Mega-City One

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Mega-City One
Mega-city One according to The Apocalypse War.svg
Mega-City One before the Apocalypse War.
Publication information
PublisherRebellion Developments
In story information
Notable peopleJudge Dredd
Notable locationsAcademy of Law
Grand Hall of Justice
Statue of Judgement
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Mega-City One
Mega-city One according to The Apocalypse War.svg
Mega-City One before the Apocalypse War.
Publication information
PublisherRebellion Developments
In story information
Notable peopleJudge Dredd
Notable locationsAcademy of Law
Grand Hall of Justice
Statue of Judgement

Mega-City One is a huge fictional city-state covering much of what is now the Eastern United States in the Judge Dredd comic book series and its spinoff series. The exact geography of the city depends on which writer and artist has done which story, but from its first appearance it has been associated with New York City's urban sprawl; originally it was presented as a future New York, which was retconned as the centre of a "Mega-City One" in the very next story.[1]

The Architects Journal placed it at No. 1 in their list of "comic book cities".[2]


When the series Judge Dredd was being developed in 1976–77 it was originally planned that the story would be set in New York, in the near future. However when artist Carlos Ezquerra drew his first story for the series, a skyscraper in the background of one panel looked so futuristic that editor Pat Mills instructed him to draw a full-page poster of the city. Ezquerra's vision of the city – with massive tower blocks and endless roads suspended vast distances above the ground with no visible means of support – was so futuristic that it prompted a rethink, and a whole new city was proposed. Art director Doug Church suggested that the city should extend along the entire Eastern Seaboard, and be called Mega-City One, and his idea was adopted.[3]

While the first Judge Dredd story is set in "New York 2099AD", prog 3 retconned that and said New York was just part of Mega-City One.[4] The back of prog 3 included an Esquerra "Futuregraph" poster of Mega-City One (a page from an unused Dredd story), which said the city stretched from Montreal to Georgia and had 150 million citizens; it was part of the "United States of the West" (USW).[5] Prog 4 then established that Mega-City One was surrounded by wildernesses from the Atomic Wars. The 150 million population was later revised to 100 million in earlier strips[citation needed] and abruptly bumped to 800 million later on.[6] The United States of the West concept was dropped entirely; a "United Cities of North America" of three megacities was mentioned in prog 42 and then itself dropped in favour of Mega-City One being an independent polity.

In early strips, the Judges existed alongside a regular police force,[7] were popular with the citizens, and the people enjoyed robots doing the work, with the "Grand Judge" saying they wouldn't consent to work more than ten hours a week.[8] Over time, the strip would have the Judges as a feared police-state force with sole power; prog 118 (written when unemployment was going up in Britain) established that citizens resented being unemployed and took up bizarre crazes to deal with the boredom, and this remained part of the strip from then on.


Mega-City One evolved out of a growing urban conurbation stretching from Boston to Washington DC, which took form in the 21st century to cope with the escalating population crisis in America and – as a solution chosen to deal with the high crime rate – led to the introduction of the Judge system.

Mega-City One was one of three major areas to survive the nuclear war in 2070, due to an experimental laser missile-defense system built not long before. Apart from those megacities, the United States has been reduced to the Cursed Earth.

Eventually, Mega-City One extended to Miami, Florida, which became a holiday resort,[9] and spread west into Ohio and/or West Virginia.[10] The megacity was built over the top of the old cities and the polluted Ohio River, creating the lawless Undercity,[11] though a few buildings like the Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty were moved to Mega-City One for the tourists.[12] Maps of the city[13] show that in the early 22nd century, it stretched roughly from southern Maine down through Florida and to the north-east has absorbed the Quebec City-Windsor Corridor in Canada. 800 million citizens lived in the city at this point.

The population and city sprawl were halved by nuclear attack and Soviet invasion in 2104 (in the 1982 story The Apocalypse War), with the loss of the entire south in a saturation nuclear strike. The north-west and upper north were also lost, leaving the city stretching from roughly New Hampshire through North Carolina and losing the Canadian territory. A small part of the north west survived: the North West Hab Zone,[14] separated from the rest of the city by a stretch of radioactive wasteland called Nuke Alley and linked to the main city by a bridge. The population remained at around 400 million from 2104 until 2134.

