Tag Archives: strontium-dog

G is for Giant

Three generations of Giants have appeared in the Dredd strip over the years. The first Judge Giant was a frequent sidekick of Dredd’s in the early years, helping him during The Day the Law Died (progs 89–108, 1978-1979) and dying in Block Mania (progs 236–244, 1982). While popular at the time, Giant somewhat dates the strip; it seems unlikely that they would introduce a black Judge these days who talked jive. His death was quite controversial – many fans quite naturally objected to one of their favourite characters being killed by being shot in the back.

Like Fargo, DeMarco and, one suspects, a pretty huge number of judges, Giant couldn’t abide by the “no sexual relations” rule of being a Judge (given the parallels with the Catholic church, it is surprising that no-one has yet decided to do a story about a Judge-Tutor abusing Cadets in the Academy of Law, but I digress). And so it was that just prior to Necropolis (progs 674–699, 1990), it emerged that Giant had secretly fathered a son (Young Giant, progs 651-655, 1989), who was swiftly inducted into the Academy of Law. Giant Jr performed a similar role in Necropolis to the one played by his father in The Day the Law Died. Soon after, Giant graduated from the Academy and went on to perform a similar role as Dredd’s sidekick in numerous stories.

I hope you’ll indulge me however, if I spend most of the rest of this article focusing on Giant Senior’s father, and Giant Junior’s grandfather, John “Giant” Clay. This character only appears once in the Dredd strip, although there was a one-off story called Whatever Happened to John “Giant” Clay (Judge Dredd Megazine issue 216, 2004)? He was better known as the star of the Harlem Heroes series (progs 1-27, 1977), one of the most popular strips in the first year of 2000AD. Indeed, since Harlem Heroes was published in prog 1, Giant actually predates Dredd by one week.

Harlem Heroes, named as a nod to the Harlem Globetrotters, focused around the futuristic sport of aeroball. As lost genre now, British comics in the 70s and 80s were full of sports stories, and this one followed the same basic formula (think Roy of the Rovers but with jetpacks).

This explicit link between Judge Dredd and the Harlem Heroes was to be just one of several little cross references which were to appear in the Dredd strip over the years. Satanus, the black tyrannosaur which appeared in The Cursed Earth (progs 61–85, 1978) was cloned Jurassic Park style from the DNA of the son of Old One Eye, the tyrannosaur which was the main antagonist in Flesh! (progs 1-19, 1977); just to be confusing, his own son Golgotha then appeared in the ABC Warriors in a story which was technically set several decades before Dredd was even born (ABC Warriors: Golgotha, progs 134 to 136, 1979). ABC Warriors itself was set initially during the fag end of the Volgan War, which first appeared in the 2000AD story Invasion. The Kleggs, alien mercenaries who appeared in The Day the Law Died, were to appear in the first Ace Trucking Co story (The Kleggs, progs 232-236, 1981). And finally, there have been two stories in which Dredd either fights or teams up with Johnny Alpha from Strontium Dog, a series which is set in the late 22nd century (Dredd is set in the early 22nd century).

As time has gone on however, enthusiasm for the idea of a shared 2000AD universe akin to the Marvel or DC universe, appears to have waned. Origins (progs 1505–1519 & 1529–1535, 2006-2007) makes no reference to the Volgan War for instance. A number of series have appeared subsequently which have been explicitly set in Dredd’s world, mostly in the Judge Dredd Megazine, but the more tenuously linked strips have tended to go their separate ways in recent years, although Pat Mills has actually been drawing his own creations Invasion and the ABC Warriors even closer together, with Invasion’s follow-up Savage telling the origins of the ABC Warriors and its predecessor series Ro-Busters.

Where there have been crossovers in recent years, they have tended to take the form of alternate versions. The 1995 Judge Dredd film featured an “ABC Warrior” which looked remarkably like Hammerstein from the ABC Warriors. As a tie-in, Pat Mills wrote Hammerstein (progs 960-963, 1995), which ret-conned the robot into being one of the wardroids used by President Booth to fight the judges at the end of the Atomic Wars. That story has since been contradicted by the ABC Warriors series, which establishes the Volgan War continuing for decades longer than would work in Dredd’s continuity.

A year previously, 2000AD featured a crossover between Dredd and the Rogue Trooper (Casualties of War, prog 900, 1994), but this Rogue Trooper appears to be an amalgam of both the original Rogue Trooper and the reboot version “Friday” (Rogue Trooper continuity is a whole other kettle of fish I won’t go into here).

