Borag Thungg fellow fans of fantastic fiction, and welcome to another eccentrically enthralling episode of Great British Comic-Book Characters our occasional series that aims to acquaint you with some of our very favourite fictional figures originating from this tiny island known as the United Kingdom.
The British comic book scene has been active as long as its more famous American counterpart, and as long and varied as its history has been… very few costumed characters of the traditional spandex clad Superhero have emerged from this sceptred isle. That’s not to say that no characters of heroic nature have emanated from the UK, just that they tend not to follow in the footsteps of their more audacious USA brethren. Though long time allies and compeers, our differences couldn’t be more palpable, especially in the wonderful world that is comic books.
And, oh boy, Marshal Law is the epitome of this disparity, a fascistic, radically authoritarian creation that actually falls in line with a rather large amount of stylistically created fictional persona that have emanated from this country over several decades of both comic-books and general fiction (film, television, novels). Politically charged and anti-authoritarian issues have always had the biggest influences in the UK’s most popular comic book characters, from the obviously quasi-fascist vision of future law enforcement that is Judge Dredd, through recalcitrant characters such as Zenith, V, and Nemesis the Warlock, British comic creators have always revelled in counterculture paradigms.
Marshal Law is a government sanctioned “Hero Hunter” a super-powered member of the San Futuro police Department, San Futuro is a sprawling metropolis from the near future that rose from the ashes of San Francisco following a devastating earthquake. Marshal revels in his position as a Cape killer, with his raison d’etre revolving around taking down rogue Superheroes, Marshal derives an unhealthy amount of gratification and joy from this task, utilising an almost unlimited arsenal of ridiculously over the top weaponry/ heavy ordnance (and good ol’ fashion fisticuffs) he is uncompromising in both his use of violence and lack of emotional wealth… a true sociopath.
Marshal’s secret identity is Joe Gilmore, an ex super-soldier, who is overwhelmed with a malign sense of self loathing due to his manifest super powers. In this alternate future Genetic engineering has swept San Futuro and the USA at large, with most of America’s armed forces utilising the science to create the ultimate Ubermensch.
Though, the act of saddling the military populace with overt powers also led to an increase in detrimental psychological effects on the subjects, psychosis is prevalent amongst the majority of the soldiers, also the inability to control or understand their wildly chaotic powers. Upon leaving military servitude, these super powered individuals would often take up the cape and cowl to become Superheroes and yet their gradually diminishing mental capabilities and lack of remorse or any sense of compassion led them down a darker path more akin to the classic SuperVillain as opposed to the heroic archetype, which essentially leads to Marshal Law’s emergence as a hero hunter, whose own advanced abilities and detestation of genetic super-beings lead him down a violent, pitiable path of reckless redemption for his own self loathing due to his inherited mutation.
Marshal Law was first unleashed onto unsuspecting Brit comic-book fans by Epic Comics in October 1987, a six issue mini-series created by 2000AD stalwarts Kev O’ Neill and the legendary Pat Mills. The resulting series led on to a fantastic one shot “Marshal Law Takes Manhattan” in which he proceeded to eliminate perfectly parodied variants of Marvel characters. It’s these satirical parody’s of mainstream American Superheroes that has been a marvellous mainstay of his adventures throughout the years, DC characters such as Batman and Superman have also felt the sting of Marshal’s wrath with some absolutely fantastic and (especially in the case of Batman’s variant) outlandishly bizarre versions of the beloved heroes.
Marshal Law is an extreme satire of Superhero/Anti-hero tropes, mixed with outlandish humour, feverishly idiosyncratic art by the fantastic Kev O’Neill and the legendary Pat Mills at his politico anti-establishment finest. As long as you’re not easily offended, and can tolerate seeing your favourite Superhero get shot, stabbed, decapitated, electrocuted crushed, smushed, blown up, immolated and generally wiped the floor with by its titular star – Marshal Law… then this comes highly recommended!
“Now… your blood would be a different story, I bet it’s dark, rich, full of iron… What do you say, care to indulge in a bit of… transfusion?”
