|First appearance||2000 AD prog 30 (1977)|
|Created by||Pat Mills |
|Relatives||Judge Joe Dredd (brother)|
Rico Dredd is a fictional character in the Judge Dredd comic strip in 2000 AD magazine. He is the brother of Judge Joe Dredd, the strip's eponymous lead character. He appeared as the main antagonist in the 1995 film adaptation Judge Dredd, portrayed by Armand Assante.
Rico first appeared in "The Return of Rico" in 2000 AD #30 (1977), written by Pat Mills and drawn by Mike McMahon. This story was retold in 1995, when Mills was asked to write an extended three-episode version of it to coincide with the release of the 1995 film, in which Rico appeared. As well as introducing the character of Rico Dredd, the 1977 story also revealed Joe Dredd's first name. (As the first editor of 2000 AD and the commissioning editor of the Judge Dredd strip, Mills had also given Dredd his surname, which originally had been going to be "Judge Dread".)
Although Rico was killed off in his debut story, he occasionally recurs in flashbacks, most extensively in the story "Origins" (2006–2007) by John Wagner. His term of imprisonment on Titan is also a major plot point in the audio play Judge Dredd: Trapped on Titan.
Alternative versions of Rico from a parallel universe also appeared in the novel "Dread Dominion" (1994) by Stephen Marley, in which he played a major role, and in the comic strip story "Helter Skelter" (2001) by Garth Ennis (in which he appeared as part of an ensemble cast of villains).
Fictional character biography
Rico Dredd (2066–2099) was the "clone brother" of Joseph Dredd, which is to say that they were both cloned from the same genetic source, in their case Chief Judge Fargo. Their growth in the cloning tanks was artificially accelerated, so that within 16 months they emerged with the physical development of children aged five years. They also had their brains electronically induced with knowledge and training which greatly surpassed their apparent physical age, so that they could immediately begin training in law enforcement. Rico was removed from the cloning tanks twelve minutes before Joe, and so he habitually referred to Joe as his little brother (or "Little Joe").
At the Academy of Law Rico consistently demonstrated higher levels of skill than Joe, and he graduated at the top of their class in 2079, with Joe coming second. During his time as a cadet, he requested to join the older cadets in restoring order to the streets of Mega-City One in the immediate aftermath of the Atomic Wars of 2070. Rico and Joe served with distinction, and were personally chosen to take part in the raid on the White House to depose President Booth (who had usurped his office and had started the War).
However, following an injury during a training mission in the Cursed Earth, Rico began to become more aggressive, underhanded, and determined to prove himself better than Joe. After graduation, Rico began engaging in criminal activities, including extortion, assault and racketeering. Joe suspected that this was the result of exposure to radiation when Rico was injured on a training mission in the Cursed Earth. Rico himself had considered this in his early years but discounted it. In his opinion, Justice Department was itself a corrupt, absurd agency and this meant it didn't matter if he lined his own pockets. He considered it a farce that the 'good' judges like Joe were using just as much brutality as he did.
Rico's crimes started with allowing gangs to operate as long as they stayed 'quiet'. This soon escalated to allowing guilty perps to remain free, unjudicial relations and drinking, taking bribes from organised crime, running blackmail operations, protection rackets, killing perps that had surrendered (and faking the charges) and brutalising innocent people to get 'confessions'. As he had a high clearance rate, Justice Department didn't look at him too closely. Joe's efforts to persuade Rico to change his ways fell on deaf ears and much to Joe's distate, he found himself turning to Rico on occasion for information on underworld figures. When Judge Kenner, Rico's former Assessing Judge, became suspicious, Rico secretly murdered him and dumped the body in a rad pit. He started to live in an Oldtown apartment, flaunting his money and corruption.
Eventually Rico allowed his brother to find out about his racketeering. When Joe witnessed Rico murder an innocent cafe owner who had refused to pay him protection money, Joe arrested him. Rico resisted arrest by opening fire, but the shots went wide. Given Rico's skill with a firearm, Joe would later posit the theory that Rico was trying to commit suicide by cop out of a deep disgust at what he had become, rather than trying to kill him. In The Third Law, Rico reveals the shop owner was a chocolate smuggler he was shaking down and claims he had only meant to wound the owner to throw a scare into him. Rather than suicide by cop, Rico claims he just couldn't shoot his brother. Whatever his motive, Rico was sentenced to twenty years hard labour on the prison colony of Titan, where he grew to hate his brother. He was particularly angry that Joe didn't testify in his favour.
(The twenty-year sentence means Rico should have been caught in 2079 but the Year One novellas have Rico active in 2080.)
