2000AD Prog 208: “The destroyer’s taken over Earth… only I can save it!”

I checked Barney – that cover Redondo did a few progs ago was his first for 2000AD, and this is his second of five (plus he’ll do one for the Megazine in thirty five (!) years. Considering it’s a fourth birthday issue (whether or not it actually is the fourth birthday – which it isn’t) it makes a refreshing change not to have a montage or Tharg introducing proceedings. Instead we’ve got Amtrak sword fighting against devils. There’s a dark -haired woman in the background but we haven’t met her yet. Pretty much the only thing I remember from the rest of this series is the last panel of the entire story – so I know what she’ll end up being… This prog has a cover date of 18th April 1981 – being the date its taken off the shelves, ready for the next prog…

The Day They Banned 2000AD is a Tharg story with art by Q Twerk. Starting with a flash-forward panel the story then rewinds to the Dictators of Zrag’s bedroom – their ‘palace’ seems quite large though they all sleep in one bed – in nightcaps and night shirts, naturally. Their father, the Skrag of Zrag has brought a copy of this very prog. Angry at their continued failure to halt the production of 2000AD for four years, the Skrag gives them an ultimatum – ten days to stop 2000AD or… the Strap! The Hag of Zrag lends them a spell book and the trio come up with a plan to get the earthlets themselves to ban the galaxy’s greatest. They do this by “making the bad guys come to life” so we get Artie Gruber smashing out of the page, a Volgan army emerging from Brezhnev’s secret stash of back progs, the Verdus Second Army invading the Sydney Opera House and Flesh dinosaurs climbing the Eiffel Tower. The most concentrated attack is in the Command Module, where the Mekon leads geeks, robots and more out of the back prog cupboard. The art on this is dynamic though I’m beginning to think that Emerberton is Ian Gibson’s ‘standard’ pseudonym with Q. Twerk for work he didn’t put so much time or effort in to.

Space Invaders is the world’s most popular video game and Tharg is giving away three Atari Video Computer Systems complete with Space Invaders cartridge. I don’t know my home console history, but I’m guessing from the description of how a console with cartrdiges works, this is either the first or one of them. There are over thirty different games available! Just for good measure, 50 runners-up are going to get a single, Playback – Space Invaders – I’d never heard of it.

Tharg’s Future-Shocks: Fish in a Barrel! sees Steve Moore return to 2000AD, along with Eric Bradbury. I think this is Eric’s first piece of work for 2000AD since Prog 11 (when he did the dogs on Dartmoor story). This is a tale of an alien warrior race who attack a peaceful alien race (it’s all aliens in this story). Being peaceful, the peaceful and scaly aliens flee from the warlike four-armed King Kong-style gorillas. They head to a nebula containing a fertile planet and surrounded by gravitic storms, except for one narrow route through. Constructing a fort-world to hold off the warriors, they are safe and secure for three hundred years until a war-alien chief has the idea to shift a planet out of its orbit and use it as a shield for the fleet. The fort world manages to destroy the planet but too late, for the battle fleet is now close enough to destroy it. Going down to the isolated planet within the nebula they discover the entire world deserted, though so recently that their food is still steaming on plates and the war-aliens can smell them everywhere. The war-chief enters what looks like a government building to find a screen set up on a pedestal. When activates it displays not a recorded message but a live transmission from the war-aliens home world, which was easily conquered via a teleport system due to the battle fleet being absent while attacking the nebula. What’s more, the planet has been a bait to lure the warriors in so that they can be destroyed by hundreds of cobalt bombs in the planetary core. Lucky they managed to perfect teleportation in those three hundred years…

The Nerve Centre is reduced to one page though there’ll be a Nerve Centre Extra later in the prog.

Tharg’s Birthday Quiz: Famous Last Words! has the last published words of eight characters along with their faces and names. As long as you’ve been reading the progs since the end of Fesh Book II, you’d be able to get all these pretty easily.

