2000AD Prog 180: The Law is the Word!

Carlos takes a rest this week, what with having produced Tharg stories and covers in addition to Stainless Steel Rat or Strontium Dog episodes for the last month or so. It’s Mike McMahon’s turn to draw the judge riding through Mega-City One (continuing the ongoing theme of showing the city on covers and posters, but not in the stories). The cover date is 4 October 1980 (and so that’s the last day it would be on sale before being taken off the shelves, making space ready for the next prog on the Monday).

Strontium Dog by A. A. Grant and C. Ezquerra: Death’s Head part III. Heading towards Willy Blanko territory, the main focus of the first two pages is the Gronk’s ongoing attempts to appear fearless, despite being afraid of their own shadow (literally – the Gronk picks up an alien shadow creature which hits back when the Gronk tries some shadow-boxing). The tracer beam shows a second property beyond allowing the recipient to be tracked – once activated they cry out to reveal their position. Killing a gang of thugs lying in wait, Johnny uses ‘Alpha power’ (that’s a name I made up for it just now, I’ll probably use something else next time it comes up) to read the mind of one of the dead, seeing a death’s head emblem and an image of a hut (which we don’t see, but we’re assured that Johnny saw it a few panels later when they find the hut). Next to it is an open grave with a tombstone reading “Johnny Alpha Dead Dog”. Something else they find it Willy Blanko with a gang.

I hadn’t really mentioned it as it’s an advert, but technically it is a comic, even if not by a recognisable art droid (like the Star Wars Bolland ads or the Ron Smith Green Cross Code from last week). This one is Matchbox Badges of Courage and tells of a USAF (if it was called that at the time) pilot who died in the second world war.

Meltdown Man by Alan Hebden and Massimo Belardinelli. Leeshar manipulates the other elite humans to allow him to execute Stone as a threat to their way of life through Stone’s sympathies for yujees. Leeshar has plans to use predators to take over the world. I don’t think the good guys ever want to take over the world, not even for good purposes, so Leeshar must be evil (if we hadn’t gotten that impression yet). Meanwhile the subject of discussion is being threatened with death by a catwoman (Liana) who I’ve only just noticed has a belt buckle in the shape of a cat’s face. She reckons without Gruff – so her cat senses can’t detect a mangy wolf? As Leeshar arrives, Stone manages to grab a snip-gun and the trio escape. They manage to get out of the city / fortress gates just as the general alert goes up and Tiger Commander gets on the trail. In the shanty town outside the gates, T-Bone (a large, bull-headed yujee) corners the trio and threatens them with the vats (don’t get high expectations over this cliffhanger, it won’t be maintained for long).

The Nerve Centre features reader’s art ripping off a book cover – and from what I can tell the picture they ripped off was by Harry Harrison himself (it’s the first image on this webpage by Michael Carroll). The next page is a Nerve Centre Extra (though seeing as the regular Nerve Centre is supposed to be two pages now then aren’t we being shortchanged?) explaining how to put together the Judge Dredd mobile with the addition of a few bits of string and some card. There’s also the third of the tokens for getting a free Judge Dredd T-shirt. Sharing the page with these instructions (that’s another thing – so far the ‘two-page Nerve Centre’s have been one and a half pages) is a PG Tips card advert. When did tea stop giving away cards to collect in their boxes? Around the time I started getting 2000AD my great grand parents gave me a bundle of tea cards from multiple sets, none of which were complete. Still got them somewhere. Before we get back to comic pages, the next page has an advert for a Shredded Wheat box top bargain – this is another thing you don’t tend to get much any more. Like the T-shirt tokens, you’re meant to get collect box tops from shredded wheat boxes so you can send them off (in this case with some money) to get some Airfix kits. Those of my age and a bit older may well have collected names from Star Wars figures to send off and get a free (or at least exlusive) figure. I’ll reveal which figure I got when we come to my Star Wars figure collecting years.

Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Part 25: Hell’s Angel! opens with a splash. The splash of red-hot lava against the rocky landscape surrounding the Grunwalder’s castle. We saw this bullet-shaped castle last prog and I almost mentioned it then, but yes – it looks like a bullet or missile rising out of a rocky island in a volcanic landscape, with a few square bits about half way up. The colouring droid (presumably Tom Frame) has used a lot of red in this centrespread. We briefly saw the Grunwalder him/itself last prog, but this time we get a full-body shot of the golden robot (why yes, he does look rather like a certain interpretor droid, right down to the knee joints and concentric circles on the chestplate, how that droid might have looked had he been pumping iron – pun intended). The head and blue cloak are entirely new though. Pa is wounded from Dredd’s bullet on the last panel of the last episode though the lava in the landscape burns up the jeep’s wheels. To buy him more time to get to the castle, he tells Junior to kill the judge and they have a touching family moment. Junior’s mother died as she gave birth to him but then he had to wait until the age of three before being allowed to kill. The lawmaster seems to have tougher wheels, or at least more heat-resistant, though Old Joe Blind can’t continue any further and Dredd goes onward, not reckoning for Junior’s use of an oxygen pill to hide in the ground beneath them (though wasn’t that the ground which was so hot that it melted the jeep’s wheels?) Dredd hears Old Joe screaming but arrives too late. As Dredd confronts Junior we see a little of the true nature of Owen Krysler as he taunts Pa Angel with the impending death of his favourite son. Krysler reveals he has seen this scene in premonitions many times, taking delight in the death. The portrait of Dredd just before he throws Junior into the lava shows the characteristic furrowed brow which appears on Dredd’s helmet. If I’d been looking for it I could have said whether this was the first appearance, but it’s the first time I’ve noticed it. Junior Angel uses the term “Whee-doggie!” I don’t think we’ve seen Mean use those words, though I associate them with Mean much more than the other Angels.

The Mean Arena by Tom Tully and John Richardson. Remember that cliffhanger where it looked like Matt Tallon had murdered somebody almost immediately after starting to play Street Football? Well, the weapon he used (we now find out) is called a ‘droid gun’. I think I can see where this ‘murder’ is going. Distractingly the robot-disguised-as-a-human who was killed was called Harry Carpenter (boxing commentator who got mentioned a few blog posts ago). The game carries on and, after a blow to the back of the head, Tallon starts to hallucinate a large horned creature attacking him – not unlike the cliffhanger to this week’s Meltdown Man. Dash Decent took a break this prog but is back next prog, The Mean Arena takes a break for a week…

Tharg and the Thrill-Suckers by Ezquerra (presumably written by either outgoing sub-editor Alan Grant or Steve McManus or Richard Burton. The story about Greater-Spotted Thrill-Suckers was running in the prog when I first started reading 2000AD, so I’ve got a soft spot for this genus. Though the species appearing here is the Lesser-Spotted Thrill-Sucker. A new droid has started in the Command Module. His name is Burt. Unfortunately he has previous experience on another comic. His work there has infested him with the thrill-suckers of the title and while Tharg is at lunch they bring the Command Module to a standstill, putting all the droids out of action. The droid Tom Frame appeared in an earlier story though was fairly generic – this one looks like the Frame who will appear in a Robin Smith poster in a few years time. Once Tharg is aware of them he fumigates the droids with Sucker Socker, getting Burt and the others back on their feet.

The inside back cover is split unequally between a next prog trailer, a stamp advert (of course) and an advert for Oxfam (to encourage children to take unwanted toys to the charity shop) in the form of a wordsearch. Rackle and me managed to get a definite 13 and maybe a 14th out of 14. There were a few brand names in there so it’s possible we didn’t get a brand that pre-dated us. Or ‘dolls’ and ‘pram’ were separate answers instead of ‘dollspram’ being one.

The back cover is the second part of the two-part Judge Dredd mobile – it’s the same images from last prog but reversed so that they can be pasted to the other side of a bit of cardboard and hung up.

Grailpage: Ron Smith shows that it isn’t just cities he can depict being destroyed, with a volcanic landscape constantly being pummelled by lava, alongside a full-length view of the Grunwalder.

Grailquote: John Howard, Junior Angel: “I’m the baddest man that ever lived! You should never give Junior Angel a chance!” Judge Dredd: “You never had one, vermin!”

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