2000AD Prog 197: Catch Captain Skank… or Mega-City One dies!

Bolland takes to the cover as Dredd is hit by the shock-wave from a nuclear explosion. This prog had a cover date of 31 Jan 1981.

Strontium Dog: The Bad Boys Bust Part 4 by Alan Grant and Ezquerra. This one is interesting in its own right, as Johnny is injured in the train crash. Injured badly – spending almost all of the episode unconscious. Wulf takes the lead, tracking down and eliminating the two remaining Bad Boys, and then Bubo. The local doctor can’t get Johnny out of his coma so Wulf sends off for the Gronk – there’s a good scene on the planet Blas (see grailquotes). Wulf and Johnny have some sort of psychic link operating over an hour’s walk away, which I’m not so happy about – seems like too much of an extension of alpha mind-reading powers. This is the last Strontium Dog for a few progs but the next story, starting in Prog 200, is very special.

Tom Tully and John Richardson are back for The Mean Arena (after two unplanned weeks off). We finally find out how you get three points at the Sharks score area. It’s really not worth waiting for – how else would it have happened other than you have to get in the mouth and the jaws clamp down? The demonstration destroys an android. New ‘rule’ – this game doesn’t have linesmen, it has riot linesmen, on motorbikes. The game begins, and Tallon manages to crash in to Jaws Jensen (knocking Jaws’ helmet off), take the ball and still move faster than his two shieldmen. Lots of top down shots give the impression of space, which I like.

Dan Dare The TV Series – Grounded! The blurb says it’s been postponed a year and temporarily grounded, but the title is more accurate on its own. I believe there was some sort of animated Dan Dare show early in the 21st century, but the live action show this reports on never happened. Mention is made of chromakey (better known in the world at large these days as blue screen or green screen). Of interest to Squaxx are some of the names associated with the show – Brett Ewins, Brendan McCarthy and Brian Bolland – artwork from all three is included in the three-page feature.

Dash Decent Chapter 19: When Hordes Collide! by Angus and O’Neill. On one side, Pong and the Pullet Men, on the other, Wolfred leading the Compost Men, Piranha Men, Eyeball Men, Worm Men and a secret task force (who appear to be bacteria). The battle begins next prog (and the series looks to end, if the next prog box is anything to go by: “Finale!”)

Judge Dredd: Pirates of the Black Atlantic Part One by T.B. Grover and Ron Smith. This starts with a bang as Captain Skank and his pirate ‘fish’ (shark-shaped mini-subs) launch from a war sea fortress to attack a scientific research vessel. Taking just the scientists, they kill all of the rest of the crew. As Dredd is assigned to the Atlantic Division, we find out what happens to the scientists, or at least one of them – a nuke specialist. Tuskarosa and Skank take her to meet Skank’s (believed) mother – a gigantic squid with a few Black Atlantic mutations. After witnessing two of her scientific colleagues being fed to the creature, Jenno Matryx agrees to help Skank reactivate the 500 missiles on board the war fortress. Having the same creative team as Battle of the Black Atlantic, this is an obvious successor, in more ways than one… It is often said that lettering only gets noticed if something goes wrong. I’m pleased to say that I’ve noticed something about the lettering in this episode and it’s due to something that has gone right. Tom Frame has the standard word balloons for most characters except for one. Captain Skank’s balloons have flat tops and bottoms, with the sides the usual curves. It gives an impression of cyborg-ness without going the full eight-sided robot speak. Should I have mentioned that Skank bears something in common with his ‘mother’ – where the mutant squid has tentacles Skank has robot medusa-like grabbers in place of hair.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre doesn’t have anything particularly interesting in – one person points out a continuity error where Tiger Commander’s ear was shot off and then reappeared – except, as Tharg points out – the ear was shot, but not shot off.

Speaking of yujees, Alan Hebden and Belardinelli bring forth the latest instalment of Meltdown Man. Another predator mink is named – I think the second one in twenty episodes! “Sergeant Grubmuck reporting, sir.” And a third – Snoot! Snoot is interrupted from his lunch by being ordered to drive the disguised Stone and Liana (pretending to be a human) to the city of Anville. Having his day ruined by being forced to go on the two or more hour journey, Snoot works out that the female humans scent is that of a cat and retreives a wanted poster for the duo. He sends a telegram to the Anville predator post – or at least he thinks he does – Stone already disabled the jeep’s radio while Grubmuck was fetching Snoot. For a change, Stone doesn’t cold-heartedly kill Snoot, though does end up killing him anyway when the mink tries to push him into a metalsmith’s furnace. For the second time, Stone refers to himself as a Meltdown Man (if not for the judo move which led to Snoot going into the furnace). We’ve not had any letters about the term ‘meltdown man’ but it’s only a matter of time. Stone hands plans for an AK-47 machine pistol to gorilla metalsmith Mugger and some smaller yujee called Bodge who take to the plans immediately. I’d love to play a role playing game in this world – not sure if I’d prefer to be a PC or GM. I can imagine if you play a predator then it’s be a very Paranoia experience – you’d have to have a few characters prepped for when your first few get sent to the vats! If a game ever got published (and with Judge Dredd and the Worlds of 2000AD it’s possible), then Stone and Liana’s first view of Anville would be perfect for the gazetter section.

Six bits of reader’s art next. For a second I thought Chris Weston had provided one of the drawings, but it turned out to be Chris West! It’s been a while since a famous name has sent something in (other than possibly Chris Chibnall a few progs ago, depending on which Chibnall it was). Someone draws a robo-Gronk. I dimly remember that there will be a robot gronk, sometime in the nineties…

Malcolm Shaw is joined by Johnny Johnson for a second week on Return to Armageddon. The alliterative name makes me wonder if this is a Q Twerk, LJ Silver, Emberton style distancing of an artist from their more commonly-known name. Though I don’t recognise the style so no idea. After working out that they can’t do anything to help Amtrak, the Seekers (the alien robots – they are robots and they were created by aliens) reveal they were created by a long-dead race in the star system of Ceduna. They want to catelogue him in their specimen collection (which appears to have a two-headed dog) but Amtrak convinces them that if they can take him to Earth they might get a chance to gather more information on The Destroyer.

Robin Smith takes the back cover with a star-scan of T.H.A.R.G. (in a M.A.C.H.1 style, hence all the full stops). T.H.A.R.G stands for Transmits Hyper-thrills Across the Reading Galaxy!

Grailpage: I thought I was going for one of two Ron Smith pages, but instead Belardinelli wins with Anville.

Grailquote: Alan Grant, a gronk: “Telegrams! Telegrams for the Gronkses!” another gronk: “Here I is!” a further gronk: “I’s the gronkses!” a third gronk: “So’s I!” narration: “When the real addressee has been found – “

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