With the recent announcement that Rebellion is remastering its 2006 videogame classic, Rogue Trooper, we at Pop Culture Bandit decided to take a look back at the origins of the comic strip that inspired it.
Created by Gerry Finley-Day and Dave Gibbons, Rogue Trooper was a departure from the previous future-war stories to appear in 2000AD, focusing on guerrilla warfare instead of the space-craft combat seen in fellow Finley-Day strip, The V.C’s. Influenced by real-world battles such as World War II, there was a grittiness to Rogue Trooper’s ground-based combat that hadn’t really been explored by the magazine up until that point.
Set on Nu-Earth, a poisoned planet which is host to a bloody war between the Norts and the Southers, the series’ hero is Rogue – a cloned soldier, bred for war and genetically engineered to be immune to all diseases. Skilled in combat and able to survive in the harsh Nu-Earth environment, the Genetic Infantrymen are the most feared weapon in the Souther’s arsenal.
Ahead of a routine battle in the area known as “The Quartz Zone”, a traitor within the Souther High Command leaks information to the Norts which results in a bloodbath that leaves all of the Genetic Infantrymen, bar Rogue, dead. This “Quartz Zone Massacre” acts as the inciting incident of the series, setting Rogue on a path of vengeance as he traverses the warzone looking for information about the mysterious ‘Traitor-General’ responsible for the leak.
While the series had some inherent science-fiction concepts in its Nu-Earth setting and Rogue’s unique biology, the series’ most innovative concept was the bio-chip technology that housed a fallen GI’s personality. Rescuing the chips of three of his comrades, Rogue is able to place the bio-chips into his equipment, effectively introducing a personality into his helmet, bag and gun. There’s a bit of comic-book cheesiness with the names of his friends – Helm, Bagman and Gunnar – showcasing an eerie prescience as to where their “ghosts” will end up residing.
While the hunt for the Traitor General is the driving force behind the series, motivating Rogue’s journey through Nu-Earth, it isn’t the main focus of each story as Rogue is thrust into a series of different conflicts against the Nort army, and sometimes his fellow Southers too. One notable storyline saw Rogue come into contact with Venus Blue-Genes, a female version of the GI who was betrothed to Helm, but later developed feelings for Rogue instead.
First introduced in Prog 228, the series was a practically permanent fixture in 2000AD up until Prog 449, which speaks volumes to the character’s popularity during the early 1980s. However, once the central storyline with the Traitor General was resolved, the series suffered from a lack of direction as writers attempted to replace the ‘core mission’, including a ‘galactic assassin’ storyline that didn’t really fit well with the character. Eventually, there series went into hibernation and underwent the first official reboot in 2000AD history, in which the character and his universe were completely revised by creator Dave Gibbon.
Entitled “The War Machine”, this grittier reboot removed some of the camp aspects of the original strip, such as the names of the GIs and instead offered a more realistic take on the universe. Known as Friday, this version of Rogue had none of the gizmos and gadgets available to his predecessor and instead embarked on a bloody battle to find out about his origins and why he was sent to Nu-Earth to die.
While this refresh was well-received and offered a new direction for the series, it gradually begun to adopt similar characteristics to its predecessor, such as introducing bio-chips and augmented equipment into the mix. The pinnacle, however, was the revelation that this was the same universe as the original Rogue Trooper and there was another Nu-Earth on the opposite side of the galaxy, where Rogue and his friends had been fighting their war. Merging the two continuities together was something of a stretch, and inevitably something had to give, which is why Rogue was killed off in Prog 949, clearing the stage for Friday to take the focus. Unfortunately, this was a short-lived spotlight as Friday’s adventures came to an end in Prog 1022.
Since then, the continuity of the Rogue Trooper universe has been relatively untouched and stories have focused on untold adventures from the Traitor General-era. Gordon Rennie has adopted the role of care-taker for the universe creating a number of spin-off series that explore Nu-Earth from different perspectives. The most interesting of these is Jaegir – an inverted version of the Rogue Trooper mythos featuring a female, Nort soldier who investigates war-crimes committed by her own people. While the original Rogue Trooper may be resigned to the history books, there is still plenty of storytelling potential left in his universe.
The Rogue Trooper videogame was released in 2006 and brought the series’ classic continuity to life in a tactical, cover-based third-person shooter that debuted before becoming the gaming staple it is today. Rogue Trooper Redux will remaster the original game for a new generation of players on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC and is expected to be out later this year.