Record-breaker Rob Stewart is a man with a serious passion for the future.
The lawfully Dredd-ed husband has been recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records for the biggest collection of memorabilia relating to British sci-fi comic 2000 AD, clocking in at a whopping 10,018 items.
Superfan Rob, 45, has collected everything from T-shirts to towels, statues to surfboards, clocks to cushions, all emblazoned with characters such as Judge Dredd, Strontium Dog, ABC Warriors, DR & Quinch, and Walter the Wobot - and even wore his replica ‘Judge Dredd’ costume when he tied the knot with wife Sue in 2012.
2000 AD represented a move away from traditional British comics when it first appeared in 1977, and although Rob was just six at the time, it soon caught his imagination.
“I have been reading the comics since the late 70s, early 80s,” he said.
“There were a lot of comics out at the time – things like Victor and Battle - but they were focussed on the war.
With science fiction, your imagination was the limit, not historical accuracy. That was what appealed to me - aliens, futuristic tales, different planets.Rob Stewart
“With science fiction, your imagination was the limit, not historical accuracy. That was what appealed to me - aliens, futuristic tales, different planets.”
The father-of-three, who works in the IT department for County Durham-based Lanchester Wine Cellars, began seriously hoarding comics and merchandise relating to the ‘Galaxy’s Greatest Comic’ in the 1990s.
Friends Pete Wells, Stacey Whittle and Mark Dutton helped him count up his huge collection for his world record bid and his status as 2000 AD’s number one fan has now been officially confirmed by Guinness World Records in March.
“I’ve spent plenty of hours on it,” he said. “As for money, I wouldn’t like to say how much. Probably more than it’s worth, not that I would ever want to sell it.
Judge Dredd is Rob’s favourite 2000 AD character _ “Isn’t he everybody’s?” and an understanding Sue was happy for her hubbie to dress as the Mega-City One lawman for their wedding, but even she draws the line at Rob’s collection taking up too much space at their Castletown home.
“The picture was taken when I had the whole collection out for the Guinness World Record thing,” he said.
“I have had to put it all back in the loft - I’m only allowed to keep a couple of things on display.”
Sunderland plays host to the Wonderlands Comic Expo this Saturday, but Rob won’t be there. He’s off to a Judge Dredd convention in Bristol - but won’t be wearing his wedding suit.
“It was £2,000 because it is a one-piece leather outfit and had to be made to fit - it doesn’t now,” he said.
Rob has three children – Kyle, 18, Erin, 12 and two-year-old Rachael. So have they inherited their dad’s passion for all things 2000 AD?
“Absolutely not,” he said.
2000AD - A HISTORY
2000 AD first appeared in 1977, and was part of a distinct new phase for a British comics industry which had been replaying World War II and the 1966 World Cup Final for the previous decades.
Comics such as Victor, Battle and Warlord were joined by the likes of Action, 2000 AD, Star Lord and Fireball, some of which attracted criticism for their grittier, more realistic approach to violence and horror.
The new comic was the brainchild of Kelvin Gosnell, a sub-editor at IPC Magazines, who read a newspaper article in the London Evening Standard highlighting a wave of forthcoming science fiction films, and suggested the time might be ripe for the company to turn its attention to the future.
Freelance writer Pat Mills was recruited to develop the new project and drafted in fellow writer John Wagner.
The comic’s most popular character, Judge Dress, appeared in ‘Prog’ (issue) two and has inspired two Hollywood movies.
Sylvester Stallone took the role in 1995’s ‘Judge Dredd,’ horrifying fans by removing Dredd’s iconic helmet (the character’s face has never been seen in the comics) while Karl Urban starred in 2012’s ‘Dredd,’ a more faithful representation of the source material.
2000 AD (the decision was taken not to change the name) is still Britain’s most popular comic for teenagers and over the years has been responsible for discovering talents such as Alan Moore, Mark Millar, and Sunderland’s own Bryan Talbot.