I remember the day I bought this comic. It was from the former Fantasy World in Hanley around 1986 or 1987 and just before a visit to see my mum who was recovering from an operation in hospital so when reading this actual physical comic it always takes me back to that hospital ward. For those squaxx who hadn’t read the Sci-Fi Special, this would have been their first sight of Nemesis – though they may not have realised it, as skeletal pics of him and Torquemada border this cover like caryatids, and his head adorns the lower border. The main part of the image shows Brother Behell (who we’ll meet inside) plucking red planets out of the space as the Blitzspear approaches.
The Nerve Centre is on the inside front cover for a change this week – presumably to best dramatically introduce the new Sword and Sorcery thrill starting this week. There’s a recap of where to find previous tales Terror Tube and Killer Watt, which would have helped me located those progs when I was still collecting back progs, plus the story in the sci-fi special is referred to as Olric’s Great Quest – contrary to what some modern reprints title it. One reader points out that the Gronk’s home planet, Blas in the Gallego system, shares its name with artist Blas Gallego, as mentioned earlier in this very blog (which refers to this Nerve Centre).
Nemesis the Warlock by Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill (it’s Book I, but doesn’t say that here because there isn’t a Book II yet). I recorded a podcast with Eamonn Clarke on this, which can be found on Mega-City Book Club (that’s an exaggeration, he recorded it with me). The first time I read this episode I was already a fan of the series, having been introduced in my first month or buying progs when Book III started. I can remember drawing out the first page of the Termight Book of the Dead! in a grey felt tip – I’d later do this for a bestiary page. Not sure how old I was, but it was while I was at middle school… This story has had some development time – more than many 2000AD series got. I don’t know precisely how much, but it’s been trailed and hinted at by Tharg for a while, and there was enough for Kevin to draw two episodes (Book IV, appearing in 1984), then go back and create some back story with Pat. So – there’s a few developments since the previous episodes we’ve seen in Comic Rock – the pseudo-religious imagery is ramped up further and the enemy of Termight is revealed to be aliens in the admittedly biased Termight Book of the Dead! The Terminators are presenting alien attack as the reason that humanity has retreated to the tube system, rather than the more generic ‘nuclear wars’. After a map of the galaxy (stylised and low on detail, but it shows where the Termight Empire, Fringe Worlds, Gothic Empire and Nether Worlds are in relation to one another), we’re introduced to Brother Behell, a leading Terminator with ambitions to become Grand Master of Termight, now that Torquemada hasn’t been seen for the past six months (when the events of Killer Watt took place). For the time being he’s busy detecting and slaughtering/’cleansing’ a sixth alien planet of aliens/’deviants’. As we know, Torquemada may be gone in body, but his spirit lives on so things won’t be quite so simple for Behell…
With the end of Portrait of a Mutant there’s a space to be filled until the next Strontium Dog story in a few week’s time (as Tharg told us in the Nerve Centre, when he wasn’t plugging Nemesis) and this prog the filler is Tharg in the Nightmare! by Q Twerk which, according to my theory means Ian Gibson wanted to distance himself from this work. For a change the Tharg story gets a script robot credit – T.M.O. (The Mighty One) – I think this is the first time – the others have been entirely uncredited. Tharg is on an alien planet as an honorary guest for a vaguely Punxssutawney Phil-like ceremony (made famous in the film Groundhog Day, though the tradition goes back to the 19th century). Targ is accompanied by Burt and the Tom Frame droid (lettering on this story is by Tony Jacob). The Dictators of Zrag are also on planet to use the Nightmare Inducer on TMO. Their first blast (through the TV) manages to knock out the Betelgeusian and while the unconscious Tharg is being taken to hospital they give him a bigger blast while disguised as a TV crew reporting on the incident. From there the story slips into familiar ‘if you die in the nightmare you die for real’ territory – more next prog.
Tharg’s Future-Shocks: Diversion by Kelvin Gosnell and Colin Wilson. If you’re not going to draft in Ian Kennedy to draw your military aircraft then you can do worse than get Colin Wilson on the job. A space shuttle sights four flying saucers whilst in Earth orbit. They give chase and discover that the alien spaceships are at work on something on the far side of the moon – that something is a huge picture of the Earth with a cross and arrows pointing away. The mission commander makes a bit of a leap of logic to determine that alien races have been driven away from making any future contact with Earth due to the use of nuclear power in the hands of an inexperienced race (my first thought, perhaps influenced by Hitchhikers) was that the Earth has been targeted for demolition)…
Ro-Jaws Book Review brings us Free Stuff for Kids (never heard of it, but the link is the 15th edition, so it obviously sold well throughout the 1980s and 1990s).
