|First appearance||2000 AD prog 149|
|Created by||John Wagner |
|Alter ego||Sidney De'Ath|
|Place of origin||Deadworld|
|Team affiliations||Dark Judges|
|Notable aliases||Jay De'ath|
Able to inhabit corpses, invulnerability, superhuman strength and durability, possession, "phasing" through physical matter
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
The full story of his journey from being a boy named Sidney De'Ath, 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.
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!"
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
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.