And finally, in the story Helter Skelter (progs 1250–1261, 2000), Dredd faces his own Crisis on Multiple Earths and encounters several different 2000AD characters, as well as judges from another parallel universe.

It probably made sense to decouple all these series from each other; the longer they went on the more of a straitjacket it would become. From a fan’s perspective however it is a bit of a shame as it was fun trying to piece it all together. Judge Giant then is a sort of artefact from a bygone era.
Highlights include:

  • Giant Sr’s first appearance – The Academy of Law (progs 27-28, 1977)
  • Giant Sr’s death – Block Mania (progs 236–244, 1982)
  • Giant Jr’s first appearance – Young Giant (progs 651-655, 1989)
  • Giant Jr’s finest moment – Necropolis (progs 674–699, 1990)
  • Satanus’s first appearance – The Cursed Earth (progs 61–85, 1978)
  • First (and best) Strontium Dog crossover – Top Dogs (Judge Dredd Annual, 1991)
  • Rogue Trooper crossover – Casualties of War (prog 900, 1994)

G is also for…

Alan Grant
Thus far in this A-Z I have made numerous comments about Alan Grant’s contribution to the Dredd series, most of them not complimentary. I wouldn’t however wish you to think that I don’t value the contribution he made to the Dredd series.

Without Alan Grant, it is entirely likely that Judge Dredd would have fizzled out years before its greatest stories had been told. Grant teamed up with Wagner at a crucial time during the latter’s writing of the Judge Child saga. Grant helped him get past his writer’s block and the two formed a writing team which lasted for the best part of a decade.

Most of what is regarded as the golden age of Judge Dredd was written by Wagner and Grant (or T. B. Grover as they typically wrote under). Combined with artist Ron Smith (another unsung hero), they produced a consistent, funny and imaginative body of work at a level of quality that the series struggled to reach both before and afterwards.

And of course they did this while writing numerous other titles at the same time, including Strontium Dog, Ace Trucking Co, Robo-Hunter and many other series which appeared in the Eagle and Scream. Their run on Batman remains one of my favourites (as is Alan Grant’s solo run); in particular, in the Ventriloquist they created a quintessential Bat villain.

Without Alan Grant’s no-nonsense approach, John Wagner’s style has developed to become much more introspective and meandering. In general, it is a style that I love, but that isn’t to say that the occasional jolt of Alan Grant-style anarchism wouldn’t be unappreciated to keep things more on track. An Alan Grant co-written Day of Chaos for instance would probably have ended in half the time (although I think even he would have baulked at going further than wiping out 87 per cent of the population).

I don’t agree with everything he has done, or wanted to do, with Judge Dredd and Anderson, Psi Division (not to mention killing off Johnny Alpha in Strontium Dog), but he remains one of the British comic industry’s greatest ideas men and I would like to see him writing a lot more than he does these days.

Fictional meme letters

Okay, I got this meme from Andy Hinton (not to be confused with Alex Hilton – learned that lesson!):

1. Comment on this post.
2. I will give you a letter.
3. Think of 5 fictional characters whose names begin with that letter and post their names and your comments on these characters in your LJ blog.

Because this is Quaequam Blog! I thought I would limit these to 2000AD characters:

Rogue Trooper: the gayest strip in 2000AD’s history (that’s not a criticism by the way, just an observation), the original run by Gerry Finlay-Day was about a genetic infantryman who is the lone survivor of the infamous Quartz Zone Massacre. Determined to track down the traitor general who sent his “buddies” to their doom, he goes rogue, kept company only by the personality-encoded “biochips” of his best friends. By astonishing coincidence, he is called Rogue while his marksman friend is called Gunnar (his chip is in Rogue’s rifle), his quarter-mastery friend is called Bagman (his chip is in Rogue’s, er bag) and his, er, fairly useless friend is called Helm (can you guess where they keep his chip?).

A typical GF-D strip would feature Rogue encountering a woman, flirting with her, his “buddies” getting outrageously jealous and for her to turn out to be an evil traitor. Seriously, I don’t think there is a single female character in the original run (up to the point when they track down the traitor) who doesn’t turn out to be a villain.

If that isn’t homoerotic enough for you, how about the fact that the lead character runs around topless (in a warzone – very sensible).

Original artist Dave Gibbons eventually did a reboot of the character (called War Machine), which was actually very good and reprinted in Heavy Metal. Sadly, the ongoing series that came out of that was Terrible McTerrible.

