When Lauren Stables received the Facebook message, she did what any self-respecting comic book fan would do: “I completely geeked out,” she says.
“I was sat at my computer thinking ‘Is this for real?’ It seemed too good to be true. Which normally means it is.”
The message was from 2000AD Comics, the British behemoth behind the likes of Judge Dredd and Robo-Hunter. It was asking Lauren - then a part-time model living in Redbrook, Barnsley - if she would become the real-life face of their leading female character, Judge Anderson.
Thrilling for any superhero fan. But especially for one who, as a teenager, had experienced her own fairy tale-like struggle, battling through two separate life-saving operations.
“When they got in touch, it was completely out of the blue,” recalls the 25-year-old of Barnsley town centre today. “I’d been a comic book geek since I was a kid so I was stunned. They said they’d seen my Facebook and I was just what they were looking for.”
Since that day, back in late 2011, this former Darton College pupil has travelled Europe as the crime-fighting superhero. She’s attended conventions, done photo shoots, met fans and modelled for artists, all while dressed in the kind of outfits that makes Batman’s get-up look a bit last century. She’s starred in a fan-produced mini movie called Judge Minty and will, this week, pose for artists doing storyboards for upcoming comics.
She’s become friends with the famous (well, the dude who plays Ensign in Star Trek Voyager, anyway) and has had more than one fan ask her what it’s like to live in Mega City One.
“I normally just quote something back from the book,” she says.
In between times she’s modelled for everyone from Italian Vogue to Barnsley’s own internet clothing label Still Young Vintage, based in Pond Street, where she also works as a buyer.
Not bad, in short, for someone who went through two bouts of major surgery while in her teens.
Lauren was diagnosed, aged 14, with Arnold-Chiari malformation, a major neurological condition which caused her years of agonising migraines. Doctors at Sheffield Children’s Hospital sorted that out, she says, “by going mediaeval on me and drilling a hole in my skull”.
Two years later she was back before them after being diagnosed with a curved spine. They sorted that out by sticking some titanium rods into her back.
After battling through those, finishing school and completing college, she found work as a part-time model.
“I’ve always been a poser,” she laughs.
She’d been doing that part time for several years when she got that message from 2000AD.
“I love this role,” she says. “It’s having fun, dressing up, reading comics and getting paid.”
She also, she says, has a super-power all of her own; a kind of psychic ability similar, in fact, to that of Judge Anderson. She can, ever since that skull operation, predict the weather, apparently.
“I get a migraine and I know it will be raining soon after,” she says. “It’s strange but true. I’m getting one now actually.”
Reader, within 20 minutes, it was raining.