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Judge Death

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Judge Death
Judge Death by Frazer Irving
Publication information
PublisherRebellion Developments
First appearance2000 AD prog 149
Created byJohn Wagner and Brian Bolland
In-story information
Alter egoSidney De'Ath
Place of originDeadworld
Team affiliationsDark Judges
Notable aliasesJay De'ath
AbilitiesAble to inhabit corpses, invulnerability, superhuman strength and durability, possession, "phasing" through physical matter

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Judge Death is a fictional character of the Judge Dredd stories in the UK comic 2000 AD. He is the leader of the Dark Judges, a sinister group of undead law enforcers from the alternate dimension of Deadworld, where all life has been declared a crime since only the living commit crimes. He is also the arch-enemy to Judge Dredd. After years of appearing in Judge Dredd stories, he later got his own series in the Judge Dredd Megazine and in 2000 AD.

Origins and history[edit]

The full story of his journey from being a boy named Sidney De'Ath,[1] the son of a sadistic traveling dentist, to his incarnation as a creature of pure evil is recounted in the Judge Dredd Megazine series Young Death - Boyhood of a Super-Fiend and given extra detail by Anderson: Psi Division - Half Life. A sadist thrilled by inflicting pain, Sidney would soon go on to murder three bullies from his school. He joined the Judges in order to be able to kill people legally, gaining the nickname 'Judge Death' for his hard-line stance on executing all lawbreakers.

The psychopathic and obsessive Judge shortly afterwards encountered the witches Phobia and Nausea, the "Sisters of Death", who he saw as a means to achieve his vision of total justice - the complete extermination of all life. He reasoned that since all crime is committed by the living, life itself is a crime. Hence the monster's catchphrase: "The crime is life, the sentence is death!" Using their dark magic, he had himself transformed into the undead Judge Death. Along with the "Sisters of Death" and his fellow Dark Judges, he wiped his world clean of all life.

Once that was done, he left "Deadworld" and crossed dimensions to reach Mega-City One. His body was destroyed after his first massacre in 2102, and his spirit took control of Judge Anderson in an attempt to rebuild it. He ended up trapped, but the other three Dark Judges arrived to free him and together they slaughtered thousands of citizens. He and his cohorts struck several times, causing great carnage each time, but they were always defeated by the Judges Dredd and Anderson. Eventually the Sisters of Death, now spectral beings, arrived in Mega-City One and along with the Dark Judges, they enslaved the judges, conquered the city and created their "Necropolis" - a horror that took the lives of 60 million people.

Necropolis failed and Judge Death soon ended up as the only Dark Judge left free in this world. Inevitably he too was eventually captured, after jumping across dimensions to Gotham City. He would break loose on several occasions afterwards, being recaptured each time. In his final escape in 2124, he managed to keep his escape secret for a while and then lured Anderson into a trap by murdering children. Catching Anderson unawares, he put her in a coma so she couldn't stand against him - he also infected her with a pestilence spirit so that when she woke up a great plague would be unleashed. Anderson, warning herself via a hallucination of herself around during Death's rise, purposely remained in her coma.

Death went out into the Cursed Earth, slaughtering as he went and re-evaluating his cause and methods. He decided that weapons of mass destruction were the most effective way to achieve his ends and went on a quest to find them. Using a bunker full of nuclear weapons, he destroyed Las Vegas and tried to destroy Mega City One, but was stopped by the city's anti-missile system. The judges, believing it was just an old bunker becoming active, fired "bunker buster" missiles at him, destroying his body and releasing his spirit into the astral plane, whereupon he was attacked by Houcus Ritter, a man whose family he had killed when he first entered the Cursed Earth. Houcus had been in Las Vegas when it had been destroyed and had become an angel. He beat Death to the ground and then opened a pit leading to Hell. Death was then dragged into Hell by the vengeful ghosts of all those he had killed.

Ten years later, Death was freed from Hell by the Sisters of Death and went forth to look for his three brothers. He found them at the home of serial killer PJ Maybe. Death rescued them and killed Maybe's wife, while Maybe escaped.[2]


The representation of Judge Death in the Judge Dredd and related comic strips has changed somewhat in character over the years. In his first appearances his image was dark, sinister and menacing. However, later stories have tended to present him in a much more humorous light. For instance, in the Judge Dredd/Batman crossover graphic novel Judgement on Gotham, Death was used as a practically comical figure. John Wagner decided to rectify this in the solo Death story My Name Is Death, and while later strip The Wilderness Days added humour to Death's tale, he was still a menacing and unstoppable killer; Alan Grant's Half Life, released at the same time, also treated Death as pure, unstoppable evil. After a long absence, Death was brought back for the storyline Dark Justice, in which once again he was presented in a sinister light, with very little humor.