Judge Dredd: The Mega-Rackets Crime File: 8 Mob Wars from T.B. Grover and Ron Smith. These aren’t any old mob wars – these are mob wars conducted by aliens with electric powers. After a flash-forward splash page (hiss, boo), we’re introduced to the Mophioso who exist only on electric energy, needing recharge packs and, in Mega-City One, required to wear insulating clothing. They have come to take over the Mega-City rackets and arrange a meeting through a local up-and-coming perp runner to put their business proposal to many of the mobsters we’ve met in previous weeks. They give the perp runner short shrift though the following day a number of mobsters are found dead, electrocuted. A blitz mob is sent to the Mophio Trading Co offices but the electrifying aliens make short work of them. Dredd has stated that judges shouldn’t let hoods do their work for them, though he’s perfectly happy for the mophioso and mobsters to fight it out for a while… By the way, the alien race mophioso will be a play on the title of 1863 theatrical play ‘I mafiusi di la Vicaria’ by Giuseppe Rizzotto which is the earliest derivation of the words ‘mafia’ and ‘mafioso’. As a matter of interest, the internal name for the mafia is ‘Cosa Nostra’.
The Mean Arena by Tom Tully and Steve Dillon. Tallon is buried under rubble and surrounded by the remaining Jensens. The vidi-bee (as we later find out it’s called) is still hovering above when Jarl takes the seat of a dozmobile (bulldozer) to crush Tallon. The Shadow of the Slayers still has one trick left though, activating a limpet mine, blinding Jarl and sending him towards Hazell and whatever the other female Jensen is called. Tallon manages to get free of the rubble and recovers at about the same time Jarl Jensen does – though the last remaining Jensen (there was another, Zip, but he seems to have been forgotten about) gets attacked by one of the trainer-droids. Al of the Jensen’s vanquished, Tallon’s helmet mike crackles back in to life and we find out that Local Annie did indeed hang around – though we also find out that the vidi-bee is accompanied by a reporter, Sheena Lloyd. I can’t remember if she’s on Tallon’s side, a neutral reporter or an agent of the syndicate who led to Paul’s death. Regardless, we’re now meant to feel concerned that Tallon will be put away for life as the police turn up (wearing riot gear complete with the UK police insignia). The reason I’m not concerned is because Tallon was acting in self-defence against a gang who had murdered the arms dealer on the way to the stadium – plus it’s all caught on vid.
In Alan Hebden and Belardinelli’s Meltdown Man the super-yujees swarm down from the hills around the pirate town. The rhino-yujee in Stone’s party tackles his brother, standing sole guard on the pirate ship – though the two go overboard. Liana tells Stone that rhino-yujees can’t swim (a bit strange as rhinos can swim and other yujees can swim) – goodbye horn-nose and forever-unnamed good rhino. Stone frees Gruff, Gruff demands that his fellow oar-slaves, the predator minks should be freed too, pleasing Stone. As the ship is taken the super-yujees kill the yujee pirates and put the settlement to the torch. Stone joins in with the former slaves to row the ship out of danger. Once at sea, Billy pledges loyalty to Stone and the yujees while T-Bone and Gruff take Stone down to the hold to see an ancient artifact from a coast called California. What is a nuclear armed warhead? With the arrival of both the super-yujees and a Cruise missile, this series is heading in to its final phase. It’s been a while since I last read the whole series, but in general I think the pre-super-yujee story is better – but that’s not to say there aren’t a few more good moments in the episodes to come.
The inside back cover has another advert for Shoot summer special but the big news is below that. Coming soon to a newsagent near you are the 2000AD and Judge Dredd annuals 1982. I’ll cover them once Tharg switches from ‘coming soon’ to ‘in newsagents now’.
Grailpage: Kevin O’Neill’s cover has it all – the first cover depiction of a warlock, Brother Behell, the blitzspear and best of all – illuminated borders!
Grailquote: Alan Hebden, minks: “Please… free us as well!” Gruff: “I agree! They should be freed.” Liana: “But… they’re minks!” Gruff: “As far as I’m concerned, they’re fellow slaves! They can’t help being minks!” Stone: “Seems like I’m hearing sense for the first time. Free the minks, but keep ’em quiet!” Liana: “I… I…”