The Elusive Judge Dredd Manga

Collect stuff long enough and you’ll eventually start hunting for items that don’t hold much value outside of your own very particular converging points of interest. For me, one of these items has long been the 1995 Shonen Jump Autumn Special.

Shonen Jump isn’t really my jam (outside of some random backissues with Akira Toriyama short stories), but this particular issue always interested me because it included a promotional comic for the then-new Sylvester Stallone movie, Judge Dredd (1995). I don’t have any fondness for that film, but I’ve always loved Judge Dredd comics.

As far as I can tell, the first (and only) mention of Osamu Matsumoto and Kenji Mitsuyoshi’s Judge Dredd manga was in one of the last issues of Anime FX (née Anime UK), published in the Spring of 1996. Largely unknown except to a particular subset of anime and Dredd fans, this unusual pop culture crossover has finally been shared thanks to the efforts of a poster named Joe Soap on the official 2000 AD1 forums.

Judge Dredd manga in Anime FX #12

The rarity of older Shonen Jump issues can be a funny thing, which is why someone finally tracking down this issue is kind of noteworthy (judging by the comments in Joe’s thread, he and I weren’t the only ones who’d been looking for it). Despite massive circulation numbers in the ’90s (between 5 and 6 million in 1996), Shonen Jump was always intended to be disposable. That mentality, combined with what I’d guess was most people assuming plenty of other people were collecting issues, has resulted in some older issues being really hard to find. Unless they feature the debut of a particular comic or are really, really old, most of these aren’t expensive, just difficult to track down. More so, I’d reckon, with special volumes like the seasonal specials. After some serious browsing on Yahoo Auctions and Mandarake and a visit to the Yonezawa Manga Library at Meiji University, I’d still come up short on this particular issue.

So what about the actual manga? Despite being a promo for the Stallone film, there isn’t much in the comic that seems to reflect that. MegaCity-One is swapped for MegaTokyo, and Joe Dredd has become Takeru Dredd, a volunteer Judge who has a day job as a primary school teacher. The manga version of Dredd looked more like a younger, softer Kenshiro than Stallone’s Joe Dredd. The distinctive style and weirdness of the original British comic was swapped out for a bland sci-fi cop aesthetic that was all the rage with stuff like, uh, Angel Cop and Silent Möbius. Arguably the most glaring similarity to the Stallone film (and perhaps the biggest offense to diehard Dredd fans) is how much time Dredd seems to spend with his helmet off. But at least there’s no Rob Schneider.

Sure, it’s bland and kind of dull, but I love weird curiosities like this and it’s a good reminder of just how much gets left in the bin with disposable manga. That said, I’m glad Joe Soap found it so I can stop looking.

Read the original thread on the 2000 AD forums.

Thanks to Balakov_PTR for pointing out some plot differences I missed.

  1. The British weekly comic that’s been publishing Judge Dredd since 1977.