Luke breathes a sigh of relief as he reaches the home straight.However, this might be hardest stretch yet. The strip begins to meander, it finds the way home for a sprint finish over the last stage, only for the finish line to be moved on a few yards……..
Luke continues his whistle stop tour of the Lord of the Flies’ adventures. Kevin O’Neill taps out, Bryan Talbot enters the ring and more familiar faces reappear….
Eamonn and guest Luke Williams AKA Seth, peruse Book 4 of Nemesis The Warlock, The Gothic Empire
Luke (nee Seth), decides that he hasn’t done a potted history for quite a while. So, he takes on his favourite 2000AD character
ABC Warriors : A Potted History 7 of 6
(One-shots, spin offs, solo stories and other media)
So, clearly it was kismet and very fitting that this should actually by 7 parts and not the 6 I had originally thought, clearly destiny is an insurmountable force and nothing to do with the fact that I can’t plan for toffee. Hence, we have an article titled like a dyscalculic Star Trek Villain.
As you would imagine, the popularity of the series has meant here has been the odd spin off and one parter here and there. But considering how long the Warriors have been around, no quite as many as you would expect.
First off we have “Old Red Eyes Is Back” from the 1983 annual. Not really an “ABC Warriors” story, but a “Ro Busters” tale, notable for the inclusion of Joe Pineapples. Alan Moore (you know….. HIM) scripts and art by Bryan Talbot on his first work on the characters, still showing his underground comics roots. In summary : Hammerstein gets a clout across the head and begins reliving the big war. Joe Pineapples is now working as a police marksman and instructor, but is hired to bring down his old comrade. Moore has Ro Jaws, Hammerstein, Joe and Mek Quake down pat, good fun, Talbot’s interpretation of the characters is more cartoony than we’d see in the “Nemesis” books, but as far as I’m concerned, he can get away with anything.
Very different in tone from the ’83 annual “Ro-busters” tale, Moore’s next work on the characters was in the 1985 2000ad annual. A proper “ABC Warriors” strip this time, superbly drawn by Steve Dillon and beautifully coloured by John Higgins. Set during the Warriors’ first Mars mission, Moore crafts a tale of man’s disregard of indigenous lifeforms and their willingness to destroy in the name of progress. Hardly original, but well executed and worthwhile reading nonetheless.
The short lived “Diceman” gaming magazine had a game where you played Hammerstein against the Volgs, rather spiffy Steve Dillon art, can’t speak for the Pat Mills scripted game, but it looked nice.
Deadlock appeared in a team up with his master Nemesis in the 7 part (8 with prologue wizards and warriors) “Nemesis & Deadlock : The Enigmass Variations”. The chums appear at a wizards / sorcerers / mystical beings conference (you can dress it up, but that’s all it is), in a recreation of “10 Little Indians” they start popping off until the murderous culprit is revealed . Unfortunately, it’s a bit pants. Carl Crichtlow’s art is muddy and indistinct, the plot is laboured and the script is painful to read. Avoid. It’s so bad I’m not even going to put a piccie of it in.
“Blackblood : Dishonourable Discharge”, by Pat Mills and Kevin walker. A blackly humourous and wonderfully illustrated tale of Blackblood’s origins published in the 2000ad winter special 1992. It’s pretty much as you’d expect, slight, but well executed nonetheless.
The 1996 sci fi special brought us a Pat Mills and Tom Carney Joe Pineapples tale. “Joe Pineapples Greatest Hits” follows our hero on an assassination. Carney does a Bisley impression and Mills ‘phones it in. Not bad, but just a bit pointless. Also, this special is notable for the ever so slightly homo eroitc painting of Joe in the centre pages.
