The Angel Gang breaking the fourth wall on the cover of 2000 AD prog 160, art by Mike McMahon. From left to right: Link Angel, Elmer "Pa" Angel, Mean "Mean Machine" Angel and Junior Angel.
|First appearance||2000 AD prog 160 (1980)|
|Created by||John Wagner|
|Base(s)||Cursed Earth, north of Texas City|
|Member(s)||Elmer "Pa" Angel|
Mean "Mean Machine" Angel
The Angel Gang is a fictional group of villains appearing within the Judge Dredd comic strip in the weekly comic book 2000 AD. They are "a family of scruffy, backwoodsy, outrageously cruel thugs" from the Cursed Earth near Texas City who vie with the titular Dredd. First introduced in 1980, the Angel Gang have been recurring antagonists in 2000 AD (and sister publication the Judge Dredd Megazine) since. In addition to their appearances in 2000 AD, the Angel Gang have featured in the 1995 film Judge Dredd, videogames,, and tabletop games.
Writing in 2015, journalist Michael Molcher described the Angel Gang as "some of Dredd's most enduring villains". In 2016, Joel Harley described the Angel Gang as "secondary only to Judge Death and the Dark Judges in the Dredd criminal hall of fame". Mean "Mean Machine" Angel has been described as a "breakout character" for 2000 AD.
The Angel Gang were created by the writers John Wagner and Alan Grant and the illustrator Mike McMahon for the Judge Dredd comic strip in 2000 AD. They first appeared in Prog (issue) 160 of 2000 AD in 1980 as the antagonists of the "Judge Child" storyline, during which each of the four members were killed off. The Angel Gang were "hugely popular with readers", leading Wagner to introduce a fifth Angel, Fink Angel, in Prog 193 (first published in 1981). In the same storyline, Wagner also introduced the background character of Ma Angel in a flashback.
In response to reader reaction,, Wagner reintroduced Mean Angel in the Destiny's Angels storyline that ran from Prog 281 to Prog 288 (first published in 1982), stating "he was just too good a character to throw away, and somehow he suited miracle rebirth". Mean Angel went on to become a recurring antagonist until Prog 1536 (first published in 2007) in which he was effectively written out of ongoing storylines. He was seemingly killed off once more in a 2015 story appearing in Judge Dredd Megazine.
In Prog 958 (first published in 1995), Wagner reintroduced Elmer and Junior Angel, retconning their deaths. The "resurrection" of Elmer and Junior proved unpopular with readers, with author John Wagner later stating in an online interview: "We got away with resurrecting Mean Machine, I think. He was just too good a character to throw away, and somehow he suited miracle rebirth, but I confess in hindsight Pa and Junior were a step too far. I don't think I'll be using them again".
Since 2007, the appearances of the Angel Gang in 2000 AD have largely been restricted to flashbacks and strips set prior to their deaths. The 2007 strip "Before They Wuz Dead" by Simon Spurrier fleshed out the character of Link Angel and explored the relationships between the family members. In 2008, Wagner introduced another member of the Angel Gang, Ratfink. Ratfink made a second appearance in 2012. The Angel Gang returned in 2015 in "Angelic", a strip by Gordon Rennie that further explored (and partially retconned) their backstory. A sequel, "Angelic: Home is the Hunter", followed in 2016.
- Elmer "Pa" Angel, the patriarch of the family. He typically wears a kerchief round his neck. He is the inventor of the "Pa Angel Mark One Super-Scream Torture Machine", a torture device. He is ultimately captured by Dredd and confined in Iso-Block 666.
- Ma Angel, the wife of Elmer and mother of Fink, Link, Mean and Junior. She is described as having killed 134 men with her bare hands. She dies giving birth to Junior.
- Fink Angel, Elmer's eldest son. He does not live with his family, preferring to live alone in holes he digs or finds, and has a somewhat strained relationship with Pa Angel. He has a skeletal face and unnatural skin colour due to years of radiation exposure in the Cursed Earth, and wears a bowler hat. He has a radically altered physiology as a result of radiation exposure, including being able to survive the removal of his heart. He carries various "pizens" (poisons) of his own making capable of inflicting death or paralysis. He is accompanied by Ratty, a preternaturally large and intelligent rat who also wears a bowler hat. Fink and Ratty are ultimately killed in a battle with Dredd in 2104.
- Link Angel, the second eldest of Elmer's sons. He typically wears a kutte, motorcycle cap and nose ring. The largest of the sons, he is immensely resilient, on one occasion surviving a contact shot to the back. He is described by Mean Angel as "too dumb to know how bad he is". He is killed in 2102 in an explosion accidentally caused by Mean Angel during the Judge Child quest.
