2000AD Prog 219: Traffic duty – Mega-City One Style! “Dredd’s stumm-gassed the mopad! All bikes move in!”

Colin Wilson’s cover shows Dredd jumping on to a mopad as it exits a tunnel (though aren’t mopads mobile apartments, not just any old truck)?

Strontium Dog: Portrait of a Mutant Part 17 by Alan Grant and Ezquerra. Torso is a better pilot than you’d expect somebody with no depth perception to be. Though even that isn’t enough to stop the shuttle from crashing, luckily for the mutants aboard, right next to an entrance to the Salisbury Tunnels. Clacton Fuzz catches fire on the way to the blast shelters and goes up in a blaze of fury. Studs Boyce doesn’t last much longer, but the others manage to get to Johnny’s rally point where he meets up with other survivors and they prefer for a final all-out war for survival. Meanwhile, Nelson has found out that his own daughter smuggled the blaster to Johnny… You can tell this story is heading towards its climax (not least due to the departure of two of the main characters).

Another prog, another four 1981 Readers Profiles. One reader predicts that T-shirts wouldn’t sell (they’re about the only consistent piece of merchandise we’ve had for the last forty years) and another wants 2000AD stories on tape cassettes – this didn’t quite happen, but Big Finish do, of course, have quite a range of audio-plays in the back catalogue.

The last of the Clash of the Titans adverts has Perseus kill Calibos and continue on his quest to marry Andromeda – I forget, have they actually met? Does Andromeda get any say in the matter?

Is it The Mean Arena? Nope, it’s Design a team for… the Mean Arena. We get the Shilbottle Shatterers, the Dartford Darts, Royston Dragons, Newcastle Knights, Liverpool Lizards, Watford Warriors and Burnham Bloodsuckers.

The Mean Arena by Tom Tully and Steve Dillon has the Jensen Clan tool up in a Street Football supplies shop and then kill the shopkeeper. Though he is technically an arms dealer, so I’m not sure if we’re supposed to feel sorry for him… Once word gets out that the Jensens are on their way to the Slayers’ arena the security guards, and J.T. Venner clear out, closely followed by a smirking Annie (the medic -Local Annie). The Jensens have timed their arrival for 12:00 for a High Noon reference and a confusing greeting “We’re here because we’re here, Tallon!” – is that supposed to make sense?

Tharg’s greeting in the Nerve Centre contains some major news. It would have seemed pretty big at the time from a 2000AD perspective, but it’s actually much more significant than it first appears. Droids from outside the Command Module have been allowed to reprint some Judge Dredd stories. One of these droids is Nick Landau, and it isn’t mentioned yet, but the company who will be reprinting the Dredd collection is Titan Books. The reason this is major news is it’s the first thing that the company that grew in to Titan Entertainment ever published. Other than that, the spread of thrill-power around the globe is hinted at in a few reader’s letters and Tharg’s replies – a Germany paper (presumably the children’s paper type of paper, tough conceivably a newspaper) called The Echo published a Dredd story every wee whiel France, Spain, Canada and others aso get… something. We’ll find out what in the 1982 Judge Dredd Annual (if my calculations are correct, my blog post on that is due to be published on 14th March 2020) Lastly an earthlet’s father has been putting 2000AD in folders so that his son doesn’t mess up the progs. The earthlet in question puts in an early request for Thrill Containment Units (though they’re not called that in the letter).

