2000ad and Tornado Prog 156: Zarjaz 3rd Birthday Issue! Have you Seen this Boy? The Judge Child – A great new Judge Dredd epic starts inside – in Colour!

For such a momentous cover, celebrating the third birthday of the prog, and the start of the Judge Child saga, you’d have thought a new image would have been commissioned – what’s actually happened is that one of the panels from inside has been blown up and coloured… By the way, that line about the epic starting in colour is very literal – the first two pages are in colour, the rest is in standard black and white.

Tharg mentions the third anniversary of arriving on Earth in Tharg’s Nerve Centre. Which is a bit odd as this prog is cover dated 15 March 1980, and not February, which is when the first programme was published…

In the first few episodes of both Verdus and Day of the Droids! a few things happened to Sam Slade: Robo-Hunter. Firstly, he burst through an entrance, secondly he shot rogue robots (as you’d expect). Thirdly, he encountered a robot disguised as a human. Thirdly, he ended up imprisoned, with robotic guards (on Verdus this was supposedly a scientific research facility, but the end result was the same). Luckily it doesn’t feel formulaic – in fact I only just noticed it on this read, and that was partially because I’m writing about it as I go along so I perhaps pay a bit more attention than if I was just reading alone. Story-wise, Slade gets attacked by corrupt wardens, gets less than no help from the prison doctor (unless otherwise stated, assume that every job and position of power is occupied by a robot). Sadie the surveillance computer is the only non-hostile contact Slade gets, until he gets assigned to the robot repair shop, where he finds that all of the city’s robo-hunters have been imprisoned on trumped-up charges. At that moment, Hoagy turns up at the gate… TB Grover provides the words (and lyrics, for New Sing Sing is a musical prison) and Ian Gibson draws the robots.

The special, much-vaunted competition is on the next page. It’s not particularly special, the first prizes are 80 plastic guns that make sound and light effects. The method of entry is to cut out pictures of birthday candles to send them along with a coupon in Prog 159. The most interesting and relevant thing about this competition is the second prize, one hundred copies of the 2000AD Space Quiz Book from Mirror Books. I happen to have a copy of this book – I don’t remember where I got it but it’s been in my possession since the 1980s. That’s what I’ll be covering tomorrow (not sure how much I’ll have to say about a quiz book, but let’s see) – then it’ll be back to regular weekly progs the day after.

The V.C.s brought to us this week by Gerry Finlay-Day and Cam Kennedy. As I’ve said, I had the first Titan collection of the V.C.s and so was familiar with the story up to the destruction of Transatlantic City and the murder of Smith’s family by the Geeks. From this episode on it’s (relatively) new to me (in that I’ve read it all before, but not as many times as the first half). The narrative skips forward six months to a memorial service on Titan. A new faction is introduced – the Battle Troops, trained for planetary assault, as Earth steps up efforts to locate the Geek home world. After the usual Ringer / Smith friction and a long wait while everybody retrains to prepare for fighting in an alien system, a drone recce craft arrives with news. Within six hours a force departs, to rendezvous with others at Pluto and make a space-warp across the universe (given various terms here such as Light Fantastic, Star Skipping and the None O’Clock Jump). After a few jumps, the fleet arrives in a binary system, though one with a battle line awaiting them – the Geeks have not been caught by surprise…

Captain Klep starts a four-part story which starting title is The Case of the Six BANG! Seven Taxi Drivers – you can probably guess what the running joke is here – next prog: Who shot the eight BANG! nine taxi drivers? Clep poses as a taxi driver and has his cab stolen, the thief using a variant on the Spanish Inquisition list of instructions (three choice, no four choices, etc).

