In 1985 the first of five soft cover collections from the Daily Star arrived in stores, after these ended we were treated to a Mega Collection in 1990 and that was that! Sadly we never saw any more of these and as far as I'm concerned we could do with a massive hardback of all the strips. Why you may ask! It's quite easy really, these are some of the best strips that Wagner/Grant/Smith/Gibson ever let loose on the public. Just for completists, the letterers over these volumes were Tom Frame/Steve Potter/Tony Jacob/Peter Knight & Gordon Robson.
Anyone wanting to get into reading Dredd should really look here first, in these few collection there is everything a potential (and long time) fan could ever ask for. The strips are short and to the point but later on there are a few multi part strips, leading to No5 which is one continuous story!
Inside No1 and the Mega Collection there is a forward which says it all really. I've copied the most pertinent part for you -
The origins of Judge Dredd date back to 1977 and the launch of 2000 AD, Britain's award winning comic-strip magazine. Judge Dredd quickly became 2000 AD's most popular character, firing the readers' imaginations as, each week, he revealed new facts about crime and punishment in the nightmarish future city he patrolled.
It was not long before Judge Dredd's fame spread, not just in Britain but also across the Atlantic. Back in Britain, he went a step closer to becoming nationally recognised as the 80's answer to Dan Dare whe, in Augus, 1981, his adventures began to appear weekly in the Daily Star.
For writers John Wagner and Alan Grant, the newspaper spin-off was an exciting new challenge. Their Judge Dredd scripts for 2000 AD are written to thirty pictures, sometimes more. The format for the Daily Star strip called for complete adventures of not more than eleven pictures at most. Added to that was the problem of introducing the five million Daily Star readers to the intricacies of life in Mega-City One.
Suffice it to say that Wagner and Grant succeeded admirably. Aided by Ron Smith's powerful artwork, they took their new readers on a crash-course in the lore of Judge Dredd, constructing in mere months the future world that had taken years to establish in 2000 AD.
Editor, Judge Dredd - The Megazine
It says everything there, although it doesn't credit Gibson (this was copied from No1 and placed in the Mega Collection) and it should have done in the latter collection!
This came out in 1985 and was priced at £1.25 and 52 pages in total, you can't go wrong. It contains the forward by MacManus from above plus a bit about Dredd and Mega-City One, explaining both. Then it's straight into the action for 48 pages before an advert for 2000 AD and a back page showing the city (notice where Liberty is, next to the statue of Judgement and that's right outside the Grand Halls of Justice).
This came out in 1986 and is the same as No1, 52 pages at £1.25. This also mentions specific items from Dredd's world in the front. These include the Hotdog Run & Block War, with a bit more on Dredd and the law. Another advert for 2000 AD is on the inside rear but on the back we have the LAWMASTER and it's complete breakdown, what a beast!
In 1987 the third collection came out, sam as before £1.25 with 52 pages of thrills. On the inside cover we have more info on Dredd's world, this time it includes transport, post and banking services, power, information and weather. Inside this collection we see our first multi part strip, called 'They Came To Conquer!' Again on the inside rear it's another advert for 2000 AD.
On the back though is another superb piece on Justice kit, this time it's the LAWGIVER. If you can't quite read all the info in the boxes don't worry, I've enlarged those after the back cover. Enjoy the fanboy info!
In 1989 the price went up to £1.50 for the same amount of pages but both inside sleeves were left blank. We also saw the first repeats from the other collections but strangely under different names. The 'Rookie Test' from the 2nd collection goes under the name of 'Test of the Law' in here.
The advert for 2000 AD had also moved to the back cover itself, with a strange Judge team up!
This collection stayed at £1.50 but only has 42 pages You would think that you would get 38 pages of strip but the 38th page is taken up with an advert for the Judge Dredd Megazine, cheeky buggers!. The inside sleeves are still blank and the 2000 AD advert is on the rear.
What is really interesting about this collection is that it is one continuous story about fatties and the artist is now Ian Gibson. I don't think many people know this, as these collections have always been talked about as the Wagner/Smith Daily Star stories.
This hardback collection came out in 1990 and cost £6.95 for 192 pages of which 181 were actual strip. The inside sleeves were a double pic of Dredd's head with the name splashed across both pages, so that ate 4 pages up. The rest was taken up with general info and the MacManus forward.
This collection is just reprints from the first 4 collections (I've not checked every story but I reckon there isn't anything new in this one) and there is no Gibson in it (obviously as that would eat up a quarter of the book due to it being one story)
I wonder why there has never been a reprint of Daily Star stuff as like I said at the beginning this is a great way to get into the character and quickly see what madness Mega-City One holds without years of reading intricate stories from the pages of 2000 AD and the Megazine.
Now for a few panels from the strips just to show a few interesting things. Yes the Lawgiver is voice activated but I bet many don't know that MK1 was also thumb activated for the different rounds.
We also get to see what happens to Judges when they go bad, 20 on Titan, poor Jansen!
Again Wagner shows the world that he is a visionary with the Smokatorium!
Finally after a few appearances on the 2000 AD forum about how many Judges Mega-City One has!
Judges even have to pass their Sky Surfing practical.
Now for a few complete strips.
My favourite is this. Wagner shows how to compress the whole of the Apocalypse War saga into one page, how clever is that!
Finally one of the Gibson strips, this actually starts the whole story from the fifth collection.
As you can see, these strips don't leave anything out. In fact through the collections you see Walter, Otto Sump, Anderson, Hershey, find out citizens arrests are illegal, watch Block Wars, see the Time Stretcher in action, find out about the insidious menace of soap, see the Lawmaster acting independently, Boing, Spy in the Sky, etc...
Like I say, if you want to see Dredd in action and learn a load of history fast then buy these and then follow them up with the Case Files. You'll always fiind these on ebay, so get searching and enjoy!