2000AD Annual 1980: It’s wild… it’s sensational… it’s your future!

The cover is apparently by G. Wood, if I’m reading the signature correctly. It has good depictions of Tharg and Bill Savage, and a rendition of Judge Dredd that wouldn’t have been out of place in the pre-Cursed Earth stories. There’s definitely worse covers to annuals and specials from this period of the prog’s history, and I like the textures from the painted cover.

The contents pages have a library photo of the lunar lander on the surface of the moon, making me impatient for the days when an art droid will be employed to provide the background art. As with all other annuals of this time period, all creative teams are entirely uncredited – the only hope for recognition is if the artist signs their name somewhere in the strip.

David Jackson provides the art for Benny’s Tale, purportedly set in Mega-City One, though other than the Tharg head telling us that, it could be any generic future city. Benny the Bean is stupid, so stupid that when he gets lost he goes for a nap in the middle of a busy traffic junction, causing the worst snarl up in the city’s history. He enrolls on a course to become more intelligent which works wonders, though on his way to the last part of the course he comes unstuck when he encounters a runaway car. Thinking he can outsmart it, he calculates trajectories and probabilities but is killed before he can come to a decision. It’s really a Future-Shock without the banner, as the twist is that the last lesson was “How to make decisions… fast!” The artwork is presented in colour – proper colour using cyan, magenta, yellow, not that horrible dual-tone colourisation process used in previous annuals, and yes, this one as well.

Ro-Busters is untitled but is set in Geneva, so let’s call it that. The characterisation of Ro-Jaws, Hammer-Stein, Howard Quartz and Mek-Quake are pretty accurate to the Starlord and 2000AD stories, until Mek-Quake gets buried in an avalanche. The robot is polite and friendly after being blasted out from under the snow and rocks, which is the first sign that the robot’s brain has been damaged. Illogically the robot’s brain is repaired using part of Howard Quartz’s brain, making Mek-Quake a cyborg from this point on, I guess? This doesn’t entirely sure Mek-Quake, so Doctor Rivets, the robo-psychiatrist is called in. Interestingly the view from below of Mek-Quake being parachuted in looks a lot like the Bryan Talbot view of much the same kind of scene years later in Nemesis the Warlock: The Gothic Empire. I should point out that while the Preying Mantis is in the same position as the Terminator ship dropping the bulldozer both times, the only real similarity is the angle and the multiple parachutes used – everything else about the two images is different. It’s kind of strange that Ro-Busters appears here, seeing as the strip has finished and been replaced by ABC Warriors in the weekly prog. I’m assuming it was written and drawn around the time Starlord merged with 2000AD and has been sitting on a shelf for a year.

The Tharg Tapes is presented as an interview by AALN-1 with Tharg. Tharg’s home planet is still called Betelgeuse VI. Four pages of filler.

The first of the 2000 A.D. Personality Data Banks – more filler, though at least it might act as a primer for new readers – the only info in it has appeared in the progs.

The text features continue with When Lightning Strikes! – a grainy black and white photo of lightning strikes in a city with a four panel diagram of a flashpoint.

Guinea Pig is a return of the reprint from other annuals and specials. This is Mike Lane going on a silly expedition in a bathyscaphe to the bottom of the Mediterranean to investigate if there are ruins of a submerged city and bring back evidence to Professor Dee. A bathyscaphe is kind of like a submarine but can withstand greater pressures and go further down. This time Mike’s risking the lives of his crew, not just his own, as they almost immediately discover an ancient stone gateway and powerful water currents. Not acting on this information at all, they get caught in the cross currents and they promptly crash into the gateway and get themselves trapped under debris. Luckily the bathyscaphe has grabbers and they get themselves out and find the submerged city. A huge squid hides out behind a large statue. Once again, instead of keeping their distance from the danger, they jet straight towards it, getting into the grasp of the squid, which they then hit with projectiles. The squid doesn’t like this and squirts ink into the surrounding water. The Stupid Crew can no longer find their way out so get further and further into the city, seemingly with no way to escape before their air runs out. Thinking themselves trapped they start trying to blast the walls apart and rather than dying under loads of rubble this action points the bathyscaphe upwards so that they can see that there was a huge skylight in the roof above them. Despite returning to the surface with film of all this, the Professor is just angry that they didnt bring any specimens back with them.

