Exclusive: Rebellion returns John Wagner’s One-Eyed Jack to duty in first Fleetway archive collection

Promotional art for Rebellion's new One-Eyed Jack collection, based on the character's first cover appearance in Valiant
Promotional art for Rebellion’s new One-Eyed Jack collection, based on the character’s first cover appearance in Valiant

As Judge Dredd prepares to celebrate his 40th birthday, downthetubes can exclusively reveal his publishers Rebellion are preparing to fire his ultra-violent origins from the 1970s and back into readers’ hands for the first time.

One-Eyed Jack - 1970s promotion
One-Eyed Jack – 1970s promotion

The root of Britain’s biggest comics export, future policeman Judge Dredd, One-Eyed Jack was a Dirty Harry-style cop, created by writer John Wagner and artist John Cooper for the weekly comic Valiant, who patrolled an increasingly broken society of crime, racial unrest, and economic hardship, where even the cops struggle to keep order.

In July 2017, Rebellion are to collect all the cases of this proto-Dredd together for the first time.

For many readers, this will be the first time they will get to see the beginnings of the comic book revolution that led to the controversial Action and the legendary 2000AD.

Jack McBane, known as One-Eyed Jack, is a police detective based in New York of the 1970s, who handed out his own brand of rough justice regardless of whether it meant breaking the rules. The themes Wagner explored in the strip such as bizarre crimes and extreme violence, would be developed in the pages of “Judge Dredd” in 2000AD.

Originally appearing in Valiant before transferring to the groundbreaking Battle Picture Weekly, Detective Jack McBane was the British version of Dirty Harry from the eponymous 1971 movie starring Clint Eastwood, and was also inspired by TV series such as The Streets Of San Francisco.

John recalls he didn’t write many episodes himself, with scripting duties taken up  by the likes of 2000AD‘s Gerry Finley-Day, and, possibly, Alan Hebden.

“One-Eyed Jack” was one of three new strips to debut in Valiant in December 1975 under John Wagner’s editorship of the long-running title, alongside a new war series, “Death Wish” and a new style football strip, “The Lout That Ruled The Rovers”, all three strips pre-dating the kind of edgy, violent material perhaps more associated with Action, which debuted a year later.

The revamp of Valiant occurred after the launch of Battle Picture Weekly, which John helped put together with Pat Mills.

Here’s the very first episode of the strip, from the issue of Valiant cover dated 20th December 1975.

One-Eyed Jack - Valiant (20th December 1975) - Page 1

One-Eyed Jack - Valiant (20th December 1975) - Page 2

One-Eyed Jack - Valiant (20th December 1975) - Page 2
The first ever episode of “One-Eyed Jack” from Valiant cover dated 20th December 1975

 

Wagner’s hero is violent and uncompromising but the strip is festooned with doses of black humour – the hallmarks that would see him go on to co-create Judge Dredd, who has become one of the most recognisable comic book characters in the world.

News of the collection will be welcomed by fans not only of John Wagner but those who grew up reading strips drawn by the late John Cooper, whose many credits included not only “One-Eyed Jack” but “Johnny Red” (for Battle) as well as early episodes of The Sun‘s football strip “Striker” and, late in his career, illustration work for Channel Four News.

Valiant - Cover dated 30th March 1976
“One-Eyed-Jack” on the cover of Valiant (cover dated 30th March 1976)

Recalling the origins of One-Eyed Jack in an interview published in Hibernia Comics Death of Valiant publication, John Wagner acknowledges the character was the starting point for Judge Dredd.

“I couldn’t help but be impressed by his popularity with Valiant readers,” he recalled. “When I joined Pat Mills for a while on 2000AD he already had most of the story ideas pretty much worked out, but to me there was one obvious gap, the cop story, and I knew the sort of thing that worked… We used to get readers’ votes in and this story ‘One-Eyed Jack’ topped the poll every week.”

In the same publication, John Cooper recalls first meeting John Wagner through his agent Billy M Cooper, (same surname coincidental), in her office in Hampstead, London.

“I don’t know if I asked [Billie] if she had anyone capable of handling a tough New York detective,” recalled John Wagner. “I think it may have been the first time I met her, but he was a natural for the story. It was John Cooper’s first work for Valiant.”

The character, John acknowledged was based on “every American cop show I’d ever seen, but Dirty Harry was the main man.”

“He left it to me,” John Cooper recalled of the character’s design, “other than he had a patch and only one eye, and then I based him more or less on Clint Eastwood.”

The streets of New York, brought to life in "one-Eyed Jack" by John Cooper
The streets of New York, brought to life in “one-Eyed Jack” by John Cooper

For a strip set in the US, it might come as a surprise to learn that at the time, John had never visited the country.

“I’ve never been to America,” he admitted, but. “I have watched millions of American films. That’s where I got most of the look from. The film Bullit with Steve McQueen – he had a Mustang. I based his car more or less on that, something similar.”

Pre-order One-Eyed Jack from amazon.co.uk here – using this link helps support downthetubes

Read our tribute to John Cooper here

One-Eyed Jack

One-Eyed Jack – Stripography

Original appearances (unless noted) – via Death of Valiant, published by Hibernia Comics

The decidedly very un-Christmas-like first cover appearance of One-Eyed Jack (Valiant cover dated 27th December 1975)
The decidedly very un-Christmas-like first cover appearance of One-Eyed Jack (Valiant cover dated 27th December 1975)

Valiant (20th December 1975–16th October 1976)
Valiant Annual 1978 (John Cooper art – full colour)
Valiant Specials 1976–1979 and 1980 (reprint)
Battle (23rd October 1976–28th May 1977)

Reprints (unless noted)

2000AD Summer Special 1983
Eagle (9th July 1983–15th December 1984)
Eagle Summer Special 1985
Eagle Annuals 1985–1987
Super Adventure Annual 1988 reprints several Jack stories, from both Valiant and Battle

One-Eyed Jack has also appeared in foreign language reprints: here’s him in action in Mini Lion Comics, published in Sri Lanka, which published three of his adventures in #10, 12 and 14 (thanks to Natahn Viswa for this, more information here in Tamil)

Mini Lion Comics #10 - One Eyed Jack

Mini Lion Comics #12 - One Eyed Jack

Mini Lion Comics #14 - One Eyed Jack

ONE-EYED JACK ™ REBELLION PUBLISHING LTD, COPYRIGHT © REBELLION PUBLISHING LTD, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

VALIANT IS © TIME INC. (UK) LTD.

John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a "freelance comics operative", currently working as a freelance editor for TITAN COMICS, as Creative Consultant on the new DAN DARE audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the LAKES INTERNATIONAL COMIC ART FESTIVAL and LANCASTER COMICS DAY. John has worked in British comics publishing for over 30 years, starting out at Marvel UK, where he edited a number of the Genesis 1992 books with Paul Neary. His numerous credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines, where he was Managing Editor. He also edited STRIP Magazine and worked as an editor on several audio comics for ROK Comics, including TEAM M.O.B.I.L.E. and THE BEATLES STORY. Most recently he is writing CRUCIBLE as a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and DEATH DUTY and SKOW DOGS with Dave Hailwood for the digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

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