You’ll notice that I said Rico Dredd, not Judge Rico. I’ll explain this for everyone, I’ll explain the difference between Rico Dredd and Judge Rico.
Rico Dredd was created by Pat Mills and Mick McMahon and first appeared in ‘The Return of Rico’ in Prog 30 in 1977.
He is a clone of the first Chief Judge, Eustace Fargo, clone-brother to Joe Dredd (the character we all know as Judge Dredd). They are exact duplicates, but can two men ever be exactly the same?
There is a Judge Rico in the current continuity of Judge Dredd, they are not the same. I’ll explain that towards the end of this article. There are spoilers below if you haven’t read the stories but as the first story was published in 1977 I’m not being too fussy about giving details of that one
The first story, ‘The Return of Rico’, is actually the first time that the fact Judge Dredd is a clone is mentioned. We learn that though identical genetically Joe and Rico are very different people. So different that Joe arrested Rico and Rico was sentenced to 20 years on Titan.
That explains why he looks so odd in the image above. Judge Dredd’s face has never been shown in the comics (I’m referring to the 2000AD continuity, not the the Stallone version). Rico has undergone surgery so he can survive the harsh conditions on Titan, so even though we see his face we still don’t know what Dredd looks like.
Rico has returned to get revenge but the years on Titan have taken their toll and Joe kills him.
We see quite a human side to Dredd in this story. He clearly didn’t want to kill Rico.
We learn later that Rico had fathered a daughter; Vienna Dredd was introduced in the story ‘Vienna’ in Prog 116 by John Wagner and Ian Gibson. Quite how she was still a little girl when her father had served 20 years on Titan wasn’t explained. That issue was cleared up in Prog 1300 in part one of ‘Blood & Duty’.
Rico’s background has been developed in the comic as well as in some e-novellas by Michael Carroll. In ‘Rico Dredd: The Titan Years The Third Law’ we see his fall from grace from his point of view. This new viewpoint added a lot of depth to the character.
Differences between Joe and Rico were seen as early as their time in the Academy. Rico was a better shot for one. The greatest difference was their personality. Rico was gregarious and the other Cadets saw him as a leader. Joe however was more reserved, until he overheard Judge-Tutor Semple discussing this with Judge Ruiz in ‘Judge Dredd Year Two: The Righteous Man’ by Michael Carroll.
Despite the inconsistency with Vienna’s age being cleared up there is still one continuity problem with Rico. In ‘Judgement’, by Gordon Rennie and Ian Gibson Progs 1523-1528, Rico’s badge is shown with the name ‘Rico’ displayed on it. In earlier stories his badge had said ‘Dredd’.This was even used as a plot device in the story. These things happen when there is so much continuity to deal with. In ‘Rico Dredd: The Titan Years The Third Law’ this is written out and his badge says ‘Dredd’, fitting most other parts of continuity.
The character is a very interesting one and deserves to continue to be looked at. Hopefully there will be more Rico books, Michael Carroll has them planned as a trilogy, ending where it all began[ with Rico returning to Earth to confront his brother, Joe.
So who is Judge Rico? I won’t go in to great detail as I may do one of these articles about him in the future. Judge Rico is a clone who received his final Street Assessment with Judge Dredd after qualifying from the Academy of Law. At that point he was known as Rookie Dredd but he chose to take the name Rico, ‘Blood Cadets’ by John Wagner and Simon Fraser Progs 1186-1188. Judge Rico is not a clone of Fargo, he is a clone of Joe Dredd.
There have been a number of stories that explored what would have happened if Rico Dredd had stayed on the streets of Mega-City One. In all cases his descent in to the world of crime continued in some form or other. But those aren’t from the main continuity and interesting as they are they aren’t for this article.
As you can see the main continuity version is very different to the Judge Dredd (1995) film starring Sylvester Stallone. One of the many reasons I don’t like that film very much (I haven’t seen it since Dredd (2012) maybe I should… now we’ve had a proper Judge Dredd film)