While there’s one or two that jump out, I’m not a big fan of montage covers, and this one has been bodged from a number of sources. I recognise the picture of John Probe with skull-imprinted circuits from the first prog and no doubt I could go back through the other progs up to this point and locate the other pictures. Tharg is sporting a red mohican while his Rosette of Sirius is white – at some point this colour scheme will swap. Oh, and ‘programme’ has been shortened to ‘prog’ on this cover – it’s about time!
2000AD is in the dozens now, Dare’s second saga is beginning and both front and back covers are given over to the spacer. The front is illustrated by Mike Western, with a ship by Belardinelli bodged in a few times. Continue reading “2000AD Prog 12: The Return of Mekon”
‘Bollo’ makes his first of many appearances this issue, depicting Commander Monday’s last flight. Bollo is, of course, Brian Bolland and while he has been responsible for many memorable comics (including that panel) he’s just as well known for his many covers across British and American comics.
Ezquerra finally gets his first cover, though probably not in a manner he appreciated. The pic of Call-Me-Kenneth appears to have been taken from a panel in the story, and the Dredd has been taken from somewhere else and reversed (the plain shoulder pad and chain are on the wrong side, for a start). I can’t decide if the replacement legs for CMK were provided by Kev O’Neill or not. I’m making the assumption that any art editing and bodging not done by O’Neill are Jan Shepheard’s work. We get a circular background and a speech bubble on this cover. Continue reading “2000AD Prog 10: The Robots’ Revolt has Begun – All Humans Must Die!”
Dave Gibbons provides the first and only Harlem Heroes cover. I’m not sure that Inferno makes any covers either – unusual for such long-running series. The cover in question depicts the events of the last frame of the story. I’d question whether it should have appeared on the following prog, but that will be given to the first ever Dredd multi-part story.
Into the prog, and Invasion! begins with a flashback to the third day of the Volgan occupation and the sinking of the British Navy (including all ships and crewmen). The story is a typical ‘trained soldiers fail but untrained lorry driver manages to outwit everyone’, which is getting a bit tired already. A very jingoistic end with North Sea Oil saving the day (not just any oil, you see).
This week’s episode of Flesh marks the first use of the word ‘prog’ in the intro text: “Last prog we left Old One Eye – the monster Tyrannosaur – in a pit of spikes.” We meet the annoying 23rd century brat Orville Wainwright, who doesn’t survive the episode (following from Dredd’s censored panel last prog we get another censored panel with Orville’s grisly death at the hands, or jaws, of Old One Eye.
Harlem Heroes begins and ends with a) Artie Gruber and b) circular panels. On their return from Moscow, the Heroes superliner manages to squeeze through the narrow streets of Harlem though before long they’re off to play against the Aztec-themed Montezuma Mashers. The fans here were masks which, we are told, concealed the hideous, revenge-hungry face of Gruber, with his robes concealing a multi-part flamer gun which he quickly assembles without anybody around him noticing.
Dan Dare has Commander Monday falling for the paper-thin bluff and so he attacks our ‘space hyper-hero’ before Dare whispers the plan to him. The Biog ship seems to be able to communicate to the humans telepathically, but I guess it’s a one-way link. He’s allowed to approach the Odyssey, and once they are in contact, Dare tells the Odyssey to divert all power to the warp motors, tearing a hole in the side of the Biog ship. With no explanation they find the massed star fleets of Earth awaiting them outside, though the Biog fleet is also approaching, so not quite as welcome a sight as they would have wished for.
Facing the last page of Dare is an advert for some Batman toys, with a one-page strip from British artist Frank Langford, who was best known for romance comics, a few Doctor Who stories and The Angry Planet (published in the 1960s and no relation to the Tornado story from a few years after this prog).
John Cooper is back on M.A.C.H.1 in a John Wagner-scripted episode where Probe is stopping a civil war erupt in to World War Three. Cooper’s depictions of a war-torn city are very effective, evoking images from civil war news coverage. Right at the end we’re told that the bane of Probe’s thoughts is a ‘series six computer’ and the next story features a ‘K’ series robot as we get the defacto prologue to The Robot Wars.
