Nemesis the Warlock
"Be pure! Be vigilant! Behave!"
Written by Pat Mills and illustrated by variety of artists during its run, Nemesis the Warlock was one of the more famous titles in 2000 AD, a British comics anthology best known for its de facto flagship title, Judge Dredd.
Nemesis the Warlock takes place in the distant future where Earth (called now Termight) and much of the known galaxy is ruled by authoritarian and expansionist Termight Empire, which follows the ideology of human supremacy and genetic purity to the extent of Kill'Em All policy towards alien lifeforms and offspring of humans and aliens. This empire is lead by Tomas de Torquemada, whose power is backed by a Cult of Personality and religious following revolving around him. Termight Empire keeps expanding in the galaxy, taking over one planet after another and massacring their alien inhabitants. Despite the might and humancentric ideology of the Empire the life of average citizen ("Termite") in Earth tends to be controlled, repressed and likely to end violently (literally: in one short story it is said outright that deaths from natural causes are few and far between).
Termight Empire is resisted by alliance of alien races of galaxy as well as resistance movement of human dissidents opposing the rule of Torquemada. Both of these are more or less led by alien known as Nemesis. Belonging to the race of powerful, demonic aliens known as Warlocks, Nemesis is both fearsome warrior and mighty wizard, who in several occasions brings forth his view of humans as Puny Earthlings. While Nemesis and his allies gain several important victories over Termight Empire, they constantly fail to bring down the entire Empire with Torquemada managing to get away with his life and Nemesis' plans to finish Torquemada failing or backfiring spectacularly.
The title got its start in the form of Terror Tube and Killer Watt, two short stories taking place in the Earth under Termight Empire. At this point much of the setting and backstory wasn't yet fleshed out with Torquemada being described as "chief of the tube police" rather than "grand master of Termight" and with Nemesis spending both stories in his ship with no clues about his identity or appearance. Currently Terror Tube is available for free at the current website of 2000 AD.
Stylistically Nemesis the Warlock combines dark fantasy, gothic imagery and science fiction in a manner, which can occasionally remind reader of another well-known British franchise especially in the case of Termight Empire. While several tropes are played straight, many others are subverted or averted. Aliens are mostly depicted as sympathetic although not always flawless while humans outside the resistance tend to be either docile "Termites" or fanatical "Terminators", the army of Knight Templars following Torquemada and his ideology to the point of suicidal behaviour.
Nemesis the Warlock was also among those 2000 AD titles which were adapted into video games. Nemesis the Warlock was released by Martech in 1987 for Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum. While it is relatively simple action game with somewhat monotonic level design, it was received well at the time of its publication. Also, the memorable theme of C64 version [dead link] is considered one of the high points of Rob Hubbard's career.
Should not be confused with Nemesis.
- Absolute Xenophobe: According to Torquemada and his Terminators, "The only good alien is a dead alien."
- Action Girl: Purity Brown, Nemesis's human companion. Also, the female Warlocks, who are just out-and-out terrifying.
- And I Must Scream: The Sea of Lost Souls in Killer Watt, Torquemada getting at one point trapped in time loop where he is repeatedly burned to death and possibly the final fate of Torquemada with or without Nemesis.
- Apologetic Attacker: Kremlin and his Yologs while killing the guards during the mass escape organized by Nemesis:
"With respect, we're going to slice you up..."
"...and use you as laces for our boots!"
- Attack! Attack! Attack!: One of the main tactics of the Termight Empire. Reasons include fanatic devotion to the Empire and Torquemada (one of the early stories shows dying Terminators singing "a hymn of joy at their own destruction") and (unfounded) fears of terrible fates meeting humans who are captured alive by aliens.
- Badass Normal: Tomas de Torquemada, who constantly performs impressive, almost superhuman feats. May be also one of the reasons for his cult of personality.
- Bizarre Alien Biology: The Warlocks, who have acidic blood, mouths in their necks, and long, spiked 'noses' which (if Torquemada is to be believed) are actually their genitals, are amongst the milder examples of this.
- Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism: Female Warlocks are much larger than the males, mostly because of their centaur-like lower bodies (the guys, for the record, are bipedal).
- Black Comedy: Oh yes.
- Bloody Murder: At least the females of Nemesis' species have highly corrosive blood, although at least one Terminator found that out a little too late.