Uh, maybe later Durham… Welcome fellow fans of fantastic fiction to another episode of “Great British Comic Book Characters” our occasional series that aims to acquaint you with some of the classic dramatis personae that originate from this tiny island known as the United Kingdom.
Durham Red was originally conceived as a sidekick and possible love interest for 2000AD’s mutant bounty hunter Johnny Alpha, the character proved so popular to the fans that after Johnny’s untimely demise she was given starring role in the spin off series “Strontium Dogs”. Created by the astonishing alumni of John Wagner, Alan Grant and Carlos Ezquerra, Durham made her first appearance in prog #505 of 2000AD in 1987.
In the aftermath of a devastating nuclear war in 2150, that left over 70% of the British population wiped out, an increase of mutated births was prevalent due to high radiation fallout. As time progressed the mutants found themselves increasingly persecuted, facing a high degree of racism which included laws precluding them from owning businesses, sending their children to schools attended by “normal” humans and ultimately found themselves segregated from society and housed in ghettos, which included a giant mutant settlement established in the town of Milton Keynes.
One of the very few jobs available to the mutants was that of a bounty hunter, known as Strontium Dogs, named after the Strontium 90 fallout and their distinctive search destroy (S/D) badges. These positions were deemed too dangerous for “normal” humans and were offered to the most dangerous and strongest of the mutant society. SD agents operated out of an orbiting space station known as the Doghouse, tasked with hunting down the galaxy’s very worst criminals.
Mutations in the 2000AD universe differ greatly from their other comic book counterparts, most mutants rather than being gifted with extraordinary gifts and powers (a la Marvel’s X-Men) were usually hideously malformed, but a few benefitted from non malformation and incredible physical and mental gifts. Durham Red is one such mutant, her mutation resembles that of the classic literary vampire, her body must intake a constant supply of blood to continue existence. But the gains ultimately outweigh her bloodlust in that, as long as Durham drinks the life giving plasma she is infused with super strength, lightning fast reflexes and near immortality, yet she shares none of the classical drawbacks of vampirism (inability to venture out in daylight, silver, garlic, etc).
After spending decades hunting down the very worst the galaxy had to offer in it’s frontier planets, Durham grew weary of the constant cycle of death and devastation and voluntarily put herself into cryonic suspended animation, that lasted centuries.
She finally roused to a new order, a war had broken out between human and mutants and through the intervention of various alien races, a Pan-Species accord was reached, giving mutants the same rights of equality that “normal” humans held. Durham found that during her protracted slumber a cult had grown around her venerable legend, with her now known as the Saint of Mutants. The saint fanatic who awoke her, Judas Farrow, quickly found that the real item differed greatly to the legend that had been borne about her, but still found himself accompanying Durham on her many excursions in this new timeline.
Durham indirectly was the catalyst for the sterilisation of human kind after being betrayed by the mutant telepath The Offspring, who used Durham as a pawn to seek his revenge on human society. Durham filled with remorse for her part in this, retreated from the world, becoming feral, using her great gifts for survival only purposes.
A century passed before Durham was tracked down by one of her saint followers Godolkin, who needed her help in finally destroying the Offspring. After confronting Offspring in a distant section of space known as the Fracture, where time itself was ruptured, she realised that Offspring could not be killed by any normal means, so Durham dragged him down with her into a singularity, and within this space/time vortex Durham beheld many different instances of past and future selves.
Like most storylines barrelling out of 2000AD, Durham Red was a politically and racially charged tale of parochialism and intolerance, British comics have often moved along this paradigm, with the 1980’s giving birth to some of the greatest tales of fundamental liberalism and forbearance.
Durham Red lived for another millennia, adopting the identity of Empress Redwina and ultimately lived to see the time when the mutant race outnumbered their oppressive human norms.
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 dramatis personae that originate from this small island known as the United Kingdom.
As we have mentioned in previous posts, comics take on a very different approach in Britain in comparison to their American counterparts, the anthology style is (and always has been) ubiquitous in its form over here. Whereas most comics from the USA 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 by far the most popular and best selling of these weekly digests being the phenomenal ‘2000AD’.