Mega-City One has a far greater population density than any city in the present-day world. Most city dwellers (citizens) live in huge apartment blocks (50,000+), though many citizens live a perpetually nomadic existence in vehicular mo-pads (mobile homes) due to inadequate housing provisions. These citizens travel the city via the many public transport routes available, rarely stopping. Some mo-pads are quite luxurious, complete with swimming pools.

For administrative purposes the city is divided into 305 sectors, most of them renamed to fit the new size of the city after the Apocalypse War, and clumped into Central, North, South, East, and West. Sectors 1 (the centre) to 300 constitute the main city. The North-West Hab Zone encompasses sectors 301-5. The Hab Zone was mostly ignored by the city and Sector 301 became disparagingly nicknamed "The Pit" due to its high crime rate, until Chief Judge Volt had it cleaned up in 2118. Other slum areas have been called "Angeltown" (Sector 13's slums) and "the Low Life".

Following the events of the 2011–12-story Day of Chaos (set in 2134), Mega-City One was left in ruins and almost 90% of its population was killed. After decades of being the main megacity and superpower on Earth, the city is now bankrupt and in severe decline with many judges considering the situation unsustainable.[15]


The internal geography of Mega-City One has often been ignored or changed, for the needs of any given story. Bob's Law in prog 355 set out a specific numbering system for sectors: the landlocked City Central, far from New York, was sectors 1 to 20, City East was sectors 21–108 "radiating in sequence" from Central, South and West followed a similar pattern, and North would do the same "on an east-west basis". This was then consistently ignored. For example, Sector 13 was given docks in The Simping Detective[16] to better fit the noir style; Sector 1 generally seems to be in the former New York City, based on the Statue of Liberty being near the Grand Hall of Justice; and wherever a character enters the Undercity, it will almost always arrive in the ruins of Manhattan. Despite being built over other cities, "City Bottom" is level with the ground at the Cursed Earth and the sea. One of the more egregious clashes was in Inferno, where the Statue of Judgement is destroyed and falls through the western wall[17] – which is many miles away from the eastern coast in every other story.

Other territories[edit]

Mega-City One has protectorates and colonies outside of the city walls:

City Blocks[edit]

Blocks are huge and can be considered to be a small town in themselves. Each one will typically possess a hospital, gymnasium, school, and shopping district. A citizen can quite literally live their whole lives without leaving their block.[21] Due to the high unemployment rate, boredom is rife among citizens – this, coupled with the high loyalty citizens develop to their blocks, along with a city-defence militia for most city blocks, leads to many "Block Wars", riots (more like small wars) between two or more blocks.

Blocks are named after famous or historical figures, often with current events in mind. A typical example – shortly after the Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise separation there was an episode with block war breaking out between the "Kidman" and "Cruise" Blocks.[volume & issue needed] A proposed crackdown on civil rights in Britain led to a block being named David Blunkett Block in one story.[volume & issue needed]


Since the abolition of democratic government in America in 2070, Mega-City One has been a dictatorship run by the Justice Department. It subsequently became an independent city-state following the break-up of the United States and had already been granted autonomy within the Union in 2052. Its ruler is the Chief Judge, in current stories (as of March 2014) Chief Judge Barbara Hershey.[22] She is accountable to a council of five senior judges. The citizens are permitted to have an elected city council and mayor, but with no significant power: the idea is that a facade of democracy will placate most people.[23]

In 2113 a referendum was held in which the people were allowed to decide whether to restore democratic government, but by this time the memory of democracy had become so distant that the majority of citizens did not bother to vote, and most of those who did opted to retain the status quo.[24]

In the early years of Judge Dredd, Mega-City One had not been established as a dictatorship – "The Purple People Breeder" (2000 AD Sci-Fi Special 1978) mentioned "presidential candidate Howard Surb", while "Ryan's Revenge" (Dan Dare Annual 1979) had the Mayor giving orders to Justice Department. The Luna-One story arc briefly mentioned the governing body "the Grand Council of Judges" and "the Triumverate", part of a unified state called the United Cities of North America,[25] but this was dropped by prog 61.


