Great British Comic-Book Characters: Zenith
Borag Thungg fellow Squaxx Dek Thargo and welcome back to another instalment of ‘Great British Comic-Book Characters’ our occasional series that aims to acquaint you with some of the classic characters that originate from the UK.
As we have highlighted in previous entries from this series, comics take on a very diverse approach in Britain in comparison to their American counterparts, the anthology style is (and forever has been) ubiquitous in its form over here in blighty. Whereas most comic-books in the USA usually centre themselves on a single character or story arc, British comics have almost always delivered a compendium of characters and stories in each issue, with easily the most popular and groundbreaking of these weekly digests being the phenomenal 2000AD.
We have posted in length about the other crazy characters that form the UK’s favourite comic anthology, but where they mostly differ from their American brethren is with their distinct lack of capes, cowls and secret identities. Brit comic persona are invariably made up of quirky non-conformist types or hard nosed, fascistic authoritarian figures with 2000AD’s leading export Judge Dredd being the ultimate example of the latter. Today’s guest star though belongs to the former camp and is somewhat closer to the American ideal of a comic-book stalwart, yet still retains the atypical Brit eccentricity and anti-establishmentarianism that pervades a majority of fictional British work.
Zenith was created by the great Grant Morrison and sensational Steve Yeowell in 1987, its debut appearance was in #535 of 2000AD, yet the story’s titular star didn’t actually appear until the second episode with the first instalment reserved for setting the scene for his introduction into this alternate fictional version of the UK.
Robert McDowell is the civilian name of the ’80s Pop star/Superhero Zenith, the son of two former members of the famed team of 1960’s British Superheroes known as Cloud 9, a group of super-humans initially formed by the military, who ultimately rebelled against authority becoming bohemian psychedelic fashion icons and rights activists. Zenith is possessed of bio-rythmic abilities that grant him the powers of flight, super strength, pyrokinesis and high physical durability. Yet rather than use these uncanny gifts to fight intolerance and crime he utilises them to further his music career. Zenith himself is a superficial, glib and self centred personality, overtly spoilt and extremely reluctant to be brought into any of the ongoing conflict that involves going up against the pernicious and malevolent antagonists – The Lloigor.
Reluctantly he is dragged into action by surviving members of Cloud 9 to help fight The Many Angled One (aka The Lloigor, beings from another dimension closely resembling Cthulhu mythos) Lok Sotot. It was during this violent encounter, after the unfortunate death of Welsh Superhero, Red Dragon, that Zenith began to realise the full extent of his incredible powers, and his ability to utilise them for the benefit of others rather than his own selfish needs.
Grant Morrison initially created Zenith as a “reaction against tormented Superheroes” you see, the 1980s was the decade for the anti-heroes’ ascendance, Batman became darker and grimmer than previous iterations and Watchmen (by fellow Brit creator Alan Moore) took the political dissonance and violent repercussions of masked vigilantism to a whole other stratospheric level. Zenith was Morrison’s way of railing against this methodology (that said, Morrison himself has gone on to become one of the most celebrated and longest running writers of Batman tales, with an extremely dark take on the character that is in stark contrast to Zenith’s raison-d’etre)
Zenith is a satirical and sardonic look at 1980’s British culture and politics (a favoured scenario for many Brit comic creators) Morrison described his creation as – “a dumb, sexy and disposable pop icon, Alan Moore by way of Stock, Aitken and Waterman”
Up until a few years ago Zenith was out of print due to ownership disputes between creators and publishers, causing previously released collected volumes to skyrocket in price, selling for up to an unbelievable ten times their original cover value! 2000AD owners Rebellion released a new set of collected editions late in 2014 that managed to sell out on pre-order in just 48 hours, cementing the fact that the UK’s love for the glibly shallow Superhero was (and still is) second to none.
A Guide To Speaking 2000AD…
Seminal British anthology series 2000AD not only brought fantastic characters and thrill-power to the universal masses but also introduced us to it’s iconic alien editor – Tharg the Mighty! Tharg has presided as its fictional Quaxxann leader since the first issue debuted in 1977, and alongside presenting stellar stories, he also brought his very own dialect, which most die hard 2000AD fans use on an almost daily basis (yup, guilty as charged!) So to those Terrans whom have never delved into Quaxxiann we proffer a list of his most popular catchphrases and their Terran translations…
Borag Thungg Earthlet – Greetings Human.
Zarjaz – Excellent
Krill Tro Thargo – Honoured By Tharg
Florix Grabundae – Many Thanks
Nonscrot – Someone Who Doesn’t Read 2000AD
Scrotnig – Exciting Or Amazing
Squaxx Dek Thargo – Friend Of Tharg
Splundig Vur Thrigg – Goodbye
And so, Florix Grabundae my fellow Squaxx Dek Thargo for visiting the Precinct and indulging in our Scrotnig post. Splundig Vur Thrigg!
Tharg the Mighty and Zenith are copyright: 2000AD and Rebellion.
Great British Comic Book Characters Presents: 2000AD Prog #2000
Borag Thungg fellow Squaxx Dek Thargo, and welcome back to another instalment of ‘Great British Comic Book Characters’ Precinct1313’s episodic delve into the UK’s biggest selling and highly influential weekly anthology comic: 2000AD. And today’s episode marks a massive milestone for the ‘Galaxy’s Greatest Comic’ with the release of it’s 2000th issue!
The iconic British comic book has been administering thrill power to the masses since it was first introduced in 1977. It has been responsible for unleashing such seminal characters as Nemesis the Warlock, Zenith, Rogue Trooper, Slaine, Strontium Dog, and of course, it’s most important and popular persona, the grim lawman of the future, Judge Dredd.