1995 saw Mills and Skinner writing a tie-in “solo” Hammerstein strip set in MC1, mastheaded “Judge Dredd” , drawn by Jason Brashill (what happened to him?) to tie in with that film from the late nineties about that lawman (you know, the one we don’t like talking about). The strip ties Hammerstein in with the civil war between the USA and the Mega Cities late in the 21st Century and features a cameo of the “Cursed Earth” baddie, General Blood and Guts. In portraying Hammerstein as a solider in the robot army that fought the judges, this story seems to contradict, well….. lots. Mills likes his ret-conning, but I’d suggest this was editorial led, and I’d suggest that it has been quietly forgotten.
Speaking of the film that shall not be mentioned (the “Scottish Play” of 2000ad circles) – one of the few highlights was seeing a Hammerstein (without helmet and combat hammer) in live action. he grunts a bit, hangs around Armand Assante (can’t bring myself to call him Rico really) – looks jolly intimidating and Hammerstein ish.
Speaking of TV and film, there was the proposed animated ABC Warriors cartoon, which looked jolly promising, you only saw Hammerstein and Mongrol in detail (the others in silhouette) and the guns were a bit too lasery (I’ve invented an adjective!) for me, but it looked cool.
“Deadlock – Return to Termight” acts as an epilogue to the “Nemesis the Warlock” saga as the mystic ABC Warrior travels to Termight to defeat the serial killer called the accountant – hardly essential but lotsa fun. Appearances from Purity and Nem’ book 1 characters and you can never have too much Henry Flint art can you? Or can you? Let’s have some more to test that hypothesis :
Most of the above can be found in the “ABC WArriors” solo missions collection.
The final spin offs in print were two “ABC Warriors” novels published by Black Flame, “The Medusa War” – Pat Mills and Alan Mitchell (whom I believe worked with Mills on “Third World War” and “Coffin”), and “Rage Against The Machines” credited to Mike Wild on Amazon, but as we can see from the piccie below, Pat Mills & Steve Earles.
I’m going to express my ignorance and state that I haven’t read them, I’ve never really taken to the novelisation of 2000ad characters. I like pretty pictures. Still available for your “Kindle” or other electronic book reading device.
Finally, and probably my favourite 2000ad merchandising are the 3A “ABC Warriors” figures. They cost a small fortune, but they look cool. Especially on my fish tank.
Of course that isn’t the end, there are more strips on the horizon. A Joe Pineapples Mills and Bisley strip (confirmed by the Biz at the last Cardiff Comic Con in March) and the next chapter in the regular strip, the climactic (?) showdown with Howard Quartz.
As much as the strip has had a bumpy time; particularly through the nineties and early noughties; you can’t fail to enjoy the sight of robots beating each other up. That, coupled with the characterisations and some mind blowing art have ensured the Warriors popularity.
ABC Warriors – A Potted History Part 6 of 6
(plus the merchandise and one shot and spin off round up next week)
The Clint Langley Years
The Volgan Wars : Return To Earth : Return To Mars
A changing of the guard, Henry Flint moves off the strip, and with Mr. Clint Langley at the drawing board (or rather PC/Mac) the strip moves back to painted art.
Clint Langley had been around for years, he’d first worked with Mills on the one off Dinosty series, before moving onto a short run on Nemesis, a spot on “Holocaust 12” in the Megazine, a coloured (as against painted) run on Slaine, before he really made his name using his CGI photo realistic style on the same strip a years later. Mills seemingly takes inspiration from artists, and Langely’s arrival inspired a change in direction and strips with a more political hue (not that Pat ever shies away from such things).
“The Volgan Wars” starts just where the “Shadow Warriors” run ends, Mek Quake is sectioned to Broadband Asylum on the grounds that he has finally completely flipped. The Warriors already have a replacement in mind; a robot they have all met at one time or another during the Volgan Wars; Z / Zippo a flame breathing special forces robot, who is now partial to a a bit of insurrection (and clearly inspired by Banksy) – graffiti.
Meanwhile, the only half demented but still completely sadistic Mek Quake has discovered the presence of Volkhan the leader of the Volgan robot army leader.
