2000AD and Tornado Prog 129: Big Alien Issue! Tharg Terrorises London! “Eeeeeeh!”

A classic Carlos cover here, as recreated for the Greatest Hits collection which was released to celebrate the 40th Anniversary a couple of years ago (that link is to a charity auction ending on 30 November 2019 – sorry if you’re reading this in the future – you’ll have to settle for the unsigned edition). Tharg towers over the streets of London, so we know that we’re finally going to get the Tharg story (after being teased three times).

The Nerve Centre contains a voting coupon, a stamp advert (of course) and reader art. The basic Tharg heads are looking very samey – (without checking) I’m sure both this week and last week’s were copied from the same source image. I’m anticipating the ‘Tharg the’ $insert-pop-cultural-reference-here pictures. They were very prevalent in the 300s, I’m hoping I don’t have to wait that long! Most notable are multiple letters appointing characters. The Cambridge University Sci-Fi Society has appointed Ro-Jaws and Hammer-Stein members, the Gronk is the mascot of the Sci-Fi and Fantasy Society at Hatfield Polytechnic while Tharg himself is an Honorary Dinkum Aussie.

Judge Dredd: The Battle of the Black Atlantic part 2 has Dredd take a dip in said polluted ocean. Judge Molotov (now named) takes Nicolai (the spy) to the starboard bridge to dine with the commander (the ship they’re on is like a catamaran, with two hulls). Dredd attempts to continue to arrest the ship (all 1,200 crew members) but the poisoned water he’s swallowed has other ideas. A muscular Sov called Georgi gets to work on Dredd, but is halted by Doctor Rodnina (missed a chance to call her Doktor Rodnina there) who respects her hippocratic oath and treats the poisoned Dredd. Dredd makes a romantic approach towards Rodnina (you can probably guess it’s a ruse – to get a rotary scalpel and escape). Rodnina reports to Molotov that Dredd is on his way to recovery. After a battle featuring various medical and molotov-based puns Dredd orders the ship to turn around and two hours later a large force of judges is preparing to process the 1,200 crew in a fantastic lower-page pic by Ron Smith (words were by John Howard).

Oh dear. Just as I get into the routine of reading pure 2000AD (and Tornado) each day, along comes an advert for the 2000AD Annual 1980. For the record (if you couldn’t tell from my blogs on previous annuals) I don’t like any of the early annuals up to 1985. The Judge Dredd annuals from 1981 were good from the start, but that’s a long time to wait! Now, do I do all of the 1980 annuals in one go, or only as the adverts appear in the prog? There’s a lot of them – 2000AD, Starlord (separate annuals – no pretence that 2000AD and Tornado was an actual merger in the annuals – just one comic folded into another), Dan Dare and Tornado. I’m not entirely sure if all the IPC annuals were released in one go, or were staggered. Right, I’ve just flipped through all the progs up to the end of the year – all but the Tornado annual get adverts, though seemingly placed at random. From this year onwards I’ll cover all the annuals in a row after the first gets an advert (it’s incredibly difficult to get reliable publication dates for the annuals after all this time – different websites claim the 1st of August 1979 – which I doubt up to January 1980 – which I flat-out don’t believe). So it’s going to be four days of annuals, all from back before they got good – wish me luck!

A Day in the Life of the Mighty Tharg features a non-Kings Reach Tower-looking command module and lettering droid Aldrich being taken to Mek-Quake for termination while AALN-1 looks on – is this the first time we’ve had droid parodies of real creators? I think so, though wouldn’t swear to it. Some people don’t like Tharg stories, I like some of them. Off the top of my head I think if the art is by Carlos, Belardinelli or Eric Bradbury then I’ll probably enjoy it. Once that trio get taken off them and they’re illustrated by other artists they’re not so good (in my opinion – I’m not sure if it is actually the art or the writing itself). Background within single panels include the first “Remember Alec Trench” poster and cameos of Carlos and Major Eezy at Piccadilly Circus. There’s a few other background characters who might by references to people or characters, but none I recognise.

