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Great British Comic-Book Characters: Zenith

Zenith banner

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.

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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.

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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.

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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”

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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.

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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…

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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

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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.

dredd-edited-1The 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 stripsAs 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.

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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.

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Three Monumental Covers To Help Celebrate A Majestic Milestone

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’

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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.

 

Great British Comic-Book Characters: Judge Dredd Lives!

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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.

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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.

2000ad line up

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.)

Tharg The Mighty

Tharg The Mighty Dispensing ‘Thrill Power’

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.

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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 Dredd vs his nemesis Judge Death

Judge Dredd battles his nemesis Judge Death

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

2012 movie 'Dredd' is as close to its source material as any fan could hope.

2012 movie ‘Dredd’ is as close to its source material as any fan could ever hope.

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.

Tharg

“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.