2000AD Prog 194: 1981 is the Year of the Alien!

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Cover of 2000AD Prog 194, by Dave Gibbons

Dave Gibbon’s depicts Old Father Time being knocked out of the way by a horde of aliens (no two of which are alike). This prog would have been the first of the year, on newsagent shelves from the 5th of January with a Saturday 10th cover date.

Strontium Dog: The Bad Boys Bust credited to Alan Grant and Ezquerra. This one mixes the format up a bit. Rather than hunting a bounty, Alpha and Wulf are guns for hire this time around. They also don’t have to deal with anti-mutant prejudice (not in the first episode anyway, though with the problems that those on the planet of Alzir are facing, hurling abuse at the pair who might save them would be unwise). Speaking of which – the SD duo only appear in the last half of the last page – the rest introduces us to the planet and their problem – Bubo and the Bad Boys – animalistic mutants or aliens who like to eat the human colonists on the planet. After the slightly flat ending of the last Stronty story this is much more like it, though I gather this strip caused some trouble at the time it was published due to the stripping and eating of one of the characters (there’s a character stripped ready for eating in this prog, but I think it’s a later act of cannibalism that almost got 2000AD into hot water, and I don’t mean a marshal stew).

Dash Decent Chapter 16: Death Plunge 2000 (A.D.) – I could swear this was advertised as a 12-part series when it started. This entire episode propels the plot by one panel – at the beginning Dash is about to try to rescue Zellany, by the end Zellany is going to bite through the cable. The other thirteen panels are either a diversion or filler, depending on how you look on it. Zellany refuses to fight Dash until his stunt double arrives – and arrive he does in the form of Klep in a fake beard. After dancing around having a fight, Klep gives Dash a chance by fighting in the guise of Clark Clep – and still beats Dash before changing identity and flying off. I have a feeling I had this prog a bit before many of the others when I was filling in the gaps (and my collection was mostly gaps back then) as both this and the following story’s episode seem very familiar, more than the others up until now.

In The Mean Arena Tom Tully and John Richardson give us the history of street football, via Kevin O’Connor (the presenter who made light of the player’s death in the first episode). Tully appears to have got out an encyclopaedia as it goes back to the Roman origins of the sport (in Britain – the Romans nicked it from Greece, and a similar game also appeared in China – not mentioned in this historical round-up). It has the usual misconceptions about the Romans using severed heads as balls and kicking them around to celebrate a victory. Nope – the Romans played harpastum as a sport and used more conventional materials as balls. The mob games appear more accurate though (huge teams running through streets, participants and bystanders getting injured). Hooligans and exhorbitant ticket prices lead to ‘the kids’ playing large games in public recreation areas – which they then got turfed out of as the groups were too large. Taking to deserted areas of towns and cities, street football was born, and quickly capitalised on by sports promoters. Back in the present we find out there’s another element to the modern game of street football – thematic goals (or ‘score-modes’) – to get one point a player in the Southampton Sharks home town will have to blast a tooth out of a giant shark head but to get three points – well, we find out next prog.

Ro-Jaws Reviews… Flash Gordon: 1981’s first sci-fi epic! This two-page spread doesn’t say who may have helped Ro-Jaws out – wasn’t it Richard Burton last time? As I mentioned when Dash Decent started in prog 178, this is one of my favourite films. It’s not the kind of film I’d normally expect to like, but maybe because I saw it at a young age it bypassed any tastes I’ve acquired since then? I probably saw it on a black and white TV, maybe on christmas eve, 1983 – the first year I’d been reading 2000AD for the first time. I do remember that when my dad took me to the cinema to see it in the late eighties we talked about the colour of the different races blood, as if we’d never seen it in colour before (don’t worry, the cinema was mostly empty, we wouldn’t have been spoiling the film for other cinema-goers). I didn’t remember the pre-credits sequence (we might have missed that bit when it was televised) and we also weren’t sure about the comic-strip elements of the titles – was this the live action film we’d seen on TV or not? Ro-Jaws initial expectations were not probably similar to what mine might have been if I’d seen it as an adult for the first time, though the fun, adventure and humour of the film won him over. The review is interspersed with the usual press kit photos – of Dale Ardent/Dale Arden/Melody Anderson, Dash Decent/Flash Gordon/Sam Jones, Awfulia/Aura/Ornella Muti, King Tucky and the Pullet Men/King Vultan and the Hawkmen/Brian Blessed and finally Pong/Ming/Max von Sydow. I have something to say about Max von Sydow’s film roles – but I’ll wait until I get to the 1995 Judge Dredd film (don’t hold your breath, this prog came out in 1981 – there’s a whole load of blog posts to go before I get to it). Just found out – George Lucas wanted to direct Flash Gordon, Kurt Russell and Arnold Schwarzenegger were linked to the role (Arnold’s accent disqualified him) and Pink Floyd might have done the soundtrack…

