Unseen Influences: 2000 AD

Today I’ve got another Unseen Influences for you all.  The previous two articles in this series are by far the most popular and visited posts on Warp Signal as of now, and I’m really pleased to be able to write about something that so many of you seem so interested in.  Thank you all for taking the time to read.

I’m going to talk today about the British comic book publisher 2000AD, and the sometimes overlooked influences that their works had on the Warhammer 40,000 universe.  Many of you will know of 2000AD primarily through the iconic character Judge Dredd, but the books actually follow a multitude of characters in the same universe as Dredd, as well as (in more recent times) other universes such as the mythological Celtic world of the barbarian Slaine.

Of course it’s Dredd and his cohorts who we are talking about today. At first glance it may seem as though the influence of 2000AD on Warhammer 40,000 is limited to that hallowed Imperial institution, the Adeptus Arbites.  It’s not hard to see that the Arbitrators in 40k, who were quite commonly referred to as “judges” in the older background, are dead ringers for the Judges in the 2000AD universe.  Both are exceptionally trained and deadly law enforcement officers, barracked in fortified precincts.  They could both be better described as paramilitaries rather than police.  Both will not hesitate to use extreme force to prosecute criminals, and they have the power (at least in theory) to reach out and touch anyone who breaks the law, without a trial.

These similarities were far more obvious in the early days of 40k, when Arbitrators were frequently shown wearing the distinctive half-face helm and padded shoulder armour of Judge Dredd.  Today, Arbitrators are not referred to as “judges” so often in 40k Black Library fiction, and authors are always very careful to show that the Arbites do not enforce everyday order, only Imperial Law, whatever that may be.  In my opinion, all this is mainly to distance them from 2000AD.  The merciless judge, jury and executioner role still exists in modern 40k lore, but it has largely shifted to the Inquisition.

As always, there are subtler influences still.  Back in the late 70s and early 80s, when 2000AD was making their name, they did so mainly through their reputation for ultra-violence.  British comics did not have to follow the Comics Code that had restricted American comics for so long and created the “kid’s book” perception that they are still trying to shake today.  Judge Dredd was merciless and the violence was graphic, over the top and silly, and the GW studio absorbed it into their new sci-fi game with relish.  Combat chainsaws, pointy hood-wearing religious fanatics, secretive mutants and illegal psychics all abound in 2000AD before 1980.

Not only that, I think a good case can be made that the concept of the 40k hive city owes a lot to Mega City One, the vast, continent spanning metropolis where Dredd keeps order.  Without 2000AD and Judge Dredd, not only would there be no Arbites in 40k, there would probably be no Necromunda.  And no Inquisition, mutants and psykers as we know them.

If Dune gave 40k it’s science-fantasy identity, 2000AD gave the Imperium the dystopian and sometimes darkly humorous feel that makes it such a powerful and distinctive setting.

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8 responses to “Unseen Influences: 2000 AD

  • kelvingreen

    There is a lot of Nemesis the Warlock in 40K too; the inquisitor Torquemada’s religious — and racist — crusade against the mutants of the galaxy is just one obvious influence.

  • James S

    Thanks for the leads Kelvin – I haven’t read Nemesis. I was a bit too young for the original 2000AD anthologies and have only read collected Judge Dredds, Slaine, and a few later anthologies.

    After looking up Nemesis and Torquemada on Wikipedia I think I’ll have to try and track them down. I think your assessment of them influencing 40k seems pretty spot on.

  • Bix

    Another great addition to this series James.

    I was brought up on 2000AD, either my parents were way cooler than I gave them credit for, or they never opened the cover and saw what their 10yr old son was reading!

    Either way I owe them & the comic a lot for shaping the Geek I am today; I got into GW products via their Judge Dredd RPG 🙂 And I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment of it’s influence on 40k.

    Rogue Trader was said to have had the Warhammer 40,000 added to the title so as not to be confused with 2000AD’s excellent Rogue Trooper series.

    Kelvin makes a good point re the Nemesis series (one of my faves) and yes do try and read them especially the original stuff by Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill.

    Also if you want to see a case of 2000AD returning the favour I recommend The ABC Warriors story Khronicles of Khaos (art by the brilliant Kev Walker) it’s got very thinly veiled Inquisitors, Space Marines ‘The Imperial Rottweilers’ and even an Emperor!

  • James S

    Thanks Bix. I’ve read a few ABC Warriors stories, but not the one you mention. And Warhammer 40,000 Rogue Trader does sound awfully similar to 2000AD Rogue Trooper!

    Also, I forgot about the Judge Dredd RPG. My dad gave me some Judge Dredd minis when I was living in the UK as a very small boy, and I wish I still had them. Odds are they were Citadel models.

  • kelvingreen

    Well, ABC Warriors is a spin off from Nemesis, so the shared elements might come from the parent series rather than 40K.

  • 198of505

    The comment about Nemesis is bang on the money, if you find book 1 of the series The Termite Armies are ranked up with banners flying, ans several of them feature designs that are very similar to the first Marine Legions… Also the GI’s in Rouge Trooper have a chip in the back of thier necks like the Peregond of the marines who also have a 2nd one in the chest.

  • Chris

    WH40K’s debt to 2000AD is huge and quite nakedly apparent.

    Arbites = Judges
    Muties = mutants
    Hive Worlds = Termight or MC1
    Space Marines = Rogue Trooper
    Chaos Wastes/Ash Wastes of Necromunda = Cursed Earth
    “Be pure. Be vigilant. Behave.” = “Blessed is the mind too small for doubt.”

    The strips in Inferno! and Warhammer Monthly/Comic were often little more than 2000AD fanfic with WH40K trappings. And I’m 90% certain that there was a lot of artist swap-over between the two.

    As Coopdevil once put it:

    “Dredd, Nemesis the Warlock, Strontium Dog, ABC Warriors, Rogue Trooper. Warhammer 40,000, your Fathers and Uncles are here and they would like a quiet word.”

    Well, ABC Warriors is a spin off from Nemesis, so the shared elements might come from the parent series rather than 40K.

    *dons pedant hat*
    IIRC ABC Warriors/Ro-Busters came first. The old “Nemesis The Beginning” collection had a ‘creation of’ section where Pat Mills talks about Nemesis being originally envisioned as a Deadlock-a-like.

  • Ronin Review: Judge Dredd Skirmish Game | The Beat Ronin

    […] why would you play in a knock-off universe when you can play in the original?  Judge Dredd had a huge influence on the Warhammer 40,000 universe and particularly on Necromunda.  It seems odd to use rules designed for Dredd to play a game that […]

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