Comic Book / Nemesis the Warlock

"Be pure! Be vigilant! Behave!"
Tomás de Torquemada


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 Tomás de Torquemada, whose power is backed by 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 an alien known as Nemesis. Belonging to the race of powerful, demonic aliens known as Warlocks, Nemesis is both a 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 the 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.

Also has a video game adaptation. Should not be confused with Nemesis.

Nemesis the Warlock provides examples of the following tropes:

  • 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. Even when he escapes after a billion years, Nemesis crucifies him and sends him out to another trip around the cosmos for the rest of eternity.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: After a billion years of traversing the cosmos with Torquemada's evil soul contained inside until Earth's sun goes supernova, the Blitzspear ascends into Nemesis' pandimensional mothership the Milchspear, allowing Torquemada a chance to escape.
  • 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!"
  • Armor-Piercing Question: While Purity's attempt at Shaming the Mob doesn't work on the majority of the Terminators assembled to watch her execution, Brother Gogol is momentarily shaken when she asks them "What are you all hiding behind your masks?"
  • Ashes to Crashes: Taken up to eleven by Nemesis, who interrupts Grand Master Torquemada's holy ceremony of consecrating the imperial family's remains by eating his mother's ashes, swallowing his father's heart, and gulping down his sister's blood.
  • 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: Tomás de Torquemada, who constantly performs impressive, almost superhuman feats. May be also one of the reasons for his cult of personality. Nemesis acknowledges this when he reveals that he himself is basically a bored god bullying a bunch of insects to see if one of them is mean enough to bite back.
  • Bald of Evil: Underneath his Terminator uniform, Grand Master Torquemada is a brawny, bald-headed man.
  • Big Bad: Tomás de Torquemada is the undisputed Grand Master of the xenocidal Termight Empire and the "ultimate incarnation of human evil".
  • Big "NO!": Nemesis, near death at that point, gives a big "NOOOO!" when Torquemada reveals his last plan to activate his "Final Solution".
  • Bittersweet Ending: Nemesis dies but sacrifices himself to take down Torquemada once and for all. Torquemada's empire falls apart and Purity Brown becomes the new leader of Termight, renaming it Terra. Ultimately Nemesis and Torquemada continue to appear as spectral entities tied to the Blitzspear, ensuring that Nemesis and his actions will never be forgotten.
  • 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 and Gray Morality: Nemesis verges on Black And Black Morality. Big Bad Torquemada, leader of the human race (in the Nemesis universe, something like a cross between the heretic-burning medieval Catholic church turned Up to Eleven and the Nazis), is a psychotic genocidal religious fascist god-dictator pledged to exterminate all non-human life—but Nemesis himself, who's essentially Satan, has done things like openly lust for genocide right back at humanity and, at his worst, intentionally kill a school bus full of children. Afterwards, he doesn't even seem to understand why it was a bad thing to do. Meanwhile, Nemesis' uncle Baal has a hobby of vivisecting humans and performing Mengele-ish experiments on them and his son Thoth hates and wants to destroy everything, including his father. Nemesis' allies the ABC Warriors are also extremely morally shady, given they've conducted massacres and frequently display genocidal urges towards humanity as well.
  • Black Comedy: Oh yes.
  • Blood Knight: Nemesis himself is a bloodthirsty alien warrior who fights Torquemada primarily because he makes a good enemy.
  • Bloody Murder: At least the females of Nemesis' species have highly corrosive blood; one Terminator found that out a little too late.
  • Burn the Witch!: Torquemada and his Terminators purge humans condemned as traitors by throwing them into a great fire in the Earth's core. Nemesis foils their plans by rigging a dimension portal to send the rebels to safety.
  • Category Traitor: Torquemada and his Absolute Xenophobe followers happily execute any human who associate themselves with aliens, or even merely object to his xenocidal crusades on alien worlds.
  • 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:
    Nemesis: 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"

