Prog #60: Before He Has the Whole City in Ashes! (Firebug)

Case File

Someone’s setting buildings on fire, causing death and destruction. Dredd is on the case, but may be ignoring an issue closer to home.

Ol’ Stoney Face

Dredd is assigned to manage rescue operations at the building in flames we open on here. He’s stressed enough by the task of tracking down the perp that he’s sleeping badly.

After discovering Walter has drawn up ownership deeds, he’s pissed and lashes out. Once he discovers how badly this has affected Walter he signs the deeds – and we can only hope that he’s joking when he says it’s just to make sure Walter stays in line.

Friends of Dredd

Walter is on scene at the fire, trying to ensure Dredd gets his sandwiches. These are apparently then nabbed by the Chief Judge.

It’s also the anniversary of Walter winning his freedom. To “celebrate”, Walter has destroyed the papers proclaiming his freedom and drawn up deeds that make him Dredd’s property. I’ve got more to say on that in the Verdict, but we’ll just note here this is a disappointing progression in Walter’s journey.

Particularly because Dredd is really not cool with that (to start with). Walter is devastated and leaves Dredd, chaining himself to Dredd’s bike and preparing to hurl himself off a building. He leaves a suicide note thanking Dreed for treating him so badly. This is so horrible it’s insane.

Walter is of course ecstatic when he formally becomes Dredd’s property. I am concerned about the healthiness of this relationship.

The Big Meg

Stratoscrapers in Mega-City 1 are so gigantic that escape from the top levels in the event of an emergency are by small parachutes (glide chutes). Citizens practice using them to be prepared.

The Law

Good Grud everything in this prog is problematic and alarming. To test for traces of fire-raising chemicals, Judges literally remove an entire layer of skin from a suspect’s body. I don’t even know where to begin with that. There’s overkill, then there’s removing an entire layer of skin. This is apparently allowed under the “Reasonable Grounds for Suspicion Act” of 2086.


The “Firebug” has taken out 10 buildings by sending them up in flames. The name belongs to Mr Chuck McCracken, and he’s burning the buildings down for the insurance money.

He’s discovered when brought in for questioning and his skin is removed.

Rap Sheet

McCracken’s going away for 10 counts of arson and 718 of homicide.


718 citizens have died in the Firebug’s arson spree.


It’s hard to know exactly what to make of this one. The crime plot is straightforward (did it honestly not occur to anyone but Dredd, after several incidents, to look into insurance as a motive?) which leaves us the think mostly about Walter and Dredd.

I’m prepared to cop to taking this way too seriously – this was a weekly short comic published for thrills and fun. But the trouble is this issue doesn’t make any sense unless you’re invested in Dredd’s relationship with Walter. Unless you take it even a little seriously.

Walter actually burning his freedom papers (not the nifty sash I hope!) is pretty horrible. Dredd’s treatment of Walter has always skirted the line between horrible and comedically frustrated, but that was always tempered a little bit by the idea that Walter was free and was using that freedom to help Dredd. In a few issues we even saw Walter helping Dredd on cases.

I don’t like that this ends with Walter as Dredd’s possession. The difference is obviously semantic to some extent – Walter wants to be a slave. I still can’t help wishing for better for him.

Overthinking over. Strap in people. We’re headed across the Cursed Earth from tomorrow!


One thought on “Prog #60: Before He Has the Whole City in Ashes! (Firebug)

  1. Really looking forward to how you get on with Cursed Earth. For me a all time great, but that’s based on the impact it had on me as a kid (6 at the time). So fascinating to know what someone coming to it fresh will make of it.


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