No. 179 – The Fear That Made Milwaukee Famous

Schlitz® beer is a registered trademark of Pabst Brewing Company; Rhode Island Red photo (right) by Marilyn Barbone (Dreamstime.com)

The Fear that Made Milwaukee Famous written by John Wagner and drawn by Mike McMahon, featuring villain Rhode Island Red, from Judge Dredd Annual 1981 (IPC Magazines, 1980) v Schlitz® beer tagline and, well, a breed of domestic chicken

Not one of our more visually robust HoH entries, being essentially a beer label and a picture of a chicken, but a welcome excuse to revisit one of our favourite Dredd stories relating the events of a brief foray beyond the walls of Mega-City One to capture Cursed Earth bandit and leader of the outlaw Red Leg Raiders, Rhode Island Red, which takes an unexpected turn for the genuinely eerie as the spirits of what was once the city of Milwaukee*, Wisconsin, interpose seeking retribution for their untimely obliteration, the result of a domestic nuclear weapon mishap.

Untitled (1949) by Sy Kattelson

The title of the story alludes to the tagline associated with Schlitz® beer, “the beer that made Milwaukee famous” [not the Schlitz® slogan itself which was, “when you’re out of Schlitz, you’re out of beer”], produced by the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company, founded in the U.S. in 1849 by August Krug (1815–1856) and acquired by German-American entrepreneur Joseph Schlitz (1831–1875) in 1858, subsequently becoming the largest beer producer in the US in 1902, and maintaining that position on-and-off for the first half of the 20th century.**

Foghorn J. Leghorn ©Warner Bros.

The character Rhode Island Red himself is named after an American breed of domestic chicken developed in the late 19th century in Massachusetts and Rhode Island by cross-breeding birds of oriental origin such as the tall Malay with brown Leghorn birds originally from Tuscany, Italy. It is the state bird of Rhode Island [which, incidentally, is nowhere near Milwaukee]. The actual appearance of the vociferous Red in the Dredd story may also be a nod to Foghorn J. Leghorn, who originally appeared in 28 Warner Bros. Animation’s Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons from 1946–1963.

*The name “Milwaukee” comes from the Algonquian millioke, meaning “good”, “beautiful” and “pleasant land,” or “gathering place [by the water (Lake Michigan’s western shore)]”
**Bought in 1982 by Stroh Brewery Company and subsequently sold along with the rest of Stroh’s assets to Pabst Brewing Company in 1999, which recently launched Schlitz Gusto® beer

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