Everyone likes a good tyrannosaur. But, a black, time travelling seemingly indestructible dinosaur facing off against some of your favourite 2000ad characters is awesome. Luke takes a look at Satanus and family
By Luke Williams
70s British comics liked their homicidal blood thirsty monsters and let’s face it, most of these were down to Pat Mills.
Pat likes his over the top violence, he revels in gore and horror. If you can look past the slaughter, one of Pat’s favourite themes shines through. Nature fighting back against the apparent dominance of the human race, man’s arrogance, clawed, bitten in half, dismembered and/or eviscerated.
This was from a period in British comics which was gleeful in gore, reveled in the lunching on limbs, the mastication of mankind, feasting on folk. You get the picture. So “schlocky”, but so much fun.
Things kick off with “Hookjaw”, a mutilated Great White Shark, a whaler’s gaff hook protruding from his lower jaw following a violent encounter with fishermen. Hookjaw, now filled with hatred for man, roams the seas, decimating casts of characters whose cursory back stories are only there to introduce them as fodder for the subaquatic cartilage skeletoned beast.
Or there is “Shako”. The only polar bear on the CIA’s most wanted list. Pursued across the arctic circle for the deadly weapon that he carries in his belly. Needless to say, the body count sky rockets as an increasingly deranged CIA agent almost throws colleagues at the white furred mobile meat processing plant as he seeks to recover what sits in his gut.
But what’s bigger and more intimidating than a great white shark or a polar bear?
A tyrannosaurus rex. That’s what.
Go back in time to the Cretaceous and apply the same template found with our water based friend and his furry arctic buddy to the largest predator (at the time of publishing these stories anyhoo) that ever stalked the Earth.
Dinosaurs are always popular, and in 2000ad there is a mini dynasty of the ravenous reptiles. They hop across time lines, continuities and strips and have their origins in one of the earliest of 2000ad’s strips, “Flesh”.
Mum : Old One Eye
In “Flesh” we met perhaps the ultimate monster. A half blind 120 old hag Tyrannosaur – Old One Eye. Scourge of Trans Time Corporation’s Cretaceous operation, “dino ranger” Earl Regan and his crew.
Created by Mills and Ramon Sola, and written and drawn by various contributors, “Flesh” dealt with the same themes of Man versus Nature, and Nature winning (rather bloodily, it must be said).
The 23rd Century Earth is short on meat. So, defying the laws of causality with its’ time paradoxes and causing headaches and topics for nerdy drunken pub debates for years to come, the Trans Time Corporation head back millions of years in the past to search for new sources of meat. Setting up bases across the era, Trans Time’s cowboys raise, herd, slaughter and process dinosaurs and send the end product back to the future.
Earl Reagan and his crew herd hundreds of gigantic lumbering herbivores across the plains and is attacked by a pack of tyrannosaurs. Successfully driving them off, Reagan stabs the leader and old female in the eye with an electric goad, leaving her partially blinded and giving her name “Old One Eye”.
Old One Eye left for dead, enraged and out for revenge, she gathers a predator army, wreaking havoc across the Cretaceous and eating everything in their path.
Old One Eye and her pack attack Base 1, reducing the hapless and overly confident employees of Trans Time to dino snacks. Trans Time have abandoned the base, leaving the remaining occupants to their fate
Still in pursuit of Reagan, Old One Eye and her pack, made up of dinosaurs, pteradons and giant spiders, attack and destroy one of the largest human settlements of the Cretaceous, Carver City and follow Reagan to Trans Time Base 3.
In the final climactic battle, Reagan escapes the destroyed Base 1 to face the board of Trans Time. Old One Eye, mortally wounded and feeling the effects of her age, lumbers off to die.
But a rampaging bloodthirsty, amoral, giant predator is a winner for any publisher. So, Mills took the opportunity to revive the concept and moved it to the 22nd Century.
The Dark Lord himself : Satanus
Can we settle something once and for all? In channeling Dennis Wheatley and naming the murderous black tyrannosaur, Mills causes me some confusion:
Do you pronounce it as “Satan – us”, as the baddie from the New Testament / the awesome song by Orbital
is it a homophone of “sultanas”?