See also: Judge (2000 AD)

Mega-City One's laws are harsh, with many crimes not found in present-day law. Possession of sugar, for example, is illegal, as is the smoking of tobacco outside of licensed Smokatoriums, and coffee is banned as an illegal stimulant. The laws are enforced by the Judges, who are a combination of judge and police officer. Ordinary laws are enforced more harshly than the present day, as a political choice to deal with the high crime rate. Most ordinary citizens are sent to the Iso-Cubes, tiny cells located within huge prisons. For example, one strip saw a citizen sentenced to a month in the iso-cubes for littering. Judges impose immediate sentences on the spot, usually lengthy sentences of imprisonment (or "encubement"). In extreme cases even the death penalty may be imposed, although relatively sparingly compared with the present day, reserved for mass murder or endangering the security of the city.[26] Nevertheless, many criminals are shot to death while resisting arrest, and resisters who survive Judge assault often receive a whole-life cube term.[27]

The Judges themselves are not exempt from the law; they are expected to obey it more strictly than any other. A violation that would earn a citizen a few months in an Iso-Cube would get a Judge a twenty-year sentence, served as hard labor on Jupiter's moon, Titan, after surgical modification to enable the convict to survive outside there without needing an expensive space suit. (Titan is a moon of Saturn in reality, but was located over Jupiter in an early Dredd strip.)

Firearm possession is only legal with the right firearms permit, which is very hard to obtain. The only real exception is for Citidef units which may use heavy weapons. (Since Block Mania the security on these is extreme and they are only issued during wartime.) In spite of this many firearms are in circulation; some are sold on the black market while others are left over from the various invasions that have occurred over the past thirty years. Some families still possess twentieth-century handguns that have been handed down through the years. These are sometimes found by crime blitzes and will usually earn culprits the same penalty as a "modern" day lasblaster.


The original United States Armed Forces no longer exists: the explanation in "Origins" was that Chief Judge Goodman had built up the Judges until they were a match for the United States Army, as a precaution against President Booth. When Booth was overthrown after the Atomic Wars, the remains of the US Army were routed and finally destroyed in 2071's Battle of Armageddon. (In the immediate aftermath of the war, military discipline broke down and the Judges had to kill or arrest soldiers that were preying on the citizens.)[28]

Mega-City One's military forces are inconsistently portrayed. During crises inside the city, regular Judges or Citi-Def are almost always shown doing the fighting instead and the military is usually mentioned in outer space – "Day of Chaos" eventually explained that they're unlicensed to act against the civilian population.[29] From "The Cursed Earth" onwards, the city's armed forces have usually been presented as a branch of the Judges ("Judge-Troopers"): stories by Gordon Rennie introduced a Defence-Div, 1990s spin-off Maelstrom had heavily armed STAR (Strategic Target Attack Retaliation) Judges to carry out targeted strikes, and the Insurrection serials give the Special Judicial Service its own space fleet and armed force to stamp out rebellions. In contrast, stories by John Wagner have presented the military as a separate group, with some members believing the Judges are too lenient.[30] Uniforms differ depending on the story. The STAR Judges were given an origin as founded in 2108 by Commander Brand, with Brand and his original squad secretly left to die after committing an act of genocide in 2111 (this was covered up as a legitimate act of war and the STARs turned into martyrs, allowing Mega-City One to still claim the devastated planet).[18]

The main military force mentioned is the Space Corps, composed of marines and fleets, who fight against alien races that threaten the colonies. (When originally introduced in The Corps spinoff, they were Judges from the Academy of Law but in later stories these are recruited citizens.) Another force are the Genetic Infantry: genetically engineered men, bred in a lab to be dedicated soldiers.[31] (The story Warzone had an ex-Genetic Infantry soldier who was a primitive version of the Genetic Infantry from Rogue Trooper.[32]) The Citi-Defs (Citizen Defence) are a reserve force composed of citizens.[33] Each city block contains a Citi-Def force in case of crises, though usually they turn up in Dredd as rogue factions waging block wars.