Judge Death appears in something close to a Judge's helmet, though its modified visor resembles a portcullis. Many 2000 AD illustrations make use of the visor as a visual shorthand for Judge Death. His mouth is pulled into a sharp-toothed rictus. On his right shoulder is a pterosaur, as opposed to the Judges' eagles. His left shoulder pad and elbow pads are festooned with bones. His tunic is fastened with crude stitches rather than a zipper, and his badge and belt buckle are shaped like a human skull with extended fangs, the latter with bat wings.

Judge Death speaks with a characteristic hiss. For example, his catchphrase is often rendered as "The crime isss life! The sssentence isss... death!"

Alternative version[edit]

Following the release of the 1995 Judge Dredd movie, a comic set in its continuity, titled Judge Dredd: Lawman of the Future, was published, and soon featured a story introducing this continuity's version of Judge Death. He remains a death-dispensing monster from another dimension, but in this storyline, he is actually an alternative-dimension incarnation of Dredd himself, who died in the line of duty, but was supernaturally resurrected through his undying desire to dispense justice.

Powers and abilities[edit]

Judge Death is a spirit inhabiting a corpse. The body itself is very difficult to hurt, as damage inflicts no disabilities unless appropriately severe (severing a limb or burning him, for example) and the dead flesh cannot feel pain. If the host body is destroyed, then Death's spirit can escape and possess living humans. Death, usually with the help of another, prepares the new host body by using a mixture of chemicals to decay the flesh and let the body reach full ripeness. In Batman/Judge Dredd: Judgement on Gotham, Scarecrow helps Death with this task.

Judge Death has some degree of superhuman strength, being able to lift human beings with one hand or toss them easily. He's capable of making illusions of himself and invading the minds of others.

Death always kills his victims in particularly gruesome ways. His primary method of killing is to thrust his razor sharp fingers into the body of his victim and then squeeze the heart until it bursts, aided by his ability to "phase" through physical matter like a ghost.

Cultural references[edit]

  • Depeche Mode member Martin Gore has been photographed wearing a Judge Death T-shirt.
  • Thrash metal band Anthrax used an image of Judge Death on t-shirts for their 1987 "Among the Living" tour, as well as on their 2006 "Cursed Earth" tour. He is mentioned in the song "I Am the Law", specifically the lyrics "Not even Death can overcome his might..."
  • Alien Sex Fiend lead singer Nik Fiend frequently wore a Judge Death t-shirt, and was also depicted wearing one in the many advertisements the band placed in 2000 AD during the 1980s and 1990s.
  • Philip Oakey can be seen wearing a t-shirt depicting Judge Death and the other dark judges in the video to the 1984 song "Together in Electric Dreams".
  • Thrash metal band Dark Angel's song "Darkness Descends", from the album of the same name, references Judge Death, for example "The city is guilty, the crime is life, the sentence is death, darkness descends"