Colonel Lash (previously only referred to as the mysterious human officer) explains that Mars is the enemy, and gives then gives a subtitle of “The Devil Planet”, to justify Deadlock’s reveal of the Devil card last prog. Pat Mills and Mike McMahon bring this week’s The A.B.C. Warriors. Lash represents Free Mars, which is victim to food corporations (reminiscent of Trans-Time), rogue Garganteks (like the Terra-Meks except, despite being posed as a threat, they won’t appear in this series) and Hoolies (bike gangs that terrorise Viking City). It’s presented as a rehash of Seven Samurai and the immortal phrase is used “Seven robots to tame a planet!” The narration switches from third person omniscient (on the centre spread) to Hammer-Stein first person, though most of the words are in dialogue. George and Cynthia are colonists looking forward to Martian life, escaping from the Volgan Wars and violent Mega-Cities. Not only are water oceans paralleled in sand oceans, but monsoon season have their Martian equivalent of sandsoon season. Mills continues the word-play as the space liner is brought down five miles from the nearest O-asis (standing for Oxygen Assistance Centre as the air in the Olympian Heights is so thin). The humans from the liner are struggling with the thin atmosphere when the survivors are attacked by Humpies – early human settlers whose bodies have been adapted and have gone wild. They carry compressed air in humps on their backs, allowing them to go for days on a few mouthfuls of air. Cynthia is forced to kiss a Humpy (neither are happy about this – Hammer-Stein is forcing them to do this at gunpoint). The first ABC Warriors success on Mars – the new human colonists and the former colonists the Humpies are now getting on with each other (amazing what kissing does for breaking the ice).

The Mind of Wolfie Smith from Tully and Gibson. Gibson shows us the grim mansion, Wolfie approaching through what is either a gale or the psychic waves of energy battering him. Inside the mansion Hobb’s personal manservant answers the door, leading Wolfie through labyrinthine passages and stairways of the mansion. Except it is actually Hobb, using his powers to blot out his psychic aura. Hobb also demonstrates use of astral projection to Wolfie. Hobb has been acting as a psychic Fagin, collecting drifters and tramps though motivated by malice rather than money. Wolfie is to battle Hobb in a psychic contest for his freedom… next prog. In a reference to the destruction of lettering robot Aldrich by Mek-Quake, the credit card features lettering by Aldrich Mk 2 – a nice touch.

Disaster 1990 has Finlay-Day and Alan Willow encounter that staple of post-apocalyptic fiction – locals attacking strangers without provocation. Fortunately for Bill and Bamber, the yokels in a tree only have bows and arrows while he has his shotgun. Later, as they approach a village on a hill (which has escaped the floods) who react in a similar manner. By the end of the day, the duo arrive at Oxford seeing the spires through the mist. The mist which is “only a low-lying mist!” emphasises Bamber. Too late, Bamber realises that the atmospheric conditions are wrong for mist, and that the fog is artificial. The two wake up in a room in Oxford, the Duck and shotgun gone…

How far we’ve gone – in the early progs creators were not credited, after Kevin O’Neill’s introduction of credit cards we now have a trail for the next prog: “Art robot Dave Gibbons draws… Judge Dredd vs the Mob Blitzers” – not only having stopped the hiding of artist identities, but also using it as a selling point! Major Eezy makes another appearance in an advert for a collectable poster in Battle Action.

Blackhawk may have taken a break to allow for the Tharg story rather than due to art delays, but Captain Klep is most definitely replaced this week by a map of Mars tying in to this week’s ABC Warriors. Showing the largest continent on Mars, Olympus, it shows a number of places we’ll see and a few I don’t recall getting covered (without checking in the various books, I seem to recall it got cut short over an art dispute between Mills and editorial). Things that I’m expecting to get featured: Biol Corporation; Death Valley; Cyboon Reservation; the Overland Route to Viking City. Other interesting-looking features that I don’t recall appearing: Utopia; Goodtime City; Port Vile; Super Soya Corporation; Soyapool; Mons Olympus; Damnation Island; Bridge of Screams; Boom Town; Forbidden Zone.

Grailpage: Mike McMahon’s splash page for The ABC Warriors, featuring a giant Cybo-Whale being attacked while swimming the Great Sand Ocean (looks like a robot whale being attacked by a giant robot bird with a person in a cockpit in place of the head).

Grailquote: John Howard, Judge Dredd: “Dredd to Control… have been attacked by Sov-Blok ship forty miles out. Prepare holding pens for 1,200 prisoners!” Control: “Er… 1,200 prisoners?”

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