Some of the best comic book covers are the ones that can define a character in a single image. That's absolutely the case with Judge Dredd #1.
Hugely popular in Great Britain since the late 70's, I'd actually never heard of the character until I spotted the first issue of Eagle Comics' U.S. reprint series back in 1983. However, this fantastic cover illustration told me all I needed to know about Mega-City One's top cop...or at least enough to hook me in.
Another big selling point for me was the fact that Brian Bolland was the illustrator. First catching my attention two years earlier, then blowing my mind with his Camelot 3000 artwork, I instantly recognized his clean, expressive style on this blazing red cover. Like nothing I'd ever seen before, that image of a baroquely-costumed Dredd and his unconscious monster-punk perp perfectly captured the vibe of the uber-macho action and sociopolitical satire that defined the British cult superstar. In fact, the cover almost seemed like a grim public service announcement you might see displayed in Mega-City One, the futuristic city where Dredd and his fellow officers are (quite literally) one-man judges, juries, and executioners.
As I recall, this was also the first time I'd ventured beyond the comfortable confines of DC and Marvel Comics and tried one of the so-called "Independent" publishers that were popping up all over the place in the early 80's. So that, combined with the book's quality (and quirkiness), made the Judge Dredd #1 experience a memorable milestone in my long comic-collecting journey.
I stuck with the title for a year or two, always savoring the covers and interior art of Brian Bolland...who quickly became (and remains to this day) one of my favorite comic book illustrators.
However, despite being the guy to visually "introduce" America to Judge Dredd, Bolland hadn't worked on the title nearly as much as other artists, so once the Bolland reprints dried up, so did my interest in the title. The looser, grittier work of guys like Mike McMahon and Cam Kennedy...while popular in Britain, just didn't have the polish and style I saw in the "Definitive Dredd" of Brian Bolland.