John Wagner

John Wagner

Infobox Comics creator

imagesize = 150
caption =
birthname =
birthdate = 1949
location = Pennsylvania
deathdate =
deathplace =
nationality = American
area = writer
alias = John Howard
T.B. Grover
Mike Stott
Keef Ripley
Rick Clark
Brian Skuter
notable works = "Judge Dredd"
"A History of Violence"
awards =

John Wagner is a comics writer who was born in Pennsylvania in 1949 and moved to Scotland as a boy. Alongside Pat Mills, Wagner was responsible for revitalising British boys' comics in the 1970s, and has continued to be a leading light in British comics ever since.

He is best known for his work on "2000 AD", for which he created "Judge Dredd". He is noted for his taut, violent thrillers and his black humour.


Early career

Wagner started his career as a sub-editor at D. C. Thomson & Co. Ltd in the 1960s, where he met Pat Mills. The pair left to go freelance in 1971, writing for various IPC comics. Wagner later edited the girls comics "Sandie" and "Princess Tina", often adding increasingly bizarre storylines in order to not only amuse himself, but to see if anyone actually read the strips! He briefly left comics in 1974, but returned to help Mills develop "Battle Picture Weekly" to compete with DC Thompson's "Warlord" title. "Battle" was the first title in a wave of tougher boys’ comics IPC were to produce during the 1970s. In "Battle", he most notably wrote "Darkie's Mob", a tough World War II action series which was among one of the most popular strips in the comic. He also edited "Valiant", for which he wrote the tough cop series "One-Eyed Jack" [ [ BBC News interview: "I Invented Judge Dredd"] ] based upon the film "Dirty Harry", and scripted the spy strip "Dredger" for Mills's "Action".

"2000 AD"

In 1976 Mills brought Wagner in as script adviser for the new science fiction title "2000 AD". Among Wagner 's contributions was "M.A.C.H. 1", a thinly disguised copy of "The Six Million Dollar Man", who appeared in the first issue. A more enduring character, however, had to be held over until issue 2. "Judge Dredd" began as another tough cop in the "Dirty Harry" mould, but the strip's futuristic setting allowed Wagner to push the crime and punishment theme to extremes, often to satirical effect. The character was initially visualised by artist Carlos Ezquerra, who left the strip unhappy at having to share it with other artists. Wagner also briefly left in the pre-publication stages over a dispute over ownership, but soon returned. "Judge Dredd" quickly became the most popular story in "2000AD". Some important early stories, notably "The Return of Rico" and "The Cursed Earth", were written by Pat Mills and contributed much to the character's development.

Wagner also created "Robo-Hunter", with artist Ian Gibson, under his 'T.B Grover' pseudonym. This strip also proved highly popular and in 1978, Wagner and Dredd co-creator Carlos Ezquerra went on to create "Strontium Dog" for "Starlord", a spin off title which would eventually merge with "2000 AD". After the merge, "Strontium Dog" would become as popular as "Judge Dredd" and "Robo-Hunter".

By 1980 Wagner was now writing the majority of his work in partnership with his housemate Alan Grant, although most of their stories were credited to either Wagner alone (under one of his pseudonyms) or Grant alone. Some stories, such as "Ace Trucking Co.", were credited to "Grant/Grover" to ensure both writers' got an equal share of the proceeds. Throughout the rest of the 1980s Wagner and Grant were writing the majority of strips in "2000 AD", "Battle", the relaunched "Eagle" and others, although writers such as Alan Moore, Peter Milligan and Grant Morrison also created notable strips for "2000 AD" during this time.

American work in the 1980s

Wagner and Grant became part of the so-called "British Invasion" of American comics during the 1980s. In 1987 their first title, a mini-series called "Outcasts", was published by DC Comics with Cam Kennedy as artist. "Outcasts" was well received, though it never sold in great quantities, and this success led to the pair writing Batman in the pages of "Detective Comics" from issue 583. The pair also created the bleak nuclear dystopia "The Last American" for Epic Comics with longtime Dredd artist Mike McMahon. Wagner says it was "The Last American" which broke his regular writing partnership with Grant, although Grant says a dispute over the ending of the "Judge Dredd" story "Oz" was also important. They split their work between them: Wagner kept "Judge Dredd", while Grant continued "Strontium Dog" and "Judge Anderson" and became the sole writer of "Detective Comics". Although the two continue to collaborate from time to time, they have never resumed a full time partnership.