Good artwork is provided by Ron Turner though unfortunately his old-fashioned stylings (with his earliest work appearing in 1949!) never fit into the punk-era 2000AD and a good proportion of his work printed by Tharg was actually reprints from older comics. As for the story itself we get introduced to the interestingly-named Judge Diablo, though we don’t find out much about him before his demise, other than he apparently enjoyed watching a robot committing suicide. Best introductions? We meet a Heavy Metal Kid, and Dredd pulls down his helmet respirator. Reinforcing the ties between stories, we get the Transatlantic Tunnel Interpass which ties in to the newly-opened tunnel’s appearance in Harlem Heroes a few progs and 49 years earlier.
Oh, and there’s eight more cards for the Flesh game on the back cover (again, to play it you’ll have to cut off the last page of Dredd).
The front and back covers on prog 8 are dedicated to Flesh (the back being for the Flesh card game, though you’ll need to lose the last page of this week’s Dredd to use them).
First story up is Invasion! and it was a story I was familiar with from a reprinting in a special or annual. IPC had a policy of not reprinting material for five years, and I think I got into 2000AD at the exact point that their reprint could be from early 2000ADs instead of IPC intellectual property from other titles. Anyway, we get the Concorde Mark III, London buses and a flashback pic of Kelvin Savage (Bill’s son). A good enough use of four pages.
The next story I was also familiar with from my first year as a Squaxx – Flesh, with prehistoric snakes, Old One Eye and the water-dwelling Phobosuchus. The episode ends with yet another final reckoning between Reagan and Old One Eye. The page facing Flesh features a reader-submitted design for (amongst others) a Dictator of Zarg (sic) who looks nothing like the more familiar Dictators of Zrag. Presumably they were redrawn by an un-named art droid.
With the Harlem Heroes, Giant’s death dive sans jetpack is temporarily halted by an unsuspecting Siberian Wolf. This respite gives Giant time to score an air-strike before Slim ferries him the rest of the way to the ground. The Heroes aren’t very good at calling for time-outs, but luckily the umpire prompts them. The last page of this episode features Artie Gruber’s first appearance, and an explicit reference to Mega-City One (previously featured on a sign in the background in the Transatlantic Tunnel). Artie’s op costs eight million dollars – I can’t remember if currency has been mentioned in the Harlem Heroes before – surely they’d have switched to creds by now?
This prog features two stories illustrated by Belardinelli – the first is Dan Dare with a gorgeous splash page of the Biogs’ Living Spaceship (mentioned in such a way twice in the same panel). There’s a nice circular panel picked out in red ink before Ziggy Rodann saves the day (well, hour) by taking down the Shepherd on the Odyssey. Some Prisoner-esque rover-style antibodies take Dare and his party into the Biog where they’re offered the option to betray their shipmates for everlasting life. Quite transparently Dare bluffs that he’s turned traitor, but you can tell it’ll be enough for the Biog.
On to the Nerve Centre where we find out Tharg is from Betelgeuse VI (which has three moons and a red sky). We’re also told to watch out for Star Wars, and the Mekon. The Nerve Centre is rounded out with a couple of adverts for stamps.
Over the page we meet a childhood friend of Probes. John Cooper guides us through five and a half pages of Probe going on a personal mission to rescue Maria Aragon from a gang which has kidnapped her in exchange for a ransom. Aragon’s fiancee is apparently short on guts for not going to rescue her himself, though to be fair to Felipe (the fiancee) the only thing that stopped Probe being killed the minute after he’d handed over the ransom money was that he was a M.A.C.H. man. The half-page after M.A.C.H.1 is taken up with a reader-designed tank, which is very obviously redrawn by Kev O’Neill.