- Catch Phrase: Both Nemesis and Torquemada, as shown in the quotes at the top of the page. Nemesis has also another, longer one, which is used at least in two occasions, although with some variety:
"I am the Nemesis- I am the Warlock- I am the shape of things to come- the lord of the flies- holder of the sword sinister- the death bringer- I am the one who waits on the edge of your dreams- I am all these things and many more."
-World of Termight
"For I am the Nemesis, I am Khaos, I am Deadlock, I am the Warlock, the shape of things to come, the lord of the flies, holder of the sword sinister, the death bringer, I am all these things and many more."
-The Gothic Empire
- Chainsaw Good: Torquemada calls it Cheryl. In one story he breaks it and has to make do with a hedge trimmer.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: Saying that Torquemada and the Termight Empire employ torture to some extent is like saying that American government spends some of its monetary resources on army.
- Crapsack World: While this may not apply to the rest of galaxy, the Earth/Termight during the rule of Torquemada and Termight Empire is pretty much this.
- Crossover: There was a pretty big crossover with ABC Warriors in the 80s.
- Cult of Personality: Surrounding Torquemada.
- Dark Is Not Evil: While Nemesis himself is shown often in an ambiguous light in terms of both his morals and motives, he is more or less one of the "good guys" of the setting ( and ultimately shown to be Jerk with a Heart of Gold).
- Enfant Terrible: Nemesis's son, Thoth.
- Faceless Goons: The Terminators are chiefly identifiable by the ornate masks that hide their faces.
- Fantastic Racism: The Termight Empire might as well be the trope incarnate.
- Full-Frontal Assault: Nemesis uses many outfits and armors throughout the run of the comic. This is one of them. Thanks to Warlocks' Bizarre Alien Biology, though, clothes do seem to be rather optional from a modesty standpoint.
- Futuristic Superhighway: Early strips show that human civilization on Earth has moved underground where cities are connected to each other by a system of "Travel Tubes," the inside of which are covered in a coat of magma, allowing all vehicles to travel along any part of a tube's interior lining. The "Killer Watt" strip envisions the system as something more like traveling inside telephone cables.
- Goo-Goo Godlike: Thoth, Nemesis's son, is the most powerful Warlock in history thanks to his mother giving him all her magical power in addition to what he had already. Oh, and he's an Omnicidal Maniac. Joy.
- Half-Human Hybrid: Some alien species are capable of procreating with humans. The offspring are commonly known as "mandrakes" after "the sinister plant that produced a beautiful bloom but whose roots were shaped like the devil himself". In some cases it is even possible that the external signs of the alien heritage do not manifest before adulthood. Not a pleasant discovery when you are "executioner of Terminus, scourge of the alien, and Torquemada's right hand man".
- Heel Realization: At one point, Torquemada meets his historical namesake (and one of his reincarnations) through time travel. After hearing Torquemada of the future mentioning the subject of reincarnation, the historical Torquemada decides to personally introduce him to the torture methods of Spanish Inquisition as a heretic. However, Torquemada of the future keeps telling about his actions and how the historical Torquemada served as his inspiration. This horrifies the historical Torquemada.
- High Altitude Interrogation: In Book I, when Brother Gogol insists that he'd rather die than help Nemesis let every alien prisoner and human traitor escape Termight, Nemesis's response is to levitate Brother Gogol and hover him over a cliff until he changes his mind.
- Humans Are the Real Monsters: The opinion of a lot of alien species. To be fair, Torquemada and the Terminators really don't help our case.
- Much of Torquemada's hatred for aliens is also rooted in having been a child slave for truly vicious aliens. Granted, Torquemada already hated aliens before he was a slave, but slavery certainly didn't help change his convictions and would ultimately only make things much, much worse.
- Karmic Death: In the first story where Nemesis himself is shown, a group of humans try to capture and hang him while taking his armor in the process. Even though they initially seem successful, each one of them dies soon after the hanging. The way of death at least in some cases reflects what they did to Nemesis: The butcher who hit Nemesis happened to "accidentally" cut his hand with meat cleaver, the robotsmith who did the hanging was strangled by two of "the most dangerous snakes on this planet" and the man who spat on Nemesis was found more or less drowned. Eventually the rest of the local populace get the clue and return the armor to Nemesis (who is still hanging on the gallows), asking him to leave them alone and promising to not harm him again. Nemesis accepts the offer. Also, the deaths of Torquemada in the end of Killer Watt (where he was killed by the attack intended to kill Nemesis), The Gothic Empire (where the alien origins of his current body were exposed to Terminators, turning them against him and causing him to commit suicide) and The Final Conflict (where Nemesis turned Torquemada's Weapon of Mass Destruction against him).
