It’s generally agreed that Rogue Trooper was one of the better characters – or stories – to have emerged during the “golden age” period of the well-known British sci-fi and fantasy comic, 2000 AD. Despite some mediocre appearances in later decades, the earliest tales from the 1980s are still held in high regard among comicbook fans, the quality of the scripts and artwork being rarely equaled in the iterations or reboots of the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s (not to mention a failed adaptation by IDW Publishing in the United States).
The kernel of the story was simple enough, as it followed the downbeat adventures of a genetically-engineered soldier of the Souther Confederacy, the last survivor of a military massacre, searching on a war-devastated planet known as Nu-Earth for the traitor who betrayed him and his unit to an enemy bloc: the Norts. Travelling with him were the disembodied digital personalities of three slain comrades, embedded via “bio-chips” in a hi-tech gun, helmet and backpack. A narrative and time-saving gimmick for the published weekly serial which allowed the writer and illustrator, Gerry Finley-Day and Dave Gibbons, to have a small band of characters for the solitary lead to bounce off without the need for extra artistic work.
The initial, sometimes simplistic tales drew on very obvious Cold War – and even US Civil War – parallels before the narrative arcs grew into their own, attracting several leading writers of the era and notable artists like Brett Ewins, Cam Kennedy and Colin Wilson (the latter gaining much praise for his “future war” illustrations and the use of recognisable, if extrapolated, military technologies). However, after the quest to find the “Traitor General” was completed in 1985, a catalogue of evermore unlikely adventures and a sort of hard reboot or spinoff in 1989, titled Friday, pretty much killed the series. An attempted back-to-basics revival in the 2000s fared only slightly better, with the character going into semi-retirement thereafter.
Which makes the recent news of a movie production based on the Rogue Trooper stories – after years of false-starts and idle rumour – all the more interesting. At least, for fans like me. The British film-maker Duncan Jones, the man behind the intriguing scfi-fi flicks Moon and Source Code – and the rather more recent and entirely dire fantasy outing, Warcraft – has announced that he will take the lead on the project as the writer-director, in cooperation with Liberty Films and Rebellion Developments Limited, the UK-based games publishers and present owners of 2000 AD. Hopefully the end result will meet expectations, light on the CGI and heavy on the story and character. It would also, I might suggest, be an excellent opportunity to cast a person of colour in the lead role of Rogue Trooper himself, since his “race” or “ethnicity” is irrelevant to his artistic appearances in the comics.
Meanwhile, a recent fan-made short set in the same universe, titled Rogue Trooper:The Quartz Masscare.