2000AD Prog 184: “No-one apes the law!”

We’re certainly getting a good run of classic covers in 1980, with the latest being Mick McMahon’s Monkey Business at the Charles Darwin Block image of Dredd on a lawmaster with one or two passengers. My count is nine apes

Strontium Dog: The Schicklgruber Grab Part 3 by Alan Grant and Ezquerra. Wagner and Grant get out the history books to get the facts right about Hitler’s death, and then *ahem* reveal a few bits that haven’t been reported on previously. Johnny, Wulf and the Gronk enter the Fuhrerbunker as the final preparations are made for Hitler’s suicide. Though these plans involve a German called Wiener, whom Bormann found in a fruit market. Speaking of which, Bormann does seem to pop up in time travel stories quite often – two visits by time travellers to Berlin in 1945 and both have involved Martin (the other one was TimeQuake, remember?) Following surgery, Wiener’s bone and teeth match Hitler’s records, for it is Wiener who will commit suicide, while Hitler will escape to carry on the reich. We see a new time weapon in use – a Stasis Grenade to avoid any complications with the staff of the fuhrerbunker (so as not to cause temporal problems the S/D agents are on a no-kill mission, stun shots and non-lethal weapons only). Having used a gadget the other half of the Strontium Dog formula – alpha ray eyes – is used so that Johnny Alpha can detect the real Hitler. Once he’s worked out which is real they waste no time getting out of the bunker, leaving Wiener behind to swallow a cyanide capsule and shoot himself. While this is going on, not one but two sets of Strontium Dogs arrive on the streets of Berlin. It’s been two whole weeks since we saw them so I can’t quite place their names right now. Big Cynthia (?) and the mutie with his left arm growing out of the side of his head make up one set, while Slabhead brings two pets – Spiro and Giro (looking a bit like, and pre-dating, chaos familiars from Warhammer).

After a great start to the prog we get loads of adverts – well, the first half page is Tharg telling us about another ‘cut up your precious progs’ competition, sharing a page with an advert for Western Magazine. The next two pages are comic-style adverts for four things. Give me a moment while I try to figure out what’s actually being advertised. The four features are “Ideal Action Comic”, “TCR Total Control Racing”, “Tin Can Alley” and “Electronic Detective”. Helpfully the double-page spread has tiny thumbnails of the boxes that the toys come in (so they’re not brands of bubble gum – like the Hubba Bubba adverts from the previous few weeks). The Action Comic is some sort of toy stunt motorcycle, with Evil Knievel branding. Tin Can Alley looks like some kind of toy rifle that uses beams of light, though exactly how I can’t ascertain (I suppose I could try youtubing an advert or retro-toys review, but is it worth the effort? I want to get back to proper comics!) The Eletronic Detective looks very vaguely like a hand-held, battery-operated space invaders game while TCR looks like Scalextric without the tracks.

Right, enough rubbish adverts for what are probably rubbish toys. On with The Mean Arena from back when it was good (if a little formulaic). Tom Tully and John Richardson start this episode in the futuristic equivalent of an undertakers. By next year we shall be laying out our dead in ‘life-tint’ vu-dromes before they’re buried. Apparently. The person who I presume is a future undertaker sings a lament over the body of Paul Simpson (the young player who died in the first episode). For absolutely no discernable reason, Tallon takes extreme exception to this and attacks him, shoving him in to an empty coffin. ‘Local’ Annie (forgot to mention her puntastic name in an earlier episode – she’s the Slayers’ medic) uses magic technology to ascertain that Simpson’s body had been patched together many times – whatever she’s using to work this out, it can pierce street football armour. 2021 undertakers are also equipped with cryo-banks, and Tallon pays the future-undertaker to put Simpson in one of these, before closing the coffin lid on the unfortunate funerary worker. The Slayers may have been on their last legs before Tallon came along, but they can still afford a Superline. Sorry, that’s Harlem Heroes / Inferno – in this story they’re called ‘team-trailers’. The home of Slater’s Slayers is somewhere on the outskirts of London, where Slater put a lease on a former football ground (football clubs went bust in the 1990s). Tallon puts the message to the local kids to turn up on Monday evening, kitted up, if they want to learn to play street football properly. Speaking of Inferno, the last panel has Tallon (I think) dressed in an outfit reminiscent of the Harlem Hellcats crossed with The Leopard from Lime Street.

