ABC Warriors – A Potted History 1 of 6
First off, I’ve done a couple of these before, Slade and Rogue Trooper. However, this, I think, is a biggie and I will make apologies in advance for errors or gaps, but hey ……….it gave me a chance to read lots of old Progs, and relish some stories I haven’t read for quite a while. Also – “potted history” might be a tad optimistic – this has been running for 30 years, and whilst Sam is older, and Rogue has appeared more often (or at least had), the Warriors history is more convoluted.
Anyway, let’s begin what might very well be a slightly sado masochistic relationship over the next few posts as you sit there, reading my drivel.
In its own way the ABC Warriors saga is as convoluted and contradictory as Rogue’s story (Ro Busters, ABC Warriors, Nemesis, Savage). Mills has guided their story throughout their history – with only Alan Moore stepping in for the odd (and highly recommended) annual stories, but the line up of artists is star studded, with some of the very best work from top 2000ad art droids appearing on the strip.
The ABC Warriors are amongst my favourite characters in 2000ad. I fell in love with them just with this solitary image I saw in the 1981 annual by Rob Moran, robots, cool robots , more to the point hard arsed bizarre cool robots! The name captured my imagination – even if atomic as a term was obsolescent in the early eighties. The short biographies that followed that star scan made me want to read more, but it would be a number of years before I got around to that.
Membership of the Warriors has changed considerably over the years. One of the cool things about this strip was the story and the characters have evolved as time went on, but in the last few years, Pat Mills has slowly been reintroducing all the original cast, and has tended to tread water over the last few years, lots of history, backstory and retconning. The last indication is that it is going even further backward.
But let’s go back to the beginning
Origins : End of The Volgan Wars & The First Mars Mission
ABC Warriors was a spin off / prequel to “Ro Busters”, which had run out of steam. “Ro Busters” had already had an origin story for Hammerstein in “Yesterday’s Hero” which shows the introduction of the first mark III war droid to the Volgan War, effectively Hammerstein’s origin story. Ro Busters had run its course, and was coming to an end (fun as it was), but presumably, and probably due to the the popularity of the flashback to Hammersteins’ army years, it was felt that there was some mileage in a war story. But with robots.
Set a few years after “Yesterday’s Hero” but still in the Volgan war, robots have replaced all human soldiers, but controlled by human officers safely behind the lines watching a holographic representation of the carnage on the battlefield.
Hammerstein was back leading a squad of robot soldiers and with new buddies replacing the Ro Busters cast : Joe Pineapples from the first X Terminators, very different from the super cool assassin we know today, a reticent sniper who speaks in code, and Happy Shrapnel – of the first Warborgers, the only survivor of “H” Day (and it will take 30 years for us to find out what that was). All part of a unit fighting their way to Volgow.
To ease the suffering of one of the robots in his charge, Hammerstein causes the death of his human officer, but this brings him to the attention of Colonel Lash, an officer recruiting war droids to bring order to a colonised Mars.
Lash sets Hammerstein, Happy and Joe to gather 4 other war droids to form a crack unit to tame Mars. The first half of this run is following Hammerstein and co on their recruitment drive in a series of two parters. The line up is completed by Mongrol the spare parts ape, Deadlock the supernatural Khaos worshipper, Blackblood the Volgan war criminal “assassinated” by Joe Pineapples and turned to the cause and the “Mess” the indestructible ABC warrior (the liquid form of Steelhorn).
The “Meknificent Seven” begin cleaning up Mars, like a cybernetic posse, much like their movie namesake. Continuing the 2 part story arc format of the first half, the Mars sequence saw the robots encountering the descendants of the first human settlers, corporations, genetically engineered apes, giant robots, sentient diseases and, this being Mills and “2000ad”, dinosaurs.
There is no such thing as “too many dinosaurs”.
The first series saw some spectacular art from almost every 2000ad artist of the classic period. The strip ran in the centre pages of the prog’, the first two pages were always a double page spread, in colour. McMahon in particular provides some fantastic double page spreads, but you couldn’t accuse anyone of ‘phoning it in, amazing work from Ewins, McCarthy, Gibbons, Ezquerra (under the pseudonym of LJ Silver) and O’Neill.
Familiar Pat Mills themes were all present and correct, the poor downtrodden squaddie, racism (the humpies, the cyboon genetically engineered apes) class conflict : working class (the robots, aliens) versus the establishment(human officers, corporations, the rich).
The last episode leaves the “Mess” sloshing around inside a giant terra forming robot, called George(long overdue a reappearance) and the rest of the Warriors on Mars, their mission complete. They weren’t to return for a quite a while.