  • Judge Dredd
    • "Judge Death" (by John Wagner and Brian Bolland, 2000 AD #149–151, 1980)
    • "Judge Death Lives" (by John Wagner, Alan Grant and Brian Bolland, 2000 AD #224–228, 1981)
    • "Behold The Beast" (by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra, Judge Dredd Annual 1983, 1982)
  • Anderson, Psi-Division
    • "Revenge" (by Alan Grant (writer) and Brett Ewins and Cliff Robinson (artists), 2000 AD #416–427, 1985; story also called "Four Dark Judges" in reprints)
  • Judge Dredd
    • "Aftermath Ron Reagan" (by John Wagner and Alan Grant (writers) and Ian Gibson (artist), 2000 AD #420, 1985)
    • "House of Death" (by John Wagner and Pat Mills (writers) and Bryan Talbot (artist), Dice Man #1, 1986)
    • "Bride of Death" (by John Wagner and Alan Grant (writers) and Ian Gibson (artist), Daily Star 1 January – 19 March 1987)
  • Anderson, Psi-Division
    • "Beyond the Void" (by Alan Grant and Mick Austin, 2000 AD #612–613, 1989)
  • Judge Dredd
    • "Dear Annie" (by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra, 2000 AD #672–673, 1990)
    • "Necropolis" (by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra, 2000 AD #674–699, 1990)
    • "The Theatre of Death" (by John Wagner and Ron Smith, 2000 AD #700–701, 1990)
  • Young Death
    • "Boyhood of a Superfiend" (by John Wagner and Peter Doherty, Judge Dredd Megazine volume 1 #1–12, 1990–91
  • Judge Dredd
    • "Return Of The King" (by Garth Ennis and Carlos Ezquerra, 2000 AD #733–735, 1991)
  • Batman / Judge Dredd
    • "Judgement on Gotham" (by John Wagner and Alan Grant (writers) and Simon Bisley (artist), graphic novel, 1991, ISBN 1-56389-022-4 Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png.)
  • Masque of the Judge Death (by Si Spencer and John McCrea, Judge Dredd Mega-Special #4, 1991)
  • Judge Dredd
    • "It's a Dreddful Life" (written by Jim Alexander and Robbie Morrison, art by Colin MacNeil, Judge Dredd Megazine vol. 2 #44–45, 1993–1994)
    • "Judge Death: The True Story" (by John Wagner and Ian Gibson, 2000 AD #901–902, 1994)
    • "The Three Amigos" (by John Wagner and Trevor Hairsine, Judge Dredd Megazine vol. 3 #2–7, 1995)
    • "Killing Grounds" (by John Smith and Dean Ormston, Judge Dredd Megazine vol. 3 #13, 1996)
    • "Dead Reckoning" (by John Wagner and Greg Staples, 2000 AD #1000–1006, 1996)
  • Batman / Judge Dredd
    • "Die Laughing" (by John Wagner and Alan Grant (writers) and Glenn Fabry and Jim Murray (artists), graphic novel, 1998)
  • Placebo
    • "Placebo Poster Prog" (by Rufus Dog and John McCrea, free with subscription copies of 2000 AD #1405, 2004. Also available with Rock Sound Magazine)
  • Judge Death
    • "My Name is Death" (by John Wagner and Frazer Irving, 2000 AD #1289–1294, 2002)
    • "The Wilderness Days" (by John Wagner and Frazer Irving, Judge Dredd Megazine #209–216, 2003–2004)
  • Judge Dredd
    • "Dark Justice" (by John Wagner and Greg Staples, 2000 AD Prog 2015 and #1912–1921, 2014–2015)
  • Dreams of Deadworld
    • "Death" (buy Kek-W and Dave Kendall, 2000 AD #1949, 2015)
  • The Dark Judges
    • "Dominion" (by John Wagner and Nick Percival, Judge Dredd Megazine #386–391, 2017)
  • The Fall of Deadworld
    • "Home" (by Kek-W and Dave Kendall, 2000 AD #2050, 2017)
  • The Dark Judges
    • "No Future" (by Kek-W and Patrick Goddard, New Scientist #3157/8, 2017)
  • Judge Death
    • "Darkness Descends" (written by Leah Moore, art by Xulia Vicente & Pippa Mather, 2000 AD Sci-Fi Special 2018)
  • The Fall of Deadworld
    • "Damned" (by Kek-W and Dave Kendall, 2000 AD #2081–2092, 2018)
  • The Dark Judges
    • "The Torture Garden" (by David Hine and Nick Percival, Judge Dredd Megazine #400–409, 2018–2019)
  • Judge Death
    • "The Judge Who Laughs" (by Rob Williams and Henrik Sahlstrom, 2000 AD Villains Takeover Special, 2019)

Another version of the Dark Judges appear in Dredd: The Dead World, a comic strip sequel to the 2012 film Dredd.

  • Dredd
    • "The Dead World" (written by Arthur Wyatt and Alex de Campi, art by Henry Flint and Chris Blythe, Judge Dredd Megazine #392–396, 2018)

Trade paperbacks[edit]

The Young Death and Judge Death stories were collected in two trade paperbacks:

Death's appearances in Judge Dredd and Anderson, Psi-Division are being collected in the series of trade paperbacks Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files and Judge Anderson: The Psi Files. "Dark Justice" is also a hardback graphic novel.


Audio plays[edit]

  • Judge Dredd: Death Trap by David Bishop, 2002, Big Finish Productions (voiced by Mark Gatiss)

See also[edit]

  • Judge Anderson
  • Judge Dredd: Dredd Vs. Death (computer game)


  1. prog 2024 Cursed: The Fall of Deadworld
  2. 2000 AD #1912-13 and #1952

External links[edit]

This article "Judge Death" is from Wikipedia. The list of its authors can be seen in its historical and/or the page Edithistory:Judge Death. Articles copied from Draft Namespace on Wikipedia could be seen on the Draft Namespace of Wikipedia and not main one.