    Nemesis: 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: Tomas de Torquemada builds the Termight death cult entirely around his person and forces everyone to worship him as the immortal god-dictator of mankind. Sometimes this is Played for Laughs by combining this with The Merch — Terrans can buy Torquemada's memoirs, Torquemada posters, Torquemada action movies, Torquemada busts, and Torquemada pillows and pyamas!
  • 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). His species, the Warlocks, aren't all that bad either... mostly.
  • Despotism Justifies the Means: Torquemada unveils his back-up Weapon of Mass Destruction to destroy all extra-terrestrials at once in the final arc. He handwaves why he hasn't used it before by admitting to Nemesis that to secure his rule over Termight he needed to keep the Terrans in permanent fear and give them an enemy to fight.
  • Enfant Terrible: Nemesis's son, Thoth.
  • Evil Knockoff: Torquemada has a chamaeleonic alien creature which he names the Mimesis impersonate Nemesis and go on a rampage on Termight to turn the earthlings against Nemesis.
  • Evil Makes You Monstrous: After Torquemada was killed by Nemesis in a Teleporter Accident, he returned as a monstrous, distorted, clawed phantom who had to possess rapidly-decaying hosts to interact with the physical world effectively.
  • Faceless Goons: The Terminators are chiefly identifiable by the ornate masks that hide their faces.
  • Face Palm: Nemesis slaps his forehead during Torquemada's trial when the latter brings in Nemesis's great uncle Baal as a witness to "prove" that all aliens are evil and he was right to wage war on them. Baal is an enthusiastic Torture Technician of human beings (Nemesis had banished him for this), so this doesn't paint them in a very good light.
  • Fantastic Racism: The Termight Empire is literally built on a psychotic hatred of all forms of alien life. This is explicitly and repeatedly compared to modern-day racism.
  • 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.
  • Glamour Failure: Nemesis has a spell to disguise himself as a human when he needs to be incognito. During a trip to the past, the historical Torquemada (who is receiving messages from his future incarnation) can briefly catch a glimpse of Nemesis's true demonic form.
  • God Emperor: After returning from the dead, Torquemada's megalomania reaches its apex and he starts to have himself worshipped as a living god.
  • 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.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: After Torquemada succesfully ousts Mazarin as the new ruler of Termight, he tortures his rival to death in a way so gruesome that the comic explicitly leaves it off panel.
  • 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.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Nemesis dies in "The Final Conflict", but he makes sure to take Torquemada with him.
  • 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.
  • Horrifying Hero: Nemesis is a powerful demonic alien with Bizarre Alien Biology. He is a Blood Knight Anti-Hero as well, but he's positively heroic compared to his genocidal arch-enemy Torquemada, leader of The Empire.
  • Humans Are Insects: Nemesis views humans as lower than insects—at least they'll still be around when humans are gone! He likens his war against Torquemada as stirring up a termite's nest to see if one of them will bite back. Nemesis is a godlike alien who's simply bored without a formidable enemy to fight.
  • 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.
  • Karma Houdini: Subverted. Torquemada uses assassination and intimidation tactics during his trial to scare the jury into declaring him "not guilty" on the charges of crimes against existence. The free human government hands him over to his arch-enemy Nemesis instead.
  • 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).
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Nemesis, which causes him to slip sometimes into Knight Templar territory.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: When Nemesis and Purity are waiting in the time wastes, she regains parts of her memory that Nemesis had wiped from her mind. She was recruited by Nemesis to spy on Torquemada after wooing him with a love spell. Though the real reason he made her forget this is because he had also admitted to her that he's far more cruel than he has made himself out to be, having intentionally prolonged the war out of boredom.
    Nemesis: Just because Torquemada is evil, don't assume that must mean that I'm good.
  • Living Ship: The Blitzspears, the Warlocks' traditional getabouts of choice.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Nemesis turns out to be this.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Before his trial, Torquemada's followers assassinate the alien members of the jury in fatal tube "accidents".
  • 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 Tomás 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.
  • The Necrocracy: After he was killed in a teleporter accident, Torquemada returned to rule his empire as a phantom. He would possess human hosts by devouring their lifeforce if he needed a body.
  • 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.
  • Past-Life Memories: Torquemada starts to remember the lives of his previous incarnations because Thoth is killing them off one by one as revenge.