"The Bogie Man" and the 1990s

In 1989 the first issue of "The Bogie Man" was released. Published by Fat Man Press, the title was meant to tie in with Glasgow's position as European City of Culture in 1990. Although the title suffered from shipping delays it became Britain's biggest selling independently published comic ever.

Wagner had become disillusioned with "2000 AD" and writing "Judge Dredd" during this time, and set out on what was proposed to be his last Dredd story, entitled "Necropolis". He had also become part of the creative team on "Toxic!", a new weekly comic set up in direct competition to "2000 AD". Apart from "The Bogie Man", most of Wagner's strips were rejected for "Toxic!" as they did not fit in with editor Pat Mills plans for the comic. Of his other strips, "Button Man", with illustration by Arthur Ranson, ended up in "2000 AD", where it has spawned three sequels, while another, "Al's Baby", a comedy about a gangster who becomes the first man to carry and give birth to a child, drawn by Carlos Ezquerra, was published in the "Judge Dredd Megazine" in 1990.

Wagner decided to remain writing for "2000 AD", and "Toxic!" was eventually cancelled when the publishers went bankrupt in 1991. In that same year, he co-wrote the Batman/Judge Dredd crossover "Judgement on Gotham" with Alan Grant, with Simon Bisley providing art. The crossover was a huge hit and helped convince Wagner to remain on Dredd, while writing for American publishers on titles such as Dark Horse Comics' "Aliens" and "Star Wars" titles, the latter notably featuring solo stories starring the popular Boba Fett character.

1995 saw the release of the second of his works adapted for the screen (a "Bogie Man" film had been made by BBC Scotland in 1992 starring Robbie Coltrane, but was not well received and a series was never made). "Judge Dredd" was a big budget version of the comic based loosely on an early Dredd strip in "2000 AD". Wagner and Grant were invited to write a treatment for the script but were offered no money for doing so, and declined. Dredd was played by Sylvester Stallone and many critics felt this was a poor choice in casting. The film did poorly both critically and at the box office. After this Wagner was reluctant to allow any of his works to be made into a film.

In 1997 Wagner wrote his first original graphic novel, "A History Of Violence", drawn by Vince Locke for the Paradox Press imprint of DC Comics. The book was very well received critically but did not sell well. Paradox also reprinted the original "Bogie Man" story.

Present day work

Wagner remains a prolific writer for "2000AD". He still writes the majority of "Judge Dredd" strips each year, as well as his "Button Man" strip among others. In 2002 he co-wrote with Andy Diggle the first "Judge Dredd/Aliens" crossover, Incubus, which was co-published by Dark Horse Comics and "2000 AD".

In 2005 his graphic novel "A History Of Violence" was adapted into a film, directed by David Cronenberg and starring Viggo Mortensen and Ed Harris. Wagner had backed the film once he saw the group of actors Cronenberg had gathered. The film has been highly praised and was nominated for the Palme D'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2005. Future mooted film productions include a "Button Man" movie.

Wagner has said he intends to retire from writing Judge Dredd at some point when a suitable replacement writer has been found, occasionally hinting that he favours fellow Scot Gordon Rennie. However, in the meantime he has launched one of the biggest Dredd 'epics' yet - "Origins", intended to flesh out the still sketchy background for the Judge Dredd character.

He is a supporter on the Moniaive comics festival held annually each September.

John currently resides in the Shropshire countryside with his Wife.


Wagner is famous for writing under various pseudonyms. This was due to him writing entire issues of comics during the 1970s and 1980s. The best known are John Howard, T.B. Grover, Mike Stott, Keef Ripley, Rick Clark and Brian Skuter (Brian Skuter was later used as a character in Judge Dredd, a reporter who wrote a bad article on Judge Death and was killed by him).