We have already posted in length about some of the crazy characters that make up 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 usually made up of quirky, non conformist types or hard nosed, and extremely fascistic authoritarian figures, Judge Dredd being the ultimate example of the latter. Today’s guest star though belongs to the former camp, and is a definitely a lot closer to the American ideal of a comic book stalwart, yet still retains a very British feel.
Zenith was created by Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell in 1987, its debut appearance was in Prog #535 of 2000AD, yet the story’s star didn’t actually appear until the second episode, with the first instalment reserved for setting the scene for his introduction into the fictional alternative version of Britain.
Robert McDowell is the civilian name of the 80’s Pop-Star/Superhero Zenith, the son of two members of the famed team of 1960’s British Superheroes Cloud 9, a group of super humans formed by the military, who ultimately rebelled against authority becoming hippies and psychedelic fashion icons. Zenith is possessed of bio-rhythmic abilities that grant him the powers of flight, super strength, telepathy, pyrokinesis and high durability, yet rather than use these uncanny gifts to fight crime, he utilises them to further his music career. Zenith is a superficial, glib and self centred personality, overly spoilt and extremely reluctant to be brought into any ongoing conflict that involves fighting against pernicious and malevolent villains – The Lloigor.
Reluctantly he is dragged into action by surviving members of Cloud 9 to fight the Many Angled One (aka The Lloigor, beings from alternate dimensions closely resembling Cthulhu mythos) Lok Sotot. It was during this violent encounter, after the death of Welsh Superhero Red Dragon that Zenith began to realise the extent of his powers, and his ability to use them for the benefit of others rather than his ultimately selfish needs.
Grant Morrison initially created Zenith as a “reaction against tormented Superheroes”, the 1980’s was the decade for the anti-hero’s ascendance, Batman became darker and grimmer than previous iterations, and Watchmen took the political dissonance and violent repercussions of masked vigilantism to a whole new level, Zenith was Morrison’s way of railing against this methodology (though Morrison has gone on to become one of the most celebrated and longest running writers of Batman tales, with a very 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 of the day) Morrison described his creation as – “A dumb, sexy and disposable pop icon, Alan Moore by way of Stock, Aitken and Waterman”.
Up until very recently Zenith had been out of print due to ownership diputes between the creators and publishers, causing previously released collected volumes to skyrocket in price, selling for up to ten times their cover value on E-Bay. 2000AD owners Rebellion finally released a new set of collected editions in 2014 that managed to sell out on pre-order in just two days, cementing the fact that the UK’s love for the glibly shallow Superhero was (and still is) second to none.
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.
Borag Thungg fellow Squaxx Dek Thargo, and welcome back to another instalment of “Great British Comic Book Characters,” Precinct1313‘s episodic look at the UK’s biggest selling and highly influential weekly anthology comic; 2000AD.
Over the previous five instalments of this ongoing series, I have gradually introduced you to the characters and creators of the “Galaxy’s Greatest Comic,” what first motivated me to begin a series on 2000AD was initially the fact that, apart from Judge Dredd, the majority of classic characters from this mighty tome are rather unknown to the world outside of the British isles. Fantastic creations such as Nemesis the Warlock, Rogue Trooper, Zenith and Strontium Dog have rich backstories, superstar creators and close to 40 years of history, yet still remain in relative obscurity. Having grown up alongside these characters, I decided to utilise my blog to promote, as best as I could, these groundbreaking comic characters and hopefully draw more appreciation and proclivity towards characters I believe are deserving of a far larger audience than they currently receive.
Released in the UK on December 7, “Future Shock! The Story Of 2000AD” is an 106 minute documentary that charts the rise of Britain’s favourite comic-book, offering up a dynamic and comprehensive overview of the comic that includes a look at the various highs and lows of the comics history, and extensive coverage of the creative process behind the scenes of the long running megazine. Documenting how a band of Britain’s most talented and eclectic comic talent came together to create the visionary publication, and guest starring a swathe of said talent including; Neil Gaiman, Pat Mills, John Wagner, Grant Morrison and Dave Gibbons, plus recent “Dredd” actor Karl Urban is also on hand to profess his adoration for 2000AD‘s world famous grim protector of the law.