Durham RedDurham Red: Johnny Alpha’s putative replacement sidekick (after his, very-obviously-boyfriend Wulf was killed off). Shortly afterwards, Johnny went and died himself and Red decided to go into suspended animation to emerge, millennia later, as possibly the most obviously sexy character ever to appear in the comic, as drawn by Mark Harrison. In the future, apparently, clothing can defy gravity.

Not surprisingly, Durham’s reinvention was an instant hit with both boys and girls alike (even if the strips were rather shallow and not up to writer Dan Abnett’s best), but Mark nearly went bonkers drawing her mind-bogglingly complicated CG strips. He now appears to eschew Photoshop in favour of good old fashioned paint.

Rico DreddRico: sort of a two-for-one here as Rico can refer either to Joe Dredd’s twin brother or Joe Dredd’s rookie. Given that all three are clones of each other, the distinction is a fine one, although Rico Dredd becomes evil while Judge Rico is (at the time of writing) one of the good guys.

The whole “what’s it like being a clone?” thing has been used to good effect by John Wagner over the years. The exact reason why Rico Dredd went bad has not been fully explored, by Wagner at least. But Rico was originally created by Pat Mills, who had a go at the character in 1995 (during his chaos magick weirdie phase), which was not entirely successful and seems to have acquired apocryphal status during the years.

Rico occasionally appears in one of those dreadful “rogue’s gallery” type stories where Dredd is either haunted by popular villains past or, in the case of Helter Skelter by Garth Ennis, parallel universe versions of them actually team up to kick his arse. Generally speaking, if Wagner isn’t writing it, involving Rico in a story is likely to be a recipe for disaster.

Ro-JawsRo-Jaws: a waste disposal robot who spends most of the strips he appears in rummaging through the contents of a bin or “cludgie.” A gloriously loveable character from the early days of “Tooth,” who ended up a character in search of a plotline.

Tyranny RexTyranny Rex: an earlier attempt at a “sexy” female character in 2000AD, this time from the fevered imagination of erratic genius John Smith. Half “Saurian” Tyranny is just your ordinary, green, girl-about-town who happens to have a whopping great prehensile tail. Not sure the tail thing went down well with the boys, to be perfectly honest.

Tyranny’s strips were Smith’s first attempts at a regular character, the first strip of which was about music piracy with a twist (“home cloning is killing music”). Very quickly her strips morphed into the Indigo Prime series. The promised ongoing series (featuring a transvestite dog apparently) which was to appear in first Crisis and then Revolver never emerged. I can’t help but feel this is a character which could get surprise us. It is certainly the case that Smith has got it in him.
Rogan GoshRogan Gosh: technically not a 2000AD character but I’m including it here since I couldn’t think of any more characters with the letter R and the strip appeared in one of 2000AD’s sister magazines, so it counts. Milligan and McCarthy’s Rogan Gosh is, in my opinion, by far the most successful thing to come out of Fleetway’s brief experimentation with “adult” comics (with Skin – also by Milligan and McCarthy – coming a close second even if they did chicken out of publishing it).

It’s genius because it works on so many levels – is it an hallucination by Rudyard Kipling, the adventures of two blokes in an Indian restaurant or the product of the imagination of a boy committing suicide? All three narratives merge into one. No-one had ever tried doing Anglo-Indian comics before (there have been attempts since but they have been nothing like as successful, namely Grant Morrison’s Vimanarama and Pat Mills’ Black Siddha). One of the absolute highlights of my teenage years.

Anyone else want a go? Just follow the instructions above.

Tooth Review: 1573 & 1574 (obligatory spoiler warning)

Prog 1573Prog 1574Quote of the Week: “First you say hello to Vulf’s little friend!” Wulf Sternhammer gets up close and personal in Strontium Dog (1574).

Covers: Dylan Teague draws Johnny Alpha versus Groule from Strontium Dog (1573); Richard Elsom draws a chained Gene Hackman from The Kingdom (1574).

Contents: Judge Dredd, The Kingdom, Stickleback and Strontium Dog in both progs. Shakara ends in 1573 to be replaced by a Future Shock in 1574.

Review in less than 10 words: There will be blood (1573), Hell is other mutants (1574).

Spoilers… Continue reading Tooth Review: 1573 & 1574 (obligatory spoiler warning)

Tooth Review: 1572 (obligatory spoiler warning)

Prog 1572Quote of the Week: “Who gains, who gains? That’s the clue Inga! Nobody kills for nothing – unless they’re a total psychopath like me, and even I like to turn a profit.” – P.J. ponders about his impersonator in Judge Dredd.

Cover: Cliff Robinson draws P.J. Maybe and Dredd.