- Mean "Mean Machine" Angel, the third eldest of Elmer's sons. He is a cyborg with a metallic frontal bone that he uses to headbutt opponents and a bionic right arm with a large claw (his left arm is severed during his first confrontation with Judge Dredd). His ferocity is controlled by a dial mounted in his forehead until it is removed in 2129. He is ultimately killed in 2134–2135 while heroically assisting an uprising by slaves in the Cursed Earth, although it is suggested that he may once again revive.
- Junior Angel, the youngest of Elmer's sons. He is described as "the baby of the family, but the most evil of them all". He is the most vicious member of the Angel Gang, committing his first murder before the age of three, and Elmer's favourite son. He typically wears a bowler hat and bandolier of hand grenades. He is shown to be sadistic, enjoying torturing his victims. He is ultimately captured by Dredd and confined in Iso-Block 666.
Elmer "Pa" Angel and his wife, "Ma" Angel are outlaws, formerly in the employ of the gangster Dil Grimczi. They live in a shack in the Cursed Earth to the north of Texas City. Elmer and Ma have four children, Fink, Link, Mean and Junior, with Ma dying giving birth to Junior. Elmer vows to raise the four boys to be "the most vicious, orneriest, baddest family the world's ever seen."
As his sons grow up, Elmer becomes concerned that Mean is not vicious enough. He kidnaps a surgeon from Texas City and forces him to implant a dial in Mean's forehead that controls his temperament, along with replacing Mean's right arm with a bionic substitute. Mean is later briefly engaged to the outlaw Sarah "Seven-Pound Sadie" Suggs. Suggs leaves Mean before the wedding, but not before he has fathered a son with her. Meanwhile, Fink becomes increasingly solitary, ultimately leaving his family to live alone in the Cursed Earth, with Elmer occasionally summoning him to assist the Angel Gang with their schemes, including an attempt to purloin Grimczi's legendary treasure in 2101.
Judge Dredd first encounters the Angel Gang in 2102 during his quest to locate Owen Krysler, the "Judge Child". Elmer, Link, Mean and Junior have escaped from detention in Texas City, and are anxious to escape the planet. Hearing of the Judge Child's precognitive abilities, they obtain him from a carnival worker, intending to sell him, and unleash a monster on the pursuing Dredd before fleeing Earth. Dredd tracks them to the planet of Xanadu, where they commit many murders. Realising that Dredd is in pursuit, Elmer instructs Link and Mean to set an ambush for Dredd in the town of Drybone while he and Junior leave with the Judge Child. Mean and Link ambush Dredd, but are killed when Mean inadvertently headbutts a gas pump, causing an explosion. Dredd pursues Elmer and Junior into the "Robot Free State" ruled by a robot, The Grunwalder. Dredd wounds Elmer with a 12 km shot from a long-range rifle and Junior is left behind to ambush him while Elmer seeks the Grunwalder's protection. He outflanks Junior and sentences him to death by throwing him into the volcano, enraging Elmer who attacks Dredd before also falling into the crater – but survives by grabbing an outcrop of rock. The Judge Child then uses his telekinetic abilities to deflect Dredd's bullets, and crack the rock, causing Elmer to fall to his death. This act also confirms Dredd's opinion that the Judge Child is evil and unsuitable to rule Mega City One.
Later in 2102, Fink Angel and his companion Ratty journey to Dredd's home of Mega-City One to take vengeance on Dredd and his team from the Judge Child mission, having learned of his family's fate from a discarded newspaper. Fink is ultimately defeated by Dredd and Judge Hershey and imprisoned. In 2104, Mean Angel is magically returned to life by Owen Krysler using a "resurrection elixir" to take revenge on Dredd for abandoning Krysler on Xanadu. Mean joins forces with the freed Fink and attacks Dredd in his apartment. Fink and Ratty do not survive this second encounter with Dredd, but Mean Angel is captured.
In 2117, 15 years after their apparent deaths, Elmer and Junior Angel are revealed to still be alive, having been placed in suspended animation. They are subsequently brought to Mega-City One by Dredd and used as a bargaining chip to persuade Mean Angel to assist Dredd. The three family members were later incarcerated together in the supermax prison "Iso-Block 666".
Over the following years, Mean repeatedly escapes from prison, only to be recaptured each time. During one of his escapes, Mean encounters his now 13-year-old son, Mean Junior, who he unsuccessfully attempts to instill criminal tendencies in. Mean's periodic escapes continue until 2129, when he is rendered docile when his dial and claw are removed via microsurgery and released into the custody of Mean Junior. Upon the release of the Chaos Bug in 2134, Mean is infected, temporarily returning him to his murderous personality. Upon recovering, a guilt-ridden Mean parts from his son and exiles himself from Mega-City One, where he dies heroically helping free a group of slaves.