Future Shock! is directed by Paul Goodwin, who has, as previously mentioned, assembled an iconic group of talent for interviews and nostalgic musings on their past glories. Especially entertaining, as always, is the fantastic Pat Mills, who rages and rants humorously on the ups and downs of the comic’s (at times) tempestuous past, Mills alone is worth the asking price, one of the greatest talents in the UK industry, he never pulls his punches and always tells things as they are, his part in this documentary is legendary!.
The documentary itself mostly consists of the aforementioned interviews alongside various illustrations, also included though are some impressive animations courtesy of Zebra Post, with the opening sequence being a particular stand-out piece. The docu mainly covers the 70’s and 80’s of 2000AD‘s long history, but does touch on the 90’s, especially on sister publication Judge Dredd: The Megazine.
At over 100 minutes long, this fantastic look at 2000AD is a must have for fans of the comic, but also offers up an intriguing study of British comics in a time when the UK was going through a considerable transition in politics, music and outlook, 2000AD embraced and used these changes to produce an intelligent and sometimes hilariously subversive comic that almost predominantly helped evolve not just the comic book scene in Britain, but ultimately the across the planet itself.
Precinct1313 Rating: Zarjaz!!
“Oh hi there, Judge Death here, the Duke of Demise, Emperor of Expiration and all round evil fiend. Just thought I’d stop by to wish my old foe Dredd congratulations on 25 years of his solo comic, before I head out to snuff the life of billions in my eternal quest to extinguish the living from all mortal planes. Best enjoy as many comics as you can humans, for soon I shall come for your corporeal souls… you have a great day now”
Uh, thanks for that Death… Borag Thungg fellow Squaxx Dek Thargo, and welcome to an anniversary edition of “Great British Comic Book Characters” wherein we shall be celebrating a quarter of a century of “Judge Dredd: The Megazine.”
That’s right Dredd devotees, 2000 AD‘s sister comic – The Megazine is celebrating 25 years of dispensing justice and thrill-power today. Launched way back in October 1990, Megazine collected classic Dredd stories from the past, including such greats as, “Young Death” and “America” and this awesome anniversary issue also sports a fantastic commemorative cover by Barry Kitson, who is triumphantly returning to the 2000 AD fold for the first time in 23 years!
The special edition cover contains the twenty five most heinous of Dredd‘s rogues gallery including such sadistic evil-doers as, Judge Death, Fink Angel, Judge Fear, Mean Machine, Captain Skank, and Rico Dredd. Like its sister publication 2000 AD, Megazine (formed from the wordplay of magazine and Mega-City One, fact fans) is an anthology comic, originally containing tales set only within the Dredd universe.
As the years moved on it expanded to include other unconnected stories, interviews with artists and writers, and a monthly supplement that would focus on the work of certain celebrity 2000 AD contributors such as Simon Bisley, Alan Grant, and John Higgins, plus from issue #276 they opened up a unique creator-owned slot that featured Tank Girl and American Reaper amongst its superstar guest characters. So here’s to another 25 years in the company of the world’s toughest lawman, by Drokk!
Judge Dredd’s Catchphrase Dictionary;
In case you ever find yourself stranded in downtown Mega-City One, and don’t know your skedway from your zoomway, well worry no more because here’s a handy dandy guide to Mega-City lingo that may just save your Grud-damn life!
Drokk: An expletive, profanity.
Stomm: Word for an unpleasant substance or food stuff.
Sov: Shortened term for East Megians, Soviets.
Jay: A Judge.
Jimp: Judge impersonator.
Slab: Pedestrian walkway or pavement.
Resyk: Recycling centre, where dead bodies are processed and recycled.
Mutie: Shortened from mutant.
Sked: Term used for roads, shortened from Skedway.
Zoomway: High speed, multi-lane motorways.
Iso-Cube: Isolation cube, various stacked prison cells.
Judge Dredd: The Megazine #365 Anniversary Edition is available at your local comic-book emporium and all good newsagents right now.
Judge Dredd and Judge Dredd: The Megazine are copyright – Rebellion.
