One of the challenges I set myself with this daily blog was to avoid research on background and behind-the-scenes if possible. I want to approach each prog fresh, getting the experience as close as possible to those lucky folks back in the 1970s just getting new Dredd pages each week.
For The Cursed Earth, this is nearly impossible.
Personally, I’d already read it as part of the Mega Collection (and enjoyed it). I’d read the supplementary material that went along with it, and already knew it was kind of a big deal.
In the 2000AD and Dredd world at large, it’s impossible to avoid how seminal it is. Even as this post is being written, the second edition of The Cursed Earth Uncensored has been published after the first sold out – a 40-year old collection of crazy sci-fi adventure strips!
The world-building that is established here will continue to reverberate through the series for decades, from “Bad Bob” Booth, to Mega-City 2, to the muties.
It’s almost impossible to say anything here that has not been said elsewhere, much more eloquently. All I can really say is how much I enjoyed it.
I’m a fairly uncritical person when it comes to pop culture – I love deep, dramatic, complex and tricky stories, but I also love good, fun, adrenaline-filled adventures as well. The Cursed Earth is just fantastic good fun, with plenty of action, insane monsters and situations and the first true glimmers of the black humour that will come to characterise the series.
It’s the second big pivot point we’ve had in the show, after the strange detour to Luna-1, and it’s telling that this is the one that really sticks. While I know that the earliest Dredd adventures don’t necessarily have the best reputation, I enjoyed them well enough – but was disappointed with how formulaic it was starting to become. The Cursed Earth blows this away, and demonstrates a confidence and swagger that is refreshing and entirely earned over the course of the 25 progs.
Taken out of the streets of Mega-City 1 and put through the physical and mental ringer with a desperate bunch of comrades allows Dredd’s character, beyond his role as Judge, to be put at the forefront. He’s a pure action hero here, but is tempered with some really interesting nods towards social justice with both the muties and Tweak.
The idea of bringing back a one-note villain from a previous (and pretty average) story seems mad as an idea, but works due to the sympathetic and humorous portrayal of Spikes Harvey Rotten throughout the run (with a bit of an exception in the two Vegas episodes). His relationship with Dredd develops so well that it is genuinely affecting when he dies before the end of the journey.
This was a lot of fun to explore one day at a time, and I can only imagine how it must have been back in 1978 when you had to wait a week between each prog!