14th February 1976 – 7th October 1978
Written by Various
Art by Horacio Altuna, Leandro Sesarego, Ricardo Villagran and others
Contributions included scripts by Kelvin Gosnell, Jack Adrian, Steve MacManus, Geoff Kemp, Pat Mills; Art by Fred Holmes, Jorge Galvez, Jesus Blasco, Geoff Campion, John Stokes and Costa.
John Cooper became the regular series artist in Battle Action.
Dredger was the story of a rough, tough and ruthless secret agent. The leading character came from a dubious background, having been discharged from the marines in 1964 before heading to Africa to work as firstly a mercenary and then later as the personal bodyguard to a military dictator. Dredger was amoral rather than immoral, said very little but was mercilessly violent. He was partnered by Simon Breed, an upper class old Etonian, educated at King’s College Cambridge and late of the Grenadier Guards. Breed worked to protocol and did everything in a strictly proper manner. He was often astounded by Dredger’s more animal instincts, and his partner’s ability to line his own pockets by way of compensation for his low Government salary. Unfortunately, Breed often came across as an idiot. He was never fully in the picture and was used as a stooge, getting into situations which required Dredger to save him, usually with some underhand tactic. On occasion, Breed was seen to be at Dredger’s level, but not often.
Dredger was a series of one-off stories, rather than a serial like Action’s other titles. This left a lot of room for manoeuvre within the strip as everyone, including Breed, was expendable. Because his character was presented as a loner, somewhat in the Dirty Harry vein, Dredger didn’t say a lot. Breed was left to expound upon Dredger’s actions, gallantly summarising the plot, explaining Dredger’s acts of violence, providing a mission briefing in his head for all to read, and constantly reminding the public that “Dredger’s dirty all right, but he gets results.”
Dredger survived the length of Action’s run, and went on to Battle Action, although the format changed, necessitating the demise of Breed. The change in style was much like that experienced by “One-Eyed Jack” from Valiant. Removed from his regular environment, the lead character was placed into a covert military organisation who handled the jobs too dirty for the government to condone. It didn’t work, as without Breed it became necessary for Dredger’s silent loner to change character, in order to explain the plot himself, and on top of that, he started to be nice to people.
The story eventually and thankfully died in October of 1978. The last image saw Dredger lying in a hospital bed, surrounded by the children he had just saved. A far cry from the man who allowed a double agent to drill holes in his teeth as a cover, and took a stiletto through the hand without flinching, so that a foreign military officer would believe he had committed suicide.
Being a series, Dredger lacks any overarching plot. Each episode has a set up, development and denouement, with twists and turns along the way, garnished with violence and gunfire. We find out a few things about Dredger’s past, but really that’s about it. In summary, Dredger joins D.I.6., kills a lot of people, threatens to leave but is stitched up into staying, commits a few crimes to line his own pockets and eventually watches Breed die as a result of a car bomb. After that he is drafted into a covert military operations group called the S.I.S. and mooches around for a year or so, before being knocked on the head by the publishers.
Surprisingly, pre-ban episodes of Dredger were reprinted in 1987′s All Action Monthly, and the character was a regular in the Action Annuals between 1976 and 1984 (dated 1977 to 1985). Further episodes were reprinted in All-Action Monthly and 1988′s Big Adventure Book.
Two episodes were also re-mastered for STRIP Magazine, but only one was published.
The man himself, first name unknown. Disgraced Marine and former mercenary Dredger was a new agent when first seen in issue one, but soon established his no nonsense, dirty and sometimes merciless hard man image. If Dredger had a soft side, we never saw it, although he showed a modicum of concern at the demise of his partner. Dredger was not above a few petty crimes to compensate himself for the dangers he had to face. One such incident involved a diamond ‘falling into the canal’ after Dredger saved Breed from a double crossing foreign agent.
After Action ‘merged’ with Battle, Dredger became a covert military agent as part of the Special Ops. Division known as the S.I.S., learning to talk a lot more as Breed ‘the interpreter’ was no longer around to express readers’ thoughts or summarise the plot.
Ex-Grenadier Guard Breed was Dredger’s more experienced, but strictly ‘by-the-book’ partner. Perhaps because of his upper class social status, being educated at Eton and Cambridge, Breed’s insistence at handling missions in the correct fashion left him looking like a gullible, inexperienced and over-trusting idiot, who was shown up by his dodgy partner at every opportunity. Breed walked blindly into obvious traps and got hit over the head a lot, until Dredger, .44 Magnum blazing, came to his aid and usually put him down with a dead-pan one liner. Breed met his end when a rogue agent wired his car to explode as Breed turned the ignition. Dredger shouted a warning, but too late. The gullible one hadn’t spotted the very obvious wires poking out of his fuel tank.
Text © Moose Harris
ACTION™ REBELLION PUBLISHING LTD, COPYRIGHT © REBELLION PUBLISHING LTD, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
See this section’s Acknowledgments section for more information