Mega-City One also runs spy networks and a Black Ops Division of Judges. Under Judge Bachmann, their agents were brainwashed to worship the city as a god.

Following "Day of Chaos", the regular military (particularly the Space Corps) have been helping to keep order in Mega-City One. Tensions exists between them and the Judges.[34] By 2136, following Chaos Day and a dual war with the Xhind/colonial insurgency, Mega-City One no longer had the military power to stop a rebellion on Titan.[35]


Many crimes in Mega-City One are controlled by flamboyant mob bosses:


Most work in Mega-City One is carried out by robots; this has led to problems with boredom and unemployment.[36] Boredom has fostered many problems in the city, with citizens spending their leisure time rioting over jobs, experimenting on their neighbors, and running amok in the streets.[36] Weird fads include Block Wars (wars between neighboring apartment blocks, waged by each block's defense militia), "ugliness clinics", and odd fashions.

Leisure in Mega-City One consists of a number of weird and wonderful futuristic hobbies and attractions, including:

Transit systems[edit]

The high population density of Mega-City One requires a complex system of transport. This often serves as accommodation as well as a means of getting around the city.




As Judge Dredd stories are set 122 years into the future and progress forward in 'real time' (stories from 1977 are set in 2099, and stories from 2014 are set in 2136), they have an extensive fictional chronology.

Stories in earlier issues would link Dredd to the chronology of the Invasion!, Ro-Busters, and Harlem Heroes strips: Mega-City One's construction is mentioned in Ro-Busters once it had moved to 2000 AD, and in a story that follows from Invasion!, while Mega-City One appears in Harlem Heroes and its lead character Giant is the father of Judge Giant. The former two strips have since been retconned out of Dredd history.

Other cities mentioned in Judge Dredd[edit]

The first mention of other megacities came in Luna 1, when Dredd was appointed Judge-Marshall of the Luna-1 colony; the narration states that the colony is run by "the 3 great cities of North America".[87] The next issue would mention Texas City, and The First Luna Olympics would introduce "the Sov-Cities".[88] Since then, the exact number, location, nature, and even name of megacities fluctuates depending on the writer and strip.

For more information, see Megacities in Judge Dredd.

