2000AD Prog 167: Comic Rock First Release: Terror Tube – This comic should be played at 45 R.P.M.

Comic Rock starts with a bang, with a thematic cover showing vinyl records instead of the ‘0’s in 2000AD (there’s no Tornado on this cover). The Blitzspear is there, as is a Terminator Outrider.

The Nerve Centre (Comic Rock – The Mighty B-Side) plugs the new series as well as mentioning forthcoming thrills Mean Arena and Melt-Down Man from Belardinelli! The future’s bright – Nemesis the Warlock is my favourite series, I love Meltdown Man and Mean Arena… isn’t as bad as some people claim. At least to begin with.

As I’ve mentioned a few times, I really like Nemesis the Warlock. Quite early on in my prog-buying days I found out that the first story ran in Prog 222, and that it had been preceded by Comic Rock: Terror Tube in Prog 167. For that reason, this is another of those early progs I had way before all the surrounding progs. On the remote off-chance that anybody reading this isn’t familiar with any of those stories, I’ll do a recap of this episode in the order that it’s shown (there’s a Future-Shock-style twist at the end – which had no effect on me first time I read it as I was very familiar with later stories first – I’ll leave that twist in place so you can read most of this paragraph safely). Termight is the capital planet of a cruel galactic empire. It has been devastated by nuclear war and so only a few poor overlanders live on the surface. Beneath the surface it teams with life, revolving around the travel tubes, and a third of the imagery is taken by road and traffic phrases and concepts. Torquemada is Chief of the Tube Police treats traffic control like a holy mission, inspired by an abusive priest at Pat Mills’ old school, so the religious imagery is not surprising. The final third of the imagery which creates Termight are the macabre names, so the two main cities are called Necropolis and Mausoleum while the arteries through this world are Inquest Alley, Rigor Mortis Roundabout, Autopsy Underpass, Cremation Corner and Death Drain. Nemesis is a resistance fighter and Torquemada’s chase after Nemesis smashes a prisoner transport takes up the rest of this six-page story, ultimately escaping through the Blackhole Bypass, an artificial black hole and short-cut to the rest of galaxy which is used to control a thousand planets. For those non-British or not-of-a-certain-age readers, the traffic news DJ bears a striking resemblance to Radio One DJ Kenny Everett (though even in the early eighties when I first read this story I would have known him solely as a TV comedian rather than a DJ). The claim is made that this story was “suggested by The Jam’s Going Underground”. I have my doubts about this. The opening panel does feature an overlander couple (Elmer and Mabeline) literally going underground into the travel tubes. But we’d already seen travel tubes in that Ro-Busters story, and I think the musical tie-in was just an excuse for Mills and O’Neill to detract attention from this to avoid managerial interference, as that story had done (as well as being a gimmick). I think this story really has its genesis in other influences – that story, the Deadlock episodes from ABC Warriors, the afore-mentioned Catholic upbringing that both Mills and O’Neill had, and wider pop cultural influences like JG Ballard’s Crash, fetishising 1970s and 1980s car culture, sidelining humans for the sake of motorways and dual carriageways. The surprise twist? Termight isn’t an alien planet and Nemesis isn’t a human resistance fighter (for all we know, at this point) – the planet is Mighty Terra, and the cruel galactic empire is an Earth Empire. We’re not told that Nemesis isn’t human, though there is a hint that he is ‘no ordinary man’.

The Stainless Steel Rat Saves the World by Harry Harrison, adapted by Kelvin Gosnell and Ezquerra. Slippery Jim arrives in the year 1980 and immediately runs into a biker gang, or they run into him. A short fight and a kidnapping of ‘Slasher’ later and Jim formulates a plan to rob a bank to give him freedom to search for ‘He’ – the name now given to the villain of the piece.

Maybe I was wrong about who was responsible for the blurb on the Empire Strikes Back competition, this one uses the word ‘Zarjaz’, must have been a lapse of copy-editing that lead to ‘issue’ instead of ‘prog’ last week. It also has the usual 2000AD competition address (Ewer Street, not far from Kings Reach Tower).

Ron Smith is back on art duties for John Howard’s Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Part 12: Battleground. On the planet Agros (or is it Argos – art and narrative boxes don’t agree) there are twelve intelligent races, all of them aggressive. There’s some sort of lottery system by which the different races fight each other with weaponry picked from different cultures – this episode has the Lurgans using Earth weaponry (and a decidedly mid-twentieth century looking version at that) while their opponents the Gallipardans use death weapons from Ju-Mantu. This is reported on like a death sports match by purple frog-aliens named Dik, Dok and Spok. The satire on televised sports continues as things take a commercial break, with parodies of Fairy liquid, Bounty and toothpaste adverts before cutting to Justice One. Larter and Lopez are working on repairing the three inches of armour lost due to the hungry planet’s digestive juices. As the Lurgans are on their last time-out, Dredd and Hershey enter the fray. Attempting not to get involved, the Gallipardans have different ideas, though not for long, finding that 22nd century Earth weaponry is much more effective than the Lurgan’s old Earth weaponry.

The Mind of Wolfie Smith by Tom Tully and Redondo. Reminder to myself – the Bogeyman’s real name is Kramer while the computer scientist’s name is Stewart Soames. That £100,000 offerred to Wolfie Smith? I just checked what that’s worth now, in 2020. £430,000 – quite a bit but not enough to buy the mansion, yacht and high life that Wolfie dreams of in this episode. Both Kramer and Soames have a controller for the radio bomb attached to Wolfie’s neck – double trouble! New powers displayed by Wolfie include a mental blast that knocks a guard and dog unconscious and the ability to see laser light (which mesh through the trees around the underground government base). Wolfie also has a sense of foreboding, and gets the impression that this government base has some other purpose, unrelated to the orbital bomb deterrent. Next prog: The yellow death! (so it’s probably an illegal weaponised disease laboratory).

Over in Sam Slade: Robo-Hunter The Day of the Droids! has begun, and starts on a dark note with Slade’s human police officer friend Mo being eliminated by her robot partner Hank. Meanwhile under the admin block Slade fares badly against the Teeny Meks, saved only by Robostogie getting Hoagy to drag him out. Slade comes around in time to enlist the two robo-Slades to heave barrels of robot oil down the stairs before igniting it. Let’s just hope the suspended animation chambers the bigwigs are in are heat proof (I’m suspecting yes, otherwise Slade would end up a murderer of humans, and that isn’t really his style).

The 7 Wonders of the Galaxy by Kevin O’Neill continues with No 6: Kil-Ray. You might think from the name that this will be a sting-ray like robot. You’d be wrong – it’s a giant squid-like robot. Created by the robo-race Automatox this Star Squid stamps out robot oppression – once more this could be at home in a Nemesis book – I could see this fitting in somewhere between the Saturn Six / Free-Dome in Ro-Busters, the free robot territories coming up at the end of The Judge Child and Mekka, the robot world in Nemesis the Warlock Book IV.

Grailpage: I’m spoilt for choice this prog – the precursor to my favourite story started here – there’s so many pages featuring the tube chase I could pick, so I’m going to side-step that decision and pick the cover instead – the first view Earthlets would have gotten of the Blitzspear and a Terminator, all tied together in a thematic cover – the first non-logo cover since the tube chase in the Rise and Fall of Ro-Jaws and Hammerstein?

Grailquote: This prog has one of the most famous lines from 2000AD history, it has to be Pat Mills, Torquemada: “Be Pure! Be Vigilant! Behave!”

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