2000AD Prog 82: Alien Roots

Classic Bolland, showing Tweak in the alien slave market. For some reason those attending the market are throwing tomatoes at the slaves – would you mess up something that you were about to buy? p.s. this scene doesn’t appear in the comic!

Nerve Centre has a few letters from girls (curiously both in Ireland – which doesn’t even have a cover price) demanding better representation. Off the top of my head I can’t think when the next strong female lead will appear – Anderson is well over a year away and Ardeni Lakam only appears in Starlord. I agree completely that Lorna Varn is not a positive female character (so promising as well, appearing on the cover of the first prog with Death Planet).

Boots leads Sam Slade Robo-Hunter through what I will call Verdus city. It’s not long before the pair are surrounded by robocops shooting at them (even with Sam wearing Boots to run at 60 miles per hour). They finally escape when Boots jumps seemingly into thin air but actually to a far-off ledge. They make it to the Robotic Records Office, where the records clerk reveals where SJ1 is currently located and things appear to look up…

In Ant Wars the leader of the revolutionaries is called Gavara, so my suspicions that this character was inspired by Che Guevara seem pretty on the ball! Che, I mean Gavara, is more than a little obsessed with overthrowing the rulers and taking their place. It won’t surprise you to learn that he gets killed by hatching queen ants and his carcass is left in the egg of one of them – so taking the place of a ruler (that isn’t my line – it’s used in the comic). Anteater escapes, Villa has a few local reporters in tow (can’t remember if they’ll be relevant later) and the flying queens are headed for the foothills of the Andes.

The next page has the first advert for the 2000AD Annual 1979 – so after the next Star Lord that will be next on my read pile.

In Dredd Tweak’s Story continues (and I think this is the first time in The Cursed Earth that the second part of a story has the same title as the first part – for instance the flying rats encounter was split in to Chapter 2 “Into the Darkness” and Chapter 3 “The Devil’s Lapdogs”). Pretty sure the extreme close-up of Tweak on the opening centre spread is the largest picture of a character we’ve seen in 2000AD so far! There’s also a caption reminding us that Judge Dredd has won the Eagle Award for Best British Comic Character. There’s one panel in this episode I don’t like – the one where Tweak walks into the wall next to a door to show how stupid he is – that overacting is a little too far. The only reason I mention that panel is because the rest of this episode is just about perfection, well-written with some of the best art we’ve seen in the prog so far, courtesy of Bolland. For the second time, Dredd thinks about the doubts he has, this time amplified by the closing line of the episode “And the terror that waited there got ready to welcome them.” Pat Mills definitely has an ear for mythos-building wordplay.

The Doomsday Machine Part 4 sees Dare face off against a giant cyber worm-snake, as you do. I say face off, what actually happens is that Dare and Hitman are eaten by the robot-snake, put in little capsule pellets while inside and deposited in what Dare calls “an exhibition area of alien life. A human zoo!” (except if it’s alien life it wouldn’t be a human zoo). Meanwhile Bear wakes up and goes searching for The Kid, who he finds almost immediately. We’re told a few times in dialogue and thought bubbles that everything is mysterious – frankly, we already know that – it would have been more effective, and atmospheric, if we’d had a few less words. Dare also watches his comrades while they’re in different capsules and thinks “can’t even communicate with Jebby and Hitman!” which is a strange way to phrase it – even if none of them know sign language, surely they could have worked out via body language and general pointing how to communicate? They don’t need to work out any rudimentary signs though, as their capsules release them, just in time to get stalked by some hairy beast with big claws. Bad news – the next prog tag says “The death of Bear!”

Tharg’s Future-Shocks sees an un-named story. From the first page I think it’s going to be a two-page story. Lawrence has fallen from an ocean liner and is about to drown in the middle of the ocean when a UFO picks him up. Those aboard respect the sanctity of all life and take him on a brief tour of their space ship, which is basically a zoo collecting specimens from across the galaxy – but it’s got to be better than drowning, right? My second prediction is that he’s going to be placed in a tank of water and quickly drown (that being the same environment that they aliens found him in). Turning the page… not even a full page – a small panel where Lawrence complains about his lot (being locked up) and a larger, half page panel with Lawrence in a goldfish bowl filled with water. There’s a degree to which early Future-Shocks are just going through tick lists of ideas and concepts that wouldn’t be out of place in any pulp sci-fi anthology or comic from the previous twenty years – I know they go up a gear when Alan Moore produces a slew of Shocks, but I’m hoping there are some more creative and, well, shocking stories before that!

Not for the first time there’s a Nerve Centre Extra – which is almost like the Input page that appears in contemporary progs, if there hadn’t already been a few letters at the front of the prog – and also if the Next Prog ad had been in a ‘Thrills of the Future’ panel at the front. One reader, a palaeontologist, points out that Tyrannosaurs have two claws, not three (as depicted by McMahon). Tharg defends McMahon by blaming researchers. He shouldhave pointed out that, technically, Satanus isn’t a pure-bred Tyrannosaur – he was genetically engineered by having DNA injected into an alligator egg, making him a hybrid. Alligators have four claws on their forelimbs. If Tyrannosaurs have two then that means Alligators and Tyrannosaurs have an average of three claws – what better number of claws for a Alligator-Tyrannosaur hybrid? I think I’ve used the words Alligator and Tyrannosaur enough for this paragraph!

On the back page Walter returns, and it’s not as bad as it could be – and I think that might be because I may have been introduced to the Charles Atlas / Hero of the Beach concept by this parody! This story is called “The insult that made a robot out of ‘Walt'” and is a parody of “The Insult that Made a Man out of Mac”.

Grailpage: Ian Gibson’s cityscape showing the steps up to the Robotic Records Office gets pipped to the post by the last page of Dredd this prog – Spikes convincing Tweak to allow the Mega-City punk to be his agent and then the iconic image of Spikes holding aloft the contract.

Grailquote: mirroring the grailpage, T.B. Grover’s lines from the records clerk are in the running: “What will those robots at research and development come up with next?” Boots: “Probably a records clerk who knows how to mind his own business.” but gets beaten by Mills’ Spikes: “Yahooo! I own half a planet… Me, Spikes Harvey Rotten, raised in the gutters of Mega-City One! I’ll be a somebody at last! First punk billionaire – wiv solid gold earrings! Death Valley here I come!”

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