2000AD and Tornado Prog 177: “That office droid’s trying to save Tharg! Disintegrate it!” Has AALN-1 shot his bolts? See the Great Human Rip-Off!

The second week of King Carlos covers and also the second week of Tharg tale related covers as well. The actual cover itself features AALN-1, the three Dictators of Zrag (their first appearance in the flesh?) and Tharg.

The Nerve Centre gives Tharg yet another opportunity to plug next week’s prog, plus news that the Nerve Centre itself will spread to two pages from the week after.

The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison, adapted by Kelvin Gosnell and Ezquerra. Slippery Jim and crew are trapped in the far future with one hour before every nuclear device remaining on Earth explodes, destroying the planet (for the purposes of life, anyway). If only a time helix could pop out of nowhere. This is what happens, Bill and Ted / Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death style (I seem to remember Fox and Conrad having made the comparison at some point where Bill and Ted send objects back to where they’ll be needed). Things move fast from there on – perhaps a little too fast, with the world being saved for 28 days (enough time for the time helix to be constructed and the Martians to evacuate the planet), send back the time helix and for Jim to get reacquainted with his sons, who have grown from one year old babies to five year old reprobates in the two months he’s been time travelling. As with the first story, this one ends with expanded diGriz family stealing Inskipp’s ship (and they won’t be back for about four years).

After a full-page comic-style ad for Matchbox (but second world war fighter planes, not land raiders), it’s time for the last episode of The Mind of Wolfie Smith by J. Clough. J. Clough being Mike Dorey when he’s not happy with his art – and I guess Redondo has been busy on a forthcoming thrill so didn’t have time to finish this off. p.s. I know which thrill as well – it’s starting in a month or two. The child superstar Zena is introduced the Mr Goodwright, actually Harry Kramer in disguise. After a fair bit of build-up, this is another that races through its final episode. Once Wolfie has discovered Kramer’s plan to kidnap and ransom Zena he heads off to the docks following a feeling. The feeling is to recruit an army of rats to invade Kramer’s fancy dress party to subdue the gang leader and get him to confess to the police. The rats aren’t brilliant at following instructions though, and Wolfie’s keep-out-of-jail card gets gnawed by rats. So Wolfie continues to go on the run – though this time he’s being followed by a horde of rats… In all I haven’t hated Wolfie Smith, though the pacing of some stories has been uneven – the stories seem to be perpetual slow-burners that then have rush finishes to allow for jumping-on progs.

Not a two-page Nerve Centre, but a two-page ‘Draw for Tharg’ special (well, one and a half pages – the second page shares space with a Judge Dredd annual advert). There’s eight pictures and I’m glad to say that they all look original. Not necessarily good pictures, but not traced.

Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Part 22: Blind Hate! An ape wearing a tartan hat and sunglasses introduces us to this week’s story by John Howard and Mike McMahon. Have we met any good apes yet? They all seem to be untrustworthy criminals so far… While the judge is judging apes, the Angels are setting up their own court, and the judgement is that the town of Drybones is “dull an’ borin'”. From a technical point of view I like the scene cuts between Dredd, the Angel Gang and a flashback. Owen Krysler explains that the Angels have left a trail a blind man can follow (flashback to the Angels torturing and blinding a prospector – and his hoss). Back to the present for Dredd, the prospector (both called Joe) and the prospector’s blinded horse setting of on the Angel’s trail, then cut to Pa laying down the law to his boys – Link and the Mean Machine are going to stay in the less dull and boring town of Drybone while Pa, Junior and Owen head out. The interplay between the Angels is great – they may be psychopaths but they’re not dysfunctional!

Tharg the Mighty stars in… The Great Human Rip-Off! by Ezquerra (author unknown but probably the editor or sub-editor of the day). I suspect this was written by Alan Grant, as AALN-1 takes centre stage (according to Barney, I’m right). The Dictators of Zrag hae opened their human zoo and threaten to disintegrate the human cage if Tharg intervenes. Upon seeing the Dictators threaten to torture the mighty one, AALN-1 makes a suicidal dash to save the editor (not that Tharg needed help – upon AALN-1’s death, he does his growing to massive size trick, treads on the distintegrator and imprisons the Dictators without any difficulties. Back on Earth A-ALN-1’s tam o’shanter takes pride of place next to a portrait of A. Trench. Ominiously, Tharg says it was about time he got a new sub-editor anyway – I think this will herald the arrival of Burt, along with thrill-suckers (more about them when they turn up – hint – this is another of those ‘they were in the first progs I had’ thing). In the real world, this will be marking Alan Grant’s transition from sub-editor to full-time freelance writer.

Almost at the end of the pre-178 prog and after an advert for said prog we first have to get the Galactic Olympics out of the way. The black and white pages have the last two sports – Acid Sea Surfing and Asteroid Pogo while the colour back page as a mini-booklet centrespread board game – The 2000AD Intergalactic Space Race – this is the standard dice game around a track with a few squares letting you skip forward or making you go back.

Grailpage: it’s a tam o’shanter off as Carlos Ezquerra’s pic of the scottish cap-wearing A-ALN-1 in a whittle (circular panel) comparing the industrialised wasteland of Zrag to Scotland taking second place to the tartan flat cap with toorie (bobble) ape courtesy of McMahon on the centre pages. Possible first use of the word ‘taps’ referring to muggers. It also contains the immortal line “You creeps must think I sailed thorugh space on a synthi-biscuit!” which doesn’t get the grailquote this prog.

Grailquote: Harry Harrison / Kelvin Gosnell, Jim diGriz: “Only way out now would be for a time helix to appear out of thin air…” PING! Angelina diGriz: “Oh, James. You’re so clever! I’m so glad I married you…”

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