Finally, apart from those afore-mentioned Flesh cards, we have Dredd. It could be argued that, in its way, this is one of the most influential of the early Dredds. Others may have introduced us to the Lawmaster, the Statue of Judgement, and the ruins beyond the walls, but this Belardinelli-illustrated story introduces the mystery of Dredd’s face. Apparently Tharg/Mills wasn’t happy with the face that had been drawn for Dredd, so slapped a ‘censored’ sign over it (possibly as there wasn’t time to get it redrawn). Thus one of the defining characteristics of the future lawman was born. Belardinelli is at his best at outlandish creatures and aliens, none of which appear in this episode, though the glimpses we see of MC1 in the background are typical of his organic Art Nouveau-ish buildings, which suit the city pretty well.
As expected my slog got off to a pretty good start at the weekend but slowed to a crawl once pesky work got in the way.
Not the snappiest of cover captions there (I considered trying to edit it down a little, but want to see how WordPress reacts to such a long title). The other cover line was: “Who can tear a building to shreds with his bare hands? Answer inside…” by the 7th prog, any Earthlet who doesn’t answer ‘M.A.C.H.1’ hasn’t been paying attention. Good work from Massimo on his first proper cover (his art had appeared on Progs 1, 2 and 4, but only in the form of Dare’s head, or jostling for space with the promotional blurb and free gifts).
Over the page a splash of Paddington station, as run by Volgs. A pretty light episode on plot, but we see one of the units from the Red Alert / Futuregraphs in action (the Spyder Troops). In the last few panels it turns out that the Mad Dogs get their best intel from Volg-run propaganda, which gives the game away by letting Savage know about the Volg informant. Not the best strategy from the Volgans there…
On to Flesh where Old One Eye goes on the rampage, attacking through hate rather than for food. The other characters start to get slightly more dimensions to them – having his home city appears to have sobered up the Doc enough that he gets Carver and Reagan to stop fighting.
Before Harlem Heroes we have a pre-skinhead Weetabix advert (this one featuring the one true Doctor Who). In Harlem Heroes itself we have three pages which basically repeat the last page of the previous episode, showing us how little the Siberian Wolves care about their own safety next to the glory of Mother Russia. On the last page Giant find out his jet pack has been sabotaged, cue cliffhanger.
Dan Dare sees the spacer taming the living Axe, which always reminds me of the Polymorph from Red Dwarf (which made its first appearance over a decade after this story). What remains of his crew escape Jupiter to find the Odyssey is having problems with the Biogs spaceship, in a great panel that Belardinelli manages to cram into half a page of story.
The rest of the page is taken up with the omnipresent adverts for stamps and, after a break in the previous prog, a Thargnote sized Nerve Centre. I almost missed it, but the term ‘Borag Thungg’ makes it’s first appearance here.
Onwards to M.A.C.H.1 where Probe goes off to Bolavia (sic) to rescue a distinctly unappreciative British arms dealer, who quickly proceeds to order the guard holding him captive to arrest his rescuer. Probe gets captured due to showing those pesky emotions again and orders the computer to switch off his hyperpower in order to fool the guards. Not entirely sure why he couldn’t just have acted as if he was weak. Earthlings are warned not to throw secret police chiefs out of helicopters (or was it pulling down two thousand ton buildings we were warned against?)
In a week where we’ve seen a preview of a forthcoming Dredd story featuring a rebuilt Statue of Judgement (or possible building site thereof), in this prog we get the unveiling of the original Statue, still with a body of water behind it. Apparently it was built by the people, though I do wonder how it became the HQ of PSU in latter years (maybe something that happened during the reign of Cal – I don’t remember if any details will be given). One of the perps suggests Dredd is not human, a later scene is reminiscent of the film we do not mention, and we get a view of the Lawrod (though it isn’t named in this episode). I don’t recall whether we’ll get many details of the Lawrod, but a slide on the side seems to suggest it has a Lawgiver-style ammunition selection, though this one goes up to seven! One the back page we get an advert for the Flesh card game that will build up over the next four weeks, along with a distinctly un-2000AD children’s comic-style panel. Not familiar with those types of comic artist, so I wouldn’t know if it was provided by a famous Beano, Dandy or Whizzer and Chips artist.
