The Dark Judges are a group of extra-dimensional Judges from the Judge Dredd universe and are mass-murdering undead abominations that see life itself as a crime, since only the living can commit crime - going by this twisted logic the Dark Judges must mercilessly pursue all beings guilty of the crime of living and put them to death.
The Dark Judges were originally a group of four lawkeepers from a parallel dimension known as Deadworld. They were led by Judge Death, who had determined that all crime was committed by the living - thus, by his logic, all life was a crime. The other three were slavishly devoted to him and his philosophy, and the four went around killing people on whatever justification they could find (Judge Fire sentenced a whole school to death for noise pollution). The society of the parallel universe they inhabited placed very little value on human life and many inhabitants were sadistic and violent, but even by the standards of their people the Dark Judges were vicious.
Things changed when Death encountered Phobia and Nausea (the future Sisters of Death) in a cave. The Sisters were death cultists and mass murderers with supernatural powers, and Death fell in love; the three of them committed acts on victims that he admitted sickened even him. With their help, he and his acolytes were able to become undead beings, thus being 'pure' to judge without hypocrisy. The Sisters would themselves become ethereal beings with hideous magical powers. The Dark Judges subsequently murdered the entire population of their world.
Judge Death in Mega-City One
Dimension-travelling visitors chanced upon the now 'Deadworld' and found the Dark Judges. After 'judging' (i.e., killing) them and taking their dimension jumping warp devices, Judge Death travelled to Mega-City One, against the opinions of his colleagues, in order to 'dispense justice'. Death was eventually defeated by the combined efforts of Judges Dredd and Anderson, his body having been destroyed, and his spirit form held inside Judge Anderson, herself encased in the miracle plastic Boing on display in the Justice Department's Hall of Heroes.
Judge Death's Peril
Having sensed Death's peril, his comrades Fear, Fire and Mortis crossed the dimension warp to rescue him. Released from imprisonment and with a new body created, the four Dark Judges continued their 'judgement' upon Mega-City One claiming thousands of victims. Dredd and Anderson intervened, and pursued the Dark Judges back to Deadworld using a Dimension Jump Globe liberated from the Dark Judges. There, the spirits of the Dark Judges' millions of victims flowed through Anderson and seemingly extinguished their spirits forever.
However, the Dark Judges were not destroyed but merely weakened, and four years later, Judge Anderson was duped into returning to Deadworld, where she was forced to resurrect them. Armed with teleporter technologies, the four returned to Mega-City One, leaving Anderson for dead. Anderson survived, however, and used the dimension warp technology against the Dark Judges, consigning them to limbo, the void between dimensions. This is where they were to remain for the next few years.
Following Judge Dredd's resignation and his replacement by the Judge Kraken , the sisters of Death - Phobia and Nausea - used their powers to influence Kraken and rescue the Dark Judges from Limbo. With the Mega-City One judge force under their control, the Dark Judges created Necropolis- the city of the dead, killing 60 million citizens. Judges Dredd, Anderson and Chief Judge McGruder, together with a handful of cadet judges, returned via the undercity to defeat them - returning the Sisters of Death to Deadworld, imprisoning Fear, Fire and Mortis within secure containment, and executing Kraken, who had become a fifth Dark Judge.
Death and Batman
Judge Death eluded capture by hiding in the burial pits of the Cursed Earth and departed for another dimension, but was eventually captured by Dredd with the aid of Batman. Judge Death would escape several other times, with the most significant being when the Joker (see below) dimension-jumped to Mega-City One and freed the four prisoners when they were being transferred to a more secure prison. They entered a sealed hedonist community and slaughtered their way through it before Dredd, Anderson, and Batman could stop them again.
In 2124, Death was released again - after a series of child murders to bring out Anderson, he beat her into a coma so she couldn't track him, infected her with the supernatural Half-Life virus, and escaped into the Cursed Earth. He then went on a killing spree and searched for weapons of mass destruction, finally taking out Las Vegas before seemingly being dragged to hell by the angry ghosts of his victims. However, the Sisters of Death - now with three extra members - attacked again in 2127, striking blocks with poltergeist activity and plagues before Psi-Division drove them back; and during Death's time in the Cursed Earth, he created another undead killer named Mordechai to carry on after him.
