I first read about Judge Dredd in 1981 the pages of Fantasy Empire #1, a semiprozine focused on British science fiction and fantasy. I had bought the magazine for its Doctor Who cover, but it also included articles on Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (which I think I was already a fan of), the Prisoner (which, despite this article, I didn’t really discover until years later) and Judge Dredd. For whatever reason—and I can’t recall what those reasons might be, 35(!) years later—the Dredd article really had an impact, and made me want to check out his series.
At the time, exposure to Dredd in the US was limited to a couple of reprint volumes from Titan Books, focused mainly on the work of Brian Bolland. I bought the first Dredd volume, which collected Bolland’s earlier stories, including the first Judge Death tale, and the two-volume collection of the Cursed Earth. If memory serves, my local comic store also got a volume collecting the second Judge Death story (the first appearance of the other Dark Judges) and other stuff. There were also some other collections of 2000 AD material, like Robo-Hunter and Nemesis the Warlock, but I remained focused on Dredd.
I remember being fascinated by the high-energy storytelling and the weirdness of Mega-City 1. And this was probably my first real experience with an anti-hero. I understood that Dredd was the main character, but not necessarily a hero to admire. I don’t know that I entirely got the satire at that point, but I could see that there was a lot of humor to the series. In short, this series about the adventures of a hard-line fascist cop in a huge post-apocalyptic future in an overpopulated Mega-City covering the entire east coast, was like nothing I’d ever seen, and I loved it.