What fantasy and science fiction of the late 1970s and 1980s, even those aimed at the youngest, had a black component and morbid out of the ordinary knows anyone who lived through those dark years. Those were the times when disney freaked out and produced the most macabre films of his filmography, such as ‘Taron and the magic cauldron’, ‘The dragon from the lake of fire’ or ‘The black abyss’.
It was also the time of British science fiction series such as the traumatizing ‘Chocky’ or ‘Inside the Labyrinth’, with a dull aesthetic and a funereal rhythm. And from an explosion of creativity and lack of control in comics and magazines aimed at the youngest, which gave rise to publications such as ‘2000 AD’, home to characters as extreme and crazy as Nemesis the Warlock or Judge Dredd. In this context, ‘Doomlord’ was born, or as we knew it in Spain in a very fortunate translation, ‘Exterminius’.
Made in Eagle
Eagle was a historical British comic magazine that went through two stages of great popularity. Between 1950 and 1969 it was born as the idea of an Anglican vicar who believed that his church’s message was not being transmitted as it should to his little parishioners, and he created this magazine with great success, selling almost a million copies. His best-known character was the historical ‘Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future’, the British equivalent of Buck Rogers. and with intricate stories and sensational illustrations that turned the genre of space opera in a kind of war elegy for kids.
Dan Dare was resurrected in the first issues of the mythical ‘200AD’, between 1977 and 1979. The response was so positive that ‘Eagle’ was reborn shortly after, in 1982, with a Dan Dare grandson of the original pilot and with another addition, inherited from the magazines for girls from the Fleetway publishing house: the fotonovelas. Several series with an adventure and science-fiction orientation and without romantic components were published in this format: ‘Manix’, ‘Sgt. Streetwise’ and ‘Doomlord’, which we knew here as ‘Exterminius’.
Seen today, ‘Exterminius’ has a completely unreal and naive aesthetic, with monsters that are nothing more than expressionless plastic masks, but that is precisely what made it so terrifying. The extremely exaggerated performances of the actors, in a permanent state of panic and tension, and the grotesqueness of the face of Exterminius, a species of extraterrestrial reptile with pointed ears and a disturbing and immovable smilegave it a certain fame among kids who had no other way of accessing galactic horror fiction typical of B-series movies for adults.
Exterminius, whose first adventure lasted for the first 13 issues of this new Eagle, introduced us to the titular alien, who fell to Earth presenting himself as ‘Servant of Nox, master of life, owner of death’. The first thing he does It is to impersonate a policeman and make a journalist believe that his arrival has been a dream, to initiate conquest plans that will lead him to supplant increasingly higher positions in the English government: first, a member of Parliament.
The general tone of this first batch of chapters, like the second that would follow, is amazingly sinister. Exterminius’ mission is to annihilate humanity after it has been judged on Nox., and he approaches his task with astonishing poise and ruthless relentlessness. Nothing stops Exterminius, short of a classic anti-alien sci-fi fix.
Extermination in ‘Mortadelo’
Curiously, ‘Exterminius’ arrived in Spain no less than on the pages of various Bruguera publications. Possibly this importation was due to the purchase of a content package from the British publisher IPC, since the mythical ‘Time Shocks’ by Alan Moore from the magazine ‘2000 AD’ were also read in the ‘Special Mortadelo’, under the Spanish title ‘Time in your hands’.
The first year of ‘Exterminius’, a total of 52 pages, came here in the second stage of ‘Super Mortadelo’, from numbers 170 to 182, in installments of four pages in 1984. The second stage, of 81 pages, also began to be published four by four pages between numbers 184 and 191 of ‘Super Mortadelo’. The following year it returned, but in another format: from number 43 of ‘Super Rompetechos’, in installments of 11 or 12 pages, but only three installments were published, due to the closure of the magazine. This second year would have concluded in number 46, but it was never published.
Returning to the comic, it is not surprising this sinister edge of ‘Exterminius’. Its creators were none other than Alan Grant and John Wagner, two historical figures of British science fiction who made their fortune, above all, in ‘2000 AD’. John Wagner is the very creator of Judge Dredd together with cartoonist Carlos Ezquerra, and he developed a good part of his career in the legendary British comic magazine, where he also conceived iconic characters such as Strontium Dog or Robo Hunter. Alan Grant co-wrote some of the most memorable Dredd stories with Wagner and, as his partner, spent long periods writing for DC, especially Batman comics, and creating characters like the unforgettable Lobo.
With Wagner and Grant, black humor and conceptual gap was guaranteed, and they continued to demonstrate it in a second year, where due to the success they had to lower the plot nihilism and make the admired Exterminius become an antihero. How? We don’t actually talk about Doomlord as a first name, but as a kind of galactic position. He is not “the” Exterminius, but “a” Exterminius.
That is to say, Nox sends another Exterminius (this is like Terminator, if they kill one you have others waiting), but this one considers that the Earth has been judged rashly, and deserves a second chance. Exterminius (or Servitor Zyn, as we will discover his name) stops being the enemy to become the protagonist, and Grant and Wagner develop here a kind of allegory about the inherent goodness of the human being. Exterminius camouflages himself as a traveling salesman in a bed and breakfast British with a woman and her children, whom he keeps hypnotized, and is dedicated to influencing humanity for the better.
Curiously, the story leaves behind the ‘Invaders’ style of the first year to become something much more suggestive. That is, a fable with strong social implications, along the lines of ‘2000 AD’: there is humour, adventure and action, but also curious reflections on the human species and how to save the planet.
That would not be the end of Exterminius in fotonovela format, since there was still another year of the alien’s adventures, which never reached Spain. In this third season, Exterminius becomes the leader of the human species, whose destiny he guides with an iron fist. The series continues to display a black humor and political ramblings that possibly blew the heads of the kids of the time: Exterminius leads the planet to prosperity, but under the threat of genocide, and massacring populations as a warning signal. This is how the heroes of the eighties comics were, and then we were surprised by what you see on Twitter…
The end of ‘Extermination’
After these 67 issues of strange galactic photonovelism, Exterminius was made into a comic. Freed from your budget constraintsremained active for several years: from number 79 of ‘Eagle’, in 1983, to number 395, in 1989. Already transformed into a kind of galactic hero, our alien traveled the galaxy helping all kinds of races from other worlds and fleeing from the relentless persecution of his own in the company of the two children of the lady of the bed and breakfasta bit Doctor Who style.
Exterminius also had to face his past, colliding with the interests of his previous planetary bosses, and even creating a hybrid between human and Noxian who ends up becoming a juvenile delinquent. In more than three hundred issues of comics, as you might expect, the story took many turns, although it continually betrayed its own plot, giving rise to a fickle personality Exterminius of the writers’ choosing.
This series, originally called ‘The Deathlords’, was already seen very briefly as ‘Doomlord’ in the ‘Ultramundo’ magazine in 1987, by MC Ediciones, which published abundant headers from the editorial based on the North American and colored reprints of the heroes of ‘2000 AD’ and ‘Eagle’. Nothing to do with that terrifying alien that we found in 1984 in the pages of ‘Mortadelo’. A wicked look and an unearthly smile that populated more than one childhood nightmare.