Monday, June 17, 2024

Was Judge Rico A Major or Minor Judge Dredd Character?

( One of the characters from the Judge Dredd franchise that I always wanted to return was Judge Rico.

Who Is Judge Rico?

This guy was the twin brother of Judge Joe Dredd and a direct clone of Chief Judge Fargo, the founder of the Judges and the first Chief Judge.

The Judge system would merge the duties of judges and police officers thus rendering both positions obsolete. In the Academy of Law, the Dredd brothers were considered the cream of the crop with Rico being the better of the two.

In his time as a Judge, Rico—along with Judge Dredd—would handle reestablishing order. They would also join in on the raid to arrest President Booth following the Atomic Wars which caused the Cursed Earth.

It would be an injury during a mission in the Cursed Earth years later that Rico began to change and stray from the path of justice. At the same time, Judge Dredd was improving as a Judge. Fearing he would be surpassed by his brother, Rico turned to crime.

Judge Rico - Judge Dredd


Eventually, he was arrested by Dredd and given the dreaded “twenty on Titan.” This means that someone is sentenced to a twenty-year stint at the Titan Penal Colony on Saturn’s moon of the same name.

Titan serves as a work camp where prisoners bust rocks for their sentence and send the materials back to Mega-City One. To perform their work, prisoners must undergo disfiguring surgery which allows them to breathe in space.

It’s basically a scarlet letter for ex-prisoners sentenced to Titan—along with the scarred face that comes from the storms on the moon. During his time on Titan, Judge Rico came to resent Judge Dredd for putting him away.

The one reminder of Earth for Rico came in the form of a sexual relationship with a reporter a couple of years before his release. Vienna Dredd is the daughter he would never meet.

Rivalry and Feud with Judge Dredd

Rico makes his debut and exit in “The Return of Rico!” from program #30 of 2000 A.D. It’s a brief read at six pages so his story isn’t really elaborated on. From that episode, we just know that he was corrupt—something a Judge must never be—and sentenced to Titan.

Once he was released, all he had on his mind was revenge. He committed some crimes in Mega-City One knowing that Dredd—as the city’s top cop—would come to respond. Especially when his brother was scheduled to be released.

In their final showdown, Rico’s hubris does him in. He believed that he would always be better than Judge Dredd in everything and Dredd remembers Rico being a particularly deadly shot—the best, actually.

However, Rico had been on Titan for two decades and hadn’t gotten his Earth legs back fully. Dredd had the advantage and gunned his brother down. As a result, Dredd always had some regrets about what happened and tried to hide things from his niece.

What I Love About the Rico Character

In other comics and books involving Judge Rico, his story is expanded greatly. The best active Judge of his generation before his arrest, Rico used his badge and fast gunslinging to extort and participate in illicit trade.

What I love about stuff like Judge Dredd: Year One and the eBook content is that the backstory is expanded upon greatly. From Rico’s version of events, he was simply extorting money for providing protection and upholding the law.

His first showdown with Dredd happened because he shot a shopkeeper. According to Rico, the shopkeeper was a chocolate smuggler but from what Dredd could see, it was a guy who didn’t pay Judge Rico protection money.

Rico also said that he didn’t kill Judge Dredd because he didn’t want to kill his brother. Obviously, that sentiment changed after twenty years of busting rocks on Titan.

The thing I love most about Rico is that there was potential for more of his story to be told and what he could’ve been as a Judge at the end of the 21st century. Judge Dredd is a series that starts when Dredd is in his early 30s, it doesn’t start with the origin of Dredd.

With that said, if Dredd is continued as a film franchise, it would be great to revisit the lawman’s origins. This would be easier if the Dredd TV series ever takes off.

Everything from the Chief Judge Fargo being cloned until the arrest of Rico would take two seasons minimum. Whatever network or studio picks the license has a long-running material on their hands.

The Importance of the Year One

Going back to Judge Dredd: Year One, without this canon-expanding material, Judge Rico would’ve ended up as an “essential” footnote in Dredd’s backstory. The way comics were written during the 1960s and 1970s served more as a good starting point to revisit characters in future decades.

However, the writing shouldn’t be held up as gospel unless the stories were iconic for their time. You weren’t getting much of that as things were more “villain of the issue” in the 1960s and fast-paced continuous stories in the 1970s. Factor in that Judge Dredd is an anthology series in 2000 A.D and you have a character—Judge Rico—who was going to be breezed through.

There was only so much that could be done with six pages at that time but the writing has improved to the point that a ton can be done with that to set up the next week.

Staff Writer; M. Swift

This talented writer is also a podcast host, and comic book fan who loves all things old school. One may also find him on Twitter at; metalswift.

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