On this day, 5 July 1980: 2000AD and Tornado (Prog 167)
On this day, 5 July 1980 … ‘Lube your tubes and get in the groove!’ Prog 167 saw Tharg the Mighty launch 2000AD’s fast-aborted ‘Comic Rock’ occasional series of stories inspired by music. The series never became a series (a shame; I quite like the idea, if not the reality of Tharg talkin’ DJ) but, through this first one-off story – Terror Tube, based on The Jam’s Going Undergound – it did introduce us too avenging alien Nemesis the Warlock – one of the greatest characters in any comic, ever – Torquemada and the religio-fascist universe of the Termight Empire.
Lone avengers striking out against the corrupt and powerful have always appealed to me. Growing up I loved watching the old Zorro movies. I’m not a huge superhero fan but Batman has always captured my imagination, as does V – the indestructible idea. It’s probably part of the reason that I was drawn to and fell in love with Doctor Who in his fourth incarnation, and various people who have crossed my consciousness in various ways (off the top of my head, I think of Jesus, Jeremy Corbyn and Arsene Wenger!) all fire my spirits. Like Nemesis, all these characters, fictional or real, are flawed and even problematic in some respects; but they refuse to play the popularity game, they are single-minded, believe in equality and justice, and are devoted to a higher cause. These are good things. Last night I dreamed that Arsene Wenger was driving to the woods where the body of David Kelly was found as part of a TV documentary he was making about the Chilcot report. Wenger was presumably representing Jeremy Corbyn in my mind, but it could have been any of the above-named vigilantes or even Nemesis himself, as are all symbols within a same part of my unconscious. And my unconscious is laid out rather like the Terror Tube.
So thank you, Pat Mills, for creating such a beautiful, dangerous, powerful character in Nemesis. And thank you also Kevin O’Neill for visualising Nemesis and his universe. O’Neill’s work on the Nemesis saga sits among my most favourite artwork in all of 2000AD, with this first story possibly at the absolute peak. Terror Tube looks both terrifying and hilarious, gorgeous and captivating. I love the epic scale and the detailed, gothic minutiae. Every character, every vehicle, every architectural design, every rivet in the travel tube and every rock on the bleak surface of Termight seems to have personality and backstory. I’ve read this episode so many times and still I love it. Credo!