While Titan would become the mandatory sentence for corrupt judges, in 2079/80 only a few were sent there and the majority were civilian prisoners from various mega-cities; early on, the "Titan treatment" of being disfigured and modified to breathe Titan's atmosphere was only done to prisoners as a punishment. Rico and a bus load of prisoners and guards were trapped on the moon after a hailstorm, with Rico helping get the survivors free. Corrupt guards began killing prisoners on their march to safety in order to preserve oxygen for themselves and Rico was left as the only survivor, after killing the remaining guards. While he was rescued soon after, the prison officials had him modified on spurious grounds: he'd survived on the moon surface and they wanted to discourage other prisoners from believing this could be done to escape. For the rest of his sentence, he received 'personal' treatment from the guards: the lack of crooked judges in the early days meant any caught were put through hell.
While on Titan there he illicitly fathered a daughter, Vienna Dredd, with a reporter who was interviewing him. He discovered a crashed escape pod with an alien prince inside and sent out the pod's escape signal; in exchange, he asked that the alien fleet destroy the Earth when they arrived. He only told the truth to Jude, the oldest Titan prisoner, but rumours of "Rico's Rock" containing a great treasure would circulate through Titan for decades. (When the aliens arrived in the 2120s, Dredd impersonated Rico to call off the attack) Even in his early months, Rico - having worked out there was an anti-alien military base on Titan - considered selling out Earth to hostile aliens in order to escape.
After serving his time on Titan, Rico returned to Mega-City One seeking revenge on Joe. Confronting him at his home, Rico challenged him to a duel to settle their differences, knowing that with his superior skills he could always outdraw his brother. However he had grown used to the weaker gravity of Titan after his twenty years there. This slowed him down by a split second and allowed Joe to shoot him dead. Carrying his brother's lifeless body out into the street, Joe declined a paramedic's offer of assistance, allowing the writer, Pat Mills, to conclude the story with a line from the Hollies song, "He ain't heavy - he's my brother!" (In the retelling, Rico brings up the violence and hypocrisy of Justice Department as well as what he's gone through on Titan)
Long after Rico's death, Dredd would be haunted by his memory. He tried to stop Vienna from learning about her father's death but she believed he must have had a good reason for killing him.
One of the Dredd/Fargo clones would later take Rico's name in an attempt to rehabilitate it.
Alternate reality versions
Several versions of Rico have been shown in alternate timelines or Dredd's idea of alternate timelines.
The 1994 Judge Dredd novel Dread Dominion by Stephen Marley depicts a universe where Dredd executed Rico rather than arrest him and descended into madness. Unknown to Dredd, Rico had secretly survived and worked with that dimension's Judge Cal to overthrow his brother.
A Winter Special showed a universe where Rico survived and his influence spread: by 2117, Justice Department is a corrupt gangster state and Rico was the top enforcer. (This turned out to be a dream by Joe Dredd.)
After consuming hallucigens, Dredd imagines a timeline where he never existed and Rico carried vital medicine across the Cursed Earth instead. Instead of giving it to Mega City Two, Rico blackmails the city into making him Chief Judge.
In 2123, a triumphant Rico from an alternate universe was part of a pan-dimensional invasion of the regular Mega-City One.
In other media
In 2014 a novella was published as an e-book, written by Michael Carroll, called Rico Dredd: The Titan Years: The Third Law. Carroll wrote two sequels, The Process of Elimination and For I Have Sinned, publishes as e-books in 2018 and 2019. The trilogy were published in an omnibus paperback volume by Abaddon Books in 2019.
Rico appears as the main antagonist in the 1995 Judge Dredd movie, in which Joe was played by Sylvester Stallone and Rico by Armand Assante. In this version, although they were cloned from identical DNA, they did not look the same. Rico was portrayed as a straightforward psychopath, having reached a point where he killed the innocent on the grounds that the division between guilt and innocence was merely a matter of timing and everyone would commit a crime in time. His deviant behavior was attributed to something going wrong in his creation which made him the perfect criminal. They were both friends in school (Joe was unaware of their true kinship, but it is unclear when Rico learned about their connection), but when he became a murderer, Joe judged him and sentenced him to execution, and his death was faked to reassure the public and prevent the truth of the clone program coming to light.
Rico later broke out of prison with help from Judge Griffin and killed a reporter who had been investigating the Judge program. Since he and Joe had the same DNA, Joe was wrongly convicted of the murder and given a life sentence. Griffin, Rico, and a scientist named Ilsa Hayden (Joan Chen) began working to reopen the cloning lab that created Rico and Joe. Griffin planned to create a new generation of Judges to enforce his views on the populace, but Rico wanted to create clones of himself to take over Mega-City One and killed Griffin to get him out of the way. Once Joe returned to the city, Rico tried to persuade him to join the effort; when Joe refused, Rico tried to kill him. The two fought atop the Statue of Liberty, and Joe threw Rico over the edge to his death.