Comics work includes:

*One-Eyed Jack (Valiant, Dec 1975-1976, later reprinted in Eagle; uncredited) [ [ BBC News interview: "I Invented Judge Dredd"] ]
*Darkie's Mob (Battle, 1976-1977)
*Judge Dredd (in " 2000 AD" # 9-18, 20-23, 25-28, 32-151, 1977-1980)
*M.A.C.H. 1 (in "2000 AD" # 9 & 16, 1977)
*Shako! (in "2000 AD" # 20-35, 1977)
*Strontium Dog
*Robo-Hunter (in "2000 AD" # 76-85 & 100-112, 1978-79)

*Doctor Who (with co-writer Pat Mills and art by Dave Gibbons, in "Doctor Who Magazine" #1-16 & 19-34, 1979-1980, collected in "The Iron Legion", 2004, ISBN 1904159370):
** "The Iron Legion" (#1-8)
** "City of the Damned" (#9-16)
** "The Star Beast" (#19-26)
** "Dogs of Doom" (#27-34)

*Robo-Hunter (in "2000 AD" # 152-174, 1980)
*Judge Dredd (in "2000 AD" # 155-182 & 184-267, 1980-82)
*Ace Trucking Co. (in "2000 AD" # 232-36, 239-285 & 1982 Sci-Fi Special, 1981-82)
*Dan Dare (in "Eagle" # 1-33, 1982)
*Robo-Hunter (in "2000 AD" # 259-272, 275-281 & 283-288, 1982)
*Judge Dredd (in "2000 AD" # 269-450, 1982-85)
*Ace Trucking Co. (in "2000 AD" # 288-293, 1982)
*Joe Soap (in "Eagle" # 12-22, 1982)
*Robo-Hunter (in "2000 AD" # 292-307, 1982-83)
*Manix (in "Eagle" # 24-31, 1982)
*Doomlord in eagle
*The House of Daemon (in "Eagle" # 25-47, 1982-83)
*Robo-Hunter (in "2000 AD" # 312-334, 1983)
*Gil Hazzard - Codename Scorpio (in "Eagle" # 49-67, 1983)
*The Fists of Danny Pyke (in "Eagle"; credited as "D. Spence") [ [ 2000AD Forums: "Identifying artists & writers?"] ]
*The 13th Floor (in Scream!, with Alan Grant, credited as "Ian Holland" [ [ 2000AD Forums: "Identifying artists & writers?"] ] , continuing in Eagle)
*Monster (in Scream!, as "R. Clark" [ [ 2000AD Forums: "Identifying artists & writers?"] ] , continuing in Eagle)
*Anderson: Psi Division (in "1985 Judge Dredd Annual", 1984)
*Ace Trucking Co. (in "2000 AD" # 378-390 & 392-400, 1984-85)
*The Helltrekkers (in "2000 AD" # 387-415, 1984-85)
* ("2000 AD" # 416-427, 1985)
*Ace Trucking Co. (in "2000 AD" # 428-433 & 1986 Annual, 1985)
*Robo-Hunter (in "2000 AD" # 435-443, 1985)
*Ace Trucking Co. (in "2000 AD" # 451-472, 1986)
*Judge Dredd (in "2000 AD" # 451-502, 1986)
*Ace Trucking Co. (in "2000 AD" # 475-483 & 485-498, 1986)
*Judge Dredd (in "2000 AD" # 503-555, 1987)
*Tales from Mega-City One (in "2000 AD" # 523, 525-26, 532-34 & 539, 1987)
*Judge Dredd (in "2000 AD" # 556-586 & 588-597, 1988)
*"Outcasts" (DC Comics)

** "Soul on Fire" (with Colin MacNeil, in "2000 AD" #594-597, 1988)
** "Song of the Surfer" (with Colin MacNeil, in "2000 AD" #654-665, 1989)
** "The Big Meg" (with Dylan Teague, in "2000 AD" #1387-1394, 2004)