“I am the shape of things to come, the lord of the flies, holder of the sword sinister… the death-bringer, I am the one who waits on the edge of your dreams… I am Nemesis”
Borag Thungg my fellow Squaxx Dek Thargo, and welcome to another instalment of “Great British Comic Book Characters.” In our last episode we introduced you to the UK’s biggest selling anthology comic of all time, 2000AD and its much celebrated principal star Judge Dredd, from this episode onwards we shall be exploring in detail the plethora of other characters that make up this diverse and innovative weekly comic book compendium.
Demonic alien entity Nemesis made his first appearance in 2000AD in prog #167 in July of 1980, created by writer Pat Mills and artist Kevin O’Neill.
Protagonist Nemesis is a fire-breathing alien who opposes the tyrannical and oppressive subjugation and systematic extermination of alien races by the evil human Termight empire and their fascist leader Tomas De Torquemada. His self appointed pursuit of justice against the xenophobic human forces began after discovering that his wife Chira and son Thoth had been murdered by termite’s terminators under orders from Torquemada himself.
2000AD prog #167 first introduced us to our eponymous alien advocate in a short story entitled “Comic Rock: Terror Tube.” This initial adventure saw our freedom fighting anti-hero escape from the clutches of the then Chief of tube Police, Torquemada, after a sustained chase through a complex tube travel system on a planet named Termight (later revealed to be Earth.) Though for his first ever appearance he was strangely conspicuous by his absence, all the reader saw of Nemesis was the exterior of his ship, the Blitzspear.
Though short, Terror Tube set the scene for the continuing crusade of Nemesis and his lifelong antagonist Torquemada, the Termight Police were modelled closely after the Spanish Inquisition and extreme right wing factions such as the Nazis and Ku Klux Klan (Torquemada himself was named after notorious Spanish Inquisitor Tomas De Torquemada) which made it easy for the reader to easily empathise with the plight of the subjugated alien races and the violent struggle of our titular lead Nemesis. Though Nemesis himself is far from pure and virtuous, with his human aide and confidante Purity Brown ultimately realising that his mission of vengeance was used as an excuse to cover his own hatred of Humans and his mission to exterminate them from the known Universe.
Our main antagonist Torquemada began his evil quest as a young boy, embarking on a crusade to rid the Galaxy of aliens. Betrayed by the crusade’s leader he was sold into slavery, ending up as a minion for an alien race for over five long years. This scarred him badly leaving what little compassion and humility he possessed to be discarded, with his hatred of other lifeforms outside his own, intensified tenfold.
After his stint as tube police chief, he eventually rose to become the overriding leader of the entire Termight empire, with the assistance of his superficially religious police force The Terminators. Later in the series he became a powerful phantom like figure after losing his physical form in a bizarre teleporting accident. He continued his existence and zealous quest through the possessing of a succession of host bodies, though these would have to be replaced often as the host itself would rot at an escalated rate.
The majority of Nemesis’ crusade appeared as “Books” with the odd short story intercutting in various annuals, one-offs and specials. Book one entitled “The World Of Termight” introduced the leading players and set the scene for the epic galaxy spanning war. Each subsequent book would add more layers to the expansive storyline, culminating in book ten, “The Final Conflict” which saw both Nemesis and Torquemada killed at the culmination of the tale.
Like most of Pat Mills creations (Judge Dredd especially) he drew on real world politics and inherent human prejudices of the unknown. Nemesis spoke on many literary levels other than the ones accepted in the comic strip at face value. Bigotry, hatred and fascism were all explored in detail, and none of the leads were of great moral fibre, including our “hero” Nemesis, who is tainted by much the same abhorrence and repugnance as his arch enemy Torquemada, ultimately leaving this dystopian story exceedingly ambiguous.
Splundig Vur Thrigg…
Iconic British anthology comic 2000AD has been administering thrill power to the masses since its inception in 1977. It not only succeeded in presenting to the world seminal characters like Judge Dredd, Zenith and Nemesis the Warlock, but also helped launch into the spotlight some of the greatest British writers and artists in comic book history, luminaries such as Brian Bolland, Pat Mills, Alan Grant, Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, and Simon Bisley. American comic book companies like DC and Marvel have been mining these outstanding British talents to great effect since then on titles that include Watchmen, Batman: The Killing Joke, V For Vendetta and many, many others too numerous to mention.
