The PopCult Bookshelf
This book is a collection of a wonderfully-twisted comic book series that originated in the legendary British weekly comic, “2000 A.D.” You may know that “2000 A.D.” was also the home of Judge Dredd as well as a variety of other cool sci-fi comic strips.
“Nemesis The Warlock” always stood out a bit from the rest of the 2000 A.D. strips. First of all, there’s the art. This is the early work of Kevin O’Neill, who went on to do “Marshall Law” with Pat Mills, and “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” with Alan Moore. O’Neill’s style has been called “grotesque,” but I don’t think that’s a fair label. This is some beautiful work. It’s definitely unconventional. I suppose one might see artwork like this if the legendary Phillipino comics artist Alex Nino had ever been inked by the even more legendary American cartoonist Basil Wolverton.
O’Neill’s artwork is so strikingly different that one of the first stories he drew for DC Comics, a back-up strip in “Green Lantern,” was rejected by the Comics Code Authority on the grounds that the art was “too disturbing for a general audience.” O’Neill draws most of the stories in this book, but there are a few drawn by Jesus Redondo, who does quite with the thankless task of filling in for one of the most distinctive artists of our time.
Pat Mills, the writer and creator of Nemesis, created “2000 A.D.” and co-created or developed many of the strips that ran in it, including scripting most of the early adventures of Judge Dredd. I am in general awe of his work, but Nemesis The Warlock may be my favorite of his creations.
Originally conceived as a one-off sci-fi short from a series of stories based on pop songs of the day, Nemesis proved intriguing enough that Mills went back and fleshed out the concept and characters from the original 14-page story, “Terror Tube,” which was partly inspired by the song, “Going Underground” by The Jam. He came up with an incredible tale of a futuristic society where aliens who live on Termight (eventually revealed to be Earth) are persecuted by the fanatical ruler of the Grand Empire.
The challenging part of the story for some readers is that the villain, Torquemada, is human, while the hero, Nemesis, is decidely not humanoid in appearance, in fact, he is a fire-breathing demonic alien, but he’s also fighting to free the world from tyranny.
With a name like Torquemada, you can’t be surprised that there are elements of a parody of The Spanish Inquisition here, but the satire is subtle and the story so compelling that it isn’t the main focus. There is plenty of sword-and-sorcery mixed with political intrigue and sci-fi action. Beyond all that, the story does offer up a daring portayal of the evil of ethnic cleansing and racial purity.
This volume collects the color version as published by Eagle Comics in America in the 1980s. Aside from the color (by O’Neill), this collection includes the extra artwork that O’Neill had to add to the pages to make them conform to the shape of the American comic book page. We also get to see O’Neill’s covers for the seven-issue series collected here, plus a bonus story from 1994 that saw Mills and O’Neill reunite to do one more Nemesis sotry for a special edition of “2000 A.D.”
It’s great to see this color version of “Nemesis The Warlock” available in the mass market. A high-priced deluxe, signed edition of this book, limited to 200 copies, sold out almost instantly when it was announced. This is great chance to read one of the lesser-known of the classic comics that came from the UK in the 1980s.
As a special bonus for anglophiles of a certain age, we bring you the music video, “Nemesis” by Shriekback, from 1985. You can spot the characters from the comic book in the video.