Before her final confrontation with Man, Old One Eye had the odd “encounter” with boy Tyrannosaurs. The result of these unions (which you don’t really want to imagine) was a number of liddle baby rexs. But only one, Satanus, tried to usurp her. See where that got him?:
Fast forward a few million years, mankind is the dominant life form on Earth. The science of cloning has advanced sufficiently to recreate long extinct species, such as your common or garden tyrannosaurus rex.
The clone of Satanus is raised by scientists, but retains all of the original’s savagery.
(I’ve got a cat like that)
After lots of self congratulation, the scientists were faced with a problem. They had a lot of dinosaurs, but didn’t know what to do with them. Drawing from the same well of inspiration as Michael Crichton, some genius comes up with the concept of a dinosaur themed amusement park to draw in punters and make some money. Despite the odd unfortunate eaten tourist incident, all is well, it’s popular and the owners are rolling in the dough. Or at least they did until the Atomic Wars of the late 21st Century.
In the chaos, the dinosaurs escape and settle in the Cursed Earth where they roam free. Satanus and co’ terrorize local townships, like Repentance, who sacrifice unsuspecting passers by to the black tyrannosaur in order to spare themselves. Enter Judge Joe Dredd on his famous trek across the “Cursed Earth” to save Mega City Two.
Waylaid with damage to their vehicle, Dredd and party stop off at Repentance. The residents are welcoming and suspiciously friendly. Drugged, captured and offered as sacrifices to Satanus, Dredd and co’ seem doomed.
Dredd escapes, and orders the destruction of the town, but first they have to get past Satanus. In a huge battle, Satanus seemingly perishes, Dredd presses on with his mercy mission. But Satanus is far from dead
Satanus seems more durable than his Mum.
Save for the Dredd strips “The Blood of Satanus” (Parts 1-3), the black tyrannosaur doesn’t appear in the prog for a few years. I like to think that “off frame” Satanus is rampaging across the Cursed Earth, munching muties, nibbling norms, striking fear into helltrekkers, tearing small townships to shreds.
But you can’t keep a good tyrannosaur down. Mills, likes mashing up his creations and building his “Millsverse”, so the Dark One next appears in “Nemesis the Warlock” Book 5, by Pat Mills and Bryan Talbot as the pet of Nemesis’s son Thoth.
Thought dead by his father, Thoth explores the time wastes, hopping back and forth through human history. On one of his sojourns to the past he comes across Satanus who had been captured by a travelling circus. This was going as well as you would expect. Thoth “rescues” him and the pair return to Termight, where Thoth is plotting revenge against his Father and Torquemada, the man who planned the murder of his mother.
Nemesis locates Thoth, but is rejected by his son. Using the powers inherited from his murdered mother, Thoth grants Satanus extra abilities and makes him much bigger.
My scan doesn’t do that image justice, but let’s just savour it for a bit anyway.
The pair escape to the Time Wastes and begin the second part of Thoth’s mission, the destruction of each of Torquemada’s incarnations, more of which can be read here. Needless to say it all gets a bit bloody, but the Satanus sequences are just amazing.
Eventually the slaughter got too much for Thoth, and he releases Satanus in the Cretaceous period, where he was happy in his homicidal hunting ground. Things didn’t go well for Thoth after that (as you know), and it again all went quiet on the Satanus front for a bit.
However, there is the curio of “Satanus Unchained”.
Set in his “wilderness years” roaming the Cursed Earth after his encounter with Judge Dredd, Satanus is part of the attraction of a safari run by businessmen, running out of Mega City One. You just know this is going to end in tears.
This is a curio, in that it’s one of Mills’s characters, but Gordon Rennie writes it – I can imagine that was popular with Uncle Pat. It is gloriously illustrated by Colin MacNeil, who has never been averse to gore and who really should draw more dinosaurs. Preferably dinosaurs taking chunks out of each other.
The setting is an illegal dinosaur safari in Sauron Valley, with tyrannosaurs as the target. The cast is made up of disaster movie archetypes, knowing full well that soon they will be chum for Satanus. There is the germanic big game hunter, the airhead bimbo and her equally vapid sportstar husband and the nefarious scientist who sees the potential in the mutagenic capabilities of Satanus’s blood (more on this later).
Anyway, it’s a thin plot and mainly just there as a foundation for lots of blood, chomping, and splatter. But beautifully drawn, throwaway, quite nostalgic and lots of fun.