Volkhan has been in captivity for years, but now stirs, and begins influencing the easily and willingly manipulated Mek Quake, and whilst the Warriors are on their way to Marineris City / Mekana to rescue Z from the Confederacy and its’ secret police, led by Doctor Grobari, and Detektiv Sturn. In the meantime Volkhan gathers his forces to take his revenge on the Warriors. The Warriors are fighting on two fronts.
Mek Quake is not the only Warrior to change sides. With his wartime leader returned, Blackblood returns to the Volgan fold and falls in behind Volkhan. Needless to say, as is common in recent ABC Warriors stories, they get a complete tuning. However, thanks to some nifty foreshadowing in books 1 & 2, they are saved by Steelhorn, kicking arse and taking names.
“The Volgan War” sees the first references to the mysterious Tubal Cain the robot repairer, who will become very significant in later books; and the over due return of Ro Jaws (who just seemed to have exited stage left, with no by or leave).
The next run followed quite quickly in “ABC Warriors” terms, considering the detail in the artwork, Langley must be pulling long shifts. “Return To Earth” is an extended flashback of how Hammerstein left Mars after the Warriors’ initial mission, and returned to Terra on a one way mission to end war and prevent further deaths of former ABC Warriors and “floppies” (humans) : by assassinating the US president, but not before fighting his way through war droid mark IVs – his replacements.
He runs into Howard Quartz himself, nicely dovetailing into recent books of Savage (hmmm, Millsverse timeline – now there’s an idea) who almost derails his mission, if Hammerstein succeeded Quartz would be ruined, his arms firms would be worthless. He encounters Howard one more time, when Quartz buys him and places him with the “Disaster Squad of Distinction”.
The end of the run sees the Warriors off for another refit with Tubal Cain, the last page revealing that Cain is actually previously thought dead & buried / scrap metal : Happy Shrapnel, now sans speech impediment and lacking the necessary taste for mayhem to be a member of the ABC Warriors.
Bringing us right up to date, “Return to Mars” answers some of the questions as to why the Warriors left the non stop party at the end of “Hellbringer”, and why (though perhaps not how) they returned to Mars at a point years after the end of their last mission to the planet, but not quite in the far flung future of the “Khronicles of Khaos”.
Happy /Tubal has been re spawned as Steelhorn was, as an agent of Medusa and adopts a human boy, a genetic throwback from Humpies (descendants of the first human settlers on Mars). His son is attacked by the reactionary, puritan like elders, of the Humpy community and Tubal comes out of retirement to take revenge. But he is confronted by the remarkably mentally sprightly Howard Quartz (centuries after his appearance as owner of Ro Busters) with Mek Quake in tow, newly installed as his bodyguard. Mek Quake makes short work of Cain, leaving him for dead. Needless to say he isn’t, and Cain rejoins the Warriors setting the scene for a showdown in the next book
Mills shifts the tone considerably in these three storylines. He comments on, amongst other things, the nature of war, the two world wars (known here as the 1st and 2nd oil war), big businesses influence on government,and organised religion’s capacity for cruelty.Basically, Mills’ favourite themes just with added guns and AI. He occasionally comes across as a bit preachy (who’d have thought it?), and the strip beings to transform into a cyber punk “Third World War”. It’s still great fun, definitely pushing the nostalgia button, but more to the point, the strip has direction again.
Clint Langley’s art is astonishing. Far better suited to this than to “American Reaper”. The design work and composition is fabulous, though the colour work suffers from the usual complaints with full colour / painted work and can be far too dark and occasionally suffers from a lack of clarity. His black and white work harkens back to some of the earlier artist, and has echoes of John Hicklenton’s work on Nemesis, with clever use of the occasional smattering of colour.
Where next? Who knows? But expect robots beating each other senseless and political commentary – two topics close to the heart of Pat Mills.
Of course, something that we haven’t covered are the spin offs, one offs, and apocryphal stories that sit outside the main saga. Which I will deal with in the epilogue (AKA part 7 for those who plan these things better than I have).