Judge Cal

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Judge Cal
File:Judge Cal.jpg
Chief Judge Cal (drawn by Mike McMahon)
Publication information
PublisherIPC Magazines Ltd; later Rebellion Developments
First appearance2000 AD # 86 (1978)
Created byJohn Wagner and Brian Bolland

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Judge Cal
Deputy Chief Judge of Mega-City One
In office
2100 or 2100–2101
Chief judgeJudge Goodman
Preceded byJudge Fodder
Succeeded byJudge Fish
Chief Judge of Mega-City One
In office
2101 or 2100–2101
DeputyJudge Fish
Judge Grampus
Preceded byJudge Goodman
Succeeded byJudge Griffin

Chief Judge Cal is a fictional character in the Judge Dredd comic strip in 2000 AD. He was loosely based on the Roman emperor Caligula as portrayed by John Hurt in the 1976 television show I, Claudius.[note 1] He was the villain in the story The Day the Law Died! (1978–79).[1]


"The Day the Law Died!"
PublisherIPC Magazines
Publication dateNovember 1978 – April 1979
  • Science fiction
Title(s)2000 AD #89–108
Main character(s)Judge Dredd; Chief Judge Cal
Creative team
Writer(s)John Wagner
Artist(s)Mike McMahon
Brian Bolland; Ron Smith
Letterer(s)Tom Frame
Editor(s)Tharg (Steve MacManus)
Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 02ISBN 1-904265-83-9 Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png.

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Judge Cal was head of the Special Judicial Squad (SJS), the feared Internal Affairs unit of judges responsible for weeding out corruption in the Mega-City One Justice Department. However he exploited this position to blackmail errant judges into working for him as assassins, instead of arresting them, as he built up his powerbase and prepared to seize control of the city. He was known to be ambitious and hoping for the chief judge's office by 2099, and almost seized his chance when Chief Judge Goodman was briefly possessed by a mutant.[2]

He became deputy chief judge of Mega-City One in the year 2100, after the death of the previous deputy Fodder.[3] Chief Judge Goodman was unaware of Cal's corruption but still did not like his deputy: initially he felt Cal took himself too seriously and then later, when Cal said he wouldn't have bothered with a trial if he was chief, told him "then thank drokk you're not Chief Judge".[4]

Soon afterwards he was ready to make his move. First he framed Dredd on his return from the Cursed Earth with the murders of a news vid editor and a photographer. Dredd was sentenced to twenty years on Titan; however he was able to escape and prove his innocence. A robot double had been used to frame Dredd, programmed with information only available to those within Justice Department. The search was on for the traitor within the department.[5]

Cal had already had a taste of power in Dredd's absence, Goodman not being in a fit state to govern because of his grief over Dredd's sentence. Unwilling to wait any longer, Cal ordered his assassins to stab Goodman to death in the street, whereupon he automatically succeeded to the city's highest office.[6] He had Judge Dredd shot and the mayor arrested, and immediately began a despotic reign of terror. By this time the power had gone to his head and he became openly insane. He appointed his own pet goldfish to the vacant position of deputy chief judge, and made criticising the chief judge a capital offence. He was able to get away with this because he had brainwashed the majority of the judges into obeying his every order.

Judge Dredd had survived however, and with the help of a handful of colleagues who had escaped being brainwashed such as Judge Giant, he led a revolt by the citizens against Cal's insane tyranny. But Cal had anticipated this and recruited an army of alien mercenaries, the Kleggs, a reptilian race of soldiers-for-hire.[7] The revolt was quickly quashed with widespread loss of life. Dredd and the small number of survivors went into hiding and began a guerrilla campaign of resistance. However Cal decided to punish Mega City One by sentencing the entire population to death; he did this in alphabetical order beginning with the unfortunate Aaron A. Aardvark. Execution chambers were set up all over the city. Dredd managed to stop the executions by having Deputy Chief Judge Fish assassinated, which the superstitious Cal took to be an omen that the executions would lead to the death of the judges as well.[8] However, when no citizens turned up for his pet's funeral he decided to punish the citizens by passing even more draconian laws. He appointed Grampus, the Klegg leader, as his new deputy and encouraged children to snoop on their parents if they said anything against his leadership. These and a wave of other measures made life intolerable for the beleaguered citizens.

