Buying new collected editions (Thank you Ultimate Collection) of old comics he already has (currently running at 4 versions of the earliest chapters in this story), it makes life a whole lot easier when writing an article like this. No burrowing through piles of 30 year old comics for Luke as he takes a look at the pseudo philosophical / hipster war story.
Bad Company: A Potted History. 1 of 4
By Luke Williams
Click for Part 2 and Part 3
is old news, but for those not in the know. Bad Company was originally created for an aborted mid 1980s Judge Dredd Fortnightly. The original creative team was the classic writing partnership of John Wagner and Alan Grant with art by King Carlos Despite the title never reaching the newsagent shelves, many of the strips found their way into Prog’, including the short lived “Tales of Mega City One” , the first “Psi Judge Anderson” and “Helltrekkers”.
“B.A.D Company” was originally a tale of disgraced judges fighting on distant planets, an idea resurrected by Dan Abnett and Colin MacNeil’s “Insurrection” years later. Hibernian Comics excellent and recently released “Fantastic Adventures” or “Judge Dredd Megazine”4.15 have more information on the background of this proto “Bad Company.”
Peter Milligan, Brett Ewins and Jim McCarthy were given the concept, and did away with almost everything bar some character names. It was renamed “Bad Company” and became a more akin to the warts and all Vietnam war stories that were popular in the 80s, such as “Platoon” and, “Full Metal Jacket”. This new generation of war film showed a more realistic view of conflict; the lost innocence of young troops, the horror of war and the effect on the civilian population, a far cry from the glorification and jingoism of past efforts.
Bad Company begins by introducing a bunch of raw recruits prior to their first encounter with the Krool a race of hive minded alien sadists whose fanaticism and ruthlessness threaten to exterminate the human race. Human and Krool are fighting for possession of Ararat, an Earth type planet that would be staging point for the Krool to Earth, but is seen by the human race as sanctuary from their ailing planet. Danny Franks an inveterate bookworm and diarist, burdened with guilt over the death in action of his brothers, documents his experiences.
When Franks’ platoon is attacked and seemingly destined for destruction, they are rescued by Bad Company; a unit of earth troops made up misfits, criminals, and ne’er do wells. They include Wallbanger the unit’s robot alert system, cook, diagnostician and walking toolbox, Thrax a sadistic ghoul doted on by his sycophantic lickspittle Shrike, Flytrap who has an indigenous plant grafted to his arm and Mad Tommy who believes he is fighting in the Second World War.
Leader of Bad Company is Kano, a mutilated officer and gun toting Frankenstein’s monster who carries and fetishes a mysterious “black box” and would kill anyone who comes near it.
The Krool on the other hand are imaginative and inventive in the ways of war, employing earth dead as war zombies and performing unspeakable acts of torture on their human prisoners.
It’s not just the Krool the earthers are fighting. The planet itself seems to be against them, with the nightmare inducing winds of the Golgotha plains, vampire trees and rivers of blood.
The “Raws”, the inexperienced and naive members of Danny’s unit are gradually whittled away, the survivors become battle hardened. Danny makes a friend in Malcolm, a Bad Company member who still retains some humanity and empathy.
Malcolm takes Danny under his wing and shows him the ropes. Bad Company is good at killing Krool, but Kano is obsessed with their destruction, regardless of cost.
All the while as the mystery of Kano’s black box deepens as his obsession with killing Krool intensifies the already hostile planet turns the screw that little bit more. The planet begins to break apart and Kano decides to go out in a blaze of glory and attack the Krool as they flee to safety.
In the last stand charge at the climax of series 1, we see each of the cast meet their end. Danny and Mac survive, along with the not really mad at all, Mad Tommy. <SPOILERS AHEAD> Tommy reveals all. Why he pretended to be insane and what’s in the black box. Tommy reveals that he was a member of Kano’s original unit, when they were massacred by the Krool and whilst Kano was captured , Tommy escaped.
In captivity Kano was the victim of a typically vicious Krool experiment. Half of Kano’s brain was replaced by a Krool’s. Somehow managing to survive the procedure, it sent Kano. Kano found Tommy hiding in the Ararat jungle and to placate him, Tommy gave him a small black box with half a human brain in as a “comfort blanket”.
But there is no sign of Kano, and the three survivors can only assume that he has escaped.
This first sequence set the template for the first half of the series. It’s a curious but successful mix of philosophy, large than life characters, pop sensibilities and chiaroscuro art and literature. A gritty, compelling and complex take on the war story appealing to the maturing readership of the Prog’ and a dramatic improvement over the contemporary staid and lumpen “Rogue Trooper” stories.
The series was clearly a hit, there was no doubt there was going to be more, but the story had reached an organic conclusion. A sequel would need to take quite a different direction. Part 2
Where to read it
Best of 2000AD Monthly 77-78
2000AD Ultimate Collection Volume 52 – Hachette
Bad Company “Goodbye Krool World” – Rebellion Publishing
Bad Company Volumes 1 & 2 – Titan Books