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 4 of 6
Khronicles Of Khaos / Hellbringer
Okay, so, story so far. Black Hole and White Hole prevented from colliding and destroying the universe, Deadlock, feeling guilty after betraying his master Khaos, exhorts the Warriors to spread Khaos throughout the galaxy and disrupt the Terran Empire.
But, to do this, they have to travel to the planet Hekate to transform into true warriors of Khaos.
In the last chapter I said that this gets a bit slapstick. Perhaps that was a bit strong, subtle humour has never been the stock in trade for Pat Mills, but it does certainly get a little Benny Hill for the next two ABC sagas. These two runs are definitely products of their time, with references to raves, the criminal justice act and acid house.
It was around this period that Mills was wrapping up work on “Third World War”, beginning to develop the spin off, his work on “Finn” and the “Horned God” had finished. Mills’ interest with Khaos as a concept, extreme violence, feminism and ecology had reached its height. SMS and Bisley had moved onto pastures new (the latter meg stardom) and Mills was now joined on writing duties by Tony Skinner, a practicing pagan, and the spectacular painted art of Kevin Walker.
The Khronicles of Khaos finds Deadlock firmly in the driving seat. The arrival on Hekate sees the Warriors pursuing 7 heads of authority to sacrifice for their transition to Khaos warriors. With the loss of the human Terri, and the increasing irrelevance of Ro Jaws (light relief just doesn’t cut it with big guns and robots),they find Morrigun, a hostess robot with hidden talents (yeah, I fell into the sexual innuendo trap)
There is a definite shift in tone from the last series. There were moments of black humour and sophistication in the “Black Hole Misson”, which is sadly absent. Perhaps more importantly, it’s also missing a plot.
Over the run the Warriors execute a series of authority figures in occasionally vaguely amusing and most certainly gory fashion, culimating in the night of the blood moon and the final conversion of the Warriors into Khaos Warriors. And after me re-reading it thinking “what was the point of that?”
On the upside, Kevin Walker’s art is beautiful, it positively glows. Bold, colourful and with an ever so slightly cartoony feel. Unfortunately some of the aliens look like they would be more suited to a Warhammer 40k’d version of the “Discworld” than what had been a hard edged blackly humorous science fiction strip. Walker follows Bisley’s interpretation of the Warriors, but scales back the musculature, adding more technological details, cables, wires, pistons, gears and levers, they look more like robots this time out, less like the steroid bound gym addicts as delinated by the Biz. Mongrol’s design is a personal favourite, even though he pretty much gets sidelined as a character.
Mills and Skinner take the opportunity to resolve some plotlines from the “Black Hole Mission”, including the nature of those negatives that Blackblood had on Joe Pineapples. It is indicative of the shift in tone, it comes across as less intense, more jocular, more knockabout and light hearted.
The end of the run finds the Warriors unwilling to pursue their new mission of spreading Khaos across the galaxy, disbanded and partying hard, which was what Deadlock wanted all along (all followers of Khaos, see?).
Ten years later, at the start of their next outing we find the Warriors disbanded and scattered across the galaxy ( sound familiar?). Hammerstein has been dismembered and is being held prisoner by Blackblood, who has gone back to being an arms dealer. Deadlock appears to him and warns him of the Terran Empire’s ship with a Black Hole as a weapon capable of sending rebel planets to parallel universes : the titular Hellbringer.
After being freed by Deadlock and quickly whipping Blackblood into shape, Hammerstein goes about recruiting the remaining Warriors, Joe has become a sniper for the Terran Empire, Mek Quake has developed an obsession with recycling, and Morrigun and Mongrol had remained in the temple on Hekate. After brief squabbles, the Warriors are reunited – in time return to the mission in hand, destroying Hellbringer.
Some how, they do. Though in a strange and ever so slightly confusing way. Something about the Warriors splitting up, double crossing the Terrans, triple crossing and betraying each other, and using Joe’s super sniper skills to bring things to a nice neat conclusion. But leaving the reader with a huge sense of anti climax and 12 episodes of missed opportunity. It all feels a bit “phoned in”.
