2000AD Prog 198: “By the right… SWARM!” Revenge of the Thrill-Suckers!

2000AD Prog 198 cover, art by 'Q Twerk'
2000AD Prog 198 cover, art by ‘Q Twerk’
2000AD logo

Ian Gibson brings in a wrap-around cover depicting a swarm of Thrill-Suckers (though signs it Q. Twerk – I know Ezquerra uses other names when he’s not happy with the work he did, but I’m not sure about Gibson). It’s not often you’ll get a skinhead eating chips with ketchup on the cover of a sci-fi comic, but this is one such time.

Tharg in the Revenge of the Thrill-Suckers by Q Twerk (no author as it’s recounting factual events and not fictional at all). In case you missed it, this story (sorry, recounting of factual events) starts with a recap of the original thrill-sucker story. The first story was alright, but I love this one – as I said on that other post, thrill-suckers appeared in my first ever progs, and this story has the same feeling about it – presenting a war between thrill-suckers fairly straight, with odd moments of humour. The thrill-sucker general and an assistant managed to escape the sucker socker from the previous story by flying high above the clouds of poison gas (there’s lots of first world war imagery, by the way). Once the clouds clear they return to ground level. They managed to discover a total of around 80,000 surviving thrill-suckers (from untold billions). Rather than try the same tactic again (multiple until their are billions and then spread) the general decides they need to first take out Tharg – and so they swarm…

The Mean Arena comes from Tom Tully and John Richardson. The match begins but to be honest everything that doesn’t involve Tallon’s vendetta against Jaws Jensen is a distraction. There’s a good panel of the sharks getting close to the Slayers’ goal (as I’ve said, I like the top-down views, showing the playing area – wonder if anybody’s ever adapted Blood Bowl or Necromunda into Street Football? We finally get an inkling of what Tallon’s problem with Jensen is – when Tallon shoots the ground under Jensen’s feet, declaring it was “the spot where [his] brother started to die”. Whatever that means.

Redondo is back! With Malcolm Shaw on Return to Armageddon. Amtrak (and the robot) head for Earth to find Atlanta Watts, but encounter problems at Customs. Sorry, Space Customs. Interceptors are scrambled and suspiciously we get a little dialogue towards a ‘Captain’ who we only see from the back while putting on his helmet. I don’t know if it’s the Future-Shocks, Robo-Tales and other assorted short stories I’ve read but that rings alert bells to me. Seeing as the only other character we’ve encountered was Atlanta, it’s got to be him, right? I’ll cut to the end and tell you that after shooting down Amtrak’s ship, then (still helmeted) finding Amtrak in the wreckage, shooting him in person then discovering he’s still survived, he removes his helmet and says: “If we can’t turn this freak to our advantage… then my name isn’t Atlanta Watts!”

A two-page Nerve Centre has a few continuity queries, including one about Mega-City 3, which Tharg says is Texas City but which isn’t large enough in population or area to be a proper Mega-City – should have stuck with an explanation based around that Civil War cover poster! Most important is a query regarding if the Meltdown Man will ever melt down!

Speaking of meltdowns, Judge Dredd: Pirates of the Black Atlantic Part 2: Nuclear Skank starts with a bang. A really, really big bang from T.B. Grover and Ron Smith. With a trademark portrait of Dredd before the episode gets going, the centre-spread is taken up by a flash-forward. The plot is very simple. Skank launches 30 missiles. All are stopped except for one, which splinters. All of the 50 independently functioning warheads are stopped, except for one. That one hits a block and totally destroys everything within a ten mile radius, killing millions. But at least the missile launch gave away the location of Skank’s base. Into this there are pop cultural references (the block involved is named after J Robert Oppenheimer, head of the Manhattan Project and famous for quoting Bhagavad Gita after observing the first ever successful atomic bomb detonation: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”. There’s a Mega-City slice of life as Dave and Thelma are reminded by the apartment / block computer that they’re late for their citi-def meeting on the roof. At the meeting, Dave is first to notice the missile that got through, though is told to ignore the glowing ball in the sky to pay more attention to ‘nuclear survival’. Last but not least is the graphic description of the effects of a nuclear explosion in a city. I’m not sure how much of this may be exaggerated to make it a futuristic powerful device – a little research leads me to believe it’s only about twice as powerful as what actually exists nowadays – but considering I’d have first read this towards the end of the (first) cold war, the details are pretty chilling. Four panels – the first shows the explosion, with no narrative. The second describes how the block would be completely destroyed within a fraction of a second. The third shows the effects of a fireball expanding and people dying, up to a radius of ten miles (in the real world today, it would be about six or seven kilometres). In the final panel we see the effects outside ten mile ‘total destruction’ zone. These details were probably taken (and only the radius distance exaggerated) from a book or newspaper article. Children’s comics? Graphic descriptions of the effects of the present threat of nuclear annihilation? Yep!