Ian Kennedy returns to the Galaxy’s Greatest, though on Invasion! rather than M.A.C.H.1 this time. The nasty Volgs are going to publicly execute innocent civilians in retaliation for the Mad Dogs first attack. The place they chose to do this was Wembley Stadium (renamed Victory Stadium), and so Savage’s response to this includes football imagery. The song You’ll Never Walk Alone is used and I had to check it wasn’t Pat Mills on writing duties (though he was editor at the time, so perhaps he was in some way responsible for its inclusion?)
On to Flesh, and the main scene of interest to me is when Old One Eye accidentally kills her own son (not that she would have stopped if she’d realised). I suspect this is the first appearance of the original Satanus, before he was reincarnated in the 21st century. Shall have to compare scenes once I get to the Cursed Earth.
Facing the last page of Flesh is a fantastic splash page from Gibbons, of the Trans-Atlantic Tunnel. Lots of visual treats on the sides of the trucks and superliners using it. A racist commentator (who calls all of the Russian players Boris) notwithstanding, this is a pretty good episode.
Speaking of great art, Belardinelli is next on Dare, with our first view of the BIogs’ Base. Not sure the use of red, blue and black works that well – black and blue might have picked out the detail nicely but the third colour doesn’t work for me. Anyway, Massimo gets to draw lots of strange aliens, so all is good (and we get the first appearance of the Axe of Office).
The Nerve Centre is next with a (doctored) photo of Tharg, flanked by a couple of adverts for stamps (from different companies!) If I remember my Thrill-Power Overload correctly, this is Kelvin Gosnell dressed up as Tharg, terrorising a secretary.
Next up, M.A.C.H.1 fights for Himmler’s Gold. Neo-Nazis, actual Nazis and Stormtrooper skeletons crop up in a story which is pretty similar to every other tale we’ve had of the M.A.C.H.man.
Rounding the prog, story-wise, is Dredd coming up against Frankenstein 2, an transplant organ harvester. Dredd is in Sub Sector 6, rather than Section 6 now, so getting closer to current terminology. One of McMahon’s best panels to date on the third page (where Dredd is blinded, except he isn’t). Classic Dredd elements here – future crime, punchline and a comment from a mother to her child about how grim Dredd is.
Rounding the prog off altogether is a cut-away of the Harlem Heroes superliner provided by Kevin O’Neill, where we get to find out what those other satellite vehicles are (hover car and seven mopeds in addition to the helicopter, essentially).
Dredd makes the cover! He’s a tiny dot on a Lawmaster, but he is there! He’s not attacking a cyborg either, whatever the strapline says – it’s a plain old giant robot, albeit covered in fur.
The intro for Invasion! is over, with Savage now being part of the Resistance the Mad Dogs have entered London, ready to start causing trouble for the Volgs.
The resistance is going strong in the next story as well, but this time the dinosaurs are fighting (well, biting) the humans in Flesh. Once again, Old One Eye is toppled, but this time she doesn’t stay down for long. The poorly programmed Robot Marshall won’t let anyone have their guns back, so it’s going to be up to Reagan and Carver to burn down Carver City to drive the dinosaurs away.
I like the intro page for Harlem Heroes, bordered along the bottom of the two-page spread by the Harlem fans – that Dave Gibbons is going places! The next page sees our introduction to the wild staring eyes of Ulysses Cord, offering a sparkly new superliner with a chopper and other satellite vehicles, with no strings attached. Not at all dodgy then. The first mention of a Transatlantic Tunnel as well.
Three chameleonic Biogs greet us on the next page, communicating with each other through changing colour. If they turn red, then get away quick. Monday and Dare defeat one, not that it makes any difference as they end up captured in a stomach prison cell anyway. Back on the Odyssey, Ziggy Rodann tries to make the supreme sacrifice for the good of the ship, but acting commander Milton hesitates and she lives.
