Get some Fiend-power into your Life with… 2000ad and Tornado Prog 158: “No! Please! At least wait till I’ve read this week’s prog!”

King Carlos provides the Fiends of the Eastern Front cover this prog, showing one of the German soldiers (could be Hans or Karl) cowering from a very batty Captain Constanta while some of his Rumanians watch on. Incidentally I see from blog logs that someone from Romania has viewed this blog – if you’re wondering why I’m spelling your country’s name in that way – that’s how it’s spelled in the comics I’m reading from 1980 (a spelling which was out-of-date by five years even back then). This prog had an original publication date of 29 March 1980 – so would have been on the newsagent’s racks on Monday 24 march 1980.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre – nothing exceptional in this one – a couple of pictures, a very short story and a few letters – one reader compares the Dictators of Zrag to Jim Callaghan. This is a bit of politics before my time (don’t even know which party he was with).

Sam Slade: Robo-Hunter – Day of the Droids! opens with a splash page of that giant robot smashing out of the New Sing Sing Prison. T.B. Grover and Ian Gibson continue. I can’t exactly place my finger on it, but to me Gibson’s artwork lacks detail here – I get the feeling he’s being rushed. It’s still good art, mind, but seems a bit lacking in detail. The panel of a robot smashing its way along a street reminds me of a few of the views of Mega-City One we’ll get from Gibson, involving mass property damage. Having escaped the prison, Hoagy takes him to a hide-out – with an interesting definition of the word ‘hide’. Slade is introduced to Hoagy’s ‘parents’ at his break-out party. I think this is the one and only time we ever meet Hoagy’s parents (unless they come back in the revival series from the 1990s) but they won’t exit the story until they have given Slade a present, who just happens to be a more permanent part of the strip – an as-yet-un-named Robo-Stogie, whose speech patterns are probably highly inaccurate for Havana, but bear more than a passing resemblance to long-term friend of Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra!

Another half-page given over to that competition for plastic guns and 2000AD Space Quiz Books and then on to The V.C.s by Finlay-Day and Cam Kennedy. Like Robo-Hunter, this opens with a full-page splash. The battle-troopers are dropping down into a Geek trap and the V.C.s are poised to help evacuate them when their commander is vaped and contact is lost. First the dishwasher (diplomat), then their general give the order to leave the battle-troopers to die on the decoy planet. Smith comes up with a plan to evade the order which specifies not to open an airlock or enter the planet’s atmosphere in a craft by instead leaving the ship via the missile tubes. Jupe insists he goes with Smith – the most experienced of those on board the V.C. ship and ready to take command of the ground troops…

Alien Design Winners take up a page – five pictures, a couple with descriptions. No names I recognise and they all look like original creations (I have my doubts about one, but not enough to name and shame).

Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Part 3 opens with a more-than-full-page splash image (it’s a centrespread, so the first panel bleeds into the second half of the centre pages) – from Ron Smith, drawing John Howard’s words. Three for three in the large splash images so far. That opening image has the huge head of Filmore Faro’s statue being dragged onto a sphinx-like placement by typically freakish Ron Smith mutants as the Brotherhood of Trash chant. As is typical in myth and fiction, the oracle Owen cannot see his own future so sees only darkness when Brother Bunsen comes to inject him with… something. While this is going on, Dredd has used his Lawmaster (operating on auto) to cause a distraction, break free of chains and become Brother Monkeywrench. He gets to Owen’s room with ease – too easy and finds himself knocked unconscious next to the Judge Child, ready to be sacrificed – next prog.

Fiends of the Eastern Front Part 7, from Finlay-Day and Ezquerra. Hans and Karl find a town which has fallen prey to the vampires, and spend the day melting down silver in a silverware shop. As night falls, Karl’s nerve seems to snap and the two get into a fist fight, losing their crosses in the melee. As the nine remaining vampires make their attack it is revealed that the fight has all been a trick, and Hans grabs the machine gun strapped to Karl’s back, loaded with two hundred silver bullets. They take out seven of the vampires, leaving just Constanta and Gorgo (funny that – the only two which ever had names). The two named vampires make their getaway while Hans uses their remaining bullets taking out the corpses of dead soldiers around them, who were on the turn. By which I mean they were about to turn into vampires. Next prog: The Supreme Sacrifice! (the second story this prog to contain the word ‘sacrifice’ in the next prog tag)

Captain Klep. The taxi driver death toll continues to rise, the fourth wall is broken a few times and the episode ends with Klep, the Inspector (given the name Mad Max for no discernable reason) and Klutz (assistant to Max) in the clutches of Rupert Hitler.

This episode Black Hawk takes a turn for the weird, and not in the usual Belardinelli way. Unfortunately it looks like ‘with Ursa and Zog’ was a one-off last prog (seeing as Blackhawk didn’t actually appear in that episode) and it’s back to ‘Warrior in search of his soul”. Bozos attack Blackhawk and Battak. If you need any explanation for that sentence – bozos are furballs with arms, legs, eyes (two) and toothy mouths – in fact jaws would be a better description – which cluster in the branches of the fungus forest. Ursa and Zog arrive on the scene mid-fight though even the combined might of the four cannot beat off the bozos forever. From a cave comes a robotic voice saying “Borag Thungg!” Apparently all they need to do to evade the bozos is hide in a cave, as the robot they meet inside starts telling them an origin story without any interruption from the bozos. The robot is a Kwark, a robot built by the Thargians from Betelgeuse – yes, that’s right, the planet that Tharg is from. As you’d expect, a robot created by Tharg’s people is a bit of a know-it-all, though not boastful like Tharg is. We find out from the Kwark (called Kwarky by Ursa) that the bear is from a planet in the Aldebaran system – a star in the Taurus constellation, and not Ursa Minor or Major, as I had suspected. Blackhawk surmises that if anybody knows where the Soul-Sucker is hidden, then this robot will – and it does (with 95% probability). Alvin Gaunt and Belardinelli bring this week’s episode full of in-jokes and cross-references, and ends with another reference, that of Starlord’s Guide to the Galaxy – next prog: The Soul-Sucker (Danger-Rating: five skulls).

One full-page advert to place a reservation at the newsagent later, and it’s time for the latest 2000AD Top Ten Sci-Fi Movies (un-numbered) Invasion of the Body Snatchers from 1956 (though the text says there has been a more recent remake).

Grailpage: Tempted by Ron Smith’s opener for Dredd, but I’m settling instead for Cam Kennedy’s full-page splash of battle troopers descending onto the lake town trap set by the geeks, surrounded by the scaffolding of the fake lake pulled back.

Grailquote: T.B. Grover, party guest: “So you’re young Hoagy’s boss! I always thought that boy was unemployable.” Sam Slade: “I got news for you. He is.”

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