his time on Titan, Rico returned to Mega-City One seeking revenge on Joe. Confronting him at his home, Rico challenged him to a duel to settle their differences, knowing that with his superior skills he could always outdraw his brother. However he had grown used to the weaker gravity of Titan after his twenty years there. This slowed him down by a split second and allowed Joe to shoot him dead. Carrying his brother's lifeless body out into the street, Joe declined a paramedic's offer of assistance, allowing the writer, Pat Mills, to conclude the story with a line from the Hollies song, "He ain't heavy - he's my brother!"[25] (In the retelling, Rico brings up the violence and hypocrisy of Justice Department as well as what he's gone through on Titan)

Long after Rico's death, Dredd would be haunted by his memory. He tried to stop Vienna from learning about her father's death but she believed he must have had a good reason for killing him.

One of the Dredd/Fargo clones would later take Rico's name in an attempt to rehabilitate it.

Alternate reality versions[edit]

Several versions of Rico have been shown in alternate timelines or Dredd's idea of alternate timelines.

Dread Dominion depicts a universe where Dredd executed Rico rather than arrest him and descended into madness. Rico had survived and worked with that dimension's Judge Cal to overthrow his brother.

A Winter Special showed a universe where Rico survived and his influence spread: by 2117, Justice Department is a corrupt gangster state and Rico was the top enforcer. (The framing story means this could be a dream by Joe Dredd)[26]

After consuming hallucigens, Dredd imagines a timeline where he never existed and Rico carried vital medicine across the Cursed Earth instead. Instead of giving it to Mega City Two, Rico blackmails the city into making him Chief Judge.

In 2123, a triumphant Rico from an alternate universe was part of a pan-dimensional invasion of the regular Mega-City One. When the invaders discussed what to do with their prisoners, he said "Give all the judges to me".[27]

In other media[edit]

E-books[edit]

In 2014 a novella was published as an e-book, written by Michael Carroll, called Rico Dredd: The Titan Years: The Third Law.[28]

Film version[edit]

Rico Dredd in Judge Dredd portrayed by Armand Assante.

Rico appears as the main villain and antagonist in the 1995 Judge Dredd movie, in which Joe was played by Sylvester Stallone and Rico by Armand Assante. In this version, although they were cloned from identical DNA, they did not look the same. Rico was portrayed as a straightforward psychopath, having reached a point where he killed the innocent on the grounds that the division between guilt and innocence was merely a matter of timing and everyone would commit a crime in time. His deviant behavior was attributed to something going wrong in his creation which made him the perfect criminal. They were both friends in school (Joe was unaware of their true kinship, but it is unclear when Rico learned about their connection), but when he became a murderer, Joe judged him and sentenced him to life imprisonment, and his death was faked to reassure the public and prevent the truth of the clone program coming to light.

Rico later broke out of prison with help from Judge Griffin and killed a reporter who had been investigating the Judge program. Since he and Joe had the same DNA, Joe was wrongly convicted of the murder and given a life sentence. Griffin, Rico, and a scientist named Ilsa Hayden (Joan Chen) began working to reopen the cloning lab that created Rico and Joe. Griffin planned to create a new generation of Judges to enforce his views on the populace, but Rico wanted to create clones of himself to take over Mega-City One and killed Griffin to get him out of the way. Once Joe returned to the city, Rico tried to persuade him to join the effort; when Joe refused, Rico tried to kill him. The two fought atop the Statue of Liberty, and Joe threw Rico over the edge to his death.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Flashback 2099: The Return of Rico," 2000 AD #950-952
  2. ^ "Judge Dredd: The Mega-History," by Colin M. Jarman and Peter Acton (Lennard Publishing, 1995).
  3. ^ "Helter Skelter," 2000 AD #1250-1261
  4. ^ "Judgement," 2000 AD #1523-1528
  5. ^ ICN's website (retrieved 30 July 2014)
  6. ^ "A Case for Treatment," 2000 AD #389
  7. ^ "Origins," 2000 AD #1515
  8. ^ "Blood Cadets," 2000 AD #1187
  9. ^ "The Return of Rico," 2000 AD #30
  10. ^ "Origins," 2000 AD #1531
  11. ^ "Blood Cadets," 2000 AD #1187-88
  12. ^ Prog 950-1: "Return of Rico" retelling and Judge Dredd Year One - Wear Iron, chapter 6 (Al Ewing)
  13. ^ Rico Dredd: The Titan Years - The Third Law by Michael Carroll
  14. ^ Wear Iron
  15. ^ Judge Dredd Year One - City Fathers by Matt Smith
  16. ^ "Judgement," 2000 AD #1523-1528
  17. ^ "Blood Cadets" 2000 AD #1188
  18. ^ Prog 1523 and 1525
  19. ^ "Blood Cadets," 2000 AD #1188
  20. ^ Rico Dredd: The Titan Years - The Third Law by Michael Carroll
  21. ^ Rico Dredd: The Titan Years - The Third Law by Michael Carroll
  22. ^ "Blood & Duty," 2000 AD #1300
  23. ^ Judge Dredd: Trapped on Titan audio drama
  24. ^ Rico Dredd: The Titan Years - The Third Law by Michael Carroll
  25. ^ "The Return of Rico," 2000 AD #30
  26. ^ 2000 AD Winter Special 1995: "Perchance to Dream"
  27. ^ "Helter Skelter," 2000 AD #1250-1261
  28. ^ Rebellion

External links[edit]