2000AD and Tornado Prog 175: Super-charged sci-fi to smash your circuits!

Dave Gibbons brings us a fantastic cover showing a dark robot with a futuristic lance seated on the back of a larger, golden lizardine robot. Unless somebody else tells me different, I’m going to assume Tom Frame was responsible for the colours on this cover, which bring the image to life perfectly. Now, let’s just hope there isn’t a paragraph inside trying to explain what it’s all about… Oh, and this prog has the cover date of 30 August 1980, so was published on Monday 25th.

After one so-so annual, one excellent annual and two terrible annuals, it’s good to be back to the progs! Except Tharg’s Nerve Centre brings bad news – the last episode of The V.C.s is in this prog (though the story has been heading for a climax for a few weeks now). Reader’s letters allow Tharg to plug a two-part Tharg story starting next prog, a forthcoming ‘Terror Tube’ story (which will be Killer Watt in Prog 178) and Prog 178 itself. Another reader suggests adding ‘favourite artist’ to the voting coupon. Tharg’s reply mirrors that of IPC management in that art robots should not be aware of how popular they are, and should labour away in obscurity.

The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison, adapted by Kelvin Gosnell and Ezquerra. This episode opens with an intro page – the sort you get when a strip hasn’t run for some time – a bit out of place in an ongoing story, but it gives Carlos an excuse to provide a portrait of Angelina and Slippery Jim. In the 200th century, the duo find themselves immediately at gunpoint from Diyan, though when he finds out they’re time travellers here to kill He, Diyan is fine with it and tells them the future history of Earth. Climate change led to rain for years, ice caps melting and waters rising. And all that led to humanity escaping to terra-form Mars. Not everybody escaped though, and those remaining fought each other for survival as they retreated to the one remaining island (Mount Everest?) He was the most savage and, angered by Mars inability to aid him, has been launching the remnants of Earth’s nuclear arsenal against the red planet. While Jim is being told all this, Angelina has been listening to a message from Coypu, which have been dropped in the area for days. He is going to leave Earth in two days time, shortly before the planet is destroyed. Next prog: One hour to Doomsday!

The Mind of Wolfie Smith by Tom Tully and Redondo. Wolfie goes to the seaside and gets in to a bit of trouble while trying to find the Ocean Queen, though not from Kramer’s gang. He eventually finds the yacht he’s looking for, just in time to witness a child pop star arriving, Zena Fitzgerald. If Wolfie’s not staying at a stately house then he’s mingling with entertainment royalty. Wolfie takes a break next prog but will be back the week after.

It’s goodbye to The V.C.s, courtesy of Finley-Day and Richardson. Smith doesn’t black out, instead he hallucinates the ghosts of his fallen comrades, egging him on (well, maybe not Ringer) and guiding him in a ‘use the Force, Luke’ kind of way – even though he is just imagining them. Destroying the geek flagship, Smith waits for the other geek ships to end it all, just as the Earth battle fleet warps in. The geeks, rudderless without the flagship, attempt to rally on the surface of the home planet, chased by the ground battle troops. By the time Smith regains consciousness, the geek civilians have surrendered and the rebuilding of geek society from top to bottom is beginning. There’s a little bit of drama towards the end where it looks like Smith will be damned by the dead dishwasher, but Jupe manages to destroy the evidence while General Moore recommends Smith for promotion. Weird ending, I wonder why it’s there? The story ends with a panel of Smith being decorated with the promotion bars of a second-lieutenant, surrounded by the ‘ghosts’ of Ringer, Hen-Sho, Loon and Dwarf Star. It’s been a pretty good ride with some excellent moments (the star-troops loping away from the dome city on Mars as it goes nova). More in about twenty five years!

Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Part 20. The judge robots are getting quite irate at the salesman while the judges are exploring the inside of the little suitcase. This opener isn’t going to be my grail page, so I’ll just mention how much I like Ron Smith’s over-acting robots here! This is a great resolution to the situation they find themselves in – Dredd races against time to use the Lawmaster’s bike cannons to blast out of the case while the ship’s robots resist the salesman’s requests to be put off on an asteroid, due to the lack of authorisation by a judge – well-programmed! The robots spot Dredd as he exits the case but aren’t quick enough to avoid being miniaturised – not so well programmed… Linus the salesman would seem to have the advantage but instead has problems with the mini-judges, until Dredd cracks open one of the silver miniaturisation globes just as Linus is preparing to cast it down. Being knocked unconscious is a side-effect of being miniaturised, so he’s now out of the picture, though the same cannot be said for the other residents of the suitcase, who are coming around – including large carnivores and a dragon. Dredd spots a black globe rolling around and reasons that if the silver globes miniaturise then these will restore to full size. Once Dredd is full-size again it only takes half a page to clean up, including sealing Linus to sleep for a long time – “the case is closed”. This even leaves space for a reservation coupon and an ad for the next series of Strontium Dog in the much-proclaimed Prog 178.

G.P. Rice is back, along with Brett Ewins for Ro-Jaws’ Robo-Tales: The Contender. And yes, it is about a droid boxing. Slugger is a sparring partner for trainee boxers in a gym, but is restless and wants to fight in real contests. This has never happened, robots don’t fight humans in the ring, but the owner of the gym is worried that he’ll up and leave anyway, ruining him. The gym owner is convinced to carry out the bright idea of arranging the fight that Slugger longs for, but then faking the death of the opponent to scare Slugger off from ever looking to leave the gym again. The dark ending of this one is that Slugger returns to teh gym and overloads his circuits out of guilt at killing a hume. Three pages and a semi-predictable ending, though I’m not sure how much of that was my remembering it from having read it decades ago.

Garry Leach draws a great Star Pin-Up of Smith and the The V.C.s ‘Lest we Forget’. He’s only a couple of years away from bringing Marvelman to Warrior with Alan Moore – I wonder if they met at a 2000AD signing party?

An page advertising the 2000AD annual and the Shoot! annual plus another with trailers for the next prog’s cover and Humbrol paint mixes it with a film poster-style advert for forthcoming thrill Dash Decent: Peril on Pongo! I’m looking forward to this one – not a fan of the one-page Walter strips, really didn’t like Bonjo and generally bored by Klep, but I read Dash Decent as a child and it spoofs one of my favourite films of the time (Flash came out in December 1980, Dash starts in September).

Just the back cover to go, and it’s the Galactic Olympics, on the black-and-white side are Ground-to-Air Guided Darts (featuring some nice touches, though the artwork is still too cartoony for my tastes) and Asteroid Death Conkers. In colour are Robutcher Wrestling and the Mega-Weightlifting Contest. The latter displays a strong Hitchhiker‘s influence with both the names, language used and general situation (though it takes place in the very Jetsons-looking Megacity Stadium).

Grailpage: Dave Gibbons shows he can draw robots with the best of them on this black and gold cover!

Grailquote: Harry Harrison / Kelvin Gosnell, narration: “If a guy calls your bluff you can either tell the truth or hit him. In this case I decided the truth was safer.” Jim: “Okay, I’m Jim, she’s Angelina. We’re time travellers!”

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