Encounter with PJ Maybe
In 2134, during a major Soviet-backed attack on Mega-City One, Soviet sleeper agent Judge Haldane used a forged warrant to enter the Dark Judge containment vault and open the containment vessels. He stole the imprisoned Fear, Fire, and Mortis, and with another sleeper agent he gave the Dark Judges physical form again. (They promptly killed the agents, to Haldane's horror.) They were later captured by genius serial killer PJ Maybe.
Later Death was freed from Hell by the Sisters of Death. He entered the home of PJ Maybe and rescued his brothers. They escaped from Earth on a spaceship, the Mayflower, and killed most of the passengers and crew. They were pursued by Dredd and Anderson, who managed to defeat them and left them stranded in space.
The Dark Judges are undead, and as such, cannot be conventionally killed. Their true forms are incoporial spirits that must inhabit corpses in order to cause physical harm. This involves obtaining recently deceased cadavers, which are subsequently processed by machinery that produces "dead fluids." These fluids bring the corpses to "full ripeness," prefatory for the spirits to inhabit and animate. The incarnate Dark Judges are emaciated, zombie-like humanoids with sharp claws that frequently serve for them to injure their victims. All four speak with a hiss.
Once incarnated, the Dark Judges don uniforms (or "robes of office") which reflect their identities. The uniforms are variants of the traditional judge uniforms, with specific modifications based upon the judges' personalities.
Judge Death wears a helmet similar to that of a traditional Judge, with a modified visor resembling a portcullis. His mouth is pulled into a rictus. In place of the Judges' eagle-shaped shoulder pauldrons, Death sports a pterodactyl on his right shoulder; his left shoulder and elbow pads are festooned with bones. His jacket is fastened with crude stitches rather than a zipper, and his badge and belt buckle are each shaped like a human skull with extended fangs, the latter is also adorned with bat wings. Death most often kills his victims by reaching directly into their chests (in an intangible state) and squeezing their hearts until they burst, without ever breaking the skin.
Judge Fire is immersed in flame, but otherwise his uniform resembles that of Death. He has a human skull for a head and wields a flame-spewing trident. As a human, he was an undercover Judge named Fuego who had infiltrated a resistance group, which he eventually led to the newly-created Judge Death to become his first kills. He earned the name Judge Fire when he was human, for burning a school down for breaking noise regulations at playtime.
Judge Fear is an imposing figure with a black, iron helm obscuring his face, which he will open before his victims to frighten them to death with whatever lies within, often saying "gaze into the face of Fear!". Judge Dredd, however, was able to resist long enough to punch Fear through the head, replying "gaze into the fist of Dredd!" (it is worth noting that Dredd however is far from an ordinary human - capable of taking immense physical and psychological damage that would cripple or kill an ordinary human).
The actual face under the helmet has only been seen once, as a mass of eyeballs - although no explanation was given whether it was his actual face, or a representation of Fear's manifestation of the person watching's greatest terror. Fear has an assortment of bear traps dangling from his belt, and is known to throw them at his enemies in order to immobilize them; it also holds an enormous padlock which he uses to secure his victims' potential exit routes. He wears a thick robe with ornamental bear traps on the shoulders. His belt buckle is a shrunken head.
Judge Mortis is in a perpetual state of disintegration, and his touch causes his victims to decay extremely rapidly. Like Fire and Fear, he spent his early years as a trainee Judge at Law School, Deadworld's equivalent to Mega-City One's Academy of Law, and graduated after Judge Death. He quickly developed an admiration for Sidney's methods and beliefs and became one of his three lieutenants, sharing his comrade's zeal for passing arbitrary death sentences.
He is sometimes employed by Judge Death to prepare the Dark Judges' host bodies. Mortis's head is a sheep skull and he has a bony tail. His uniform's right shoulder is a bird skeleton, and his left shoulder is protected by a perforated mantle. His badge is a stylized horse skull, with his name emblazoned in wood.
- Nausea is a haglike, decayed humanoid with an assortment of gory tentacles, claws and eyeballs on her right shoulder and elbows. Her left shoulder has two apparently live human heads on it. Her badge is a human skull, much like Death's. Both she and Phobia have supernatural and psychic powers, including the power to increase decay and darken the sun in areas. As spectral beings, they cannot be physically damaged and need only a psychic anchor in Mega-City One to attack.