Welcome to the World of Video! is another text feature, showing vidiodisc players (note, not videodisc, apparently), the BBCs earliest video recorder, VERA (Vision Electronic Recording Apparatus), a TV showing teletext (Ceefax / Oracle), a videocassette machine, TV computer games and a diagram showing how videos are produced from a number of sources (still photos, audio, live screens, titling, broadasts, etc). Amusingly the vision of the computer is almost possible except for one thing, and it’s not what you may expect. Their vision involves getting a print-out of the news from teletext (which I think has been switched off now, but let’s just substitute that with looking at a news website), watching Star Wars, then fighting a computer game with Mek-Quake on a 10-foot screen. The most implausible part of that is that there’s no computer game featuring Mek-Quake out there. Somebody write a Ro-Busters, Nemesis or ABC Warriors game quick? Or at the least re-skin a vehicle in an existing game to insert Mek-Quake.

Invasion is slightly incongruous here, presumably having sat on a shelf for a year or two. In the progs, Silk was killed on that boat, the Volgan Wars were ended by Steelhorn and Bill Savage is currently floating around flooded Britain in his beloved Duck. In this annual he’s leading a Resistance team attacking a Volgan train but encounter another group attacking the same train, led by his childhood friend Ted Purvis. The two join forces, though Ted always has an eye on getting loot for himself. This applies to blowing a safe which sets off an alarm, even though the Resistance objective has already been achieved. Caught in the ensuing chase, Ted caves in before the Volgs can torture him, something Bill only finds out when he rescues his old friend. Before he can resolve that situation, the pair have to race back to the Resistance base to prepare a defence against the Volgs, who are already en route. Luckily for the author, he doesn’t have to resolve the situation of Ted having sold out the rest of the Resistance as he’s killed saving Bill’s life.

The second Personality Data Bank focuses on Arthur C. Clarke, so it’s anyone’s guess who the next Data Bank will be on.

The Phantom Patrol is the second major chunk of reprint and has the Patrol split up – some are stranded somewhere or other with a tank with no fuel (ancient Egypt, I can’t remember from the last annual and the text doesn’t make it very clear). The rest of the Patrol are in the Mediterranean in Elizabethan times. Also the Nazi Erhart who plays absolutely no role in this story – so little that I thought I’d got confused when I was reading the introductory text and that he was stranded somewhere else. Almost getting killed by the English as they approach a castle which has been captured from the Spanish they soon prove they’re English by speaking the language, even though it’s in a ‘quaint fashion’ – why that would prove anything isn’t explained – speaking English in a quaint fashion could be another way of saying ‘speaks English with a foreign accent’. Just after they go to the castle, the Spanish arrive to get the place back. The English are heavily outnumbered with just three galleons against the Spanish fleet. The metal landing craft and modern firearms even the odds until they capture the ships, and the Treasures of the Spanish Main. Foreign powers posing no threat to them, Sir Giles Farnworthy and the Patrol head to London where their real enemies turn out to be led by Sir Percy, who is jealous of the elevated status that Sir Giles stands to gain when he presents the Treasures. Sir Giles and the Sarge are kidnapped and are about to be drowned in the Thames though it doesn’t take long for the rest of the Patrol to turn up and rescue them. Not hanging around they go further back in time, to the Anglo-Saxon period, where the next adventure will continue (on page 93, so the narration tells us).

Mere weeks after Dan Dare has finished in the prog, for good, appears a duo-tone pink-coloured story. The best thing about the regular Dare strip lately has been the Dave Gibbons art. This story does not have Dave Gibbons art. Dare has built a country cottage, which just happens to be on a disused space station on the far edge of the solar system. A friend of his – who we’ve never met before – called Gard is about to visit him, but an energy based alien uses the communication beam to enter the space station, taking it over and essentially making Dare’s retreat a haunted cottage. The art leaves a lot to be desired but the story isn’t awful. The alien turns out to be one of those immensely-powerful-but-actually-just-a-child aliens, so is easily fooled by Gard into following the 1950s chrome car-styled spaceship away from the station before the car-ship self-destructs. Gard jettisoned from the ship before it exploded, though no explanation is given for how Dare and Gard eventually leave the station.