The next page sees the Nerve Centre, and the first appearance of the voting coupon – ‘This is what I like best…’ – kindly, the mighty one has filled in the first choice for us – that’s one vote for Tharg then! Tharg isn’t a hands-on kind of editor apparently, as he has a letter-reading robot and a popularity programmer. On the same page is an odd advert from the Home Office to answer questions on the police. I forgot to mention, the previous prog saw an ad for the Air Training Corps. Not seeming so anti-establishment now!
We get another Futuregraph – this one is for ‘War is the Volgan way of life’. There seems to be a two-tier system in Volgan society – peasants work in the fields and factories while everybody else gets into fatigues and marches off to war. There’s another secret message for those lucky souls who have a Red Alert Survival Wallet.
M.A.C.H.1 is off on holiday (recuperating from being shot the previous week) and showing off to Karen, who he asks too many questions when he shows off his hyper-power. He can’t step on to a beach while on holiday without running in to an illegal weapons dealer though. Towards the end of this episode he has a few doubts about his position as a man with a non-conscience in the form of his on-brain computer (Probe has the conscience, the computer tries to get him to ignore his emotions). Pictorially this is an inauspicious start for the art droid who later will bring us talking cats, displaced Sov Judges and the Gila Munja, though its not every day you’re asked to draw a secret agent punching two people out of opposite sides of an aircraft…
Finally we get Dredd, in an Ezquerra-illustrated story featuring Kevin O’Neill, but as a character, not an artist! I bumped into O’Neill last year, and he seemed completely unaware that there was a Dredd villain with his name (or he’d blocked it out).
This one has a mysterious cover (no-one seems to agree on who actually drew the thing, apart from Dare’s Belardinelli head in the corner).
Invasion! starts with a view of the official British resistance base (somewhere in East Anglia), including a secret message for those with a Red Alert Survival Wallet, which I don’t have. Once again, Savage shows how he is better at being a fighter than all those people who have been trained to do it, winning the Brigadier over and starting a mission to bring the resistance to the Volgs in London.
Flesh starts with a bang, with a full-page splash of Old One Eye, the Hag Monster, before we follow the rangers to a domed city run by ‘Claw’ Carver. Joe is suffering from black boils which can only be cured by use of a gland from a living Tyrannosaur’s throat. Luckily, minutes later, Old One Eye tears her way through the dome, leaving her and Earl Reagan standing off against each other for the cliffhanger.
Harlem Heroes starts dramatically with Zach in a death dive and continues with a few good images resulting in the new Heroes starting to act like a team. During the interval Giant gets a holophone call from the hospital and is informed by Louis that the crash was no accident (pretty sure most readers would have seen that one coming).
Dan Dare’s colour centrespread is strangely lacking that Belardinelli touch, though most of the spread is definitely his style there seems something missing – though whether it was due to being rushed or parts being bodged by someone else I don’t know. There are a few stand-out images in this episode though – the first view of a Biog and the once-again conscious Thing attacking Ziggy Rodann show him back on form.
We see Tharg’s ability to change size in the Nerve Centre above an advert for the Air Training Corp.
M.A.C.H.1 is a ho-hum story about Probe assassinating the President of Irania on the eve of an invasion of neighbouring Turkostan.
Dredd sees the future lawman leave the city and travel into the (as yet un-named) Cursed Earth to rescue the mayor’s son. Which mayor it is is unknown – Amalfi, Grubb, who knows? A quick tale, resolved through the use of light (as will also be used in a Troggie tale before year’s end).
We close with a Futureadvert (branded in a similar way to the Futuregraphs), illustrated by Kevin O’Neill and showing a glimpse of the future (well, a supermarket) that all that Flesh is beamed to. Good stuff and a quite Mek-Quake-ish fleshdozer.