The weekly anthology not only became the biggest selling British comic in the UK’s history (and still is today) but also helped thrust into the limelight some of the greatest British writers and artists in comic book lore, such luminary delights as Pat Mills, Alan Moore, Simon Bisley, Alan Grant, Brian Bolland and Grant Morrison. These outstanding talents have gone on to be responsible for some of the most legendary works in comics with titles including, Batman: The Killing Joke, Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Swamp Thing and many, many more.
Celebrating a monumental 2000 issues, today is the most important day in British comic-book history as the illustrious issue hits the UK newsstands. Prog #2000 begins with an illustrated introduction from some of 2000AD’s most famed creators, and Quaxxan native – Tharg the Mighty, 2000AD’s alien editor, acts as our virtual tour guide across the stunning strips. As we dive into the grandiose comic, we are delighted to see the return of some of the original Scrotnig stalwarts, especially two of Dredd’s creators John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra who present us with an extra special anniversary story depicting Mega City’s most feared Judge, who teams up up with renowned Strontium Dog himself Johnny Alpha.
Other delights include, the return of Pat Mills and Kevin O’ Neill to Nemesis the Warlock, and an especially Zarjaz tale featuring PSI Judge Anderson (my personal favourite 2000AD character) brought to you by legendary scribe Alan Grant, with exceptional visuals by the extremely talented David Roach. The Prog (2000AD and British’ism for issue, fact fans) ships with three different covers, and is a complete and utter steal at a mere £3.99.
The irreverent satirical humour, anti-establishment rhetoric, and dystopian outlook are all present and correct, as they always have been since this momentous comic’s first appearance. Mixed in with stunning art and classic creators, this is a fitting tribute to one of the world’s most iconic and groundbreaking works of fiction, ‘Florix Grabundae’ to Tharg the Mighty, founder Pat Mills, and the cadre of creators that have given us, humble British comic book fans, such delightfully satirical entertainment over the years. Splundig Vur Thrigg’ fellow Squaxx Dek Thargo’
Tharg’s Catchphrase Dictionary…
Tharg the Mighty has not only brought fantastic characters and thrill-power to the comic-book masses over the years, but also his own dialect. So to induct those Terrans who have never spoken Quaxxiann, we proffer a list of his most widely utilised phrases and their Terran translations.
“Borag Thungg Earthlet” – Greetings Human.
“Zarjaz” – Excellent.
“Krill Tro Thargo” – Honoured By Tharg.
“Florix Grabundae” – Many Thanks.
“Nonscrot” – Someone Who Doesn’t Read 2000AD.
“Scrotnig” – Exciting/Amazing.
“Squaxx Dek Thargo” – Friend Of Tharg.
“Splundig Vur Thrigg” – Goodbye.
New Comics Spotlight: Pax Americana #1
Pax Americana #1 is another chapter in DC Comic’s ongoing Multiversity saga, the multiple universe spanning story that takes place on alternate Earths, giving the reader variant versions of their favourite characters, Pax Americana tells the story of Earth 4’s heroes and villains.
Written by Grant Morrison, this is definitely his version of the classic 1980’s award winning comic The Watchmen. Set on Earth 4, it tells its story in an intriguing new way (which I won’t spoil here – go read it friends), when the President of the United States is assassinated, heroes Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, The Question, Nightshade and Peacemaker come together to unearth the truth behind the secrets and lies of his assassination.
What really cements it as a Watchmen homage are the DC characters chosen to star in this new Multiversity story, The Question is the original template for vigilante Rorschach, Captain Atom was the original Dr Manhattan and Blue Beetle is the character that Nite-Owl was based upon. Morrison’s love of Alan Moore’s Watchmen shines bright in this comic, a fantastic story in its own right, and a must buy for all fans of The Watchmen.
Pax Americana #1 is written by Grant Morrison, with cover and interior art by Frank Quitely.
Precinct1313 Recommends: Arkham Asylum – 25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
Has it really been 25 years since the release of the stupendous Arkham Asylum: A Serious House On Serious Earth? Hard to believe it has been so long since this outstanding piece of Batman lore was delivered to us by master storyteller Grant Morrison and comic artist supreme Dave McKean.
This classic tale is considered one of the greatest comic books of all time, garnering many awards at the time for both its dark storyline and the amazingly twisted art. It is also Grant Morrison’s first ever Batman tale, after this Morrison would go on to be one of the most prolific writers of the Caped Crusader’s adventures down the years.
It is April fools day and the insane inmates of Arkham have taken control of the asylum, in exchange for the hostages they want … the Batman, and so the Dark Knight must traverse a nightmarish journey into the twisted minds of some of Arkham’s most dangerous denizens including Poison Ivy, Two Face, the Scarecrow and of course the clown prince of crime himself … the Joker in full on demented mode. This is one of the darkest and most disturbing of all of the Batman’s adventures, taking you on a carnival ride of horror and dark wonder. Dave McKean’s artwork on this is sublime, really drawing you into the unhinged and disturbing world of maniacal Supervillains and murderers with its strange and dreamlike visual quality. Also of note is the lettering of the book by Gaspar Saladino, with each of the different characters having their very own font style, this was the very first comic to really do this and it has become a popular trait of the comics medium since.
The anniversary edition is available right now in both hardcover and softcover versions, weighing in at 216 pages in length.
Precinct1313 Rating: 5 degenerate Supervillains out of 5