2000AD and Tornado Prog 147: “Angelina pointed the .75 recoilless at my chest and four slugs ripped into me. Then she put a fifth one in my head for good measure.” The Stainless Steel Rat winds up in the mortuary, inside!

King Carlos provides the cover which is an almost exact creation of a scene in the story inside, though from a different angle, showing Angelina shooting Jim five times, including one in the head. Oh, and Angelina must be cold as her shoulder in the halter-neck top is blue on the cover and pink in the story.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre has a plug for filling in the voting slips. I’m just reading Steve McManus’ book The Mighty One: My Life Inside the Nerve Centre and it mentions that two stories couldn’t be touched, despite mandates from managerial high-ups (as opposed to editorial). I’m guessing these provided the proof of which stories went down best. Earthlet Paul Cooke asks the question we all want answered. What has happened to Blackhawk’s hawk? (Tharg replies that he now has his own series in the Cygnus Constellation ‘Bird System’ edition of 2000AD).

Even before the fan film, this story was iconic. Judge Dredd: Judge Minty by John Howard and Mike McMahon. My first exposure to this story was through a feature in the Eagle reprint – the feature was ‘The Wit and Wisdom of Judge Dredd’ and I think was compiled by Nick Landau. No doubt the quote will make it to the grailquote section at the end of this post… If you don’t already know, this is the tale of an old judge who has grown more liberal and trusting in his old age. Dredd has been teamed up with him to assess him (Minty suspects this but he hasn’t been explicitly informed this is the reason for the team-up). Minty fails and Dredd puts in an adverse report, though not before Minty is put in hospital. Once fully recovered from a bullet wound (in just two weeks – the wonders of 22nd century medicine) he is given the option of teaching at the Academy of Law. He turns it down, his choice is to take law unto the lawless until death, on the Long Walk. This story isn’t given an official title in the original prog, so it could equally be Judge Minty or The Long Walk…

A new feature over the page – Ro-Jaws’ Robo-Report: Books. Last time I did a list of books, half of them couldn’t be found. Let’s see if these are a little less obscure. Ro-Jaws covers: Great Space Battles by Cowley and Herridge; Stardoom by Paul Davies and The Tomorrow People – The Lost Gods/Hitler’s Last Secret/The Thargon Menace (no relation to the mighty one). There’s too more books – Douglas Adams The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy (Ro-Jaws opinion – some of the humour doesn’t come across as well in print as it did in the original radio series, but also that “it’s a laugh-a-minute romp”) and Don Lawrence’s The Trigan Empire – the latter about to be republished by Rebellion in March next year (2020, for all you future people). Ro-Jaws opinion is that the story is a bit stale but the artwork is “BRILL!”

The V.C.s – the second part of this story is also by Gerry Finlay-Day and Cam Kennedy, as was the first part. In McManus’ book it’s revealed that this was original intended for Starlord but had been on the shelf for a year before each longer episode was split up and sub-edited into 2000AD-sized chunks. Dwarf Star (birth name Dwight) is half-way to visiting his brother Mitch as the Geek ships are about to drop out of hyperspace (or however it is that they’re approaching). Jupe calls Dwight back before he can dock at his brother’s ship while the rest of the V.C.s deal with the Geeks. Everything looks to be going fine until Mitch shouts that the geeks holding him are about to hyper-jump back to their galaxy and begs Smith not to let them take him alive. Dwight docks. Jupe, Ringer and Hen Sho defend Smith from Dwarf Star’s wrath. Dwarf Star himself admits it was the only way, but that Smith had better keep his distance from now on…

Robin Smith was either art assistant or art editor while working on this episode of Captain Klep. This one is marginally more interesting than previous offerings as it features cameos from British comics (rather than the parodies of characters from USA comics at the beginning, when it was running in Tornado). I spot Major Eezey, Rick Random (I think), Digby, The Steel Claw, Kelly’s Eye, Captain Hurricane and Robot Archie. There’s a couple of others but I don’t recognise them. At the end, the Sewage Rats of Sygnus Six attack, leaving a cliffhanger for next episode.

Another two pages of Alien Design winners. As well as promoting reader engagement, I’d hazard a guess that the prize money costs less than the cheapest page of text filler (£23 in prizes for the first page, £21 on the second – I have no way of knowing what editing, writing and art rates were like in 1979). My favourite is Gistapo, not so much for the John Tenniel, Jabberwock-ishness of the alien, more for the inclusion of some landscape for it to fly over (a plane, ruined castle and forest). Maybe I missed it in previous prog, but this is the earliest I’ve noticed the use of the word ‘Earthlette’ for female readers (as opposed to ‘Earthlet’ for male).