The final member of the Angel Gang to encounter Dredd was Ratfink, a poisoner and highwayman, in 2130. Ratfink was ultimately captured by the Judges at considerable loss of life, with Dredd ordering him interrogated and executed. In 2134, Ratfink escapes from custody and captured Dredd, torturing him until Dredd took him prisoner once again.
In other media
Judge Dredd movie
The Angel Gang appeared in the movie version of Judge Dredd, wherein they were represented as religious fanatics and cannibals. Pa Angel was played by Scott Wilson; Mean Machine by Christopher Adamson; Link by Phil Smeeton; and Junior by Ewen Bremner. Fink did not appear in the film. Dredd encounters them when his shuttle is downed by them and they capture him, but he quickly frees himself and kills them in combat.
The novelization based on the film took Pa's fanaticism even further—to "keep out evil spirits", Pa had sewn shut his ears, eyes, and mouth. He thus communicated in a series of muffled words and grunts.
- Simon Spurrier (2007). Before They Wuz Dead. Judge Dredd Megazine volume 5, #258 to #262. Rebellion Developments. Search this book on
- T.B. Grover (1981). The Fink. 2000 AD, Prog 193 to Prog 196. IPC Magazines. Search this book on
- Duane Swierczynski (2013). Judge Dredd #9. IDW Publishing. p. 25. Search this book on
- Emily Elisabeth Auger (2011). Tech-noir Film: A Theory of the Development of Popular Genres. Intellect Books. p. 338. ISBN 978-1-84150-424-7. Search this book on
- "Judge Dredd". Arcade-History.com. Retrieved 29 November 2019.
- "Judge Dredd Miniatures Game: Blood on the Streets". BoardGameGeek. Retrieved 29 November 2019.
- Michael Molcher (2015). 2000 AD: The Creator Interviews. 1. 2000 AD Books. p. 79. ISBN 978-1-84997-323-6. Search this book on
- Joel Harley (22 November 2016). "Fink Angel: Legacy". Starburst. Retrieved 29 November 2019.
- Michael Eury (21 August 2019). Back Issue. TwoMorrows Publishing. p. 16. Search this book on
- John Wagner and Alan Grant (1980). The Judge Child. 2000 AD, Prog 160 to Prog 181. IPC Magazines. Search this book on
- Frank Plowright. "Judge Dredd and the Angel Gang". TheSlingsAndArrows.com. Retrieved 29 November 2019.
- John Wagner and Alan Grant (1982). Destiny's Angels. 2000 AD, Prog 281 to Prog 288. IPC Magazines. Search this book on
- John Wagner (2007). Fifty-Year Man. 2000 AD, Prog 1536. Rebellion Developments. Search this book on
- Michael Carroll (2015). Tales from the Black Museum: Rising Angel. Judge Dredd Megazine volume 5, #358. Rebellion Developments. Search this book on
- John Wagner (1995). Awakening of Angels. 2000 AD, Prog 958. Fleetway Publications. Search this book on
- John Wagner (2008). Ratfink. Judge Dredd Megazine volume 5, #273 to #277. Rebellion Developments. Search this book on
- John Wagner (2012). Ratfink's Revenge. Judge Dredd Megazine volume 5, #328 to #330. Rebellion Developments. Search this book on
- Gordon Rennie (2015). Angelic. Judge Dredd Megazine volume 5, #356–359. Rebellion Developments. Search this book on
- Gordon Rennie (2016). Angelic: Home is the Hunter. Judge Dredd Megazine volume 5, #377–380. Rebellion Developments. Search this book on
- T.B. Grover (1995). The Ballad of Devil Angel. 2000 AD, Prog 965 to Prog 966. Fleetway Publications. Search this book on
- Mean! Surly! Vicious! Brutal!. Judge Dredd Yearbook 1994. Fleetway Publications. 1994. Search this book on
- John Wagner (1991). Travels With Muh Shrink. 2000 AD, Prog 730 to Prog 736. Fleetway Publications. Search this book on
- Simon Spurrier (2007). Pizen: Impossible. Judge Dredd Megazine volume 5, #263 to #265. Rebellion Developments. Search this book on
- John Wagner (1994). Son of Mean. Judge Dredd Megazine volume 2, #63 to #72. Fleetway Publications. Search this book on
- John Wagner and Trevor Hairsine (1995). The Three Amigos. Judge Dredd Megazine volume 3, #2 to #7. Fleetway Publications. Search this book on
- Cinefex. D. Shay. 1995. p. 66. Search this book on
- Richard Trenholm (11 May 2017). "What Stallone's 'Judge Dredd' got right -- and 'Dredd' got wrong". Cnet. Retrieved 29 November 2019.
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