The strip needed a kick up the arse, not even Kevin Walker’s fantastic art could save it.
ABC Warriors – A Potted History 2 of 6
Part 1 can be found here
Out of retirement : Hanging out with the Warlock
It’s been said Mills has said that there was a large gap in their appearances due to the nightmare of scheduling in the first series, which also explains the variety of artists that appeared. It’s said that Nemesis was initially going to be the return of Deadlock from the ABC Warriors. But in book 3 of Nemesis we had strong hints that there may be a return in the offing for the war robots. Mek Quake, the bulldozer foil from “Ro Busters” still functioning thousands of the years in the future, is part of a Terminator invasion force, almost unrecognisable from his early days in the disaster squad of distinction. Reassuringly (:D), there is no change to his moronic, cowardly, and fundamentally sadistic character.
The end of the book finds Nemesis’ wife Chira dead and his son, Thoth thought to be, but very much alive and in the care of a Terminator called Sir Hargan on Termight (earth, thousands of years in the future),
In Nemesis Book 4 : “The Gothic Empire” Hammerstein’s old Ro Busters side kick, Ro Jaws resurfaces working on the hotel staff for the hotel Majestic on the Goth homeworld. The Goths : an alien species heavily influenced by the radio transmissions from 20th century Earth. The Goths were the latest target of the Terminators. Having suffered some serious losses in their galactic crusade, the Terminators reinforced their invasion with the ancient robot armies, which included a battered, war weary and cynical Hammerstein and his new comrades Hitaki, a samurai robot and Mad Ronn, a former bomb disposal robot.
A reprogrammed and kill crazy Hammerstein is prevented from assassinating the Queen of the Goth’s by a disguised Nemesis. Freed from his assassin programming, Hammerstein inspires Nemesis to reform the warriors to help save the Gothic Empire. Except, there is no chance of a reunion. Sadly, Happy Shrapnel is dead, and the Mess had been left on Mars. Conveniently, the remaining Warriors all live on the free robot planet of Mekaka.
A now more verbose and heavily redesigned Joe is working as an undercover police officer, Mongrol works in a circus as their main attraction, Blackblood is a “respectable” business man and Deadlock – well Deadlock, turns out is Nemesis. Deadlock, a worshipper of Khaos, meditated for hundreds of years to raise himself to a higher level, and finally met his god – Nemesis. In a condensed version of the recruitment drive we saw in the original run (and a plot device we will revisit repeatedly in the future), the warriors are reunited.
Together with Mad Ronn and Hitaki this was the “meknificent” new line up. Kev’ O’Neill starts the run, with his usual bizarre characters and designs, but it is completed by Bryan Talbot, who retains the feel of the strip, but lends a darker atmosphere with his extensive cross hatching and innovative design work. I’ve said it before, but this is my favourite 2000ad story ever.
The Warriors stick with Nemesis and Credo (the alien resistance organisation) in fighting the Terminators. Between books Mad Ronn is killed, but is replaced by Mek Quake in Book 5 of Nemesis “ The Vengeance of Thoth”.
Nemesis finds his son is still alive, but Thoth has plans to take revenge on his father and the man behind the death of his mother – Torquemada. He hatches an elaborate plan, bringing a previous incarnation of Torquemada from the past to the future to torture him and put him into a time loop so that he dies endlessly, but he also seeks to destroy his father’s work, by destroying the galaxy. He intends to do this by destabilising the white and black holes that are at either side of Termight (Earth, thousands of years in the future).Termight would be caught between the two destroying the planet and sterilising the galaxy.
Suffice to say, Nemesis doesn’t want this to happen, and with the warriors in tow, sets after Thoth down the time wastes, tunnels where the by products from the construction of the white and black holes is stored. In the process, Hitaki is beheaded, and his body crushed by Mek Quake. Nemesis decides to continue in his pursuit of his son, but then sends the Warriors, including Ro Jaws to the control room at the centre of the time wastes to stabilise the white and black holes, preventing the destruction of the galaxy. And this is where the strips diverge again.
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.