2000AD Prog 196: Superbad!! The Angel Gang in a zarjaz pin-up this prog! “Alien attack! Inside the hatch – fast!”

Dave Gibbons provides a cover depicting a space ship or station under attack. It stands well on its own, though unfortunately there’s a tiny box in the corner saying “see page 15” – uh-oh, a few hundred words of copy edit loom.

Strontium Dog: The Bad Boys Bust Part 3 by Alan Grant and Ezquerra. My mistake – it wasn’t Bubo pointing the gun at Johnny last prog – though as he’s only just jumped on to the train, the Bad Boy is still within range of Wulf’s pistol (one of the only times we see Wulf using a gun instead of der happy stick). Johnny takes out a few more Bad Boys when the others retreat to the front of the train. Bubo, unphased, ties down the throttle and jumps off the train, leaving it to jump the rails despite Johnny’s best efforts to prevent the derailment. Another great episode, and Bubo shows no loyalty to his men, er, Bad Boys.

Dash Decent Chapter 18: Who Goes Where? by Angus and O’Neill. This is about the earliest in the prog that the story has appeared and it has to be close to the end of its run. The TARDIS-analogue postbox journey continues. It’s not going anywhere so Dash decides to refresh his image, starting at the Star War(drobe) to pick up a polka-dot swimsuit, trademark flash top and swimming cap. Finally he finds a box of exits, goes through a portal and teases a cliff-hanger of where he’s ended up.

Spirit of Vengeance – A Ro-Jaws’ Robo-Tale by G.P. Rice and Dave Gibbons. When Dan Dare ended I was wondering what Dave Gibbons got up to between that and Rogue Trooper (still about two thirds of a year away) – turns out it’s mainly covers, Robo-Tales and the odd star scan… This tells the tale of a convict who is released from his fifth spell in prison. If he’s arrested one more time, for anything, then he’ll be incarcerated for the rest of his life. Outside he’s greeted by his trusty but ramshackle old robot (which he doesn’t appreciate). At least he doesn’t appreciate it until they pass an accountant’s practice who recognised the robot as an Anderson Mk III Servo-droid, which can cover for their broken-down computers. Getting paid for the robot’s services, the ex-con gets an idea and starts hiring out the robot’s computer circuitry. The first job is to index all references to hypnotism in a pile of journals. I feel this might come in relevant… As you may expect, the ex-con overworks the robot, despite its protests, until the robot blows its circuits. That night he has a ghostly vision of the dead robot. Going to a psychic investigator he is told to find the earthly remains of the robot and carry out an exorcism. Heading off to the scrapyard that the remains were sent to, he has a meltdown when surrounded by other robots, who he believes have risen up against him. He gets discovered by a passing police patrol (who look like proto-judges, replete with non-eagle shoulder pads and what look like judge badges). This is another story which could take place in a pre-Dredd Mega-City One. Once he’s been arrested for breaking and entering and put in prison for the rest of his life, a hypnotic image appears before him explaining that the robot knew he would be worked to his death but his obedience circuits wouldn’t allow him to disobey. Though he could plant hypnotic suggestions which would activate once he was dead, leading him predictably to trying to exorcise the remains but trespassing to do so…

The Mega-Thrill of the Century – 2000AD The Greatest Movie Ever Made! Can’t remember if I mentioned it, but Tharg requested casting lists for 2000AD characters in a couple of Nerve Centres. This two-page spread is the result. Clint Eastwood gets cast as Joe Dredd, Johnny Alpha, Matt Tallon and Junior Angel! James Coburn, unsurprisingly, gets cast as Slippery Jim though also as Judge Jack (the judge from the Cursed Earth quest who ended up hanging from Satanus’ mouth for however long it was). Yul Brynner, confusingly, gets cast as Blackhawk though also as Dwarf Star. Kenny Baker (R2D2) is variously cast as Ro-Jaws, Zog and The Judge Child (!)

The Nerve Centre covers two pages, including that cover story. Dredd’s actions in persecuting Otto Sump inspire one writer to invoke Plato’s Republic, though Tharg declines to guide earthlets in developing their own ideas and asks for other earthlets to send in their viewpoints. As I expected, the cover stands on its own without any particular value added by a few words in half a page.