When the oppressed population tried to flee into the Cursed Earth, Cal built a wall one mile high around the entire city to keep them in, enslaving millions of people to perform this task. The wall was covered in gun emplacements to shoot anyone who tried to escape. However he was not able to crush the people's spirit entirely, even when he thought he had destroyed Dredd forever by causing his transport to crash through the City Bottom into the Undercity. When the citizens again failed to join in his celebrations he launched a crackdown on all items that could possibly cause happiness, ordering all luxury items to be burned in the street.

All the while his madness intensified and his visions of the previous chief judges became more violent. He imagined them tormenting him, suggesting that the only way for his 'perfect city' to go was down. So in order to preserve its perfection forever he would execute his entire population of 800 million people, this time by releasing toxic gas over the whole city to kill everybody at once. When even his own SJS judges turned against him he began killing them too.

Eventually Dredd managed to sabotage the brainwashing machines which Cal had been using to control the judges, and he led the loyal judges against Cal's Kleggs and SJS in a final battle to save the city. When Grampus and his Kleggs tried to surrender (having been allowed to leave before the gas was to be released) they were mercilessly shot down.[9] Even then Cal almost regained the upper hand at the last moment, when Dredd and his fellow judges were captured. It fell to Fergee, a common criminal and outcast from the city, to save the day by killing Cal just before he could press the doomsday button.[10]

For his leadership of the resistance movement Dredd was acclaimed as a hero and was offered the office of chief judge, but he declined, preferring to return to his chosen career in law enforcement.[11] Instead he nominated his former mentor and tutor, Judge Griffin, who had fought with him against Cal from the beginning. Chief Judge Griffin never forgot the debt he owed Dredd and personally intervened on his behalf in a future crisis when the future of Dredd's own career was in the balance.[12]


"Helter Skelter"
File:Judge Cal2.jpg
The alternative universe Cal (painted by Carlos Ezquerra)
PublisherRebellion Developments
Publication dateJuly – September 2001
  • Science fiction
Title(s)2000 AD #1250–1261
Main character(s)Judge Dredd; Chief Judge Cal
Creative team
Writer(s)Garth Ennis
Artist(s)Carlos Ezquerra; Henry Flint
Letterer(s)Tom Frame
Editor(s)Tharg (Andy Diggle)
Helter SkelterISBN 1-84023-348-6 Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png.

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To prevent a new Chief Judge Cal, Griffin set up Black Ops Division to keep an eye on Justice Department itself.[13] Fear of another corrupt leader caused Dredd to abandon the "Judge Child" Owen Krysler on the planet Xanadu, rather than take the chance that he could be redeemed.

Although dead, Cal continued to harass Mega-City One from beyond the grave. Over twenty years after his demise, a disc with his computer files on it—long thought lost—resurfaced, containing the evidence Cal had used to subvert and blackmail corrupt judges when he was head of SJS.[14] Several of these judges had risen to very senior positions in the Justice Department over the years, believing their dark secrets to be safe. By this time the SJS had been cleaned up and a wave of arrests followed, resulting in significant political fallout.[15] (See also Judge Edgar.)

Not long after that, in 2123, Mega-City One was attacked by another incarnation of Cal, from a parallel universe in which he had not been insane but had actually killed Dredd and ruled the city ever since. This alternative-history Cal took over the Grand Hall of Justice, killing hundreds of judges in the process, and crucified all his prisoners in the street. He was finally stopped by Dredd and killed (again with the help of a civilian, Darien Kenzie), but only after considerable loss of life.[16]

It is also ironic that the very wall that Cal built to effectively imprison the population of Mega City One helped in the city's defence on a number of occasions, including attacks from Sabbat's zombies. However its most prominent role was when the wall's weaponry functioned as an anti-missile defence system against Sov-block missiles during the Apocalypse War.[17]

A revisionist opera about Cal's life was brought out in 2125, presenting the tyrant as a misunderstood figure.[18]

Some clones of Cal appeared in a story in issue 2000 of 2000 AD in 2016.