The pink tinge continues with The Man Who Saved the World, with art looking very European. An alien called Jaek is the champion of his race. According to Galactic Law two champions can fight for ownership of their planets. This one is transported down to Olympic City in California where Fred Peart, a down-on-his-luck former athlete is trying to get some peace and quite in a public park. The alien challenges him to a duel, incinerating some trees to demonstrate the laser lance, though as the challenged, Fred gets to choose the contest. He chooses to cut cards. Not play a game of cards, just cut the cards – the entire future of Earth on the turn of two cards, one for each champion. Fred gets Aces high and the alien champion departs. The Future-Shock twist is that the robocops turn up (yes, they’re called robocops, and that film won’t come out for a good seven or eight years) and arrest him for burning park bushes. He’s carted off to the Olympic City Home for the Mentally Sick, though technically he now owns the Earth.

Another text feature Could We Live Forever? features vague mumbling about hygiene, access to clean water, medicine, transplant surgery and hormone injections.

The Tharghead tells us that Going Straight is set in Megacity Four in 2079 and concerns Willy the Cee. Jose Ferrer signs this 78, so it’s been on the shelf for over a year before publication. Stealing some food, an anti-theft voicetape on the tin alerts a Cityhive robocop and he’s up before Judge-Machine Kox and threatened with the Time Stretcher Prison (no further details are given on what that means). He laments his position (he has twenty miles to walk home) while the robocops seem nowhere to be seen the Melto-Bomber carries out his attacks. Later… Willy spends his last five credits on a meal in a restaurant. Spotting a briefacse left by a departing diner, Willy picks it up. Leaving the eaterie he changes he decides not to steal it and instead return it to its owner, who is now making a call in a Videofono booth. You probably guess what’s coming next, as both are killed when the melto-bomb is detonated.

Judge Dredd takes a trip to Miami, or should that be Mega-Miami (yes, yes it should). He resolves to sign out a tropical uniform next time he’s on a case this far south, though as the Apocalypse War destroys the southern sectors in two years time I don’t think he never does that. By the way, 10 second tans cost 500 creds – that seems a bit expensive to me, not that I have a lsit of how much other things cost in Mega-City One. We find out that rowdiness and noise penal codes don’t apply in vacation centres as Dredd’s reverie is disturbed by Walter. Dredd ruminates that he should have left the robot up north, though no clear reason is given for why he didn’t. Time for a flashback – robots across the city have been malfunctioning. Study shows that the only thing connecting them is the silica formation of grains of sand found on all the burnt-out droids. While this is all going on, Walter is being seduced by Lola the robot and convinced to drug Dredd. Dredd drinks soyacoffee by the way. Presumably soyasynthicoffee. To no great surprise, Lola’s mistress is a robot smuggler and Walter is caught as the latest shipment of rustbacks arrives (second-rate robots shipped from Mexico and sold at full price in Mega-City One). Lola’s mistress is afraid of the Time Stretcher but is stopped by Walter. Walter appears to get away with drugging Dredd without punishment…

Another text feature: Loch Ness Monster, Fact or Fantasy? It mentions the earliest recorded sighting, featuring St Columba 1400 years ago, 1934 pictures (not shown) and most importantly of all, Big Hungry from Flesh Book II.

The second text feature in a row, a Personality Data Bank on H.G. Wells.

A third text feature: Crisis! starts with an explanation of brown-outs. Blackouts are when electricity generation or supply are halted, brownouts are when the energy supply is inadequate, causing lights to glow brown instead of white. One method to deal with this is efficiency – insulate homes, reduce power used, improve energy consumption. The otehr half of the solution is to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. I’ve no idea how much of the renewable sources of energy were a reality at the time this article was written, but ideas include wave power, wind power, beaming microwave energy down from space, solar thermal pilot plants and a solar cell plant.