The Nerve Centre is a two-pager this week, and that’s a proper two pages. Earthlets weigh in on the ‘is Judge Dredd a robot’ debate – one reckons he had a fatal (?) accident and had limbs replaced by robotic parts, resolving to be the toughest judge on the streets while another points out that Dredd cut himself to attract Rex Peters in The Man Who Drank the Blood of Satanus. Another debate in the offing regards the lettering mistake calling Nick Stone ‘Strong’, which attracts two letters. Another letter follows up the ‘alpha particles can be stopped by paper’ letter, also from prog 186 but draws parallels with Wolfie Smith’s psychic powers. Finally there’s a Mega-City One Top 10 – taking song titles and giving them 2000AD-related artistes – such as “Dog Eat Dog by Johnny Alpha and the Strontium Dogs” or “Super Trooper by Dredd and the Hyper Cops”. We’ve had this kind of thing once or twice before, but the reason I mention it is this letter is signed Chris Chibnall, Solihull. The TV writer and Doctor Who showrunner apparently grew up in Formby, but it’s such a distinctive name that I’m wondering if he spent time in Solihull.

Judge Dredd: The Fink Part 2 by T.B. Grover and Mike McMahon. Where were we – that’s it – the Fink’s identity has not been revealed, though a few clues were dropped by Wagner and Grant in the first episode. I don’t imagine there’s anybody reading this who don’t know what relation Fink has to the Judge Child Quest, but I’ll be sure to put the word (spoiler) before the reveal, just in case. For the miniature-painters – the Fink is a bit more grey on this centrespread (he wask pale blue last week), as he first kills a mega-citizen to lure Judge Hershey down an alley. Time for that (spoiler) – Dredd is called in as the body of Judge Pilot Larter is brought above ground, along with the calling card. Pretty much immediately, Dredd works out that the picture of an Angel means there’s a fifth Angel. It’s not quite in time for Hershey though, as (after a struggle and with help from Ratty) Fink manages to subdue her and put her paralysed form in a body bag. Dredd and a few other judges catch sight of Fink Angel but not early enough to be able to catch him, as he escapes through a hotel, poisons a swimming pool, catches a lift on a truck, kills the driver and escapes. In the aftermath Dredd gets confirmation of the existence of the fifth Angel, son of Elmer ‘Pa’ Angel (the first time we’ve seen his first name?)

Meltdown Man opens with a glorious splash panel by Belardinelli, Liana and Nick Stone visible through an extensive foreground akin illustrated margins on a mediaeval manuscript. Alan Hebden’s words relate the tale of the ‘meta plague’ (there’s a clue in that name) and wild yujees (early prototypes which were dumped in the area now known as Plaguemire). After a massive conga yujee attack (just the one conga yujee, but it’s big), easily repelled by snip gun, Liana and Stone bed down for the night. While he ponders the night sky and how similar this world is to Earth, he wonders how Kinita thought he would be able to get home – would it take another nuclear explosion? While his thoughts wonder vampire bat yujees land atop Stone and Liana. Stone manages to reach the snip gun but once Liana wakes and is aware of what’s going on, she runs for it (even after the bat yujees are repelled). It’s revealed by the end of the episode that they both have the meta-plague – something confirmed to Liana when she encounters some would-be attackers – a crocodilian yujee who would have been oblivious and a some kind of monkey, who detects the plague upon her. She ran so as not to risk Stone catching the disease from her (she knew Stone might have contracted the plague already but didn’t want to take the risk). Some llama (I’m guessing) yujees spot Stone through the morning mist the next day, but one look at his face alerts them that he has the meta-plague too. Though the reason they can tell is because he has a beard, which has grown overnight. But how would they know he didn’t have a beard the previous evening?

Return to Armageddon from Malcolm Shaw and Redondo properly introduces the Destroyer. Havoc doesn’t show enough deference to the Destroyer and erupts from the inside with worms, Snake-bite then threatens the tall, horned demonic feature and his snake tattoos come alive while Shadow is properly deferential. Next up, a conversation with the Triad who tricks the Destroyer into thinking that the blonde twin died. This deception lasts long enough for the whiny newly-aged past childhood blond kid to be given a quest to collect the Stones of Eternity. It won’t last though, as Braun (the eternally burning pirate) has witnessed this going on and heads towards the Destroyer to seek an end to his torturous eternal burning.

We’re not quite at the end – first there’s six Dredd-head pictures from readers. No famous names (that I recognise) though there is an early ‘Dredd without helmet’ pic, plus a Judge Gerbil and Judge Tedd (probably based on Big/Little Ted from Play School).

Grailpage: It has a snake wrapped around a branch. It has soe kind of lizard standing on its hind legs. It’s got a caterpillar catching its prey – a small bird. It can only be Belardinelli’s opener for Meltdown Man.

Grailquote: Alan Grant, posse survivor: “Th-they took Fat Abe McCabe! They’re gonna use him as… trail rations!”

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