1975 and Kevin Gosnell, an editor at IPC Magazines commissioned the freelance writer Pat Mills, who had previously created weekly adventure comic Action, to develop a new science fiction based anthology comic which he hoped would ride on the wave of popularity of forthcoming Sci-Fi blockbuster movies. Pat Mills brought in another freelancer, John Wagner as adviser and together they began to create characters for the new publication. The futuristic sounding name of 2000AD was then chosen, with the failure rate of new comics in the UK at a high, no-one ever expected the title to ever last past that date. How wrong they were… thankfully.
The debut issue of 2000AD hit the British newsagents on the 26 February 1977, consisting of a line up of four separate stories, Harlem Heroes, Flesh, M.A.C.H 1, and 50’s British Science Fiction icon Dan Dare who was revived from ten years in limbo after his original home publication Eagle Comics shuttered in 1967.
There was another character who also made his first appearance in the new anthology comic, he would go on to be one of only two characters to appear in nearly every issue of 2000AD since its inception (the other being Dredd.) Tharg The Mighty was created by Pat Mills as the fictional editor of the comic, an alien who hailed from the planet Quaxxann in Betelgeuse, Tharg writes the comics introduction, answers questions from its readership (whom he originally referred to as ‘Earthlets’) and gives out prizes to readers who suggested stories and sent in artwork (prizes could be given in pound sterling or Tharg’s own currency of galactic groats.) Tharg would oversee the ‘Thrill Power’ quotient of each comic and led a team of creative robots who supplied the art and stories for each issue (with each robot resembling their real life counterpart.)
2000AD creator Pat Mills’ writing had a strong anti-authoritarian vibe and attitude that was popular amongst his legion of readers and fans, but he also noted the effect that more authority based characters had on his readership after the creation of the Dirty Harry inspired maverick cop One-Eyed Jack by fellow 2000AD creator John Wagner for Valiant Comics, a boys adventure publication which ran between 1962 and 1976. This character was the beginning blocks of Britain’s biggest ever comic book export, the uber violent, no nonsense lawman of the future… Judge Dredd.
Dredd made his first appearance in Prog #2 of 2000AD, a tough cop who resides in the dystopian futuristic metropolis of Mega City One. Initially designed by Wagner and named after an abandoned horror strip character created by Pat Mills about a hanging Judge named ‘Dread.’ Spanish artist Carlos Ezquerra was tasked with visualising the character, and based his first designs on the the movie character Frankenstein from the 1975 cult hit ‘Death Race 2000.’ Dredd has gone on to appear in every single issue of 2000AD since that time. In 1983 he broke into the highly lucrative comic book market in America with his own series simply titled ‘Judge Dredd’ which consisted of reprints of his earlier adventures in 2000AD. In 1990 Dredd received his own title in the UK, ‘Judge Dredd – The Megazine’ written by his creator John Wagner.
Judge Joseph Dredd is the most celebrated and feared of Mega City’s Judges, tasked with bringing the law to the innumerable criminals in the teeming metropolis, literally Judge, Jury and executioner, with the power to instantly dispense justice as he sees fit. Patrolling the streets on his Lawmaster motorcycle, which comes equipped with machine guns, a laser cannon and an artificial intelligence that can pacify crowds and perform other innumerable tasks. All judges come equipped with the Lawgiver sidearm, designed to only recognise its parent Judge’s palm print and able to fire six different kinds of ammunition, including armour piercing and heat seeking rounds. Dredd and his brother Rico were cloned from the DNA of Chief Judge Fargo, Mega City’s original Chief Judge, and the name Dredd was given to them by Morton Judd the genetic scientist who created them, to “instill fear in the populace.”
