Prog 77: Ho ho ho – what have we here, little man…

The first thing we have is a huge corporate trademark holding Dredd up to his face. We had that a few progs ago when the corporate trademark was Ronald McDonald – this time it’s the Jolly Green Giant. This heralds the start of the other two-part story from The Cursed Earth that wouldn’t be republished for four decades (until that change in the law for purposes of parody allowed it).

A non-descript Nerve Centre opens the prog, complete with two adverts for stamps.

On to the stories – Robo-Hunter leaves Earth on Friday the 13th in the year 2140. Obviously I had to check if there will be a Friday the 13th in 2140 – good news, there is, and it’ll be in May! Mike Stott provides the words while Ferrer and Gibson share art duties (Mike Stott is another pseudonym for John Wagner). Slade mentions that he was working Megacity as he looks out of the window at the receding Earth. Other than the name being similar to Mega-City One there’s no other reason to believe that Robo-Hunter takes place in Dredd’s future (well, both strips contain another city called Brit-Cit) – what we see of Slade’s Earth does not match up with Dredd’s Earth. Besides which – it isn’t Dredd’s future any more – stories published last year (as I write this, 2018) in 2000AD and the Judge Dredd Megazine were set in 2140. Enough continuity rambling – Slade is being flown to Verdus by Commander Jim Kidd – Slade got put on this probably suicide mission because he was the best in the business – Kidd is on it possibly because he’s good at his job (by his own account, anyway) but mainly because he said the wrong thing to the wrong person. The shields fail, what’s the more Flectron (faster than light) drive can’t be switched off. So far the story has been drawn by Jose Ferrer – Ian Gibson takes over as Slade goes through the light barrier without safety shields. This is the point where the aged Robo-Hunter becomes the young Robo-Hunter we’ll be following for the next few years – Kidd also gets de-aged, but he started off in a lot younger so ends up as a baby, albeit one who has retained the ability to think and speak as a foul-mouthed twenty or thirty-something. Most of the rest of the episode is by Ferrer (with a few pictures of the young Commander Kidd possibly redrawn by Gibson) but fittingly the door of the spaceship opens on to a vista of robots, drawn by the best robot artist 2000AD has.

The next page is a preview page – similar to Thrills of the Future in present-day progs – I’m spotting unlettered pages from Ant Wars, Robo-Hunter, next week’s Judge Dredd and what I think is a forthcoming Dan Dare story by Trev Goring, if I’m not mistaken.

Speaking of Dan Dare – kidnapped by Gunnar, the room next to the hangar has a glass window (or clear safety-wall) through which mutineers and their intended execution victims are watching this happen. For some reason the mutineers just stare through the cracking window/safety-wall while those about to be executed suit up (standing next to the emergency suit rack, as they were – lucky). Meanwhile, Dare is also handily right next to a suit (not just any suit, it happens to be one of his spares – very lucky)! Despite their lives being saved by spacesuits, the moment both Hitman’s party and Dare get inside, they lose their suits. Remember all this is happening in the middle of a meteor mega-storm – if it was me I’d be living in that suit!

Dredd next, with Giants Aren’t Gentlemen! Jack Adrian and Brian Bolland bring us the Jolly Green Giant in the middle of the Utah Dustbowl (though contrary to its name, containing a gigantic sea of grass). The Burger Wars featured characters owned by MacDonalds and Burger King and got 2000AD into trouble. This story not only has the Jolly Green Giant, but also the Colonel (from Kentucky Fried Chicken) and representatives of other brands – most of which must have been more famous in the 1970s than there were about five years later, when I started reading 2000ad – to whit, I don’t recognise most of them. Some I do recognise though, are a pair of Michelin Men – fresh from helping out the Space Aztecs in TimeQuake over in Star Lord last week! This time they’re carrying a drugged Dredd to have gland-fluids drained from his central nervous system. As I’ve said, my favourite chapters of The Cursed Earth are those with Satanus – so the surrounding chapters pale in comparison. Unfortunately the publicity surrounding those chapters mean that the dinosaur story sometimes gets overshadowed…

Tharg’s Future-Shocks presents The Ultimate Warrior by Chris Stevens and Frisano (I don’t know who either creator is – but it’s lettered by British comic stalwart Jack Potter). This story is a bit odd, without being interesting. A fighter called Karnok the Bold (who swears by Krom) is training with androids to become the ultimate warrior, but must face the Reaper of Death first. Strange mash-up of tired fantasy tropes and androids with the expected ‘Karnok is an android’ twist (the Reaper is the actual warrior). I’d say more, but it was all a bit pointless.

Some people don’t like Ant Wars – I’m not one of those people – to me it’s in the grand tradition of Flesh and Shako! The ants hit Rio, launching their attack – as per usual the only one who manages to fight back with any competence is Anteater. Also, as before, Anteater leads them down into a sewer (they’ve picked up a Major from the armed forces who were doing a bad job of protecting Rio). As they go on the run, their new companion gets promoted to Colonel – possibly because of all the deaths of his superiors, conceivably because Gerry Finley-Day’s continuity error didn’t get picked up by the editor. The sewer isn’t so safe any more though, as it’s only the soldier ants with large armoured thoraxes who are too big to fit down them – smaller worker ants are on the scene now, and are headed their way.

Grailpage: This week I’ll go for the cover – Bolland’s Green Giant plucking Dredd up into the air.

Grailquote: Gerry Finley-Day, Captain Villa: “Radio station! We can call for a back-up, get the airforce to… Hey, on the roof – those aren’t roof aerials, they’re… The ants, they got here first!” It’s so silly – mistaking ants antennae for radio broadcast equipment.


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