Prog 78: War Declared on Humanity!

This is a particularly famous early cover – the first 2000AD newspaper-style offering, with a ‘photo’ provided by Kevin O’Neill of a giant ant over a prone man.

In the Nerve Centre a reader asks for models of Walter and the Quasar bike (Lawmaster). It only took about five more years for the Lawmaster to get a figure made of it (though I’m thinking of the 35mm scale RPG figures from Citadel Miniatures). Fast forward three or so decades and larger, more detailed models have been released. Another reader has submitted a Lego model of Dare’s Space Fort – not the last time Lego versions of 2000AD vehicles or characters will be printed in the Nerve Centre!

Jose Ferrer still has some art appearing in Robo-Hunter – though I think this might be the least episode with some panels redrawn by Gibson – if I remember correctly, from here on in it will be purely Ian Gibson’s artwork. One of the robots that tries to arrest Slade is ‘Police 5’ – named for the Crimewatch / Crimestoppers precursor. After the not-so-successful attempts at humour strips (I’m looking at Walter and Bonjo here) it’s good to have Slade’s noir-inspired voiceover injecting sardonic commentary. Slade and Kidd get taken prisoner as ‘Sims’ and taken to the Experimentation Complex. We get our first view of the streets of Verdus and taken into the prison (sorry, experimentation) complex. Ferrer was an artist with his strengths, but depicting vast future cities and dystopian isn’t one of them. He’s much more suited to more contemporary stories – which were more prevalent (and successful) in stablemates such as the 1980s Eagle – except that hasn’t been re-launched yet, it still being 1978.

Jack Adrian and Frisano present Nothing on Earth under the Tharg’s Future-Shocks banner. A first contact story focused on the US military, led by an agressive general. First contact is made, sort of, and the general, disgusted by the slimy, octopus-like aliens kills them all. As he watches their burning ship, another alien spaceship arrives, crewed by furry bear-like cteatures and speaking English. You’ve probably guessed the twist – the slimy aliens were friendly and trying to warn against the furry aliens, who are reknowned as pirates and destroyers of planets. The story is let down a little by an over-the-top warmongering general, but it’s serviceable as a three-page Future-Shock.

Jack Adrian is back on the next story, this time joined by Dave Gibbons as Dare is in a corridor about to be drowned by sealant or blasted to atoms by Gunnar shooting through the hull of the Space Fort. There’s a few twists and turns, but the important thing is that Bear didn’t join the traitors, he was bluffing to stop senseless killings. Haskins, leader of the mutineers, escapes from Dare’s united loyalists and heads for an Eagle craft. Unfortunately he dons Dare’s discarded spacesuit to get there, and Gunnar doesn’t see past the nameplate on the helmet – so long Haskins!

Leading us to the colour centre pages – one side for part 4 of the Cursed Earth game, the other for the opening shot of this week’s Dredd episode: Soul Food. Jack Adrian is back, third time this prog. I can imagine he had fun writing this, giving voices to various corporate mascots. Dredd manages to escape, freeing Judge Jack and Spikes. Spikes wants to take revenge on Professor Gribbon but Dredd decides it’s more important to put an end to all the genetic attrocities. They’re spotted trying to escape by the Michelin Man, who seems to have no difficulty in firing Judge Dredd’s and Judge Jack’s lawgivers (without the guns in question exploding, it must be noted). The upshot of Dredd’s decision to ‘end attrocities’ instead of take care of Gribbon is that all the unfortunately subjects of the experiments die – nice one Dredd!

After three stories by Jack Adrian, it’s Gerry Finley-Day’s turn for Ant Wars. Anteater saves the Brazilian army officers’ lives and they are eternally grateful to him. Only kidding, Villa says he’s thankful but pretends that he didn’t need any help while the other office repays Anteater (and Villa) by threatning them with a gun when the chance to escape on a small plane at the airport becomes available. Except it isn’t a small plane, it’s the queen ant, and she’s hungry after her flight. Villa is happy though – nothing to do with the now dead army officer threatening him mere seconds earlier and all about affordable housing.

Nearing the back of the prog and the Nerve Centre gets an Extra (tieing in to the newspaper-styled cover this week?) – this is one of the better Nerve Centres to date – the debate about whether Dredd is too violent continues, with one reader pointing out heroic acts that the Judge has carried out – particularly relevant during the current run, as part of the motivation for The Cursed Earth was to highlight his heroic nature. The best part of the page, however, is one reader’s suggestion for robo-dustbins and another’s story idea of a garbage robot going on the rampage. These are neatly tied together by cameos from Ro-Jaws and Mek-Quake – I don’t know what non-Star Lord following readers of 2000AD would have made of these exchanges.

Continuing the newspaper-stylings – Stop Press – Judge Dredd has won the Eagle Award for Best British Comic Character – the first of many awards that 2000AD will collect over the coming years.

Grailpage: I’ve no idea how much of this cover ever existed in real life – presumably there was a mock-up of a newspaper cover with O’Neill’s picture of an ant and a man stuck on cardboard with headlines and copy surrounding it, but it wins my grailpage for this week.

Grailquote: T.B. Grover, Sam Slade: “I don’t know who first thought of giving robots a sense of humour, but if he cares to send me his photograph I’ll personally stick pins in it.”

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