Contents: Judge Dredd, Shakara, Kingdom, Strontium Dog and Stickleback all continue.

Review in less than 10 words: The worms turn.

Spoilers… Continue reading Tooth Review: 1572 (obligatory spoiler warning)

Tooth Review: 1571 (obligatory spoiler warning)

Prog 1571Alternative design to Prog 1571 coverQuote of the Week: “Bhuu-rrpp! Ugh. Kid was stringier than he looked. Hey, Shockeye, what’s fer dessert? Y’got any more o’that blood custard an’ them sweet pickled twins left?” – Buffalo Bill Cody sings for his supper in Stickleback.

Cover: Brendan McCarthy is back from la-la land, drawing his first 2000AD cover since 1991. And what a great cover it is too. I have to say I prefer the final version compared to the alternate version I found on McCarthy’s website (also pictured). Credit too then to veteran 2000AD designer Steve Cook for the final design.

Contents: Judge Dredd, Shakara, Kingdom, Strontium Dog and Stickleback all continue.

Review in less than 10 words: Everything gets complicated.

Spoilers… Continue reading Tooth Review: 1571 (obligatory spoiler warning)

Tooth Review: 1569 & 1570

Prog 1569Prog 1570Covers: 1569 features a rather odd picture of some mutants by Simon Davies, clearly still in his Stone Island phase. 1570 features Gene from Kingdom mid-battle with some giant insects. The latter is clearly the more obviously commercial, but I was surprised to see that 1569 had sold out in a couple of days at my local Borders.

It is interesting to note that just a few issues in, the new logo has already had a slight tweak. The big thick bar across the top of the page which I hated has gone transparent. Whether the redundant extra “2000AD” will stay for much longer remains to be seen.

Quote: “Gene did not even know there was a word called hide-rononiks. Your mouth is full of strange.” – Gene Hackman gets to grip with modern farming techniques in The Kingdom.

Contents: Both progs feature Judge Dredd (a new multi-parter starts in 1569), Shakara, Kingdom, Stickleback and Strontium Dog.

Spoilers… Continue reading Tooth Review: 1569 & 1570

Tooth Review: 1567 & 1568

Prog 1567One of the many things I’ve struggled to get around too after the New Year break is my weekly Tooth Review. A double helping here, and I think I may continue doing them in clumps as I’ve found I tend to repeat myself a lot.

Quote of the fortnight: “Great steamin’ arse’oles!” Stickleback in Stickleback.

Contents: Both issues feature a Judge Dredd one-off and the continuation of Shakara, Kingdom, Stickleback and Strontium Dog from Prog 2008.

Prog 1058Covers: 1567 – Cliff Robinson draws a dramatic Johnny Alpha fron Strontium Dog, being lowered into prison to set Billy Glum free. 1568 – Nick Percival (is he still alive?) draws Shakara. Of the two, I prefer the Nick Percival, mainly because it is something different and I love the EC-style lettering. Still not convinced by the new “double” logo which now fills a fifth of the whole page; we’ve gone down this road before and each time the logo has been scrapped because the editor found it too limiting.

Continue reading Tooth Review: 1567 & 1568

Tooth Review: Prog 2008 (obligatory spoiler warning)

Prog 2008Quote of the issue: “Did you see my televised debate — the one where I made Richard Dawkins cry? I wanted to use a picture of that on my personalised Christmas cards but the Archbishop wouldn’t let me.” Unnamed Church of England operative, Caballistics, Inc.

It’s finally arrived! And it’s a good’un…

Cover: Clint Langley draws Dredd in the foreground, with the other characters featured in this issue in the background.

Bit of a damp squib this. The non-Dredd characters are merely taken from other artists while there is something about the face of Dredd that I don’t like. I think it is the slightly pointed helmet.

The twin-logo design doesn’t exactly do it any favours either. I hope this “2000 sideways AD” logo isn’t here to stay as it is awful – a complete throwback to the bland logo they used around 2000. The fat exclamation mark design is a classic – if there’s no reason to change the name, there’s no reason to change the logo.

Strips: Droid Life, Judge Dredd, Shakara, Kingdom, Nikolai Dante, Stickleback, Sinister Dexter, Caballistics Inc, Strontium Dog.

Features: Best ever covers, letters, three “great moments of thrill power” pinups (The Apocalypse War by Boo Cook, The Angel Gang by Clint Langley, Nemesis the Warlock Book IV: The Gothic Empire by Bryan Talbot.

Spoilers… Continue reading Tooth Review: Prog 2008 (obligatory spoiler warning)