- Living Ship: The Blitzspears, the Warlocks' traditional getabouts of choice.
- Morality Chain: Purity, who can occasionally be the only thing preventing Nemesis from jumping off the deep end and just trying to exterminate humanity after the Termight Empire's latest outrage.
- Morality Pet: Candida, Torquemada's first wife, is only a partially effective example - she does provide Tomas with a few Pet the Dog moments, but mostly, his noble intentions where she's concerned just end up leading him to commit even greater evil.
- Moral Myopia: Shown by both Nemesis and Torquemada at various points:
"Foul, impure deviant! You dare compare your mate with the galactic master-race!"
- More Deadly Than the Male: Female Warlocks are bigger, stronger, and more powerful mages than the males. The phrase itself is commonly used when referring to them.
- A Nazi by Any Other Name: The Termight Empire is pretty much a textbook example of this. Putting on the Reich is averted, since the clothing and armors of Torquemada's followers are mostly based on Ku Klux Klan and medieval armors. Also, Torquemada's reincarnations apparently include Adolf Hitler.
- Word of God states that the Spanish Inquisition was the biggest inspiration for Torquemada and his Terminators. Torquemada himself even shares his name with one of the most notorious inquisitors from the Inquisition.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: During The Gothic Empire story arc Torquemada is actually killed for good. However, Nemesis' son, Thoth, brings Torquemada from the past in order to exact his revenge by trapping Torquemada in a time loop, where Torquemada gets burned to death repeatedly. Later, Nemesis releases Torquemada from the loop in an attempt to get reunited with his son. Eventually, Nemesis leaves Torquemada to be picked and executed by Terminators, who consider him a traitor for working together with Nemesis. However, Torquemada manages to persuade the Terminators back to his side, disposes of the current de facto ruler of the Termight Empire and returns to Earth/Termight, continuing his rule as Grand Master. Oops.
- Non-Mammal Mammaries: Female Warlocks, assuming they aren't mammals. Frankly, it's hard to tell.
- Organic Technology: The Warlocks use a fair amount of this - in fact, it can be quite hard to tell which bits of the aliens themselves are mechanical or biological.
- Our Zombies Are Different: After his first death in the teleporter accident, Torquemada is capable of possessing dead bodies as a phantom-like entity and reanimating them as "zombies". In addition to this, in The Final Conflict Nemesis finally has Torquemada at his mercy and decides to turn him and his Terminators into another kind of zombies by tearing out their hearts, weighting them with the scale and feeding the hearts of the guilty to his alien pet. However, when Nemesis does this to Torquemada after having his way with the rest of Terminators, zombified Torquemada picks up the scale, kills the pet of Nemesis with it, takes his heart from the corpse and puts it back to his chest. The entry about Villainous Willpower below is there for a reason.
- Released to Elsewhere: When Torquemada takes back his throne after the events of Torquemurder, he starts forcibly "teleporting" the alien inhabitants of Earth/Termight "to their homeworlds". In reality these "teleporters" are disguised vaporisation vats. The supporters of Torquemada also use this argument during his trial in The Final Conflict.
- Ridiculously Cute Critter: Some aliens are closer to this than you would expect given the setting.
- Scary Dogmatic Aliens: Variation, where humans play this role.
- Ship Tease: Pops up occasionally between Purity and Nemesis.
- Shout-Out: Torquemada wielding a chainsword at one point may or may not be example of this. However, both the story with the chainsword and the first edition of Warhammer 40000 were initially released in the same year, 1988. Some rumors actually suggest that the use of the weapon in WH40K was inspired by its appearance in Nemesis the Warlock and not the other way around.
- The first edition of 40k: Rogue Trader came out in 1987, but this comic and the Rogue Trader Era Warhammer shared several writers.
- In another example of the cross-pollination between the two, Nemesis occasionally makes use of what is clearly an early bolt pistol.
- Skunk Stripe: Purity has a prominent one.
