A beloved cast member from 2000 AD’s long-standing Judge Dredd franchise is dead — and, this time, it’s for keeps.
This week’s prog for the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic — prog 2349, released digitally and in print in the UK on September 13 — features the last episode of Rob Williams, Simon Fraser, and Simon Bowland’s Hershey strip… and the final appearance for final Chief Judge of Mega-City One, Barbara Hershey. But her death isn’t the end of the story…
Created by Judge Dredd co-creator John Wagner and artist Brian Bolland as part of the classic 1980 storyline 'The Judge Child,' Judge Hershey went from being a relatively new force on the streets of the futuristic Mega-City One to being the one in charge of the entire justice system for the city as part of a decades-long evolution of the character. (Dredd as a strip is told in real time, which means that fans got to see her age into her position, as well as simply rise through the ranks.) Along the way, she became a rare thing in the mythology of Judge Dredd: someone whose complicated relationship with the series’ title character made her neither friend nor foe, but somewhere in between — both a force to be reckoned with, and someone whom Dredd would consider a peer, if not exactly an equal.
Along the way, Hershey became a fan-favorite character, which made her death from illness in 2019’s 2000 AD prog 2150 a particularly shocking development… but not as much as the revelation in 2020’s prog 2175 that her death had been a ruse allowing her to go undercover to tie up some loose ends even as she continued to struggle with her health. (The illness, it turned out, was real; only the death was faked.) That reveal was the opening of Williams, Fraser and Bowland’s Hershey serial, which would continue for four story arcs across the past three years, tying in with mainline Dredd continuity — fans of “The Small House,” and “Titan” in particular, should take note.
In 2000 AD prog 2349, Hershey’s life comes to an end for real, in the final installment of the Hershey serial, but it turns out the story isn’t over yet: starting in 2000 AD prog 2351, out September 27, the main Judge Dredd strip will pick up the thread as Dredd asks a fairly obvious question that’s gone unanswered until now: what if someone was behind Hershey’s illness in the first place…?
2000 AD prog 2349 is available digitally via 2000 AD’s webstore… which is also where Hershey: Disease, the first collected edition of Williams, Fraser, and Bowland’s Hershey serial, can be found.
What happens in the issue between Hershey’s death and Dredd’s investigation? 2000 AD is rewriting comics history, that’s what.