Judge Dredd: The Mega-Rackets Crime File: 6 The Numbers Racket by T.B. Grover and Colin Wilson. Through judicious use of stumm gas and some support from lawmasters on auto the mobile numbers racket computer centre is captured before the data can be erased. Knowing that tampering with the computers will trigger them to wipe away any trace of evidence, the Judge-Professor (like a Judge-Tutor but this one’s a computer scientist) instead speeds up the computer to overload the gangster’s warehouse with unpaid-for merchandise. When the heavy squad call on the mobile computer centre, the judges unleash their firepower, taking out most of the heavy squad and the boss. The art on this episode is brilliant, from a dynamic opening shot of Dredd dropping on to the roof of the ‘mopad’, commandeering the computer centre, luring the mobsters in to showing the boss dying in an exploding hover-mobile crash. The script isn’t quite so good. The basic pacing is fine, but the details leave something to be desired (and not just because of out-dated computer misconceptions). For no explained reason, the mobile computer centre is right next to the warehouse which is receiving al the ill-gotten deliveries. Doesn’t that undermine the whole reason of having the computer centre be mobile in the first place? Still, even a Dredd episode that’s a bit lacklustre is better than a lot of other comics.

Alan Moore is back with Garry Leach on Tharg’s Future-Shocks: They Sweep the Spaceways. This is an entertaining four pages though I think it fizzles out on the last page (that it does so with a hyper-nova is a little ironic). It’s a Hitchhiker’s-esque piece on the galactic equivalent of a road sweeper – an alien larger than a sun with a lifespan in the billions of years carrying out a job as mundane as replacing suns which have burned out, filling in black holes, sweeping up asteroid belts and wiping out any pesky civilisations which have cropped up. That last one is treated like dealing with an infestation of insects, rodents or other pests, in case you were wondering… The bit where it fizzles out is a scene at the end where the spaceway-sweep encounters a colleague and the narrative turns into a spoof of an advert, which just seems out of place with the tone of the rest of the story. It’s rescued at the last moment by a form for job applications: “I am over 870,000 miles in height”, “I have a cheery disposition”, “I am not allergic to white dwarf matter”.

The narrative in Meltdown Man (by Alan Hebden and Belardinelli) starts with a panel reminding us of Liana’s predicament – about to be scared to death by the pseudo-psychic powers of the super-yujee, before rewinding a little in time and jumping to the municipal jail where T-Bone, Pole-Axe, Louis the Lionman and an as-yet-unnamed rhino are languishing. T-Bone recruits the rhino into an escape plan involving starting a fight through the bars with Pole-Axe and grabbing the cel door keys from a predator when they try to break it up. It works, and they leave Pole-Axe behind to take the heat. As they try to track down Stone, Pole-Axe uses sheer brutal force to escape. It turns out the rhino worked on the construction crews that worked on the mountain research centre and they gain entry. Unfortunately a few details of the ventilation system have changed since the time that the rhino worked on them (hope he gets given a name soon). This is where this particular strand of the story catches up with Stone and Liana’s as the rhino, bull and lion all crash down on to the super-yujee’s head. I could have done without the thought-bubble from Stone telling us that he plans to take advantage of the confusion before anybody recovers, but it’s good to have the gang together again. Except for Gruff, who isn’t here yet.

The inside back cover has a 2000 AD Word Search, submitted by an earthlet. Though somebody else has already filled it in, in my copy of this prog – so I can’t participate. There’s also bad news on the bottom half of this page. Next prog sees the last episode of Portrait of a Mutant.

Alien Watch takes the back page, taking the reader-submitted content up to five and a half pages this week – longer than every story but the Dredd! Among the four contributions, another from Stephen Green, of Judge Minty and Search/Destroy fame (it looks like the former will reach one million views in the next few months – currently at 989,699 views while the SD fan film is at 154,094 views as of the early hours of the 29th of February 2020).

Grailpage: so much good art this prog, though not many eye-catching splash images – so Colin Wilson wins with the centrespread opening with the mopad emerging from a tunnel, leading into a series of panels showing Dredd using stumm gas to pacify the vehicle.

Grailquote: Alan Grant, Middenface McNulty: “Dinae fash, Studs laddie – us yins’ll sup paritch wi’ the de’il the’gither yin day! Till then – lang may yer breeks reek!” Studs Boyce: “Th… thanks, Middenface. Same to you, pal.”

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