2000ad and Tornado Prog 160: “Shall I tell them, Pa?” “No, let me!” “I’ll do it, Pa!” “Judge Dredd is a dead man!” Dredd hits Texas City – and Texas City hits back!

A marvellous cover from Mike McMahon showing the four members of the Angel Gang (Link, Pa, Mean and Junior – Fink won’t show up until much later). Interestingly, Junior’s knife has an eagle adorning the pommel. As well as the numbers, this first cover image of Mean also has the settings (Surly, Mean, Vicious and Brutal). The cover date is 12 April 1980 and this prog would have cost 12p (Earth money).

Tharg’s Nerve Centre contains confirmation that there will be a Science Fiction Special this summer – in about ten weeks’ time. Noted – I’ve also double-checked to see if there are any Starlord or Tornado summer specials (there aren’t).

Sam Slade: Robo-Hunter Day of the Droids! by T.B. Grover and Ian Gibson. If I’d have been paying attention I’d know if Hoagy has said “Yup” before this episode – he’s definitely saying it now. Stogie pipes up (pun not intended, though I wish it had been) to egg Slade on as he throws water in the face of the robot police chief (while the chief’s faceplate is open) and shoots the two disguised robo-police flanking the chief. So – apparently Slade had a normal cigar in this series until an edict came down not to promote smoking (which would have been kind of at odds with the anti-smoking messages running on back page odds of some of these progs). Robostogie was brought in to provide an easy way to use some of the same artwork featuring cigars (as I understand it) while still having an anti-smoking message. Slade gets knocked out and it’s at this point that robostogie pings out arms and legs and gets more mobile. If Hoagy’s catchphrase is “Yup” then Stogie’s is the “dink!” as he hops along. Slade gets to meet the God-Droid – a robot from the old country who made mobster Legs Latuna the biggest don in the city, though has now put Legs in a cage and taken over his gang. The God-Droid is huge compared to the other mobster-bots – large enough to, say, fit a person inside. The God-Droid wipes out the human gangsters in Legs’ gang and fits Slade out with concrete boots.

The 2000AD Top Ten Sci-Fi Movies No 9 is Dark Star from 1974 – which must mean that Star Wars is next week? I’ve still never seen this film, even though one of the creators is Dan O’Bannon (better known since 1979 for writing Alien).

The V.C.s by Finlay-Day and Cam Kennedy. The last few progs have featured hints that if Jupe doesn’t return from the Geek decoy world then the other V.C.s will hold it against Smith. I hadn’t mentioned it because I was pretty sure he would return, and that it was just rhetoric to make the cliffhanger more hanger-y. With this episode Jupe does return from the planet, but at a cost. Caught without a helmet during the dawn of twin suns, Jupe is blinded by the time he returns to the fleet. Next prog: Ringer’s Revenge!

A full page advert for a free Palitoy Boba Fett figure. This was the first promotion for which you need to collect three (out of then current 20) figures, get the receipt signed by the retailer, cut out the names from the packs and send with a coupon and 20p postage and packaging. I took part in a similar deal after Return of the Jedi came out – I got Nien Numb.

Tharg’s Readers Survey asks about favourite and least favourite characters in this prog and all-time favourites. Readers are also invited to pick two of the seven types of story (there are no other types of story other than: Space; Future War; Fantasy; Future Shocks; Robo-Tales; Monsters ; Robots). This faces off against a half page Nerve Centre Extra: Earthlets Draw Tharg. Along with Venus de Thargo in the regular Nerve Centre this means that ‘Tharg the’ pictures are now well-established with Judge Tharg, Tharg the Mod, Tharg the Fiend and Tharg the Thinker.

Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Part 5: Brother Death. A second week of single-panel centrespreads (with an inset map in this case) shows Texas City, first hinted at in the last episode of The Robot Wars and continued with Marshal Tex in Luna-One, this is the first time we’ve actually been to Texas City. They’re in the process of carrying out mutant clearances – something which was done in Mega-City One years earlier. The Angel Gang have also broken out of prison that day – it seems this is just to set up Dredd as being on his own in the city in his search, but as we know, they’re actually going to appear – and appear they do, on the next page. As Dredd looks up any pre-cogs who have started working in the city in the last few days, finding Brother Death at Mutieworld, the Angels turn up at said death-park to nab the gifted child before they head off-planet. There are so many elements introduced which seem to just be there to set up atmosphere but end up providing a pay-off later – Wesley finds out the time of his death and before episode’s end we see it happen. The beast in the pit is there as a fairground attraction but also ends up as the cliffhanger as Pa Angel sends it after Dredd (who himself is going after the former monk from the Brotherhood of Trash). We also get a taste of Owen Krysler being aware of the fates in store for those around him, but keeping it to himself. ‘John Howard’ excels in this episode, and so does Mike McMahon.

Fiends of the Eastern Front Part 9 – the penultimate episode from Finlay-Day and Ezquerra. Cringu, in old woman guise, tricks the Germans rushing to Berlin to surrender into a trap where a mine blows up their half-track. Initially knocked out, Hans comes to and manages to trick Cringu into attacking him, and getting into the line of fire of a flamethrower. Hans ignores what Cringu had said a few moments earlier about how Constanta could grow from the smallest speck and is satisfied that the vampire has been burnt to ashes. At a USA base he surrenders but notices too late that the soldiers are all dead for Constanta has grown from ashes. It seems that Hans is killed – though the narrative switches back to 1980 Berlin and (in case the reader has been inattentive) the German police inspector declares to the British army officer that the cellar has one last secret concerning the two of them…

Blackhawk: Warrior in search of his soul from Alvin Gaunt and Belardinelli. Blackhawk’s blade cuts into the Soulsucker and his soul is returned to him through the Bloodblade – though his eyes are still blank for he has seen hell and that will remain with him forever (to paraphrase what Blackhawk says). This can’t be right – this has all happened on the first page – what’s going to happen with the rest of the episode? He rejoins Ursa and Zog, that’s what (oh, and Battak and the robot Kwark). Kwark predicts the imminent arrival of a gravity storm, whose speed could exceed the speed of light. Their only hope is to follow Kwark’s instructions, which involve cutting down trees and getting creepers and vines. I’ve got a feeling this story is on its penultimate episode too…

The inside back cover has an advert for Battle Action and another for Prog 161, featuring a number of quotes from characters we’ve seen (a Geek, Battak, a dictator of Zrag, Rex Peters – in Tyrannosaur form, Teeny Meks and Tharg himself.

Grailpage: Mike McMahon’s view of Texas City is corny in some ways (as well as the Statue of Tex, buildings are topped by saloon doors, buffalo heads, cowboy hats, saddles, lone stars and horse heads, as a paddle steamer brings Dredd across Lake Louisana into the city). A lot about this image harks back to the sand seas on Mars and all the better for it.

Grailquote: John Howard, Mean Machine Angel: “This dial on my head’s got four settings, see! On 1 I ain’t very pleasant – but when I go up to 2… I get MEAN!” – he also uses the phrase “go up to 4 on you!” but the full sentence doesn’t quite work well enough to earn a Grailquote.

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