Name: Cassandra Anderson
Alias: Judge Anderson
First Appearance: 2000 AD #150 (1980)
Powers/Skills: Telepathic mind-reading and manipulation, precognition and incredible resistance to psychic attack/possession. Street Judge training in city law enforcement, self-defence, tactics and firearms.
Team affiliations: Judges of Mega-City One.
Pennsylvanian writer John Wagner had spent the 1970’s as one of a few keen minds supporting the UK comics industry. He worked on a mixture of publications such as Whizzer and Chips, Valiant, Battle Picture Weekly & Action, before being asked by 2000 AD editor Pat Mills to help develop the comic and featured characters in 1977. It was there that Wagner created Judge Dredd and the hyper-violent backdrop of Mega-City One, unleashed to great interest and controversy in equal measure.
Three years on, in 1980, Dredd’s popularity cemented, Wagner aimed to reach even loftier heights of creativity and inclusion. In the arc “Judge Death” the titular Dark Judge emerged, alongside a new character and partner to balance Dredd’s gruff physicality. Judge Anderson was introduced to set up the Psi-Judges division in Dredd’s universe, that added such great tonal breadth to the comic.
Cassandra Anderson truly represents a groundbreaking female character, as she has always been complex, strong and equal to Dredd where it matters… their grit. Only her power and will eventually leads to Death’s longest period of imprisonment, as she contains his horrible disembodied essence within herself before transferring it to a Psi-Cube. In response to such supernatural attack, sub-sets of Exorcist Judges, Dept of Magic and Dream Police are set up.
Being a far more ‘human’ figure than Dredd, with shakes in her belief in the Judges, alongside moments of levity and empathy, she can hold the focus in a way that Dredd cannot. Rotating characters and the city can tell their stories around the mooring rock of the lawman, but Anderson had enough depth and potential to star in “The Mind of Edward Bottlebum” (Judge Dredd Annual, 1984), and her own title “Anderson: Psi Division” (1985) after only starring in five arcs with Dredd.
Her past of familial abuse is revealed to her later in “Engram”, a storyline that ran for six issues in Psi Division (1991). The fact that her own division were able to collectively redact such memories was one of events that pushed her to leave Mega-City One’s judicial service and the planet following the arc “Childhood’s End” (1993). Following this, Psi-Division itself was discredited and reduced in influence, thanks to many disasters that their combined precognitive abilities could not predict – culminating in a failure to clearly see not only the return of Dark Judges, but the unleashing of an epidemic Chaos Bug virus in the longest Dredd arc ever published, “Day of Chaos” (July 2011 to June 2012). Huge quarantined areas are left destroyed and wracked with waning infection, as the majority of Mega-City’s 400 million-strong population (at the time, the size of the city has fluctuated through its history) are left dead. Judge Anderson was not able to prevent this destruction, but did help to ensure that some survived.
Judge Anderson was also adapted for the silver screen in “Dredd” (2012), notably while retaining much of the inner strength and will that made her so popular in print. Played impeccably by US actress Olivia Thirlby, a departure from the comic cast the character in the role of rookie, who is more inexperienced and unsure. Her effectiveness as a street judge develops onscreen, as do her use of psychic abilities against criminals in the field.
Regardless of the differences, her trademarks are in much evidence, as she finds her own way to navigate the difficult and deadly nature of being a Mega-City Judge, being much more fluid in enforcing than the law than the immovable Dredd.
Since then, Anderson has continued to dispense justice in both Judge Dredd and Psi Division stories, mostly published within Judge Dredd Megazine. Having been in a coma during many issues of the “Half Life” arc (2004), eventually regaining consciousness aged 50 or above, and unable to make use of medical technologies that could combat her aging, due to it’s effects on psychic abilities. This partly prompted her into taking her own life in Judge Dredd Megazine’s issue 345, as aging would eventually prevent her from being able to perform her duties. She also felt the guilt of watching hundreds of millions die over time, perhaps even more deeply than most due to her empathic skills. This ending to her character was in fact previously hinted by long-time Judge Dredd writer Alan Grant, who intimated that it was the natural path that he saw Anderson progressing down.
It is not often that a major character in comics is permitted to reach the end of their story. Hellboy was recently allowed to conclude, as has Cassandra Anderson’s journey here. Such plot developments either end these rich imaginary worlds or transform them utterly.
Anderson’s vast empathy and natural instincts for justice helped her fill in huge blanks within Mega-City One’s law. She seemed in many ways more linked to the spirit of humankind than any Judge before or since. She has also left her mark in our world, helping to influence a burgeoning generation of writers in creating the new wave of female-led major series from all major publishers.