  • Pet the Dog: Defied when Purity infiltrates the Terminators as Torquemada's new girlfriend (Nemesis used a spell on him) and after spending several weeks seeing how blatantly monstrous he is, wonders if there's anything remotely redeeming about Torquemada so asks him if he likes dogs. Torquemada states he doesn't.
  • Power Is Sexy: Torquemada's wife Candida admits that she's primarily attracted to him because of his power when pressed why she's staying with a psycho fanatic.
  • Reality Warper: Warlocks are powerful aliens with sorcerous powers, but Nemesis' young son Thoth can actually warp spacetime itself.
  • Reincarnation: It's revealed that Torquemada's soul was so evil, it has been reincarnated many times throughout history in various past villains. These include the original Tomas de Torquemada, Adolf Hitler, Maximilien de Robespierre, the Witchfinder General, and John Chivington.
  • 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.
  • Sealed Evil in a Duel: The final arc concludes with Nemesis stopping Torquemada from activating his "Final Solution" (a bomb designed to exterminate every alien and all humans who came into contact with an alien) by drawing the explosion into both himself and Torquemada, who is also vulnerable after Nemesis scratches him with his claws. Nemesis and Torquemada merge with the Blitzspear into a single entity which roams the cosmos for billions of years into the future.
  • Shaming the Mob: Subverted. This fails miserably when Purity and other "alien lovers" are about to be executed by a mob of Torquemada's followers and she takes a moral stand.
    Purity: Why are you all so evil? Don't you think it is wrong to kill aliens just because they're not the same as you?
    Terminators: [in unison] No.
  • 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 40,000 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.
    • The fact is that several of the artists working in Nemesis were also involved in the development of Warhammer 40,000 at the same time.
  • Skunk Stripe: Purity has a prominent one.
  • Squick: Invoked in-universe by Torquemada and the Empire as part of their ideology:
    Torquemada: 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?
  • Thoughtcrime: Under Torquemada's rule over Termight, it is illegal to even think of opposing him, and his Terminators scan the planet day and night to look for thought offenders. Purity's father was sent to the vaporization vats for committing thoughtcrime in his sleep.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: The frequent use of time travel in later story arcs can occasionally go into this territory.
  • Too Kinky to Torture:
    • A nameless alien is in the hands of an inexperienced torturer, while his supervisor comes along. The alien sympathetically agrees with the criticism the supervisor gives, and while the torturer is soon busy receiving an earful from the supervisor, the alien says it'll torture itself if they won't do it.
    • When Torquemada is sent back to the past, he meets his past incarnation: the original Tomás de Torquemada, head of the Spanish Inquisition. When future Torquemada readily admits various heresies, such as asserting that the Earth is round and claiming himself to be a God, he's strapped to a torture rack. He doesn't budge and gives his past version advice on torture, who is eventually so disgusted by his cruelty that he's left in fetal position on the floor.
  • Torture Technician: One of the trademarks of Termight Empire:
    Torquemada: 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"!
    — "Killer Watt"
  • 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: Tomás de Torquemada.
  • Villain Override: One of Torquemada's favourite tactics after the teleporter accident.
  • Wizards from Outer Space: Nemesis is a member of the Warlocks, an almost godlike race of aliens with spell-casting powers.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Nemesis's son Thoth witnesses the death of his mother and is accidentally abandoned for years on Termight by his father, who believed they had both died. He then tries to use his warlock powers to destroy everyone.
  • Would Be Rude to Say "Genocide": When Torquemada is on trial for his genocide of billions of aliens as Grand Master of Termight, his defence is to proudly proclaim his crusades necessary because the aliens wanted to destroy them as well, bringing Nemesis' Torture Technician uncle to the stand to prove his point. He leaves out that it's actually Torquemada's wars of annihilation that made some aliens call for humanity's extermination.
  • Write Who You Know: Mills actually based Torquemada on one of his teachers.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: After he's overthrown, Torquemada is rescued by a group of die-hard Terminators. Before activating his weapon of mass destruction, he drives his sword through his last follower after he has served his purpose.
  • You Killed My Father: Played for laughs when Nemesis and his allies are about to kill Torquemada. Everyone wants a piece of him for killing one of their loved ones: Nemesis for his wife, Purity for her father, and Mekquake for his mother. When Torquemada is confused because he never even met Mekquake's mother, he admits that he just made her up.

Alternative Title(s): Nemesis The Warlock