Dredd continues to dispense justice in 2000AD and The Megazine in the UK, and has been the star of two movies, the much maligned “Judge Dredd” from 1995 starring Sylvester Stallone, and the more recent (and a hell of a lot better) “Dredd” portrayed by New Zealand actor Karl Urban (which I reviewed right here)
Tharg’s Catchphrase Dictionary:
Tharg the mighty not only brought fantastic characters and thrill-power to the universal masses, but also his own dialect which most 2000AD die-hards (myself included) use on a regular basis. So to induct those Terrans that have never spoken Quaxxiann, we proffer a list of his most widely used and 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.
‘Florix Grabundae’ to everyone who has followed this series so far, and in our next instalment we will be looking at the other classic characters that make up the UK’s biggest selling comic, especially personal favourites, Nemesis the Warlock and Rogue Trooper. So until that time, have a ‘Zarjaz’ day and ‘Splundig Vur Thrigg’ fellow ‘Squaxx Dek Thargo.’
2000AD, Judge Dredd, Harlem Heroes, Dan Dare, M.A.C.H 1, Flesh and Tharg are copyright: Rebellion 2015.
American comic books in the last ten years have become a much more mainstream field of interest, mostly due to the popularity of their recent celluloid successes. Though characters such as Batman and Superman have been with us now for over seventy five years, and are as readily recognised even by non comic book fans by their symbolism and deeds, their popularity before the movie adaptations was nowhere near the stratospheric levels they have now reached through their cinematic endeavours.
Superheroes are now en-vogue and comics as a medium are now more widely accepted than ever as a legitimate and serious form of story-telling. Of course it wasn’t always this way, I have been collecting and reading comics since I was six years of age and have lost count over the years of the amount of times I have had to defend my choice of escapist literature to the non fan. Even with the rise in prevalence of Superheroes in recent years, I still tend to get the typical, “but comics are for kids!” speech whenever I mention my love for the medium. This situation though has improved, again mainly thanks to the introduction of well loved characters through their filmic personae. Now more people than ever are buying and reading comics and actively sharing their love of a new found hobby with friends and family, without feeling any kind of shame in the admittance… geeks and nerds are now de-rigeur.
With the Marvel cinematic universe going great guns and DC Comics’ upcoming series of shared universe movies, beginning in 2016 with “Batman v Superman” and “Suicide Squad” the American Superhero has firmly established itself in the public conciousness.
But what of its British counterparts?
British comics differ greatly from their American brethren, though have endured since their introduction in 1937 with “The Dandy”. Dandy was a long running children’s comic (third longest running after Detective Comics and Action Comics) and introduced characters such as Desperate Dan and Korky The Kat. Following shortly after in 1938 was “The Beano” and presented the world with the arguably more famous (than their Dandy counterparts) Dennis The Menace, Minnie The Minx and Billy Whizz.
These early comics were invariably aimed at the children’s market, and followed a format that is still primarily used today in the UK comic scene, the anthology. Several stories would make up each individual issue, introducing us to a plethora of characters in quick two or three page adventures, perfect at the time for the short attention span of children. The Superhero archetype was still the domain of the American market at this time, and it wasn’t until 1950 that Britain conjured up its own variant with the classic sci-fi hero “Dan Dare.”
In April of 1950 a new kind of anthology comic hit the British newstands “Eagle”, differing greatly from Dandy and Beano, it focused on more sophisticated storylines and much more intricate artwork. It was the very first issue that introduced us to one the UK’s most popular and enduring heroes in Dan Dare, though the stories themselves were set in the future, the dialogue and mannerisms were very reminiscent of old British war films, Dare himself was described as “Biggles In Space.” The quality of the art really set Dare’s adventures apart from his competitors and was the first UK comic to use the centrefold ‘splash-page’ style of approach to represent its galactic action sequences. Dan Dare endured in Eagle in its initial seventeen year run through to 1967, he has returned like the proverbial phoenix several times in not only the relaunched Eagle in 1982, but also “Virgin Comics” where he was penned by the great Garth Ennis, and of course his legendary run in Britain’s most popular comic book “2000 A.D.”
