Nemesis the Warlock

Nemesis the Warlock is a comic strip created by writer Pat Mills and artist Kevin O'Neill which appeared in the pages of the weekly comic book 2000 AD. The title character, a fire-breathing demonic alien, fights against the fanatical Torquemada, Grand Master of the Terran Empire in Earth's distant future, and his attempts to exterminate all alien life. Grotesque, hyperbolic and violent, the series possesses a dark wit and biting satirical intent.

Series history

The series began in 1980, in issue 167 of 2000AD, with a story called Comic Rock 'The Terror Tube', in which a freedom fighter called Nemesis escaped from Torquemada, the chief of the Tube Police, after a protracted chase through a complex travel-tube system on a planet called Termight, later revealed to be Earth. All that was seen of Nemesis was the outside of his car/spaceship, the Blitzspear. The roots of the story lay in an episode of Ro-Busters (also by Mills and O'Neill) in which the heroes escaped from the police in a car chase through a tube network, which IPC management objected to. In Terror Tube the police were portrayed as a cross between the Spanish Inquisition (Torquemada is named after the notorious inquisitor Tomás de Torquemada) and the Ku Klux Klan, making it easier to position them as the bad guys.

Terror Tube was the first of a planned series of one-offs inspired by popular music, called "Comic Rock" - in this case The Jam's "Going Underground". The series never got going, but did produce a second Nemesis story, a two-parter called Killer Watt, in which Torquemada chased Nemesis through a bizarre teleport system based on telephone lines.

These stories proved popular, prompting Mills and O'Neill to develop a regular series, Nemesis the Warlock, which combined the early high-concept science fiction with fantasy in the "sword and sorcery" mould. Torquemada was promoted from chief of the Tube Police to Grand Master of Termight. Nemesis was revealed as a demonic alien with a face based on the nose of his car, fighting to protect aliens from Torquemada's genocidal tyranny, although his inhuman attitude and anarchic "Khaos" philosophy made his motivations ambiguous. Such as in Book Five; The Vengeance of Thoth; during a chase; Nemesis is forced to highjack a bus full of children, which ends up crashing, killing all onboard as he escapes.

Written at the height of Margaret Thatcher's grip on the British public, the fiercely left wing Mills depicts anarchic anti-heroes violently railing against a bullish, intolerant authority. That the authority in question is the human race thousands of years in the future adds a further dimension: a heavy-handed condemnation of human nature. Particular targets for Mills's ire were imperialism and religious fanaticism. Book 6 had a comment about South Africa and Apartheid removed, which was reinstated in the Titan Book reprint. The ABC Warriors and Satanus the black tyrannosaur, both Mills creations, were reintroduced as supporting characters, and a time travel element was introduced which left the series' timeline extremely convoluted.

Book 9 concluded in 1989, and the character barely appeared for ten years. Finally, in 1999, Mills and artists Henry Flint and O'Neill wrapped up the series with Book 10: The Final Conflict.


O'Neill's imaginative, grotesque art helped to establish the popularity of the series, but the efforts he put in to creating it led to a low rate of productivity. There were a number of delays in the publication of the Book One, and a second book was drawn by Jesus Redondo. This and the higher rates of pay available in America led O'Neill to leave the series after a handful of episodes of Book Four (although he has occasionally returned for short runs since then) and be replaced by Bryan Talbot. Other artists to draw the series include John Hicklenton, David Roach, Clint Langley and Henry Flint. O'Neill returned to the strip to illustrate its last ever episode.