*Judge Dredd (in "2000 AD" # 599 & 603-606, 1988)
*Tales from Mega-City One (in "2000 AD" # 605, 1988)
*"The Dead Man" (in "2000 AD" # 650-662, 1989-90)
*"Judge Death" (in "Judge Dredd Megazine" vol.1 # 1-12, 1990-1991)
*Judge Dredd (in "Judge Dredd Megazine" vol.1 # 1-3 & 7-9, 1990-91)
*"Judge Dredd": "America" (in "Judge Dredd Megazine" vol.1 # 1-7, 1990-91)
*"Al's Baby" (in "Judge Dredd Megazine" vol.1 # 4-15, 1991)

*"The Bogie Man" (with co-author Alan Grant and art by Robin Smith):
** "The Bogie Man" (John Brown Publishing, 128 pages, 1991, ISBN 1870870212)
** "Chinatoon" ("Toxic!" #2-9, 1991, started by Cam Kennedy, redrawn and completed by Smith, Atomeka Press, 112 pages, 1993, ISBN 1858090067)
** "The Manhattan Project" ("Toxic!" #11-21, 1991, Tundra Publishing, 52 pages, 1992, ISBN 1858090016)
** "The Bogie Man" (collects the first volume and "Chinatoon", Pocket Books, 224 pages, 1998, ISBN 0671009230)
** "Return to Casablanca" ("Judge Dredd Megazine" #227-233, 2005)

*"Mean Machine" (in "2000 AD" # 730-736, 1991)
*Batman / Judge Dredd: "Judgement on Gotham" (1991)
*Brit-Cit Babes (in "Judge Dredd Megazine" vol.1 # 16-20, 1992)
*Judge Dredd (in "Judge Dredd Megazine" vol.2 # 1-9 & 12-18, 1992)

*"Button Man":
** "Book I: The Killing Game" (with Arthur Ranson, in "2000 AD" #780-791, 1992)
** "Book II: Confession" (with Arthur Ranson, in "2000 AD" #904-919, 1994)
** "Book 3" (with Arthur Ranson, in "2000 AD" prog 2001 & #1223-1233, 2001)
** "Book IV: The Hitman's Daughter" (with Frazer Irving, in "2000 AD" #1551-ongoing, 2007)

*Judge Death (in "Judge Dredd Megazine" vol.2 # 15, 1992)
*Al's Baby (in "Judge Dredd Megazine" vol.2 # 16-24, 1992-93)
*Judge Dredd (in "Judge Dredd Megazine" vol.2 # 21-26 & 31-43, 1992-93)
*Batman vs. Judge Dredd: Vendetta in Gotham (DC / Fleetway, 1993)
*"Judge Dredd": "Return of the Taxidermist" (in "Judge Dredd Megazine" vol.2 # 37-46, 1993-94)
*Judge Dredd (in "Judge Dredd Megazine" vol.2 # 46-48 & 50-69, 1994)
*Mean Machine (in "Judge Dredd Megazine" vol.2 # 63-72 & 82, 1994-95)
*Judge Dredd (in "Judge Dredd Megazine" vol.2 # 70-83, 1995)
* "Bob, the Galactic Bum" (with co-author Alan Grant and art by Carlos Ezquerra, 4-issue mini-series, DC, 1995)
*Batman / Judge Dredd: The Ultimate Riddle (DC / Fleetway, 1995)
*"Aliens": "Berserker" (with Paul Mendoza, and Andy Mushynsky, 4-issue mini-series, Dark Horse, 1995)

*"Star Wars":
**"Boba Fett: Death, Lies, & Treachery" (with Cam Kennedy, Dark Horse Comics, 1998, ISBN 1-56971-311-1) [ [ "Death, Lies, & Treachery"] at the Comic Book DB] collects:
*** "Bounty on Bar-Kooda" (one-shot, 1995)
*** "When the Fat Lady Swings" (one-shot, 1996)
*** "Murder Most Foul" (one-shot, 1997)
**"" (with pencils by Kilian Plunkett and John Nadeau and inks by P. Craig Russell, 6-issue mini-series, 1996, tpb, 1997, ISBN 1-56971-181-X) [ [ "Shadows of the Empire"] at the Comic Book DB]
**"The Jabba Tape" (with Kilian Plunkett, one-shot, 1998) [ [ "The Jabba Tape"] at the Comic Book DB]
**"Boba Fett: Enemy of the Empire" (112 pages, 1999, ISBN 1-56971-407-X) [ [ "Enemy of the Empire"] at the Comic Book DB] collects:
*** "Enemy of the Empire" (with Ian Gibson, 4-issue mini-series)
*** "Salvage" (with pencils by John Nadeau and inks by Jim Amash, "Boba Fett ½" in "Wizard Magazine")
** "" (with Cam Kennedy, in #7, 2003, collected in "Boba Fett: Man With A Mission", Dark Horse, March 2007, ISBN 1-59307-707-6) [ [ "Sacrifice"] at the Comic Book DB]