After that slice of reality, let’s have some Heroes and Villains, in a two-page reader’s art feature. I’ll tally these up. Pictures copied directly from images printed in the prog: 3. Submissions which might be loosely copied from images printed in the prog: 3. Pictures which are either wholly original creations or are 2000AD characters drawn in an original style: 8. One of those who (in my first impressions opinion) may have been influenced by a particular image but didn’t copy directly is one of Angelina DiGriz, by one Mark Harrison of Harefield (a borough of London). The Mark Harrison whose work I’d first encounter in White Dwarf about six years after this prog was published would have been about 17 at the time and the earliest details I can find about him is that he graduated from Birmingham School of Art so in conclusion I have no idea if it’s the same person.

Meltdown Man from Alan Hebden and Belardinelli starts with Gruff on the edge of the Dead Hills, home to the yujee brigands. Gruff stumbles across a Predator camp but manages to run away. The hyena captain ignores the warning sign (and the underling’s protests) and leads a few trucks of predators into brigand territory. Hyenas and minks aren’t too observant, and don’t notice eyes looking out from caves, gophers emerging from the ground beneath them, vultures circling above and a giant polar bear with an axe giving the order to attack! What do you call a polar bear with an axe? Pole-Axe, of course! The brigand yujees win conclusively, but Pole-Axe allows a few predators to escape, to spread the word no to mess with the brigands. Meanwhile, Gruff (who doesn’t entirely trust Pole-Axe) tells the brigand leader about Stone’s plan – though Pole-Axe already knew something of Stone and Gruff’s mission. To aid Gruff, and protect the wolfman from the tracker Billy the Pup, Pole-Axe sends along two bodyguards, a warthog named Tusk-Tusk and some other yujee (maybe a gopher?) called Tricky. The real story is that Pole-Axe wants to steal some of the guns and also prevent Gruff from telling the other brigand leaders in the Frying Pan and the Blackstone Desert, and the two ‘bodyguards’ are there to kill Gruff! Meanwhile, Billy the Pup has come across the surviving predators and knows he’s on the right trail, not far behind. I suspect Billy will end up saving Gruff’s life.

Tharg’s Reader Survey takes up the next page. I’ll answer a few selected questions here. Do you like 2000AD competitions: No – they take up so much space! Do you like the 2000AD poster schemes: yes-ish, though I think I prefer the standard one-off posters to the series. Do you like 2000AD booklet schemes: yes. We’ve had the Flesh Files, Book of Robots and the Galactic Olympics – I know we’re getting a mini-Prog 1 in two years time, though can’t recall any others in the meantime.

Dash Decent Chapter 20: Dust to Dust! by Angus and O’Neill. Other than the first episodes (running alongside Killer Watt) this may have been the next episode of Dash Decent I ever read – and it’s the last! The important bit of this episode is that the Germ Men attack Pong, giving him every disease known on Pongo. Everyone else celebrates, though Dash is left outside, in self-imposed exile as he didn’t get to be the big hero. Collectively this took up 21 pages (I think there was just the one multi-page episode, right at the beginning) and it’s a much better humour strip than the others we’ve seen before (discounting Robo-Hunter as that’s an action strip that’s funny, rather than out-and-out humour).

1980 Readers Profiles of four readers. Collectively we have readers who are: 7, 10, 13 and 17. From Middlesbrough, Cheshire and Colchester. Male and female. Don’t read other comics and read Star Wars Weekly, Dr. Who and Micky Mouse. Bad news for the two whose favourite character is Dan Dare! One should be happy – their favourites are future war and monsters, and in the next year we’ll have Rogue Trooper and Nemesis the Warlock (a different take on it, but it has both aliens and humans who could be described as monsters, in different ways).

Grailpage: there’s a fair amount of good art in this prog, but I’m going to go for a page featuring a humble ant – being fed upon by hungry thrill-suckers! This was by ‘Q. Twerk’ AKA Ian Gibson.

Grailquote: shared grailquote this week – neither are words for the ages, but both are amusing. Alan Hebden, Pole-Axe: “Pole-Axe by name, pole-axe by nature!” and the narration from Tharg in the Revenge of the Thrill-Suckers: “At 14:00 hours the remnants of the thrill-sucker army launched their attack on the right ear of an unsuspecting earthlet”

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