- Squick: Invoked in-universe by Torquemada and the Empire as part of their ideology:
"People of Termight! Before I execute the dirty truckers, I want you to consider, for a moment, the aliens' leader... Nemesis! As I reveal - for the first time - that his foul proboscis is used in the reproduction of his odious species! Yes... not a thought to linger on, is it?"
- Timey-Wimey Ball: The frequent use of time travel in later story arcs can occasionally go into this territory.
- Torture Technician: One of the trademarks of Termight Empire:
"I am Torquemada! Chief of the tube police. I want to go to Necropolis where I am to address the Royal College of Terminators on - "The Use of Pain in Modern Torture"!"
- Unusual Euphemism: Not the most trucked up example in the history of comic books, but it is still there.
- Villainous Valour: Suffice it to say that the Terminators are not all snivelling Dirty Cowards by a long, long stretch. And then there's Torquemada.
- Villainous Willpower: Tomas de Torquemada.
- Villain Override: One of Torquemada's favourite tactics after the teleporter accident.
The video game adaptation provides examples of
- Everything Fades: Averted to the point of Refuge in Audacity. When hit with sword, bullet or fireball, the corpses of Mooks fly in air, land on terrain (unless the body falls through one of the many Bottomless Pits) and remain there for the rest of level. Since each level takes place in single screen and since completing level usually requires killing dozens of Mooks, the levels can become very quickly filled with corpses of regular enemies. Player can also walk on these corpses and completion of some levels actually requires using them as platforms. However, this trope is still played straight with zombies that occasionally rise from these bodies (the original corpses are still left intact, though).
- Have a Nice Death: When player runs out of health and gets killed, he/she is treated to the scene of the body of Nemesis floating towards the top edge of screen. However, if player falls/jumps into bottomless pit, Nemesis is shown falling through a black screen, instead. Both of these are accompanied by the animation of the heart getting repeatedly crushed by the hand holding it (take a look at the entry below for additional information) and mocking message from Torquemada, although the exact wording varies between versions:
"I have defeated you Warlock. I can now cleanse the galaxy of all alien presence. And your banished soul will only live in my dreams..."
-Message in C64 version when killed by running out of health
"You may of [sic] escaped Warlock, but you are trapped in a pit of my mind. For all eternity."
-Message in C64 version when killed by bottomless pit
- Ludicrous Gibs: Not as extreme an example as many other games. However, the piles of corpses, zombies bursting through the stomachs of those corpses, the meter showing remaining health  and the visual style based on the original comic were considered graphic and gruesome at the time.
- One-Hit Polykill: Nemesis can spit fireballs, which go through regular mooks, allowing player to take out several with one. While they still don't go through zombies, one fireball is enough to destroy one zombie (which require several hits when using gun or sword) instantly. However, fireballs come in extremely small supply, since player is given another one only when beginning the next level and can hold only 0-2 fireballs at any time.
- Suicidal Overconfidence: Would YOU attack demon-like alien who is knee-deep in your fallen comrades who have been equipped with the weapon and armor identical to yours? Of course, as Attack! Attack! Attack! entry above shows, this may be just the case of staying true to the source material.
- Trial and Error Gameplay: Each level requires player to kill set amount of endlessly respawning Mooks. After this player has to leave the level through one of the four edges of the screen. The right direction depends on the level and the only way to find the right edge in the game itself is to try different directions until the right one is found. While testing the left and right edges of the screen is harmless, both top and bottom edges work also as bottomless pit causing instant game over. The only exception to this is when either the top or bottom edge is the exit direction for level and even then only in the situation, where player has killed required number of Mooks. In addition to this, after meeting the "kill quota" player has to leave the level under very strict time limit, which is also shortened by damage from enemies. In short, it pays to have one of these at hand when giving the game a try.
- A Winner Is You: At least in C64 version, after fighting your way through army of Mooks (literally) you will be presented with a textbox detailing how Nemesis drives his sword through Torquemada, killing him. Press fire to return to title screen. Aren't you happy that you didn't waste the time spent on playing this game on friends and family, instead?
- Depicted with hand holding a heart. When player receives damage, the hand starts to squeeze the heart, eventually crushing it and causing the blood to flow. After both the heart has been crushed and all of the blood has flowed out, player dies.
- The map is for Spectrum version, which has 24 levels while C64 version has 22. However, the layout of levels 1-21 is mostly similar in both versions and right directions to the next level in levels 1-22 should be same. It is not known at the moment, whether this applies to Amstrad version, as well.