The second part of Phantom Patrol has the team caught by the Anglo-Saxons. Just as before, their arrival coincides with an attack by a foreign fleet, this time Vikings instead of Spaniards. Also just as before, the metal landing craft helps repel the invaders. Just to highlight how samey this is to the Elizabethan adventure, the real danger comes from their own side, with a British ‘wizard’ playing the part of the enemy within. He steals most of the relics, though it doesn’t take the Patrol long to follow him up the coast (to Essex?) It doesn’t take much longer to retrieve the landing craft and time machine, though the flying helmet and shield are lost at sea. The Nazi finally makes an appearance, and has decided to join the Patrol, so that’s all good then, I guess. If there are any further adventures reprinted then they promise to be much further back in time. If it’s contemporary to ancient Egypt then that probably counts as prehistory in the British Isles.

Tales of Dwedd is a text story from Walter’s point of view (don’t worry, Tharg is as annoyed by the continued speech defect as everybody else, so AALN-1 has corrected the speech circuits for the duration of the tale). The Ghetto Robberies are a mystery involving vid-teevees being stolden from high-rise plax-con towers in the Mega-City Ghettoes, also known as NoGoLand. The vid-teevees are not commensurate with the risks involved in climbing the plax-con towers in one of the most dangerous parts of the city. Two major crimes occurred just before the robberies started. The first was that 50 million credits worth of diamonds were stolen. The only suspect was Bob-the-Dog, but no diamonds were ever found, and he was released from custody. The second is that 1,000 vid-sets were stolen during a riot in NoGoLand. It’s pretty obvious what’s happened. Dredd takes Walter to the top of Bloc 2 in NoGoLand as surveillance on the ghetto (all other judges are busy fighting a fire at the Nuc-Fuse Generating Station). Between Walter’s infra-red vision and Dredd’s visor they spot Bob-the-Dog entering an apartment through the window below them. Further below is a Ley-Mek pick-up truck driven by a getaway driver. As Dredd can’t catch both Bob-the-Dog and the Ley-Mek at the same time, he chucks Walter over the edge of the building to take out the Ley-Mek while the judge swings into the apartment on a tungsten rope. After a week of peace, Walter is reconstructed. There are a few reprinted pictures illustrating this story, plus an original piece by Brett Ewins showing Walter and Dredd looking down at Bob-the-Dog climbing the outside of the building.

Another feature: What is your 2000 A.D. IQ? I got 20 and a half out of 22 questions, resulting in “20-22 Tharg dubs you: MIGHTY!”. The answers I got wrong were ‘Sergeant Kark’ (I thought the name was Krark) and Deinonychus (I got as far as Deino but couldn’t remember the rest, and the alternate name ‘Terrible claw’ wasn’t in the official answer).

Do you want to be a… One Million Dollar Man? is a fairly detailed run-down of the three-year training programme to become an RAF fighter pilot?

Surely the last Personality Data Bank is on Tharg, with info dredged from Nerve Centres.

I’m beginning to forget what comic pages look like, The Night New York Died! is the thirteenth page in a row and is about a five hour power cut in the city in 1965.

Sea Lab! Another text feature on an undersea house, a research establishment 620 feet below the waves of the Pacific Ocean, plus a few deep sea research vessels.

The annual is finished with another Guinea Pig reprint. I’m convinced that Professor Dee is a Nazi scientist who changed sides at the end of the war. This suspicioun is further enforced by the fascistic overtones of the Professor’s latest experiment – a plan to mix a new food into the world’s supply to make the population docile. Anyway, this experiment of couse has an undesired side effect when a gorilla grows to five times its normal size and goes on a rampage. This happens on Dartmoor, so before long it’s smashed through the wall of the prison and the convicts within have escaped. Mike gets knocked unconscious, bangs his head another time and twists his ankle. Despite all this the Professor manages to kill the gorilla (who is bullet-proof) and Mike frees some tourists held hostage by the escaped convicsts.

Grailpage: Ferrer’s opening page to Going Straight, featuring assured, fluid lines. Not a fan of the robots depicted, but the humans and streets could come from a European album.

Grailquote: Jaen: “Greetings, Earthman, I come in hostility!” – makes a difference from coming in peace.


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