It seems it is impossible to be a moral citizen in Mega-City One, the dystopian future city for which Judge Dredd serves as law enforcement and quick judiciary. Pretty much everyone is breaking a law, often even those who are filing complaints, so any time one gets near a ‘Judge’, they are probably going to receive a relatively harsh sentence. Young perpetrators, or “Y.P.s” as the judges call them, receive equally cruel sentences for their misdemeanors.
Writer John Wagner and artist Ron Smith addressed the issue of graffiti and youth crime in two 1981 issues of 2000 AD, the comics magazine that to this day serializes the ‘Dredd’ stories. Following the teenage Marlon Shakespeare through his school days, in which he attends a compulsory class about his future titled ‘unemployment’, he is instructed to find a hobby and stay out of trouble. After all, finding a job in a city with an 87% unemployment rate is highly unlikely, another class lesson. The hobbies of his family are absurdly boring, so Marlon has decides to be the biggest ‘scrawler’ (graffiti artist) in the city. Using the tag name ‘Chopper’, Marlon gets into a graffiti war with a rival scrawler who goes by ‘The Phantom’.
The art war escalates from skyscrapers to monuments, until the final scene in which the two scrawlers plan to tag the Statue of Judgement, a giant statue of a judge that overshadows the Statue of Liberty. In the panel above, Chopper finds out the surprising identity of his rival and the meaning of resistance in his ungovernable police state before tricking the Judges in a surprise ending.