- Phobia looks much like her sister, but has an extended proboscis and live heads as earrings. Her right shoulder is covered by a large scorpion, and her elbows and knees by spiders. Snakes wrap around her arms. Her left shoulder is a mass of worms, and her badge is a spider.
- Pustula, Ephemera, and Dementia are three "cousins" of the Sisters. Pustula is an obese, boil and pus-ridden monster who spreads the "blisteria-101" virus, which turns its victims, including robots, into a mass of boils. Ephemera is a naked ghostly figure with a mane of hair, who creates heavy poltergiest activity. Dementia resembles a normal human, naked, and surrounded by bats - covering her breasts and genitalia - and toxic mud on her hands, who inspires waves of suicidal dementia. Where they came from is unknown.Dementia and Ephemera, Pustula
The undead incarnations of Nausea and Phobia normally only appear as spirits, although they do appear in their mortal form in the Judge Death prequal story, Young Death: Boyhood of a Superfiend.
- Kraken (using the name Dredd), while a Dark Judge, was appropriately decayed. He suffered the loss of his right hand by inadvertently trying to use another judge's lawgiver, thereby setting off its self-destruct mechanism. He wore the usual Judge's uniform, though it was cracked and deformed. Unlike the others, he was forcibly turned into a Dark Judge by Death and made to kill people against his will, while being allowed his normal feeling and remorse as "a final twist of the knife".
- Half Life was a formerly human victim of the Sisters, before being turned into an insect-headed, poison-spreading monster. His toxic, disease-ridden spirit was turned into a psychic virus, one that Judge Death infected Anderson's mind with when he defeated her in 2124. When modified by the insane Judge Fauster of Psi Department of Magic, it became a psychic infection, inspiring a wave of mass murder across Mega-City One.
- Mordechai, while not said to be a Dark Judge, was another one of Death's creations and possessed similar powers and motive. A walking corpse, he possessed telekinesis and plants rotted at his passing. He considered himself working for the Cursed Earth itself, keeping it free of life.
In February 2014, IDW announced that nine new Dark Judges were to premiere in a forthcoming Judge Dredd title.The IDW Dredd is usually considered non-canonical. The new judges were:
IDW New Dark Judges
- Judge Choke, a skeleton surrounded by fog that choked its victims.
- Judge Sleep, a female dark judge that put her victims into an endless sleep.
- Judge Stigmata, a humanoid covered in cuts and carrying a knife in its stomach who induced its victims to self-harm.
- Judge Burroughs, a mole-like creature that created tunnels that destroyed buildings.
- Judge Sludge, capable of spraying victims in a thick ooze.
- Judge Fistula, a walking, talking tumor that stabbed victims with extruded tendrils.
- Judge Skinner, a humanoid with transparent skin who could magically remove its victims's skins.
- Judge Metastasis, a conglomerate being composed of many victims, each of whom it summoned to join the whole, forming a human-shaped giant.
- Judge Blank, a creature of pure void that could teleport victims. Judge Blank was not in league with the others and was implied to be Judge Anderson.
The Dreams of Deadworld arc in the September 2015 2000 ADs introduced dark judges that existed on Deadworld prior to a coup by Death and his three lieutenants. They were:
Additional Dark Judges (The Dreams of Deadworld arc)
- Judge Reaper, a large, male human with a dark, empty face.
- Sister Despair, a female who teams up with Judge Reaper.
- Judge Omen, who was precognitive.
- Judge Flyblown, an obese man with digitigrade legs.
- Judge Ossify, a misshapen giant with protruding bones.
- Sister Bedlam, a female with a vertically-oriented mouth.
- Judge Silence, who held his hands over his mouth and said nothing.
- Judge Scourge, who attacked with spike-studded tentacles.
The Joker as a Dark Judge
For a very brief time, DC comic's The Joker character was a Dark Judge, in the original graphic novel Die Laughing (1998). The Joker helped free the original Dark Judges in exchange for immortality. He received his payment by having his spirit merged into a corpse (which was not quite the "immortality" he'd sought), creating "Dark Judge Joker". As a Dark Judge, the Joker could kill masses of people with his laugh which caused human heads to explode.
His tenure was a brief one, as he quickly became bored with slaughter simply for its own sake and did not share the original Dark Judge's fanatical zeal for their "sacred mission" of purging all life. The Joker was restored to his normal, mortal form upon returning to Gotham City via a defective dimensional jump device.