Here we are at the main show – John Howard and Brian Bolland’s cinematic opening to Judge Dredd: The Judge Child starts with the lawman heading into a Cursed Earth domestead which has been hit by mutie slavers. We get a firefight (and also a whipfight) resulting in one of the slavers sinking into quicksand / sulphur sand. Then we get a flashback. As I’ve said repeatedly, I’m not a fan of ‘flashforward’ openings – a frame or two from further in the narrative which then rewinds to show how to get up to that point. This feels different to me – we have three and a half pages of Dredd in the Cursed Earth befroe one and a half pages of flashback until the narrative continues, and this works. So, beneath the Hall of Justice in the Vaults lies Judge Feyy – the city’s oldest pre-cog – lies dying. He has one last message to share with the Chief Judge – a vision of a ghastly war and foul creatures which will prey on the survivors, and which will occur in the year 2120. He also has a name of the person who will lead the city at this time – Owen Krysler – and a description – a birth mark bearing a resemblance to the Eagle of Justice on the child’s forehead. I wonder what relation this has to Judge Death – both feature characters with powerful psychic powers – what I wonder is did the idea for the Judge Child come from creating Psi Division for Judge Death, or did the nature of Anderson come about to lay some groundwork for Judge Feyy? Getting information from the slaver in the sand about the whereabouts of Krysler, he fishes him out and leaves him for the muties to hang as he continues on to the slave markets at Neutron Flats.

Fiends of the Eastern Front from Finlay-Day and Ezquerra. The vampire’s human servant Cringu reiterates that Hans should be thankful that Rumania is on the side of Germany (it’s almost like the narrative is trying to set up a twist, right?) Two years later (quite a jump in the middle of a page there) Russian planes drop leaflets. They aren’t intended for the Germans though, but the Rumanians, with the message that their king and country now fight on Russia’s side. Quite a surprise, with the four or five hints about how it’s lucky for Hans that the Rumanians were on Germany’s side. Luckily it is still daylight but before long dusk falls and the vampires come out. Hans uses a grenade to break the ice and form a barrier of running water, though it is only a temporary repreive until the water ices over again.

Tharg’s Mighty Birthday Quiz takes up half a page which shouldn’t present any difficulties for anybody who has been paying attention (the oldest answer goes back less than half a year, so you don’t even need to have been a prog-one-er).

Black Hawk from Alvin Gaunt and Belardinelli. Blackhawk is being devoured by dream larvae when he calls out to Battak to remember how the insectoid alien’s claw was damaged. Looking at it, Battak remembers that Blackhawk sliced it off and snaps out of the dream. Captain Psyko attempts to stop Blackhawk but loses to Blackhawk and Bloodblade (almost wrote Blackblood there – what’s he doing in this story?) So, in a Stormbringer turn of events, Bloodblade drinks the soul of Psyko but then the Dreamweaver casts a spell on Blackhawk, preventing him from moving. Dreamweaver forgets entirely about Battak, who goes in for the kill. Bloodblade has different ideas, and takes the Dreamweaver’s soul too. Battak’s not happy about this, until Blackhawk turns and reveals that half of his face has twisted, as Psyko’s had before him. As long as he finds the Soulsucker, he still has a chance, otherwise cruelty and evil will take him over. Belardinelli’s artwork on this is great – no real splash images, though the opening page has the Dreamweaver sat on a giant mushroom, like a dark and dirty version of a Lewis Carroll character. About the Dreamweaver, she’s wearing a strange outfit which lets the visuals down a little for me – kind of a fishnet leotard with pointy shoulder pads and paired with spotty tights. Perhaps it reflected fashions in Rome in late 1979 / early 1980 (I doubt it). Battak is looking more and more like a Meltdown Man character by the episode.

2000AD Top Ten Sci-Fi Movies No 5: When Worlds Collide (said George Pal to his bride). George Pal was the producer of this film, in case you were wondering who he was. This text feature is impressed with the tension and special effects (Pal tended to concentrate the budget on the effects rather than big name actors) but not so much on the end of the film, when the survivors of the doomed planet Earth land a planet which passed close to Earth’s orbit (a different planet is the one which collides with Earth, killing everybody on board).< /p>

Grailpage: It’s that opener for The Judge Child – Brian Bolland’s centrespread (probably coloured by Tom Frame by this point) depicts a montage of a hudge Owen Krysler face looming over a landscape with a tiny Dredd on lawmaster, followed by a portrait panel of Dredd and a splash image of Mutie Springs – a domestead being occupied by slavers.

Grailquote: TB Grover, Doctor: “Where’s the patient? I understand I have a patient?” Warder Jenkins: “The Doctor! See, doc, you’re a bit early. THe prisoner hasn’t finished attacking us yet.”

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