Zenith (comics)

Zenith (comics)


caption=Zenith on the cover of "2000 AD" prog 792, by Steve Yeowell; "Zenith" copyright Rebellion A/S 2005.
real_name=Robert MacDowell
publisher=Rebellion A/S
debut="2000 AD" #535 (1987)
creators=Grant Morrison Brendan McCarthy Steve Yeowell
relatives=White Heat (mother, deceased), Doctor Beat (father, deceased)
powers=flight, strength, durability, (potentially) telepathy, pyrokinesis|

Zenith (Robert MacDowell) is a British superhero, who appeared in the science fiction comic "2000 AD." Created by writer Grant Morrison and artists Steve Yeowell and designed by Brendan McCarthy, he first appeared in "2000 AD" #536 (22 August 1987).

Shallow and sarcastic, Zenith was a distinctly Generation X superhero. Morrison used the "Zenith" serial to explore cultural differences between generations and make jabs at the Conservative Party.

Zenith was featured regularly in "2000 AD" from 1987 until 1992, with occasional appearances since. The series was an early success for Morrison, a future comics superstar.


Zenith, real name Robert MacDowell, was the son of two members of Cloud Nine, a super-team of the 1960s who had been created by the British military but rebelled and became hippies and psychedelic fashion icons. Zenith himself used his somewhat unreliable superhuman abilities not to fight evil but to promote his career as a pop singer. Shallow, spoilt, self-centred and cowardly, he was reluctantly dragged into the struggle against malevolent supernatural entities known as the Lloigor or "Many-Angled Ones".

The British superhuman project had been developed from technology stolen from the Nazis in World War II, and the Nazis had developed it from knowledge given by the Lloigor. The Nazis were advised to create "Ubermenschen", but in fact the real purpose of the project was to create host bodies strong enough to house the Lloigor's spirits. Presumably due to these circumstances, Berlin was the target of the first nuclear weapon, not Hiroshima or Nagasaki, within this alternate history.

The British superheroes came of age during the tumultuous 1960's, and promptly rebelled, like many teens of that time. Most of the former members of Cloud Nine disappeared. Zenith's parents were killed, others disappeared, and the few remaining, having apparently lost their powers, retreated into civilian life. One, Peter St. John, aka Mandala, became a Member of Parliament for the Conservative Party. (Mandala is the one responsible for essentially dragging Zenith kicking and screaming into the world-saving business.)

In the Phase I, Zenith reluctantly teams up with surviving members of Cloud Nine to defeat one of the Many-Angled Ones, although this proves fatal to a member of the team. Phase II details the efforts of a media tycoon modeled on Richard Branson to use Zenith as breeding stock for a new group of superpowered slaves that he will use for world domination. Phase III involves a multidimensional war utilizing comic-book characters from other British comics from the 50's, 60's and 70's (using either the actual characters or analogs, depending on their legal status). The final series, Phase IV, brought the story full circle as the Lovecraftian horrors from the first series were revealed as originating much closer to home than previously realized.

Zenith has since returned three times to the pages of "2000 AD". Once in "zzzenith.com", a one-off which featured in Prog 2001 which took place years after the end of the previous series, and in "1 Night 2 Remember" produced for the 25th anniversary issue. Recently he appeared on the cover to Prog 1500, although his image is small and hard to see.

Titan Books published five trade paperbacks of Zenith between 1988 and 1990 collecting Phase I through III. Recent attempts to republish the series (including the never collected Phase IV) have so far been prevented by a copyright dispute between the publisher and Morrison.


He has largely appeared in his own eponymous series which has been collected into a series of (out of print) trade paperbacks:

"Zenith" (written by Grant Morrison):
*Collected in Titan's "Book One: Tygers"
** "Phase I" (with Steve Yeowell, in "2000 AD" #535-550, 1987)

*"Books Two & Three: The Hollow Land Parts 1 & 2" collects:
** "Interlude 1: Whitlock" (with Steve Yeowell, in "2000 AD" #558, 1988)
** "Interlude 2: Peyne" (with Steve Yeowell, in "2000 AD" #559, 1988)
** "Phase II" (with Steve Yeowell, in "2000 AD" #589-606, 1988)

*"Books Four & Five: War In Heaven Parts 1 & 2" collects:
** "Interlude 3: Maximan" (with M. Carmona, in "2000AD Winter Special 1988")
** "Mandala: Shadows & Reflections" (with Jim McCarthy, in "2000AD Annual 1990", 1989)
** "Phase III" (with Steve Yeowell, in "2000 AD" #626-634, 650-662 & 667-670, 1989-1990)

*As yet uncollected
** "Phase IV" (with Steve Yeowell, in "2000 AD" #791-806, 1992)
** "zzzzenith.com" (with Steve Yeowell, in "2000 AD" prog 2001, 2000)


*Callahan, Timothy (2007) [http://www.sequart.org/books/?book=25373 Grant Morrison: The Early Years] . Masters of the Medium. Sequart.com Books. ISBN 0615140874

External links

* [http://www.2000adonline.com/?zone=thrill&page=profiles&choice=ZENITH 2000 AD profile]
* [http://www.seizingthefire.co.uk/ Seizing the Fire] The unofficial Zenith fansite
* [http://www.internationalhero.co.uk/s/scorcard.htm The Zenith Superhero Scorecard] identifying characters from Zenith Phase III
* [http://www.internationalhero.co.uk/z/zenhist.htm Zenith History] a more detailed look at the Zenith Universe

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