2000AD and Tornado Prog 170: Dredd Meets – The Necromancer! “It is useless to resist, little man – you have been judged DEAD!”

A third week of cover’s from Mike McMahon, this one introducing Murd the Oppressor – cover date 26 July 1980.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre explicitly promotes 178 as a special prog, so that must have been the ‘judgement is coming’ ad a few weeks ago.

The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison, adapted by Kelvin Gosnell and Ezquerra. This episode opens with Slippery Jim stealing money – somewhere around a million dollars, from the US Navy. After four pages of this we find out why. He sets up a front company giving him access to lots of electronic equipment and digs out the Coypu tape. Allow Coypu’s personality to take over his body, before he knows it, a new time helix sits in front of him, along with instructions on how to find He – time to go to London, somewhere between 1805 and 1807. I wouldn’t say it’s a bad episode, it just seems like we’re treading water to get Jim into a position where he can follow He.

The Mind of Wolfie Smith by Tom Tully and Redondo. Wolfie uses his psychic aura to get out of the laboratory without being affected by the CX gas / Yellow Death. Security has been alerted though, along with the local police. In his haste, Wolfie has forgotten to pick up the control for the mini-bomb in his collar, so he has to get back to Kramer and convince the mobster to release the collar before either Kramer or a random member of the security forces activates the remote control. Wolfie also wants Kramer brought to justice into the bargain, so steals a police bike in full view of the police, luring them after him…

It’s not titled Ro-Jaws’ Robo-Tales but is introduced by the sewer robot, and he mentions the word ‘tales’ in his intro. Enough of that – the story is The Killer in the Cab and the art is by John Richardson, who we haven’t seen in the prog for a while. Had we seen him at all, or was that over in Tornado? Good to see his work, anyway. All of which pales into insignificance next to the big news. This is the first work in 2000AD by (now) world-famous cartoonist, novelist, musician, ceremonial magician, occultist, anarchist, considered by some the best comics writer in the English language, known by pseudonyms including Curt Vile, Jill de Ray, Translucia Baboon and, when his work appears adapted into films or TV series, as ‘the original writer’. Yes, Alan Moore is now on the scene. In general I’m not doing background reading as I read the comics and write this blog (I’d never keep up the one a day schedule if I did) but I figure a luminary like Moore deserves a bit of time, especially as I’m writing this on a weekend!) After doing a bit of underground work, Moore has been drawing Maxwell the Magic Cat for the local Northampton newspaper before submitting a few scripts to 2000AD. They weren’t accepted, but Alan Grant had given a few pointers to Moore, who while submitting further scripts had gotten a few stories accepted by Doctor Who Weekly. So this probably wouldn’t have been his first published mainstream comics work, but not for lack of trying. Anyway, enough rambling – the story concerns a space trucker who has been victim of a computer malfunction (well, the result of a human error in issuing the wrong key) which means his truck thinks he’s a hijacker and won’t allow him to get back into the cab. He’s stuck on a tiny world with no atmosphere and a few hours of air left. He does have a C.B. radio and manages to contact another trucker, about a day’s journey away. She comes up with a plan for him to deactivate the cab computer and get entry. He curses the computer and tells the ‘lady trucker’ that he’d like to meet her and they set a date – after all, they’re practically flesh and blood now. If you’ve been following the last two and a bit years of Future-Shocks, Robo-Tales and unbranded stories in progs, issues, numbers, specials and annuals then you can probably guess that the lady trucker is an robot? Some nice touches, most probably put there by Moore – “keep on truckin'” would more likely be a reference to the Robert Crumb one-page comic than to actual trucking, there’s a sticker saying “I have seen the Hanging Prison of Sin-Sin!” referring back to one of Kevin O’Neill’s 7 Wonders of the Galaxy and another sticker mentioning “Whitby Asteroids” – this does confuse me – I’m very familiar with the North Yorkshire town of Whitby but don’t know what exactly this is referring to.

Speaking of magicians, Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Part 15: The Necromancer opens with a effigy of Judge Dredd with pins stuck in it representing sympathetic magic. I’ve avoided using the term ‘voodoo doll’ as while the concept has been used in many culture worldwide for many centuries, the connection to the African religion of voudoun is entirely invented by 20th century media, primarily horror films. Justice One approaches the planet Necros, and there’s no stop after that. A huge image of Murd the Oppressor masses from the surface, pierces the ship, his claws turn into flying reptiles which bite at the judges within, Justice One crash lands on the planet. Dredd takes care of the Watchers (Murd’s soldiers with eyes on stalks) easily enough, but then Murd send out globes (think of the Rovers from The Prisoner). That’s when the magical doll comes in – another Watcher looms over Dredd, piercing his body with its sword. Yes, Dredd is dead! What shall we do for the next 40 years? Oh, should have mentioned – John Howard wrote, Mike McMahon gave us loads of toad and skull imagery, along with castles and black flames.

Sam Slade: Robo-Hunter Day of the Droids! TB Grover and Ian Gibson start the war. We don’t get the extended fight scenes we got in Verdus, instead the robo-Slades are dispatched and Slade, Molotov, Hoagy and Stogie are trapped, sure to face certain death. Until, in a touch of genius, Molotov signs up the robo-hoods about to carry out a hit on them to the Amalgamated Androids Union, calling them out on strike. The God-Droid escalates the war by calling out the National Guard (incidentally, this was the first place I saw the term National Guard used – long before I’d seen it used in relation the real-life National Guard in the United States of America). Molotov escalates things further still by bringing in the good union droids of the freeway builder (similar to the terra-meks from Ro-Busters). Molotov is prepared to fight until the whole city is destroyed, to the last drop of human blood. The mayor isn’t please – and gives Slade the task of taking out the God-Droid.

That’s the comics finished, but there’s still a few more pages – what can be on them? First up a competition to ‘Enter the Fairy’ ‘Soap Carving Competition’. Over the page is another competition for Action Man Space Ranger – to draw a space enemy. The reason I’m mentioning this is because the full-page advert for that one is drawn by Ron Smith.

The rules to the Action Man drawing contest share a page with a next prog trailer with a bonus thrill – I think they’re talking about a Stainless Steel Rat wrap-around cover, but there could be an un-mentioned story in the next prog too. Angelina will feature on the cover, though she’s barely featured in the story so far – and I think the story has been the poorer for it (not that the Stainless Steel Rat should be sniffed at – it’s still been good stuff, just missing the Angelina touch).

Grailpage: it’s really tempting to go for the page where Judge Dredd actually gets killed. He’s not faking his death to catch a rogue judge, he’s not being shot through the head but surviving, he’s actually being stabbed to death (there’s a catch, of course – handy tip – if you’re going to get killed, do so when there’s a necromancer about, like Murd, or Melisandre). So, I’m not picking that page – I’m picking another one by Mike McMahon, the one with Murd’s castle and the bell tolling, a few pages earlier. I guess I just like castles with flying reptiles sitting on stone stacks outside.

Grailquote: Tom Tully, speedcop: “My bike! It must be the kid they’re searching for!” Wolfie Smith: “That’s it, sunshine – you’ve got the idea!” Speedcop: “After him!” Wolfie: “…follow Wolfieeeeee!”

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