*Judge Dredd (in "Judge Dredd Megazine" vol.3 # 2-7 & 9-10, 1995)
*Judge Dredd (in "Judge Dredd Megazine" vol.3 # 17, 1996)
*America: Fading of the Light (in "Judge Dredd Megazine" vol.3 # 20-25, 1996-97)
*Judge Dredd (in "Judge Dredd Megazine" vol.3 # 22, 1996)
*"A History of Violence" (with Vince Locke, Paradox Press, 1997)
*Al's Baby (in "2000 AD" # 1034-1044, 1997)
*I Was a Teenage Tax Consultant (in "2000 AD" # 1050-1059, 1997)
*"Predator vs. Judge Dredd" (in "Judge Dredd Megazine" vol.3 # 36-38, 1997-98)
*Judge Dredd (in "Judge Dredd Megazine" vol.3 # 34-47, 1997-98)
*Judge Dredd (in "Judge Dredd Megazine" vol.3 # 50-61, 1999)
*The Balls Brothers (in "2000 AD" # 1128-1131 & 1141-1147, 1999)

*"" #1-8 (1999-2000):
** "The Warrior Way of Death" (with pencils by Joyce Chin, Clint Hilinski, Mike Deodato and Ivan Reis and inks by Walden Wong, Mike Deodato, Grant Nelson, tpb, collects "Xena" #1-3, 2000, ISBN 1-56971-452-5)
** "Slave" (with pencils by Joyce Chin and Mike Deodato, Jr.and inks by Clint Hilinski, Fabiano Neves and Walden Wong, tpb, collects "Xena" #4-6, 2000, ISBN 1-56971-471-1)
** "Blood and Shadows" (with pencils by David Fabbri and Mike Deodato and inks by Mark Heike, Neil Nelson, tpb, collects "Xena" #7-10, 2001, ISBN 1-56971-521-1)

*Judge Dredd (in "Judge Dredd Megazine" vol.3 # 63-70, 2000)

*"Banzai Battalion":
** "The Fitz" (with Ian Gibson, in "2000 AD" #1257-1262, 2001)
** "Save the Fitz!" (with Ian Gibson, in "2000 AD" prog 2003, 2002)
** "Robot Wars" (with Steve Roberts, in "2000 AD" #1501-1506, 2006)

*Judge Death (in "2000 AD" # 1289-1294, 2002)
*Judge Death (in "Judge Dredd Megazine" # 209-216, 2003-04)
*Mean Machine (in "Judge Dredd Megazine" #218-220, 2004)



*David Bishop "Thrill Power Overload" (Rebellion, 260 pages, February 2007, ISBN 1-905437-22-6)
*gcdb|type=writer|search=John+Wagner|title=John Wagner
*comicbookdb|type=creator|id=759|title=John Wagner
* [ 2000 AD profile]
*imdb|id=0905957|name=John Wagner
* [ John Wagner] at []

External links

* [ Thumbnail: John Wagner] at [ Ninth Art]
* [ Moniaive comics festival homepage]


* [ Interview with Wagner and Cam Kennedy] , by Dark Horse Comics about their Boba Fett work, 1997
* [ Interview with John Wagner] at "Class of 79'
* [ "I Invented Judge Dredd"] , 2002 interview with [ BBC News]
* [ 2002 interview with John Wagner re Darkies Mob] at [ Battle Action fansite]
* [ August 2005 interview with The Nexus]

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