The Black Sheep : Blood Of Satanus
There is one distinct, slightly weird branch of Old One Eye Spawn.
22nd century scientists speculated on the mutagenic effects of dinosaur blood on humans. Samples obtained from Satanus are stolen by Cyril J Ratfinkle, who uses it to mickey finn his neighbour (and resident fine specimen of humanity) Rex Peters, and the transformation begins :
Alternating between his tormented human and murderous rampaging lizard form, Peters eats his wife (and not in the loving and special way a husband and wife can express themselves physically) and Ratcliffe.
Dredd catches up with him, and puts him out of his misery. But that’s not the end.
Years later, and moving to the Megazine, Satanus is worshipped by the Church of Black Nobililty. Satanus died long ago in the Cretaceous (though I have to say the time line is starting to get a wee bit fuzzy here), and is now living in a different dimension. The Church aims to summon him to MC1 via sacrifice. The followers have the ability to transform into lizard form They get half way there, but Dredd intervenes, destroys the church, city saved etc.
A supermarket is built on the remains of the church, and it remains a portal to the dimension in which the black tyrannosaur now resides. A perp’ uses the weakness in the dimensional wall to escape Dredd and the dimension seems destined to subsume Mega City One. It takes Dredd and his fellow Judges to destroy the source of the power of the dimension, Satanus himself, to prevent the annihilation of MC1.
Part 1 of the story as drawn by Ron Smith is a lot of fun. But the latter two parts published around 25 years later read like a scandinavian death metal band album sounds. Just a bit too dark, overlong, illogical and humourless.
Son : Golgotha
Old One Eye wasn’t the only one to get jiggy wit’ it. Before Satanus escaped from the park and terrorised Sauron Valley, he sired a son : Golgotha, the other name of the site where Christ was crucified “the place of skulls”.
Muddying the already murky waters of Judge Dredd / Flesh / ABC Warriors continuity, Golgotha finds himself on Mars, owned by a wealthy entrepreneur. His spoilt brat of a kid uses Golg’ and his fellow Tyrannosaurs to hunt humans on a private reserve. Inevitably, the monsters escape and head for Viking City, the capital city of Mars, but snacking and stomping all the way there, with the ABC Warriors in pursuit.
Suitably schlocky, no?
It seems like the default reactions for humans when confronted with skyscraper high homicidal reptiles is to sacrifice virgins to them
Despite the torch wielding rampaging mob, attempted sacrifice, and betrayal within the team (guess who) the warriors stop complete carnage (there has to be a bit, otherwise what’s the point?) and Golgotha ends his days impaled on a skyscraper.
Dinosaurs versus robots? Does it get any better than that? Carlos draws the 3 parter which mixes the best parts of “Flesh” with robot action in a ABC Warrior stylee.
With the joy of time travel there doesn’t seem to be any reason why Pat Mills (and, I have a feeling it would only be him) couldn’t resurrect the black tyrannosaur, but in the revived “Flesh” he is using Gorehead, a time hopping blood stained tyrannosaur with the mark of the beast branded on his snout. And you can’t get more Mills than that.
Selected reading list :
Flesh : The Dino Files by Geoffrey Miller, Ken Armstrong, Kelvin Gosnell, Pat Mills, Studio Giolitti, Boix, Felix Carrion, James McKay, Kevin O’Neill, Massimo Belardinelli, Ramon Sola, Rufus Dayglo, Carlos Pino
Judge Dredd “The Cursed Earth” -Satanus sequence by Pat Mills & Mike McMahon
ABC Warriors – Mek Files Volume 1 “Golgotha” by Pat Mills & Carlos Ezquerra
Blood of Satanus by Pat Mills & Ron Smith, Best Of 2000AD issue 1, Judge Dredd Case files Volume 3
Blood Of Satanus II : Dark Matters by Pat Mills & Duke Mighten
Blood Of Satanus III : The Tenth Circle by Pat Mills & John Hicklenton
Satanus Unchained! by Gordon Rennie & Colin MacNeil, Progs 1241-1246
Nemesis The Warlock Volumes 2 and 3, by Pat Mills, Bryan Talbot, John Hicklenton, David Roach, Kevin O’Neill, Henry Flint, Clint Langley