Bolland’s second cover for 2000AD (his ‘day job’ was still illustrating Power Man for Nigeria at the time, but while Dave Gibbons and Kevin O’Neill (who had also drawn for Power Man) had managed to escape to 2000AD, the most Bolland managed in the early days was to provide roughly a third of the early 2000AD covers). This one features Probe on the verge of being torn apart by Yeti, with a border of hieroglyphs / circuit diagrams. Probably my favourite cover up to this point.
Over the page we get the last episode of the 3-part Doomsdale Scenario where the Resistance attempt to foil the Volgan plan to develop a Neutrino Bomb (sure it was a plain old Neutron Bomb the previous week?) The Brigadier and Silk’s attempt to bluff their way past the guards fails so Savage hops over the fence, commandeers a handily placed truck full of acid and crashes it into the nuclear research station. I’m reminded of the Bond film Dr No, where the hero causes a nuclear explosion. In our post-Chernobyl world the protagonist generally is trying to prevent nuclear explosions, not cause them… Other than that the usual militarily-trained people useless, Bill Savage can do everything on his own. I’m waiting for the prince to be airlifted in to change the dynamic, though as I remember this is quite some way off.
Flesh next and I think the build-up was better than the actual dinosaur invasion, not least due to some pretty dire dialogue. Old One Eye and the Furry Tyrannosaur make a nice double-act though – pretty sure Pat Mills must have been thinking of these two a decade and a half later when he created Dinosty. Terrible Claws drive cars, the heads of Trans-Time Corporation, sat at their star-shaped boardroom table, refuse to send help to the Controller of Base Three, particularly when – over a video link – they witness giant spiders invade the room from one side while the Furry Tyrannosaur enters through the other door. Not what you want your boss to see. Joe gets a half-page send-off, his innards sucked out by spiders. The next week tagline is ‘The Final Reckoning’, which we’ve been threatened with since the first prog (and there are four more episodes).
In the Harlem Heroes our favourite aeroball team draw lots (with special hero shaped straws) and Zack gets to take the sudden-death fly-off. Zack and Red fight a bit, Red almost scores before they fight a bit more and Zack gets the ball in the score-tank while being knocked unconscious. Not much I can say about a sports-based strip, even if it is a future sport with jetpacks. The most interesting panel is the last one where Gruber makes a re-appearance. Oh, forgot to say – Red did an about-turn and started getting pally after the game, in an honour-amongst-warriors way.
Centre pages, and Belardinelli shows his stuff with the Titan I.C. crash landing on the planet orbiting with the red giant star. Rok breaks out his lazer sword, leaving me wondering if publicity stills from Star Wars had been released yet. It doesn’t look very light sabre-ish, but you can’t help wondering… The surviving crew (Rok, Dare and O’Grady) survive to be captured by the Mekon and the Two of Verath. Dare has plenty of opportunity to interrupt O’Grady as he reveals everybody’s names, but instead quietly thinks how bad it would be if the Mekon found out who he was while the captain lets their captor know his identity, which he could have hidden quite easily due to having a new face. Speaking of which, this episode is notable for (I think) revealing Dare’s original Eagle-era face for the first time in the hallowed pages of the galaxy’s greatest. I think we’ll get to see a bit more next prog, but other than the Dan Dare Poster Magazine I don’t think his pre-2000AD appearance will be seen again, though I might be proved wrong as the Back Prog Hack goes on.
M.A.C.H.1 next, and the cover by Bolland is the best thing about it in this tale of an animal abusing drug smuggler. Some dramatic tension is attempted by pretending that the Yeti (who have already appeared on the cover) are invisible, when in fact they turn out just to have white fur – a tactic to be used by the polar bear Shako, who was waiting in the wings at this point, ready to take over the monster spot when Flesh finishes. Probe takes out one of the Yeti without too much difficult, and frees the other one to kill its ‘master’.
Rounding the prog, Call Me Kenneth leaves the robot factory as McMahon takes over art duties from Gibson and I have to say that Dredd’s behaviour makes me sympathise with the rebellious robots more than it does the fleshy ones. Howard (in Dredd’s words a “run-down excuse for a robot”) has found a circuit with the programme for the old law of robotics. Taking control of the factory control room, the quintet use the circuit to create new robots loyal to humans. While they’re doing that, CMK has arrived at the Hall of Justice with the Heavy Metal Kids and is threatening to “squeeze the juice out of the Chief Judge”. The Dredd we know is definitely taking shape, though his voice doesn’t ring true yet (and not just because of the insults he lobs at his robotic allies). This was at the time that Ezquerra wanted to make Dredd’s racial heritage ambiguous, while McMahon was drawing him as a black man. It’s possible that Wagner hadn’t decided on his race. I’m wondering whether Dredd ‘becomes’ white at the same time that Giant will be introduced. If he’d stayed black/ambiguous, would we have seen Will Smith in the nineties film instead of Stallone? Or Eddie Murphy if the film option had gone further the previous decade…