In other media[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 2000 AD No. 2 and 3
  2. ^ Top 10 comic book cities: #1 Mega City One, Architects Journal, July 8, 2009
  3. ^ Pat Mills's blog, September 22, 2012 (retrieved November 12, 2012).
  4. ^ Progs 2 and 3: "Judge Whitey" and "The New You."
  5. ^ Prog 3 "Futuregraph" map, reproduced at Pat Mills's blog, September 22, 2012
  6. ^ Prog 59
  7. ^ Progs 10–12, "Robot Wars" Parts 1–3; Prog 30, "Return of Rico"
  8. ^ Prog 11
  9. ^ 2000 AD Annual 1980: "Mega-Miami"
  10. ^ Prog 100: the Ohio River runs under the city
  11. ^ Prog 36: "The Troggies Part 1"
  12. ^ Judge Dredd Megazine 293: "Tempest: Time Zero Part 2"
  13. ^ Prog 62: "Tweak's Story", the cover of prog 245, and prog 355: "Bob's Law"
  14. ^ Prog 355, "Bob's Law"
  15. ^ 2000 AD prog 1808: "Judge Dredd: The Cold Deck," part 3
  16. ^ Megazine 238: "Petty Crimes"
  17. ^ Prog 850
  18. ^ a b "Maelstrom", Megazine 2.73–2.80
  19. ^ Judge Dredd Megazine #218: "Damned Ranger" part one
  20. ^ 2000 AD #1546
  21. ^ 2000 AD #117–118
  22. ^ 2000 AD #1789
  23. ^ Prog 1744
  24. ^ 2000 AD #756
  25. ^ a b 2000 AD prog 42
  26. ^ 2000 AD progs 261, 630, 1337, and Batman vs. Judge Dredd: Die Laughing (1998)
  27. ^ Judge Dredd: Dredd Vs Death (2003)
  28. ^ Prog 2007: "Origins Part 14"
  29. ^ Prog 1779
  30. ^ "Reprisal", prog 1317; "Day of Chaos" in prog 1750; Judge Dredd: Mandroid trade paperback
  31. ^ "Reprisal", prog 1317
  32. ^ Megazine #238
  33. ^ First introduced in prog 198, "Pirates of the Black Atlantic Part 2"
  34. ^ Prog 1801-2, "Payback"
  35. ^ a b Prog 1862 to 1869: "Titan"
  36. ^ a b "'Judge Dredd," June 22, 1989, Whole Earth Review, No. 63 Pg. 90
  37. ^ "Palais De Boing," 2000 AD prog 136
  38. ^ Hodgkinson, Tom. "Idle thoughts: What's really behind the anti-smoking lobby," November 12, 2005, The Guardian, Pg. 5
  39. ^ Progs 919-927, "The Exterminator"
  40. ^ Prog 46, "Meet Mr Moonie"; IASA mentioned in "Judge Dredd: Eclipse"
  41. ^ a b c 2000 AD prog 1510
  42. ^ Judge Dredd: Origins part 6, 2000AD prog 1510
  43. ^ Progs 1984 and 1986, "Cascade" Part 1 and 3
  44. ^ 2000 AD prog 1514
  45. ^ a b c 2000 AD prog 1515
  46. ^ Judge Dredd: The Return of Rico, 2000 AD prog 30; Judge Dredd: A Case for Treatment, 2000 AD prog 389
  47. ^ a b c 2000 AD prog 1516
  48. ^ Origins, 2000 AD prog 2007
  49. ^ Prog 543: "Killkraze Part 1": Killkraze Combat Park has a WWIII zone, with the Western Capitalist Nation side or the Arab side
  50. ^ Judge Dredd: Fog On The Eerie, 2000 AD progs 1037–1040
  51. ^ "Origins," 2000 AD prog 2007
  52. ^ 2000 AD prog 1530
  53. ^ Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth Part 23, prog 83
  54. ^ Dredd's World, Judge Dredd Mega-Special #1; Anderson, Psi Division: Shamballa, 2000 AD prog 701
  55. ^ 2000 AD #22
  56. ^ 2000AD prog 169
  57. ^ Megazine 2.73: "Maelstrom part 1"
  58. ^ Judge Dredd Megazine, #204–206
  59. ^ 2000 AD prog 7
  60. ^ 2000 AD progs 10–17
  61. ^ 2000 AD prog 59
  62. ^ Progs 122-25, "Father Earth"
  63. ^ The Judge Child, progs 156 to 181
  64. ^ "Judge Death Lives", progs 224 to 228
  65. ^ Volt takes office from prog 915
  66. ^ Judge Dredd Megazine 3.01-7
  67. ^ "Bongo War", progs 992 to 999
  68. ^ Prog 1009
  69. ^ 1050–61: "Judge Anderson: Crusade"
  70. ^ "Lawcon", Megazine 3.76 to 3.79
  71. ^ Judge Dredd Megazine: Blood of Satanus III, from #257
  72. ^ Judge Dredd Megazine #257–264
  73. ^ Prog 1649, Under New Management
  74. ^ 2000 AD #1667
  75. ^ Megazine #299
  76. ^ 2000 AD #1709
  77. ^ Low Life: "The Deal" prog 1750 (2011)
  78. ^ "The Family Man", Judge Dredd Megazine 312-3
  79. ^ Judge Dredd: "Day of Chaos" progs 1743 to 1763 (2011)
  80. ^ Progs 1775–89
  81. ^ Prog 1790
  82. ^ Prog 1793-6 and 1801-2
  83. ^ 2000 AD progs 1803–1812
  84. ^ Megazine 34-2: "Insecurrection III"
  85. ^ Prog 1878: "Mega-City Confidential Part 5"
  86. ^ Prog 1896, "Cascade Part 3"
  87. ^ Prog 42
  88. ^ Prog 50
  89. ^ Used by Ma-Ma in the film as a way to trap Dredd and Anderson inside Peachtree Block

External links[edit]