2000AD Prog 19: Supercover 1 – A Robot’s Best Friend…

This prog sees a departure from the usual style of cover, as (I believe) Pat Mills wanted to get Brian Bolland on board, but the artist was still on contract to produce comics for Nigeria.  His way around this was to commission Bolland to produce some covers, and get a writer to put together a story behind the cover.  Though I don’t think Mills was editor at this time, so he either commissioned the covers before going to freelance writer, had a lot of influence over the next person to take the mantle of Tharg, or I’m completely wrong about all this.  Anyway, cover-wise we get an eye-catching composition of a robot in a warzone, clasping a frightened dog to itself.

Behind the first Supercover the Volgs are building a military highway, the V-1 – roughly along the course of the M1, but a bit to the East.  Pushed out of London, Savage and the Mad Dogs have taken up refuge in a small resistance base.  True to form, by the end of the next page, Savage has rebelled against the military regime and taken off, running across a nearby construction site (despite being nearby, it’ll take him two hours of fast driving to return to the base).  He frees some British prisoners as they’re about to be shot by firing squad, returns to the base where he’s effectively court marshalled by the Brigadier, taking Mad Dogs, Silk and a map with him (to take the killing to every corner of Britain).  Hopefully this’ll mean the main plot of forthcoming episodes won’t be friction between Savage and the (British) military, plus we’ll get to see Invasion!’s take on a bunch of local stereotypes.

A bit of housekeeping at the bottom of the last page of this story.  An advert for the 2000AD Summer Special Supercomic says it’s out on Thursday 30th June 1977, the cover date of this issue (which is the date it should be taken off the shelves is 2 July 1977, and apparently the comic is in orbit every Monday (which would be either Monday 27 of June or 4 July in 1977).  Whichever order they came out in, I think my next read after this prog is the Supercomic, followed by Prog 20.

The last episode of Flesh, and the first of the original line-up of series to finish.  This is a great episode, where we follow Old One Eye away from the Trans-Time Base as she heads of to the Tyrannosaurs’ Graveyard, beset by heart attacks, pteranodons and little scavengers.  Eventually she lets out a last bellow and tumbles into the canyon, her remains becoming fossilised, to be discovered during the building of a new extension to the London Underground in 1983 (which is slightly strange, as in 1977 the real world Jubilee line was being dug, so I’m not sure why they created a new extension six years into the future).  We get to meet a few new characters, Professor’s Gizzard and Magnus.  Magnus’ son reads 2000AD (well, a boys’ paper about men travelling back in time-machines to kill dinosaurs) while Gizzard is contemptuous of any theories others have, despite the remains of humans being found inside Old One Eye.  Paradoxically, Gizzard has given her remains the same name that Reagan did – there is no explanation for this coincidence, but my theory is that Reagan may have read about historical finds, come across the name Old One Eye and subconsciously dredged the name up from his memory when he faced her after taking her eye out.

Three pages of Harlem Heroes, and another Hero is killed, this time sub Dale Parker, by an exploding ball.  The referee doesn’t find this at all suspicious, and asks the remaining Heroes want to carry on, after the deaths of Chico and Dale.  They continue, though Hairy and Slim are more interested in taking out their grief on the Gorgon’s than trying to win the game.  Slightly more interesting than a straight-forward sport episode, but the best thing is still the art.

On to that Supercover Saga story – it’s pretty lightweight, but then it is just an excuse to get Bolland to produce covers (though other artists will also contribute in forthcoming months).  At the end of World War Ten, after being hit by a blast, the war robot CPX-9 feels its first emotion (years before Short Circuit!)  Not far off a dog is whimpering for its dead master, CPX-9 finds the mongrel, together they inherit the Earth, story over.

In Dan Dare, we’re treated to Massimo’s depiction of Dare and Rok escaping through the tunnel to the outside of the Hollow World in the Mekon’s personal space yacht, Dare showing off his piloting skills to Rok.  The ship’s memory banks reveal that the Two of Verath were once separate people, but were joined together as punishment for a crime.  Dare also sees that the Mekon plans to implant a Thermonium bomb in the Two’s body, which he is doing ‘at that moment’, along with a hypnotic suggestion to get them in a position for him to use it.  Next scene, we see that Arnold has dragged his family on a holiday to a sleazy part of the galaxy filled with pilots (his wife castigates him for this, having preferred to go to Mars – we aren’t told what the attraction of going on a voyage through a dangerous region is).  Still clouded by the hypnosis, the Two fight badly and feel compelled to surrender.  Meanwhile the Mekon interrupts Dare’s perusal of the memory banks on his yacht, tells Dare and Rok the parts of his plan that the spacer hadn’t already worked out and destroys the communication systems (despite guessing that the blast wouldn’t actually kill Dan).  Typical supervillain behaviour.  As ever, some nice Belardinelli art, though it would have been nice to see him show us a bit more of the destruction of the passenger ship and the space battle with five Galaxy class cruisers.

M.A.C.H.1 sees the Probe upholding British values on a Pacific island in the jungle (those values being exploiting natural resources. oppressing the local population and casual racism).  In case the sarcasm isn’t coming through, the story does depict the Brits as the bad guys here, and the Japanese holdout soldier who doesn’t believe the Second World War has ended is a good guy, albeit one who is causing problems.  No explanation of how the soldier managed to control some abandoned tanks ‘by remote control’ – the technology did exist, but I’m not sure a Japanese soldier cut off from civilisation since 1945 would have known how to use it…  All in all, a good episode, some racist language, as in previous episodes, but at least this time it’s the bad guys using it (and they get their come-uppance).  This soldier takes his own life, unable to cope with the new world (in the form of the hyperpowered Probe) – earlier in the seventies in the real world, the last of the Japanese holdouts had been in the news.  They  been respectively: captured; killed in a  shoot-out; relieved of duty by a former commanding officer and the last had surrendered to a search patrol.  These had inspired an episode of the Six Million Dollar Man called The Last Kamikaze.  I’m guessing the genesis of this escapade of Probe’s was in that fictionalisation as much as the real life inspiration.

Finally John Cooper illustrates the Dredd tale, Mugger’s Moon.  This tale is of a fairly simple mugging, where a motorist who could have driven the victim to safety instead left him to die.  The mugger’s laugh at the victim as he grabs at the exhaust pipe, burning himself as it comes off in his hand (harking back to the pre-Robot Wars Antique Car Heist, this is an expensive 20th century petrol burning car).  It’s pretty straight-forward, but does have the twist of Dredd chasing down the heartless motorist who left the victim to die, using a different law to punish him for his action (and resulting in the destruction of his car – I wonder if this inspired the scene in the Stallone film almost two decades later?)

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