Title: The Cursed Earth Uncensored
Writers: John Wagner, Pat Mills
Artists: Brian Bolland, Mike McMahon
Published: Out now
Given that we’re not exactly hard up for news at the moment, you could be forgiven for not noticing that The Cursed Earth Uncensored was finally released last week. Fortunately for you, we here at Geek Syndicate are happy to ensure you don’t miss any geektastic gems.
First published by 2000AD in 1978, The Cursed Earth was the first Judge Dredd epic. However, it ran into legal difficulties after two of the episodes – Burger Wars and Soul Food – featured parodies of corporate characters like Ronald MacDonald, the Burger King, the Jolly Green Giant, and the Michelin Man, among others. Concerns about legal action meant that these stories would be omitted from all collections of The Cursed Earth. But luckily for you and me, recent changes in legislation governing parody mean that 2000AD are able to bring us The Cursed Earth in its entirety for the first time in nearly forty years.
I only read The Cursed Earth for the first time a couple of years ago, being fairly new to the world of Dredd, but it made me fall in love with the character and the world all over again, and I’d definitely recommend starting here if you’re a newbie too. It’s a great introduction since no prior knowledge is needed and you get a real feel for what the character is all about and what his irradiated world of monsters and mutants is like.
The Cursed Earth follows a young, fresh-chinned Joe Dredd on a quest to save Mega City Two from the 2T (FRU) T virus (hey it made me giggle) with a vaccine which can only be transported by crossing the radioactive desert wasteland known as – you guessed it – The Cursed Earth. These are the stories of the trials and tribulations he faces along the way.
It almost goes without saying that it’s terrific fun; the writers and artists clearly have a ball chucking everything from giant rats to mutant humans to aliens to robots and even a dinosaur at Dredd and his hapless crew. It’s smart and politically savvy, being as much a journey for Dredd’s character as it is a literal journey, since here he begins to question some of his prejudices – the consequences of which will have huge implications for him and Mega City One in other stories much later on. There is also a sly wit far beyond anything you might expect from a comic strip aimed at kids, and nowhere is its savage humour better showcased than in the banned chapters.
Battle of the Burger Barons and Burger Law make up the infamous Burger Wars and rather amusingly begin in Kansas, now a nuclear dustbowl – and if this is Kansas, this should give you an idea of just how weird and wonderful things can get elsewhere in Dredd’s world. Dredd gets caught literally in the middle of two warring factions in the town of In Between, with MacDonald’s to the north and Burger King to the south.
Consumer culture is mercilessly and hilariously pilloried as we learn that the self-styled Burger Barons have taken control of huge areas of the Cursed Earth, where they are worshipped by fast food zealots. When Dredd is captured by MacDonald’s, he is forced to consume burgers and shakes, only escaping because his guards are too fat and lazy from their fast food diet to catch him; however it’s out of the chip pan and onto the grill for Dredd when he’s then captured by the retail rivals of Burger King, who threaten to put him to death for eating “the wrong kind of burger”. Dredd takes a predictably dim view of this, offering the fast food fanatics knuckle sandwiches instead.
In Soul Food, Dredd meets a Dr Moreau-esque mad scientist, who has created a number of beings inspired by remnants of the old world found in his base, such as the Jolly Green Giant (more of a Homicidal Green Giant here) and the Michelin Man. Having been force fed fast food in the Burger Wars, here Dredd narrowly escapes becoming food himself when he is drugged and almost drained of the fluid from his nervous system to feed the scientist’s creations.
Using original artwork on loan from fans, the reproduction includes the colour centre spreads by artists Brian Bolland and Mike McMahon, also never before reprinted. It’s brilliant to see the original art reproduced here, and the colour centre spreads in particular are utterly beautiful – the riot of colour and detail is almost overwhelming at first glance and perfectly captures the madness and mayhem of the Cursed Earth.
I loved The Cursed Earth in the censored form I first read, but the addition of the formerly banned Burger Wars and Soul Food inject an irreverent but still very relevant satirical humour as well as packing in even more action. Now it feels like a real epic, and reproduced here for the first time in all its original glory, this is one for all Dredd fans both old and new.
Priced at £25 in the UK and $35 in North America, The Cursed Earth Uncensored is available now but stocks are selling out fast – make sure you don’t miss out!
GS Rating: 5/5
GS Blogger: Michaela Gray (@bookiesnacksize)