Friday, 29 January 2016

Hammerstein the ABC Warrior

If you're looking for a hard-as-nails, humanoid war robot, with a grim visage and a keen sense of honour, then Hammerstein the ABC Warrior could be for you.

If you already know all about him, then, um, well, I think we should probably be friends. So, er, read on friend.

If you've never heard of him then fear not, I'm about to fill that war-robot-shaped hole in your life — mainly by showing some of the early comic strips, magazines and other media where Hammerstein first reared his metal head. Although, it's worth saying right now, it's not always the same metal head.

The robot is a creation of the legendary Pat Mills, the visionary behind 2000AD, and its original Tharg (2000AD speak for editor). Hammerstein's first ever appearance was as an army surplus robot for sale in the Ro-Busters strip, Day of the Robot in issue one of Starlord.

His first action sequence came just a few pages later in the same issue, in the North Sea Tunnel story.

Although Pat Mills credits Kevin O'Neill with co-creating Ro-BustersCarlos Pino was the artist on the first stories

Pat Mills took Ro-Busters to 2000AD in 1978, when Starlord merged into it in Prog 86.

Art by Dave Gibbons (who later became the co-creator of Watchmen)

The ABC Warriors started in prog 119 of 2000AD, with a subhead stating it was a new Ro-Busters adventure. In this strip Hammerstein sported his older, more human-looking head.

Illustration by Kevin O'Neill, one of Pat Mills' long-term collaborators

Three episodes later and Hammerstein was off to recruit Mongrol to join his group.

Art by the much-loved Mick McMahon made the badass robot look more badass than ever

A three page prologue was published later which linked the ABC Warriors even more closely with Ro-Busters.

Kev O'Neill's signature style shines through

Hammerstein showed up in a third title when he and his robot warriors made a surprise appearance, set thousands of years after their previous adventures, in the strip Nemesis The Warlock. For a short while they were a regular fixture.

Art by the versatile Bryan Talbot (who also created, among other things, The Tale of One Bad Rat, a Beatrix Potter inspired story of abuse and homelessness, that couldn't be more removed from sci-fi war robots)

Nemesis eventually gave them a side mission and the warriors returned to their own strip in the story The Black Hole. Here we learnt that much of Hammerstein's head was actually a removable helmet, worn over the human-looking features.

And the world was introduced to the great Simon Bisley

Later in the mission we were shown more of Hammerstein's early days, including the Mark One and Mark Two war robots that predated his design. The sequence also tells how he felt his first emotion.

S.M.S. provided the intricate illustrations for this portion of the tale

The story continued directly into the first regular, full colour ABC Warriors strips Khronicles of Khaos and Hellbringer.
The art went from strength to strength when Kev Walker was brought on board

Not long after this Kev Walker and Chris Halls (who later changed his name to Chris Cunningham) designed a robot for inclusion in the Sylvester Stallone film Judge Dredd (more of that here). It looked suspiciously like Hammerstein, but was only ever referred to as an ABC War Robot. The ambiguity over the robot's identity was soon dispelled by 2000AD when Hammerstein entered his fourth different strip in the comic. He had a cameo in Judge Dredd, fighting judges in a flashback story that firmly established his presence in the film. The story is largely thought to have been ret-conned out of continuity now, which is a shame because the art alone deserves to live on for an ABC Warrior's lifespan.

Incredible art by Jason Brashill

Later on, in The Volgan War flashback story, told in ABC Warriors in 2000AD, we discovered that there were many other similar Hammerstein pattern robots, but that our Hammerstein was unique among his kind for being capable of independent thought. We also learnt that all Hammersteins were originally designed to have 4 arms.

Art by Clint Langley

The story of the early Hammerstein units was picked up in the 2000AD strip Savage, set in a contemporary Britain, occupied by hostile foreign forces. This story showed us Mark One war robots in the Hammerstein pattern. Presumably different models from the ones we had seen earlier in The Black Hole. Although not Hammerstein himself, they are still clearly Hammerstein units, so they're kind of like his granddad.

Especially if his granddad was not a very reliable person. The art by Patrick Goddard took Hammerstein back to black and white

He also appeared in Issue 2 of the short-lived Dice Man magazine. A gamebook style spin-off comic of 2000AD edited by Mills in the 80s.

And whatever happened to this short animation? It appears to be a promo for an ABC Warriors cartoon.

So, by my count Hammerstein has appeared in at least 3 different magazines, in 4 or 5 different strip titles, he's been in a major Hollywood movie (sort of), and nearly had his own cartoon.

And on top of all that there have been several commercial models made of him, including this one in a roughly 28mm scale and this larger one more suitable to 32mm, both by Wargames Foundry, and the no longer available PVC kit from Tsukuda Hobby, based on his movie appearance.

These days Hammerstein can still be seen in 2000AD, having recently returned in an all-new set of Ro-Busters stories.

As usual, if you've got anything to add, please do so in the comments below.

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