Supporting characters

Purity Brown : human aide to Nemesis; Her father was put to death when she was only fourteen (as revealed in Book Five; The Vengeance of Thoth) by thought detectors for having a dream in which he insulted Torquemada. Candida de Torquemada : wife of Tomas de Torquemada and mother of two of his children, both of whom are among those slain in a bus crash caused by Nemesis. Sister Stern : second wife of Tomas de Torquemada and mother of his third child, there were times she was convinced he was inpure so tried repeatedly to commit Filicide, before Tomas had her assassinated. Grand Dragon Mazarin : a leader of Termight after Torquemada's death. A reformer, he ended the persecution of aliens, which did not last for long when Torquemada returned, convincing the Terminators to mutiny against him, so he could be executed by Tomas via a unique form of evisceration. Grobbendonk : alien pet of Nemesis, formerly the familiar of Baal, Nemesis's great-uncle. Deliberately eaten alive by Magna days before her wedding to Nemesis. Chira : warlock and first wife of Nemesis, mother of his son Thoth, despite the odds, she goes down fighting when faced by her assassins, ensuring only Sir Hargan escapes with his life. Magna : warlock and second wife of Nemesis. Leaked information to Torquemada that allowed him to locate Chira and Thoth out of jealousy. Swallowed Grobbendonk whole as the first phase of her plan to separate Nemesis from his allies. Killed by Nemesis minutes after the wedding, when he discovered her deeds. Great Uncle Baal : Nemesis' eccentric great uncle, banished for his controversial experiments on humans. The ABC Warriors : robot mercenaries and allies of Nemesis. Nostradamus de Torquemada : insane brother of Tomas de Torquemada. He was horribly disfigured when Tomas abandoned him during an ambush by the Monads, and was later hidden away in a lunatic asylum to conceal Tomas' disgrace. Thoth : warlock and son of Nemesis (named after Nemesis' father). He tried to destroy the world.


Most of the saga was told in 'books', with additional stories told in one-offs, which appeared in annuals, specials, or in the weekly comic. There are a number of collections of the original six-page installments available, which roughly follow the books as they were originally published. The earlier books were not given individual titles.

Book One

The World of Termight

In collected form this book also features the first three Nemesis stories - Going Underground, Killer Watt and Olric's Great Quest.

Book Two

Credo - The Alien Resistance

Book Three

The World of Nemesis

Features Chira, Nemesis' mate and the birth of Thoth, son of Nemesis. Chira is killed by imperial assassins and Thoth is adopted by Sir Hargan, his mother's killer.

Book Four

The Gothic Empire

Originally intended to be the first full-length Nemesis story, other stories were written as an introduction to the character and his world(s), ballooning into the preceding three books. Torquemada is killed at the end of this book, Thoth, still in the 'care' of Sir Hargan and his wife is growing in power.

Book Five

The Vengeance of Thoth

Starting ten years after the end of Book Four, an earlier version of Torquemada is brought through time by Thoth, so that he can punish his mother's murderer. Nemesis ends up causing the deaths of Barbarossa de Torquemada and Pandora de Torquemada; offspring of Candida & Tomas.Satanus re-appears.

Book Six

Torquemurder / The Time Wastes

The introduction of the Monad. This book also gives the explanation for Torquemada's "grandfather" Nostradamus' words in the previous book about Termight ending in "a sea of fire and blood".

Torquemada the God

A five-part story not run under the Nemesis banner, in 2000 AD progs 520-524. Torquemada consolidates his power on Terra, though is affected by a curious malady, which is eventually revealed to be a plot by Thoth to punish Tomas further, by killing his former incarnations.

Book Seven

The Two Torquemadas

Nemesis and Purity go back in time to 15th century Spain to retrieve Thoth. Torquemada goes back in time to kill Thoth and prevent his degradation. Tomas de Torquemada meets his namesake.

Book Eight

Purity's Story

During an interlude Purity recalls how she first met Nemesis, remembering details that had previously been blocked from her.

Book Nine

The Deathbringer

Tomas escapes the time wastes into 1980s Britain, leaking time radiation as he does so. Subsequent side effects of the radiation leak create upheaval, and Tomas seizes on this to become variously a slum landlord and chief of police.

Book Ten

The Final Conflict

The last series-length Nemesis story, after more than decade of appearing only in shorter episodes, as well as "The Hammer of Warlocks", an 18-page short series intended as a prelude to this book, telling the story so far and Torquemada's intentions of finding this ultimate weapon against the Warlock.

In other media

Computer games

Nemesis the Warlock: The Death of Torquemada was released as a game made for the Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC and ZX Spectrum. The C64 version of this game was made by Martech in 1987, programmer Michael J. Archer, musician Rob Hubbard.

Music video

The video for Shriekback's 1985 single "Nemesis" featured Nemesis the Warlock.

External links

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