2000 A.D. continued the long tradition of the anthology comic that was ever popular in the UK, its first issue (known as a prog in the UK) was released in February of 1977 and introduced the British comic fan to new and exciting heroes hitherto unseen in a UK publication. The opening line up of characters included “Harlem Heroes” a strip that was heavily inspired by the 1970’s explosion of Kung-Fu movies, American basketball sensations Harlem Globetrotters and violent future sport flick Rollerball. “M.A.C.H-1” the story of super-powered British secret service agent John Probe that took cues from James Bond and The Six Million Dollar Man, and “Flesh” an ultra violent tale about time travelling cowboys heading into the past to harvest dinosaurs for their meat, a story that presented me personally with one of my all-time very favourite non human protagonists “Old One Eye.”
2000A.D. has become the most widely read and circulated comic-book in British history and has delivered some of the most original and fascinating characters ever conceived in the world of the Superhero. As the publication became more in demand, new characters were added to the fold with the likes of Johnny Alpha “Strontium Dog” who found fame after being transferred to 2000A.D. after his original home publication “Starlord” was cancelled. “Rogue Trooper” the blue skinned genetically engineered soldier of the future and the “A.B.C Warriors” a team of war robots who are able to withstand atomic, bacterial and chemical warfare.
Many other heroes and villains have since been presented in the pages of this hallowed publication, and we will touch upon each of these in more detail as this series continues. Of course conspicuous by his absence in this initial line up is the UK’s arguably most popular character of all-time, the grimly determined lawman of the future “Judge Dredd.” For many reasons Dredd didn’t make an appearance in the first ‘prog’ of 2000 A.D. his initial debut came just one short week later in Prog#2, and firmly cemented his place in comic-book history.
In our next instalment of “Great British Comic Book Characters” we will be looking at the rocky start to 2000 A.D. and its most famous export Joe Dredd… stay tuned, and as Tharg the Mighty would say “Splundig Vur Thrigg”
We spend most of our time in the Precinct writing about the heroes and villains that inhabit the pages of DC’s comic-book universe, in fact about 90% of the posts originating from us are about this classic company’s plethora of characters.
I first discovered Superheroes through DC after being bought a copy of Detective Comics by my Mum at the tender age of six, it was here that I came across the character that has had the biggest influence on me as I have grown up… Batman. I continued to read nothing but Batman stories up until the age of 9, when I decided to branch out and leave my comfort zone of Gotham City, and travel to a place that was as far removed from that festering crime-ridden city as could be… Themyscira, home of the fabled Amazons and of course the world’s first ever female Superhero… Wonder Woman.
With all that said, being English, I also grew up reading and collecting the characters that came out of a popular British comic-book called 2000 AD, these home grown dramatis-personae were very different to the spandex clad heroes who populated the books I avidly collected from DC. I always found that these characters originating from the land of my birth were (though this is only true of the late 70’s and very early 80’s) darker, edgier and definitely more derived from what was happening in the UK on a weekly basis, be that through political or trendsetting issues.
Characters like Judge Dredd, (even though the stories were based in a fictional dystopian USA) were directly influenced by the politics and social movements of late seventies and early eighties Britain. Dredd himself was a correlation of what the people of the UK in the eighties believed the country was becoming; a police state, plus the rise of the anti-establishment punk rock movement that originated from Britain in direct defiance of how the government were running the country at the time, George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel “1984″ seemed to be coming true (in fact, the UK has the largest amount of street surveillance cameras in the world.)
Now then, this isn’t a politically motivated piece (politics bores the hell out of me, to be honest) just a small background on why, I believe, that the heroes and villains that leapt out of the pages of British comics were so different from their US counterparts. Alan Moore’s masterpiece “V for Vendetta” captured this sentiment perfectly, an amazing amalgam of everything that was believed to be taking place, and how at the time (and maybe still today, to some extent) the people of this sceptred Isle felt about the direction the country was taking.
Now that the lengthy preamble is done, we can concentrate on the interesting things this hopefully weekly series will bring you, my loyal and avid readers and blogging friends… cool comic characters from this tiny island we call the United Kingdom. So stay tuned, in our next instalment we shall examine the popular rise of the British comic-book industry and its first foray into the realm of the Superhero. Until next time, or as Tharg The Mighty would say “Splundig Vur Thrigg.”