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John Wagner

From Academic Kids

John Wagner is a comics writer who has also written under the pseudonyms John Howard, T.B. Grover, Mike Stott, Keef Ripley, Rick Clark and Brian Skuter, among others. Alongside Pat Mills, Wagner is responsible for revitalising British boys' comics in the 1970s, and has been a leading light in British comics ever since. He is best known for his work on 2000 AD and is the creator of Judge Dredd. He is noted for his taut, violent thrillers and his black humour.

Born in Pennsylvania in 1949, Wagner moved to Scotland as a boy. He started his career as a sub-editor at D. C. Thomson & Co. Ltd, where he met Pat Mills, before the pair left to go freelance in 1971. He and Mills wrote for various IPC comics, and Wagner edited the girls comics Sandie and Princess Tina. He briefly left comics in 1974, but returned to help Mills develop Battle Picture Weekly, for which he wrote Darkie's Mob, among others. He edited Valiant, for which he wrote the tough cop series One-Eyed Jack.

In 1976 Mills brought him in as script adviser for the new science fiction title 2000 AD . Wagner created many of its most popular characters, including Judge Dredd, with artist Carlos Ezquerra, and Robo-Hunter, with artist Ian Gibson. He and Ezquerra went on to create Strontium Dog for Starlord, which was later merged into 2000 AD.

Between 1980 and 1988 he wrote in partnership with Alan Grant. Although most of their scripts were credited to either Wagner (under one of his pseudonyms) alone or Grant alone, all their stories were done in collaboration, with credit divided between them to ensure each got a fair share of the pay (to balance things out some scripts were credited to "Grant/Grover"). In 2000 AD the pair created Ace Trucking Co. with artist Massimo Belardinelli. Outside of 2000 AD they worked on Detective Comics (with artist Norm Breyfogle) and Outcasts (with Cam Kennedy) for DC Comics, and created The Bogie Man (with Robin Smith) and The Last American (with Mike McMahon). They also wrote a large proportion of the stories in IPC's other comics, including Battle, Roy of the Rovers and the revived Eagle. Wagner and Grant's regular writing partnership broke up after the Judge Dredd epic "Oz", when the two writers could not agree on how to end the story. Wagner kept Judge Dredd, while Grant continued Strontium Dog and Judge Anderson and went on to become one of DC's main Batman writers. They continue to work together occasionally, for example on the Judge Dredd-Batman crossover Judgement on Gotham and on further Bogie Man stories.

In the early 1990s Pat Mills launched a new weekly comic, Toxic!, and Wagner was one of those invited to contribute, but his ideas were not deemed suitable for the tone of the title. One proposed story, Button Man, a cynical contemporary thriller about hired guns hunting each other for the entertainment of wealthy patrons, drawn by Arthur Ranson, ended up in 2000 AD. 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.

Wagner still writes for 2000 AD where he remains the lead writer of Judge Dredd and also contributes occasional Strontium Dog stories. Other stories he has written for 2000 AD include the superhero parody The Balls Brothers, with artist Kevin Walker, and Banzai Batallion, with Ian Gibson, featuring a squad of pest-control robots who behave like miniature soldiers. For Dark Horse Comics he has written Star Wars stories, including several featuring Boba Fett, as well as for their Aliens and Xena: Warrior Princess licensed titles.

His 1997 graphic novel A History Of Violence, drawn by Vince Locke and published by DC's Paradox Press, is about a respectable family man in an American small town whose shady past is revealed after he makes the news defending his business from criminals. A film adaptation, directed by David Cronenberg and starring Viggo Mortensen and Ed Harris, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2005, where it was nominated for the Palme D'Or, and is due for general release later in the year.

Film adaptations have also been made of Judge Dredd, directed by Danny Cannon and starring Sylvester Stallone, and The Bogie Man, starring Robbie Coltrane.

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