Ian Gibson is back, this time as Emberton, illustrating T.B. Grover’s tale Judge Dredd: The Problem with Sonny Bono. Lending credence to the theory that Gibson uses Emberton for the stories he’s more proud of, the artwork on this story is in a different league to that on the Tharg opener. Sonny Bono Block was designated a problem block – a place to cast all the rent dodgers, ex-criminals and other troublemakers. Within a few months it is covered in graffiti and litter, crumbling and designated a slum. Then, tired of being pushed around by the city, somebody gets the idea to declare the block independent and announce that they have kidnapped Mayor Grubb. One judge suggests cutting power to the block but Dredd (of course) wants to take more immediate action to make an example of the revolting block. Following a trace to the origin of the vid-transmission, Dredd makes short work of the ‘revolutionary government’ and secures ‘Mayor Grubb’, allowing other judges to quell resistance in the rest of the block. Finding that the ‘Mayor’ was just a kidnapped pizza delivery man with a bag over his head and most of those in the block weren’t even armed, Dredd calls in Tek-Div. Their scanalysis reveals the block has been bombarded with low frequency sound waves from neighbouring Patsy Ann Noble Block. Citi-Def in that block had decided to use the Sonic Cannon on a low setting to make the building crumble, forcing the city to take the problem cases away from the area. Dredd sentences all those involved to time, and orders the housing committee to use the empty apartments to begin re-housing the problem cases from the now condemned Sonny Bono Block. It’s a great story – keeping Citi-Def in the picture, showing inter-block rivalries and showing cameo appearances by apes, scrawlers and generally featuring a naturalistic blend of various elements we’ve been introduced to over the years.

Malcolm Shaw and Redondo’s Return to Armageddon starts with Amtrak flying into the entrance of a mountain-side cave, carved into the grinning maw. Inside we see a line of captive humans being led towards a giant statue of The Destroyer, including that woman from the cover image. Amtrak leaves the ship to pick up a human so that he can find out more about where the remaining humans are on Earth. Can you guess who he picks to take back to the ship? Oh, and her name is Eve… The cold steel of the Sword of the First Triad does indeed freeze all those it hits, covering them in ice, though we’ve told twice that Amtrak is no longer immortal, which is a pity as a few of the devils get on board and swarm on the formerly immortal Amtrak.

Never Centre Extra: Tharg’s Birthday Honours. Now that every reader of 2000AD is a Squaxx dek Thargo, Tharg has decided that a new award is needed, and thus the Krill Tro Thargo is launched. Tharg starts off with four earthlets – the most notable being Tony Luke, who will later become an art droid (though before that created Nemesis shorts that were broadcast on TV). We’re promised the full story of why the four got their KTTs in the 1982 2000AD Annual. Though the rest of the pages is given to the 2000AD Sci-Fi Special – out now (and the subject of my next post).

Gruff is going up in the world in Meltdown Man by Alan Hebden and Belardinelli. The wolfman had been tied to two young trees with the intention that they would rip him apart when they sprung up – though when one rope broke he ended up flying up into the air. Though not for long as he was still attached to the other tree. Billy the Pup comes to the rescue as he vouches for Gruff on the grounds that he’s been trailing the wolfman for weeks and so he wasn’t in the area when thefts and attacks took place. While he goes off to catch the real culprit, King Seth finally gives the low-down on how Stone’s Earth came to be Yujee-World. Or at least the beginning of the tale. Earth was hit by a gigantic asteroid which causes it to tilt on its axis leading to earthquakes, volcanoes and tidal waves. Humans who had travelled in to space return but find no hope for civilisation though the story is interrupted there as Stone loses his temper when Seth casts doubt on the idea that humans could travel in to space. Defending himself, Seth blinds Stone and the two crash – neither Stone or Seth’s finest moment there.

The third part of the Heller saga, where Johnny wins a model making competitions by following the instructions in the box sees Johnny use his prize voucher to buy a model of an airplane. Gripping stuff. The rest of the pages is taken up with a panel by Colin Wilson from next prog’s Judge Dredd Mega-Rackets. Prog 209 will be on sale on the 18th of April 1981 – two days earlier than usual (why?) – but that’s the cover date of this prog – does that mean newsagents across the land were confused and had two progs on display, side-by-side?

It seems a while since we had anything other than an advert on the back page (it isn’t really – it would have been Dave Gibbons Futureworlds posters). This one is a Kev O’Neill Ro-Jaws pic – with the sewer droid at the editor’s desk. The ABC Warriors Book Ten gets a REJECT stamp (because it’s more of Hammerstein’s boring war memoirs, innit?) Interestingly, depending on how you count each book, we’ve now had The ABC Warriors Book Ten – and it was Return to Ro-Busters – a Ro-Jaws-centric tale…

Grailpage: Emberton’s opener for the Dredd story was going to be my pick – one side of the centrespread has a full Dredd on lawmaster while the other has two splash panels of Sonny Bono Block – one after and one before low-level sonic attack. But then I came across Belardinelli’s page showing the destruction of the Earth as we know it – an asteroid hitting the South Pole, the Earth being tilted on its axis, as seen from the moon and volcanoes and tidal waves destroying a future city.

Grailquote: T.B. Grover, Citi-Def member: “W-we did it for a good reason, judge!” Judge Dredd: “You’ll do time for a better one, citizen. Move!”

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