Prog 76: Introducing the man called… Robo-Hunter!

We’ve had the first 75 progs, now things are really taking off with the introduction of Sam Slade, Robo-Hunter. This was one of my favourite stories in the very first progs I owned so this story starting makes it feel a lot more like my prog!

The Nerve Centre brings the news that (as well as Old One Eye’s son appearing in Judge Dredd) that Flesh will be returning soon.

Now for Robo-Hunter and Slade jumps onto the page, catchphrase in hand (“The name’s Slade, Sam Slade! That’s S-L-A-Y-E-D to you!”). It’s written by T.B.Grover and illustrated by Jose Ferrer and Ian Gibson, though Ferrer will be moved off the story in a few episodes time. Unlike the shared art duties on Mind Wars in Star Lord a few weeks earlier, their two styles are so different that it’s very easy to tell which pages, panels and parts of panels are drawn be each artist. Unusually for an action/adventure story protagonist, Slade is old – dates might be given at a later time, but he’s been in the robot hunting business alone for forty years. The racial stereotype of Chan (called ‘Charlie Chan’ by Slade) date it, as does the presence of a barely-disguised Star Destroyer (it has to be said that Slade’s clothing is not unlike that of Han Solo either).

I’m still not sure which side Bear is on in the Mutiny! story – I’m going to go for bluffing that he’s joined the mutineers, but I don’t remember much about supporting characters in the latter days of 2000AD Dare. Bear suggests that the mutineers be taken to an Eagle craft, expelled from the ship (that meteor storm is still going on) and used as target practice. Coincidentally, Dare wakes up in the airlock of an Eagle craft and Gunnar blasts through two sets of hangar doors, depressurising that section of the Space Fort. Hitman and the other non-mutineers are in the equipment room next to the hangar and the glass is beginning to crack so there’s your cliffhanger.

I’ve not been mentioning it, but both of the preceding stories have had a little kid on a skateboard, courtesy of Mike McMahon and the skateboard competition.

The second part (or sector) of the boardgame shares the centre page with Chapter 16: Black Sabbath! and Satanus atop a burning church, now joined by the other Tyrannosaurs. This calls back to the battles of Old One Eye, though is much more skillfully told. I can’t praise the Satanus chapters highly enough – Pat finishes this episode with a panel foretelling “the awful thing he was going to do in the future”. Readers of the time will have to wait six or seven years, though the return of Satanus to the prog will have been my introduction to the character.

Tharg’s Future-Shocks has Martin Lock and Frisano present The Illusion Man. For some reason a lighthouse orbits a dead sun isolated from any inhabited planets. The lighthouse keeper has been subjected to multiple illusions by the computerised lighthouse but has got to a stage where he doubts what is real and what is illusion any more. Frustrated at all attempts to entertain him, he orders the computer (under protest) to cease all illusions. Shock! The lighthouse keeper himself is an illusion, created to keep the lonely computer itself company – back to the drawing board!

In Ant Wars the Carnival has started in Rio. ‘Alan Hacker’ (Alan Whicker for those too young to be familiar with 1970s British TV presenters) presents a TV programme. Villa has trouble getting past some drunken guards to see the colonel in the city, but Anteater ‘accidentally’ takes the pin out of a grenade, destroying the colonel’s car. Despite blowing up his pride and joy, the colonel let’s Villa tell him his story – though more because it backs up a report he’d already received (but didn’t believe at the time) he mobilises his forces to prepare against ant attack, though without causing panic amongst the revellers. The last panel has the legs of some ants visible under a carnival float, and this must have had some effect on me as I’ve been looking for legs under vehicles ever since the cart hiding an ant went to the tobacco plantation a few episodes earlier.

As well as one page in the centre dedicated to the board, the back page has some player counters for the Cursed Earth game.

Grailpage: the first few episodes of Robo-Hunter have mixed art, so once again Mike McMahon wins – but it’s really difficult to pick which one as there are so many great images – I’ll go for the one with Dredd freeing Judge Jack (who has been dangling from a chain as the others on the chain gang have been eaten one by one since the previous episode), Satanus leaping on to and trying to eat the Kill-dozer.

Grailquote: Pat Mills, narration: “Little Hades might be a vicious fighter – but Tweak’s claws could break boulders in half in seconds! No contest!”

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