2000AD and Tornado Prog 168: CRIME “Any questions?”

This is a famous McMahon cover, inspiring a special cover in the future and making it on to T-shirts to this day.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre contains a letter from one reader highlighting how many of 2000AD’s heroes have been killed (including Captain Psyko, who I wouldn’t exactly describe as a hero, even if he did form a truce with Blackhawk before the end). Another reader found a card in their Weetabix showing a ‘Betelgeusian Chief Ambassador’ from the Star Trek film which looked nothing like Tharg (look for ‘star trek weetabix’ and you’ll probably find a picture of it without much difficulty – probably on a well-known auction site)…

The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison, adapted by Kelvin Gosnell and Ezquerra. Slippery Jim pulls a bank heist, using his future technology. He’d have done much better if he’d gone it alone – Slasher adds nothing except trouble, and then betrays him in to the bargain. Jim steals a police car (and uniform), uses it to sow chaos among the police and then escapes, just in time for his time energy detector to start the search for the villain known only as ‘he’.

Second up this prog is Tom Tully and Redondo’s The Mind of Wolfie Smith. Wolfie glows as a reaction to the evil within the building (as one of his accomplices points out, like the kid from “the cereal they advertise on telly“). Wolfie warns the others that whatever is within the complex is not a computer that controls weapons satellites, but everybody ignores him (of course). They get in, Roger kills a few people (despite their earlier assurances to Wolfie) and then they ignore further warnings from Wolfie, who has had visions of a Block Mania / Chaos Bug-style plague. A very similar cliff-hanger next week, though at least we’ve almost got it confirmed that the secret is a plague.

Almost at the centre pages and there’s half a page of reader’s art, all looking original and no names I recognise.

Not quite at the centre yet, as there’s a full-page trailer for Things to Come – a McMahon Dredd badge (which I don’t have) and future thrills Strontium Dog, Mean Arena, Melt-Down Man and Dash Decent (the hero previously known as Flush Gordon). Other attractions are a guide to the Galactic Olympics (I can barely remember this, though think the prog it starts in will have a Kevin O’Neill Terminator cover, and some of the artwork may be more cartoony than we’re used to). The final attraction is next week’s wraparound cover poster by Mike McMahon, about which more next week (obviously)! Facing that are a new batch of adverts – no stamps here! Instead we get a drink called Twister! (with the exclamation mark), Humbrol paint, a stunt kite and Dredd saying something about “Judgement day is coming!” – I have no idea what this refers to – we’re already in a mega-epic and the boardgame is around a year away.

Judge Dredd: The Judge Child by John Howard and Ron Smith, with Tom Frame providing the alien perception of human speech, as well as the standard English words. The wargame continues, with Judges Hershey and Dredd’s side having been chosen for them by the Gallipardans. When the half-time whistle blows, Dredd starts to get an idea of what’s going on, as the Gallipardans protest that the Lurgans must have hired the two judges as mercenaries. The other ten of the twelve races of the planet Agros form the neutral referees’ committee and firstly ascertain that the judges are from the planet Earth and secondly that they have been declared natural hazards and may not leave the battlefield until the game has finished. Got that? Next up, the second half of the wargame and a new set of weapons gets drawn – tanks from some planet or other and Pazazz War Wheels, which have made a reappearance in the prog in the last two weeks, albeit the Deadworld version. Dredd wants no part of the slaughter, so takes the Lurgan flag to put a stop to it all (presumably he’ll plant it in the enemy mound to win the game?)

The V.C.s is from Gerry Finley-Day and Garry Leach (I’m sure that each prog randomly assigns him one or two ‘r’s in his name). The reader who complained about characters dying won’t like this one. Smith spots that the dishwasher is protected by a guard globe and doesn’t try to assassinate him – and stop Hen-Sho from trying to do the same. Uncharacteristically for Smith, this earns him some thanks from Hen-Sho, who hadn’t seen the globe. The three remaining VCs are sent on an almost guaranteed suicide mission, and seem to find the geek homeworld with their last jump. As you’d expect, they get spotted pretty quickly and the ship is hit. Smith tries to do a brave last stand, but Hen-Sho, injured in shrapnel, has different ideas, knocking out Smith and Loon, bundling them in to the two undamaged life pods and giving a farewell message before the ship explodes. Despite Smith’s attempt failing, the next prog tag says: “The last stand!”

Sam Slade: Robo-Hunter Day of the Droids! by TB Grover and Ian Gibson. The bigwigs get defrosted (so Slade isn’t a murderer) and he gets the idea to contact Molotov as the God-Droid consolidates his position, the robo-cops and mobsters teaming up to roll the rackets out across the city. Before Molotov can get to Robo Land to negotiate mob enforcers turn up, though the three Slades take control of the fairground robots. Wagner must really like the Marx Brothers as they’re first up (after their appearance in the Luna-One Dredd story a few years ago). Next up are ‘Hollywood Greats’ – the only specific ones I recognise are Mae West, King Kong and Stan Laurel. There’s another robot next to Stan which must be Oliver Hardy but doesn’t particularly look like him, a Tarzan and Cheetah who look like sketch-comedy versions of the character rather than Johnny Weissmuller, a generic Invisible Man (or possibly an Egyptian mummy in a dressing gown) and on the ground, probably Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. There’s some cowboys, one looks a bit like Lee Van Cleef (the shadowy one), one has an eyepatch (is that a John Wayne character?) and another has a really tall hat which must be a particular reference. Anyway, the bigwigs take control of the robots to dish out some revenge, but this is the point at which Molotov turns up, ready to use this first for oil (like being bloodthirsty, but with robots) as ammunition in negotiations.

A Top Trumps (available at WH Smiths and Woolworths) advert shares a page with another trail for next prog, with a thumbnail version of the wraparound cover.

The 7 Wonders of the Galaxy No 7: Tom of the Hosti by Kevin O’Neill.

Grailpage: it’s that cover, McMahon’s Dredd seated on a bullet-riddled CRIME, Lawrod (or something similar) in hand.

Grailquote: John Howard, Dok: “Any reaction to being declared a natural hazard? Surprised?” Judge Hershey: “Not at all. I expected to run into loonies on this mission.”

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