Judge Dredd: The Fink Part Four by T.B. Grover and Mick McMahon introduces Resyk – not just to we the reader but also to the Mega-City – “One of Mega-City’s newest buildings is the huge complex known as Resyk”. This is one of those stories I first read sized down and coloured for the Eagle Comics reprint, so it’s always been part of Mega-City One since I’ve been a Squaxx. Worldbuilding-wise there’s one big Resyk and a few smaller Reysk Terminals dotted throughout the city. I could recount in detail the to and fro of combat between Dredd and the Fink (a Judge Fodder gets hit by a poison pellet – any relation to the Assistant Grand Judge Fodder from Prog 62? The one who got emotional at seeing the Kill Dozer / Land Raider in action. Suffice to say, Hershey is saved as she’s about to have her eyes popped out by Resyk machinery, Dredd uses Ratty’s jaws to attack the Fink (Ratty loses his hat in the process) and Dredd gets paralysed. While Dredd recovers, the Fink survives and is put in an isolation cube, Hershey is on her feet again and Ratty makes a nest next to the Resyk belt (and recovers his hat). Luckily, McMahon’s artwork isn’t too detailed, allowing for the more abstract of figurative figures. I mention this because there’s something like two hundred naked corpses in this episode. Even on the colour pages they’re left in white, as I think IPC censors might have had issues if it had been any more graphic!

Meltdown Man by Alan Hebden and Belardinelli opens with Gruff getting a ride from a manatee yujee on a river boat. There’s also duck-billed platypus yujees in swimming costumes and swimming among lilypads – fantastic work from Belardinelli. Billy the Pup is still on Gruff’s trail and finally catches up with him (with two predators in tow) prompting Roly the manatee to cause a distraction allowing the wolfman to escape. Meanwhile, T-Bone the bull yujee and ex-vatman has met up with old friend and current vatman Spare Rib to help spread the word of Stone’s planned uprising. Tiger Commander leads a raid on the vatmen’s secret society (or the vats, at least) but King Seth hypnotises the tiger to let T-Bone pass without showing ID. Jack Potter puts in a stony-themed next prog tag for “Anville!” as well as consistently emboldening the word ‘vat’ in vatman.

Malcolm Shaw and J. Johnson’s Return to Armageddon is squashed in to three pages this week as – wait, what? Who’s J. Johnson? What happened to Redondo? Quick-thinking Amtrak activates the time belt, reverting ten seconds to before his body was deformed by the Destroyer. The Destroyer’s will cannot be foiled by the device though, and Amtrak goes through the melty process again. Some time later (“time and space ceased to mean anything”, “how long his craft hurtled out of control – he had no idea”) he gets discovered by aliens in space suits or robots. I think they’re going to be robots, because there’s definitely a robot later on in the story. Oh, and I’ve just realised they’re talking in robotic octagonal speech balloons. They’re probably alien robots though. They shoot up the ship a few times, then an analysis module enters Amtrak’s ship and exterminates him. Next prog: creature destroyed! (I don’t think that’s going to happen, somehow).

The next prog box has a Ron Smith picture of new character, Captain Skank! Oh, and a report on the Dan Dare TV series *ahem*.

The Angel Gang – A Family Portrait by Dave Gibbons (uncredited, and sort-of in the style of Mike McMahon – in fact, it might have been pencilled by McMahon for all I know). Hot on the heels of having introduced us to the fifth Angel and now we have a portrait of all of them, complete with birth and death dates – nice!

Grailpage: What else can it be but Mike McMahon’s centrespread of the main Resyk belt, a controller in the foreground with the initials ‘RSK’ on his helmet as around 100 bodies are fed into the mouth of the reycling machinery? Some day I may count exactly how many bodies are in this story, but not today! What else? Well, Belardinelli’s river boat would have been tempting, but Resyk is so iconic it had to be.

Grailquote: T.B. Grover, Resyk: “We use everything but the soul!”

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