The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison, adapted by Kelvin Gosnell and Ezquerra. This adaptation side-skips the prostitution angle by just having Angelina try to lure Jim to a zero-gravity disco, rather than establishing rates and going back to her room, as in the novel. Angelina recognised Jim, though also somehow knows that as well as being Special Corp he’s also an ex-crook. As on the cover, Jim gets shot five times and ends up in the mortuary (though first he has a conversation with a paramedic who’s saved his life, faked his medical records and convinced an M10 droid that he’s dead. Covering his tracks he heads back to his room and spends the days of convalescence researching what Angelina may want with the planet Freibur, coming to the conclusion that she wants the whole planet as a base for an intergalactic pirate network. Having re-framed Angelina’s prostitute personna as merely a hook-up at a bar, I wonder how the drug-taking murderous frenzy will be handled next prog? The tag says: “Freak-out!”

Ro-Jaws’ Robo-Tales brings Damian The Child of Tomorrow! from W. Gosmore and Mike White. Is Gosmore a combination of Gosnell and Steve Moore (the latter of which we haven’t seen for a while, not under that name, anyway)? There’s three characters in this story – two humans and a robot. The main character’s name is… well, let’s leave that for a while. At the time it would have been a distraction, but nowadays – you’ll see… So, main character is an electronics engineer whose (nameless) wife wants a child. I’ll reveal the first ‘shock’ (it’s a robo-tale not a future-shock, but it’s designed in exactly the same way) in that the child Damian is a robot constructed by the ‘father’. Tell, a lie, the ‘mother’ does get a name, Mary. After a disagreement when Damian melts down Mary’s wedding ring for a project, the main character deactivates the robot Damian, who calls out (for the first time) “Mum… dad… help…” which touches Mary in that he’s never called them that before. The actual shock is that he wasn’t calling to them, he was calling to the robot mum and dad that he’d constructed, who kill and replace the human parents. The third twist is a hint at what should be done about the neighbours… Oh, and the name of that electrical engineer? Rolf Harris! Erm – back then it would have been distracting to have the name of somebody who had been a celebrity for the previous decade, nowadays it’s something else…

The next page has an AALN-1 interview with visual effects designer for the BBC, Mat Irvine, who has worked on Blakes 7, Doctor Who (including K-9) and The Goodies. Looks like he continued to work in the industry up to 2007, when he seems to have retired except for appearances as himself (probably talking about Doctor Who and other shows he worked on). Fun fact – he operated both the K-9 from the original Doctor Who run and the modern Sarah Jane Adventures.

Alvin Gaunt and Belardinelli’s Black Hawk opens with a fantastic splash page of Blackhawk regaining consciousness to then see his new surroundings – being roasted alive by the bipedal bat creatures who carried him off last episode. They explain that they’re effectively cattle (not that they know what ‘kattal’ is), that all plantlife on Silversun is poisonous and so food must be gained from eating other creatures. There’s a great little moment where two of the creatures mime ‘strong slaves’ (with a flexed arm muscle pose) and ‘torture’ (with a Nosferatu action). Slaves turn up to take the bat-men for eating though with only one left, Blackhawk attacks the violent slave. Grateful, the one remaining bat-man, BB, joins Blackhawk as he heads through the space-hole through which the slaves travelled, ending in a final splash image of the two emerging above a cave where Ursa, Battak and Zog are staked to a rock ready to be sacrificed. If not McManus, then a sub-editor has attached the next prog tag pun: “Bat-men and Zoggin’!” During the Angry Planet I was thinking that the short episodes and high panel count per page were not doing the creators any justice and I was right, Blackhawk is really allowing Belardinelli’s art to shine through.

For the fourth page this prog we get some reader’s contributions, with a good balance of male and female contributors (remember, IPC had strict lines on what were ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ comics). Starlord tells us that Time-Quake will make it’s 2000AD (and Tornado) debut next prog. This prog has had a lot of non-comic features – the Nerve Centre, the book page, the spread of reader’s art, the interview and another half-page of reader’s art.

A 2000AD postergraph: Warriors of the Future! No 3. The Cyborg. It’s by Bill LeFebre, as previous diagrams have been, but the image itself looks like a mash-up of Dave Gibbons and Belardinelli’s art styles, so perhaps Bill had been looking through Harlem Heroes and Inferno stories for inspiration for this one? This creation looks all ‘cyb’ and no ‘org’ with no obvious organic component on the outside – apparently there’s some human body and brain inside there.

Grailpage: As tempting as it is to go for a Minty page, the opener of Black Hawk is fantastic – the landscape panel at the top follows the narration (in second person, which has been annoying in early episodes but works for this opener) of going from darkness to feeling heat and showing Blackhawk’s soul-less eyes. That’s all in one panel above the title, below is the cave and bat-men.

Grailquote: John Howard, Judge Minty: “When you get old, you start gettin’ strange notions… Like maybe people aren’t so bad. Maybe if we treat ’em with kindness, the good in them will come out! I guess that’s when it’s time to quit.”

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