2000 AD, A History of Violence

John Wagner

Writer: 2000 AD; A History of Violence

LAUDED as the co-creator of Judge Dredd and as a founding father of 2000 AD, where the Lawman of the Future made his debut in the 1977 second issue of the self-styled Galaxy's Greatest Comic. John Wagner's career dates back to some 10 years earlier. Born in the USA but brought up in Scotland from the age of 12, Wagner began writing for Dundee-based DC Thomson in the 1960s eventually rising to become chief sub-editor of Romeo.

It was while working on the UK comics behemoth's girls' weekly that he first encountered Pat Mills, who would subsequently have a significant influence on his career. Leaving DCT to go freelance, Wagner and Mills collaborated on stories for a variety of titles for IPC (the other major British comics publisher). Their output covered humour and both girls' and boys' weeklies before Wagner headed to London in 1973 to edit girls' titles for IPC.

That lasted for less than a year after which Wagner quit comics until late '74 when Mills lured him back to help set up Battle Picture Weekly. With that IPC title, which launched in 1975, Mills and Wagner began changing the face of British comics, modernising that which had become stagnant and very traditional in their approach. It was a groundbreaking makeover that the duo continued and escalated when Mills was asked to create a new SF comic and invited Wagner to join him in the endeavour. Premiering in 1977, 2000 AD was an immediate and huge success and remains at the peak of British comics publishing scene today, almost 40 years after its first publication. Over the years, aside from Judge Dredd, Wagner – who also wrote for Doctor Who Magazine in 1979-80 – also co-created such heroes as Robo-Hunter and the Button Man for the SF weekly.

Among his other co-creations are Strontium Dog (first seen in 1978 in Starlord, 2000 AD's short-lived sister title) as well as Ace Trucking Co for 2000 AD, Eagle's Doomlord and Manix, The Thirteenth Floor for Scream!, Invasion 1984 for Battle and Dan Harker's War for Roy of the Rovers, all in collaboration with his long-term writing partner Alan Grant. In addition, a 1982-83 reunion with Mills saw him writing Dan Dare for for the relaunched Eagle. Four years later and in tandem with Grant, Wagner – who has contributed to 2000 AD virtually continuously for the past 38 years and to its sister title, Judge Dredd Megazine since 1990 – made his US debut. The writing duo scripted the 12 issues of 1987's Outcasts for DC following which they co-authored nine 1988 Batman stories in Detective Comics, The Bogie Man​ – a 1990 Fat Man Press four-parter – and its various sequels as well as on the first 10 issues of Marvel UK's Strip and The Last American, a 1990 four-parter for Epic, Marvel's creator-owned imprint.

Although that was pretty much the end of their joint American venture, Wagner and Grant did reunite from time to time, most notably on a quartet of high profile Batman/Judge Dredd one-shots. These DC/2000 AD crossovers began in 1991 with the hugely successful Judgement on Gotham but were published sporadically until 1998 with 1995's Lobo/Judge Dredd: Psycho Bikers vs the Mutants from Hell inserted along the way. The pair also wrote 1991's The Punisher: Blood on the Moors graphic novel for Marvel while Wagner went on to write the following year's The Punisher: Die Hard in the Big Easy – and the 12 issues of DC's Chain Gang War that followed it in 1994 – on his own. Increasingly disenchanted with the manner in which American comics were produced and much preferring the British approach, Wagner all-but cut his ties with US publishers in 2000.

Before he withdrew, however, he scripted a swathe of titles, among them Aliens: Berserker (1995), Star Wars: Boba Fett (1995), Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire (1996) and Predator vs Judge Dredd (1997) for Dark Horse, a couple of 1996 spin-offs from The Crow for Kitchen Sink and A History of Violence graphic novel the following year for Paradox Graphic Mystery (a DC imprint) before winding up at Topps on Xena, Warrior Princess (1999). Since then Wagner's output has been almost exclusively for 2000 AD and Judge Dredd Megazine.

He did make a brief return to the US market in 1993 for Judge Dredd vs Aliens: Incubus (co-authored with former 2000 AD editor Andy Diggle) and a brief run on Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight for DC but it is primarily for his half-a-century of writing for British titles that Wagner is considered one of the UK's most respected comics creators. Down the years his writing has inspired many who have followed in his footsteps. He continues to be an inspiration to many.


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