Parallels with Caligula[edit]

The primary inspiration for the character seems to have been John Hurt's portrayal of Caligula in the 1976 BBC TV serial I, Claudius (he even looks vaguely like him in some frames). The parallel was made more explicit when the story was collected together under the title Judge Caligula when it was reprinted by Titan Books in 1982. Suetonius' story that the Emperor Caligula suggested his horse be appointed a consul is parodied with Cal making his goldfish deputy chief judge. There are many other parallels too, for example forcing people who had pledged their lives to him to commit suicide (see below) and gigantic and impossible building projects. At one point Cal orders a one-mile high wall to be built around the city within three weeks: this neatly ties in with this quote from Suetonius:

Caligula seemed interested only in doing the apparently impossible-which led him to construct moles in rough deep water far out to sea, drive tunnels through exceptionally hard rocks, raise flat ground to the height of mountains, and reduce mountains to the level of plains; and all at immense speed, because he punished delay with death.[19]

Another point of comparison is the Kleggs, the alien merceneraries who bolster Cal's rule and who are the equivalent of Caligula's German bodyguard.

Main appearances[edit]

  • Judge Cal first appeared in 2000 AD #86 and died in #108.
  • His other incarnation first appeared in 2000 AD #1252 and died in #1261.
  • The Day the Law Died was adapted into an audio drama by the BBC in 1995, William Dufris played Judge Cal and Gary Martin played Judge Dredd.
  • Another version of Cal, from another different parallel universe, appeared in the 1994 novel Dread Dominion by Stephen Marley.

Main story details[edit]

  • Crime and Punishment (written by John Wagner, with art by Brian Bolland, in 2000 AD #86, 1978)
  • Outlaw (written by John Wagner, with art by Brian Bolland and Dave Gibbons, in 2000 AD #87, 1978)
  • Bring Me the Head of Judge Dredd! (written by John Wagner, with art by Brendan McCarthy, in 2000 AD #88, 1978)
  • The Day the Law Died! (written by John Wagner, with art by Mike McMahon, Brett Ewins, Brian Bolland and Ron Smith, in 2000 AD #89–108, 1978–79)
  • Helter Skelter (written by Garth Ennis, with art by Carlos Ezquerra and Henry Flint, in 2000 AD #1250–61, 2001)
  • By Private Contract (written by John Wagner, with art by Carlos Ezquerra, in 2000 AD #2000, 2016)

Other versions[edit]

  • An adapted version of The Day the Law Died! was used for the Judge Dredd movie in 1995; however Cal was replaced by Rico Dredd and Judge Griffin.
  • Another version of the story was told in IDW's Judge Dredd title (2014–2015).


  1. The footnote caption in 2000 AD # 88 even called the upcoming story Judge Caligula.


  1. 2000 AD #89–108
  2. Judge Dredd Megazine #204–206: "Monkey on my Back"
  3. Fodder introduced and then killed in 2000 AD #61.
  4. 2000 AD #86
  5. 2000 AD #86–88
  6. 2000 AD #89
  7. 2000 AD #94
  8. 2000 AD #95
  9. 2000 AD #107
  10. 2000 AD #108
  11. 2000 AD #108
  12. 2000 AD #182
  13. 2000 AD #1812: "Trifecta"
  14. 2000 AD #959–963
  15. 2000 AD #1178–1179
  16. 2000 AD #1250–1261
  17. 2000 AD #246
  18. 2000 AD #1338
  19. Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars, translated by Robert Graves, Caligula para. 37.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
The Cursed Earth
Major Judge Dredd stories
" The Day the Law Died!"
Succeeded by
The Judge Child

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