One reader suggests in the Nerve Centre that Tharg make prog 200 a robot special, with a Robo-Tale, stories about Walter, Hoagy and Little Mo. Interestingly there’s also a suggestion for a centre page poster of all the robots in 2000AD. There will be a centre-page poster along those lines, though it will only feature the robots which have appeared in Robo-Hunter. I can’t track down which progs it appeared in, but it was before I started reading 2000AD. Prog 260 (5th birthday issue) has a Rogue Trooper collectable poster while 300 has a mini-prog 1. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Dash Decent Chapter 6: Wivers of Blood! by Angus and O’Neill. Dash being lost in a desert, we get the traditional mirage gags, though the pool that Dash finds actually does exist. Unfortunately it’s full of piranha-men. I’m getting a grasp of the species of Pongo – we’ve had mud-men (or were they compost-men?) and piranha-men. Dash Decent ends up as a living skeleton picked clean of flesh by the time the Doc saves him. My bet is that this is a one-panel sight gag and it’ll be forgotten by the next episode.

Judge Dredd in Monkey Business at the Charles Darwin Block (part 1). This story actually has it’s own logo (and I’m not talking about the familiar Judge Dredd logo). It gets used on the front cover and this episode, taking up around a third of the centre-spread. As well as the logo, the prized pages are taken up with a pair of flash-forward panels, but this opening doesn’t get on my nerves as much as some of the episodes I’ve ranted about previously. This is written by T.B. Grover (after Alvin Gaunt’s episode last prog) and Mike McMahon’s opener shows his trademark blocks being watched by Justice Department H-Wagons (the type we’ll see in the first two episodes of Block Mania in less than a year). The story isn’t exactly deep – a scientist (Fribb) isolates an enzyme (later called the Fribb Enzyme) which causes evolution to run backwards – fast. Upon catching the scent, he regresses into an ape (the hairy kind, rather than the naked variety). The enzyme, now in the hands of an ape, spreads through the block’s ventilation system like wildfire. Like the actual fire that one of the devolved blockers discovers. Four early judges on the scene are similarly devolved, though Dredd takes a risk, puts down his respirator and plunges into the block on his lawmaster – which gets caught in the blast from an exploding vehicle ignited by that fire.

Ro-Jaws’ introduces an non-branded Robo-Tale – Night of the Werebot by G.P. Rice and Dave Gibbons. A future city (it’s literally introduced as ‘Future city…’) is subject to a spate of horrific murders. The mayor has called a special meeting of his advisors, though it isn’t to discuss the murders. It’s to reveal that he has a month to live. In this moment of crisis the city cannot do without him and so his brain is to be transplanted into a body made from silver, for durability (can you see where this is going?) An unscrupulous window cleaner overhears the plan and after the operation leads a gang, along with a doctor who’s been struck off, into the recouperation room. They transplant the transplanted brain into a robotic body of base metal while they prepare to melt down the silver body. While preoccupied, the Mayor reveals that he is in fact a werewolf who had been carrying out the murders, and that the silver body was a plan to trap the demonic wolf alter ego. But the greed (this is a morality tale) of the villains means they are the first victims of the robo-werewolf-mayor (the werewolf form looks like a normal werewolf before you get any ideas). Dave Gibbons is a great artist, but I can’t say I’m a fan of his werewolves. Maybe I’m spoilt by having encountered Cry of the Werewolf when I was eight years old.

Meltdown Man by Alan Hebden and Belardinelli takes a turn to the comical after an opening panel showing the Roof of the World (mountains surrounded by emerging from an evergreen forest). Forced to land as the gunship runs out of fuel, Lianna and Gruff have another cat-and-dog fight before being picked up and plonked in a river by Stone and T-Bone. Next up some mole miners (mole-men who mine, and sing “Hey-ho”). The entirely blind mole-men, led by a one-eyed mole called One-Eye take the quartet (Stone, Liana, Gruff and T-Bone) to Kinita’s lair. Or eyrie, seeing as Kinita is an eagle). While Leesha lords it over the yujees from a high balcony of the capital city (I do love the way Belardinelli draws black plastic/glass/metal cities mingled with rocks towering over shanty towns) Tiger Commander brings King Seth so that Leeshar can threaten to blind the cobra with the sun (snake’s eyes don’t have lids, so when Leeshar holds up Seth’s head he can’t avoid looking at the sun). Back at the eyrie, the quartet are facing a monster twice as tall as a human who’s threatening to butcher them (literally, the monster is wearing a butcher’s apron and carrying a chopper).

I’ll menton the advert for Weetabix on the inside back cover, because it’s about some promo cards, and not a team of weetabix wearing clothes, like it will be in two or three years…

It was tempting to pick the back cover star pin-up as the grailpage, as Kevin O’Neill draws Torquemada (with a caption, “Be pure… my Terminators are watching you!” This has the original Torquemada helmet, which never quite looks right to me, but the tubes in the background are perfect, giving the impression of cavernous transit tubes far beneath the Earth.

Grailpage: so if I’m not picking that star pin-up for grailpage then what am I going for? Mike McMahon’s centrespread of the Darwin Block, H-wagons and apes, that’s what.

Grailquote: Alan Grant, Tharg: “The truth about Hitler’s death has long puzzled Earth minds. Tharg trusts the matter is now settled.”

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