The Day The Law Died is a story arch within the Judge Dredd comic series, written in 1978 by John Wagner. Judge Dredd is the central character in the 2000 AD and Judge Dredd comics. In these comics, he holds the title of “Judge” in the dystopian, futuristic Mega-City One, as part of The Judge System, which is regulated by the Special Judge Squad. He patrols the streets, along with other Judges, stopping and preventing crime, with little to no real due process, acting as judge, jury, and executioner.
In The Day The Law Died, Judge Dredd is framed for the unlawful killing of a civilian journalist, a crime he did not commit. Dredd escapes while being transported to prison, only to find out the real murderer was a robot double of himself. All this time, another Judge, Judge Cal, has been plotting to overthrow the Special Judge Squad, and become Chief Judge. When Chief Judge Goodman is ambushed and killed by unknown assailants, Judge Cal is successfully appointed Chief Judge. It becomes clear to Dredd that Cal has been behind everything, and has not only framed him for the murders of civilians, but also murdered the Chief Judge.
Once Cal is Chief Judge, he begins a decent into madness. While Mega-City One was already a dystopia, we see Cal push the city further into the dark, as he unleashes killing sprees upon the citizens. He utilizes fear tactics to control citizens, and declares the entire population be sentenced to death, in alphabetical order, while brainwashing many Judges (save Dredd and a few others) to abide by his rule, as well.
One of the many things Cal does, that is similar to other dystopian pieces of literature, is make any criticism of him illegal, and punishable by death. Along with this, he also dictates many other draconian-esque laws, further oppressing citizens. This is reminiscent of Nineteen Eighty-Four, in which if a civilian spoke out, or stepped out of line, they would vanish, never to be seen again. However, in The Day The Law Died, Cal makes it abundantly obvious that he is to blame for the deaths of thousands of people. In 1984, the Party did not brag about, or vocalize their involvement, thus instilling greater fear in citizens, and making the Party a more difficult antagonist to fight.
Cal also encouraged children to spy on their parents, and report any slanderous remarks of his leadership or character immediately. The promotion of snitching is used widely in dystopian literature. In 1984, children were also taught to spy on their parents and report any wrong doing, becoming “an extension of the Thought Police.”
One of Cal’s main objectives was to destroy people’s spirits and crush all hope. This again aligns with many fictitious dystopias, especially 1984. By the end of the novel, Winston’s spirit had been broken, as he accepts Big Brother, and gives in to the powers that be. Cal forces all citizens to expunge themselves of anything that may bring them happiness or pleasure, burning any luxury items in the street. The denial of emotions is also a running motif in dystopia literature. But, Cal has created an almost dystopia of a dystopia, a society in which he cannot maintain his power for very long. He is unsuccessful in breaking down the citizens of Mega-City One, as they attempt several times to revolt, showing that Cal cannot contain them for much longer. He decides the only way to create the perfect city, is to kill the entire population all at once by gassing them.
Cal could not handle the pressures of maintaining a dystopia that was created from an already dystopian city. This is an interesting point, because although Cal is stopped, and order is restored, the “order” isn’t really order at all. The city goes back to being the original dystopia it was: a crime riddled, over populated, territory. While citizens are freed from Judge Cal’s insane rule, they return to a society that was not truly free in the first place. No one is liberated; they simply revert back to the lesser of two evils.