2000AD and Tornado Prog 173: “Help me, Judge Dredd! This planet’s sending me to pieces!”

For the second week in a row, Brian Bolland provides a Judge Dredd cover directly related to a scene in the week’s episode (covers don’t always relate to what’s inside, as I’m sure you all know). I often forget to include the covers in my shortlist for grailpage, but it’ll be difficult to forget this one as a strong contender.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre has reader art of ‘Tharg the Dynamic’ – a picture of Tharg’s head which we’ve seen from a few readers now, on top of what looks suspiciously like a body from a superhero comic… Another earthlet points out that the composer for Star Wars is John Williams, not John Barry (I noticed this in an earlier article on Empire Strikes Back, but can’t remember if I noticed it on here). There’s also a short story – I called into doubt whether there would be many entries when Tharg put out the call some months earlier, but have been proved wrong as a fair few have been published.

The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison, adapted by Kelvin Gosnell and Ezquerra. Slippery Jim rushes into He (and Napoleon)’s inner council, first gassing Napoleon then killing He in cold blood. While he’s coming to terms with breaking his usual rule about killing in cold blood, ‘Napoleon’ emerges from behind the map table to reveal that he is He, and He was a robot. Clear? He swapped minds with Napoleon and set up a robot that looked like He, which is what Jim shot. Anyway, He has now trapped Jim in a loop in the time-stream which will slowly cease to exist once He activates the time-helix and goes to his next destination. Jim sees one slim chance and chucks a sand shaker (I don’t know what the point of a shaker for sand is – it looks like a salt shaker) at the controls of the time-helix, sending He to a random time location. Next prog: fade-out! (which is remarkably similar to the next prog tag for episode before Wolfie Smith tried his teleporation trick).

Funnily enough, next up is The Mind of Wolfie Smith by Tom Tully and Redondo, and Wolfie (having completely failed to convince the police interrogating him by telling the truth) does a practical demonstration – to whit, by teleporting out of the interrogation cell and appearing outside, in a detective’s car. Always one step ahead of the police chasing him, he manages to elude them and go back to the pet shop where he was first ‘recruited’. But someone within awaits him, holding a knife, sent there by Kramer (presumably Wolfie will get a premonition at the last moment, warning him that the knifeman waits for him?)

Either I miscalculated or the scheduling for the Sci-Fi Special was off, for the next page has an advert for the special I covered a few posts ago.

Ro-Jaws’ Film Review: The Empire Strikes Back. It’s really interesting to read a contemporary review of this film by somebody who has only just seen it (remember they were doubtful it would live up to the first film in a previous preview?) written for the benefit of people who haven’t seen it yet. Ro-Jaws likes it, and also has tantalising information that the original film will be retitled ‘Episode IV – A New Hope’. Oh, plus a couple of other films – The Final Countdown – at time of writing, about half the results in that link are for the film, the others for the song by Europe. This is a film I’ve seen a few times – Kirk Douglas is captain of a US Navy aircraft carrier while Martin Sheen is a journalist on board when it gets caught in a time warp and has a chance to affect the result of the sneak attack on Pearl Harbour. The other film is The Day Time Ended – I’ve never heard of this one and, despite Ro-Jaws recommendations not too, now want to – in the sewer droid’s own words, the special effects are good (though nothing else is).

Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Part 18 from John Howard and Brian Bolland. Dredd’s hunt for Prosser in the strange landscape of the planet Ab continues, as does Prosser’s degradation as further parts of his body disappear, never to return. As revealed on the cover, Dredd gets to Prosser just before he dies and finds out what happened. The Angel Gang hijacked his starship and started heading for the planet Xanadu. En route, Junior starts getting bored and kills the passengers. They’ve told Prosser that they’ll pay him well to pilot them to Xanadu (despite having already hijacked the starship) but he’s getting more nervous so they thaw out Owen Krysler (who has been in suspended animation while on the trip) to look in to the future and tell Prosser what will happen to him. He makes the prediction that he will contract a disease and, as the last parts of his body disappear points out that if the Angel Gang hadn’t left him on the planet Ab (afraid of contracting the disease from him) he wouldn’t have started suffering from Jigsaw Disease in the first place. Faro’s death was similar – ocurring only because the Judge Child predicted it.

For the third week running, The V.C.s is written by Finley-Day and drawn by John Richardson. Things are coming to a head, there can’t be much left before the end of this story (well, I know it’ll all be finished before Prog 178 anyway, to make way for the new starters in that prog). Smith finds a Saturnalian kill-disc from the body of a star trooper and gives it to Ringer (as he’s from Saturn and practiced in its use). Ringer uses it to shatter the power crystal, taking out the lights on board the command ship. Though that isn’t the narrative reason for Ringer having the disc – it’s so that when they’ve killed the geeks and the fleet commander tries to kill Smith (for being a witness to the commander’s treason in agreeing to carry out the geek orders) Ringer can use the kill-disc to take out the commander even as he is fatally wounded himself. He ends up saving Smith, even if it was so that nobody other than he could kill him. The deputy commander (who has saved the V.C.s necks from the now dead commander a few times already) is still alive and recognises immediately that they somehow have to turn around the attempted ploy by the geeks against them.

Sam Slade: Robo-Hunter Day of the Droids! by TB Grover and Ian Gibson. This is curious – there’s four more progs left until the jumping-on prog, and both the V.C.s and Sam Slade seem to be paced closer to their endings than that – are we going to get some Future-Shocks filling in the spaces between the ends of these stories and the beginning of new stories? In this one, Slade is given some space in the City Hall building by the mob picket line outside, preventing further mob droids from entering, while inside he ends up in the kitchens and bakes a cake for the God-Droid (well, covers a rubbish bin with icing, anyway). Hoagy manages to do something right for a change, pushing the cake on a trolley in to the Council Chamber where the God-Droid is recovering from the pump attack, and then locking the door behind them.

The top half of the inside back page adverts have a trailer for the next prog, featuring the 2000AD Galactic Olympics plus the usual thrills. The rest of the page has details of the Judge Dredd Annual signing at Forbidden Planet (the Denmark Street location, from pre-New Oxford Street days). Attending will be / were John Howard (sic – this has me wondering if Wagner has ever appeared under his own name at this point), Mike McMahon, Brian Bolland and Ron Smith. I never got to meet Ron Smith, but am pleased to report that the other free continue to attend conventions and signings to this day.

Carlos provides the back page star pin-up of Angelina – which just highlights how much she adds to the story (which I’m hoping she’ll make an appearance in soon).

Grailpage: There’s loads of good art in this prog, but the cover still wins it – gotta love a disembodied mouth begging Dredd for help (and not a trace of Cheshire Cat about it).

Grailquote: John Howard, Prosser: “But don’t you see? I caught the disease here! If the kid hasn’t told them, they’d never have set me adrift! I’d still be alive! The boy killed me – as surely as if he’d stuck a knife in my heart! He sent me to my death – and he laughed about it! Your precious Judge Child is evil! EVIL!” POP!

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