2000AD Prog 246: “Your bids, please, for these fine young humans!”

Nemesis is back, and so is Redondo on this cover (though you’d be forgiven for not recognising it is a Nemesis cover, if it wasn’t for the logo).

Tharg reveals in a response to an earthlet’s letter in the Nerve Centre that bicycles were banned in Mega-City One as the lobbies of the city-blocks were becoming choked with them – no wonder pollution is such a problem in Dredd’s world. Another earthlet reveals they cut out the headshot of Nemesis from Prog 238 to make a badge – now I have to check whether I mentioned I have a badge with that image on it (an official badge, not cut out from a comic cover).

Ace Trucking Co. Lugjack Part 3 by Grant/Grover and Belardinelli. My general memory of Ace was that the character was only ever interested in getting-rich-quick, but a few times now he’s stood by his crewmates, making it clear that nobody will ever get left behind. Another positive character trait is that he’s always trying to look on the bright side, never letting the (constant) set-backs get him down. Which comes in handy when he’s trapped in a rubbish pod cast in to the void of space with little to no help of rescue. They get discovered, though by vulture-like creatures which can fly in space. Things don’t look good for Ace and crew – though are much better for Belardinelli and the reader, who get treated to the Skavys and their nest on-planet. As an aside, we find out about all we’re ever going to get of G-B-H’s backstory. He was exiled from his tribe, the Sha’ka’kan nomads. The penalty for this was to place himself in suspended animation. Ace found him in that state and (with no small amount of effort) managed to wake him up. That’s it – we’re not going to get any more of an origin story than that.

The Mean Arena by Tom Tully and Mike White. I like this episode – we get a little world-building as a bunch of fresh recruits are put through a shock treatment introduction to the Slayers to weed out those not resilient enough to cope with life as a street footballer. There follows a draw for the first round of cup matches, which lets a few reader’s submissions get an airing (if you remember, most teams in this strip have been suggested by readers, even some of the major teams that Matt and the Slayers will come up against). Finally we’re told that the Slayers are relocating to Reading – but I’m not sure how relevant that actually is – it’s presented like it’s really important though.

Tharg’s Future-Shocks: Twist Ending by Alan Moore and Paul Neary. We’re close to half-way through Neary’s art career for 2000AD (though he’ll have a much larger career away from 2000AD, and be back as a writer for Crisis and Revolver in a decade’s time). I didn’t think I remembered this one, but I’m pretty sure (after two pages) that I know how it ends. A journalist has ‘interviewed’ a sci-fi writer in an attempt to find out the answer to that age-old question asked of writers since time immemorial 6 July 1189): “where do you get your ideas”? Thinking there’s a clue in one of the short stories, the journalist tries to rip off the face mask of the writer, thinking they’re actually an alien – but it turns out there is no mask and he’s just human (and now injured). If I remember correctly there is an alien, but – twist – it’s the typewriter! Let’s turn the page… Yep.

It’s been a while since I saw Cam Kennedy’s work – looks like he’s been working for Battle, if a half-page advert is anything to go by.

Speaking of art – Alien Watch next, and more reader-submitted content with five aliens, only two of which look strongly like they were traced from elsewhere. p.s. I don’t know who came up with the names of the aliens shown, but the Trigan Para-Freak is timely with the 2020 release of The Trigan Empire. p.p.s. one pic is by a Stephen Pugh of Birmingham, which seems to match up with Steve Pugh who will provide a slew of work for Tharg from 1990 onwards (as well as work on the other side of the Atlantic).

Judge Dredd: Apocalypse War Part Two by T.B. Grover and Carlos Ezquerra. The hostilities start in earnest as the missiles approach the city wall. As with Pirates of the Black Atlantic, we get a stark description of the effects of a nuclear blast in a populated area, though this time it’s all in one landscape panel, instead of three or four portrait panels. Meanwhile, the retaliation begins – and four sektors of East-Meg One are destroyed. As far as the ruling Diktatoriat are concerned, this is merely draining Mega-City One’s strength. A conference call to the Chief Judges of Mega-City Two and Texas City reveal there is no loyalty between the North American mega-cities. After Phase One (Block Mania), the missile attack on MC1 was phase two of Operation Apocalypse. Phase three begins next prog!

2000AD has made the digital edition of the Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files Vol.5 free for download, to help Squaxx get through self-imposed isolation as a result of Covid-19.

Nemesis the Warlock Book 2 by Pat Mills and Jesus Redondo. This book starts with a prologue, and the return of the old storyteller from Olric’s Great Quest. Mills reveals his research by telling of how the young Torquemada joined a Children’s Crusade. In the real world there were a number of crusades around the 13th century made up of children. Like this story, the legend goes that the children did not make it to their intended destination, instead being sold in to slavery. It’s unclear whether the real children’s crusaders did end up in slavery, though it is clear that they didn’t end up in the holy lands. Slavery can’t keep Torquemada down for long though (well, five years) and after a well-crafted encounter with a manticore by Redondo (looking much more dynamic than any manticore I’ve seen in numerous fantasy roleplaying books I’ve seen down the years) Torque makes it back to Termight to take his vengeance on the ship’s captain who sold him in to slavery in the first place. The old story-teller comments that the most cruel human of all time is finally dead. Next prog: Torquemada rising!

Rogue Trooper by Gerry Finley-Day and Colin Wilson. This one’s set in Nu Hamelin, though I don’t think the location is that relevant. When the Norts deserted the town they hooked up all of the traps in the settlement to the city’s computer, with the instruction to kill Southers. Rogue finds this out too late and is trapped in the Komputer Building. Fortunately there’s a P.U. (peripheral unit) in the wall next to him, which has slots for chips – and all chips on Nu-Earth seem to be compatible, even though some are Souther bio-chips and others are Nort computers. Helm and Bagman are fed in so that Gunnar can help Rogue hold back whatever it is that he’s firing at and the two bio-chips gain life-like bodies in the ‘computer dimension’ as they attempt to reach the computer’s C.P.U. This is an early attempt at a virtual world cyber-punk story. It should be noted that both Bladerunner and William Gibson’s Burning Chrome were released in the same year as this prog.

Tharg presents a Nerve Centre Extra containing another reader-submitted quiz, this one to match weapons to characters, 20 of them. None are particularly challenging, though one or two of the more generic ones you have to assign by process of elimination (brain, double-bladed axe, club, teeth and claws).

On the back page are Judge Dredd’s legs and the last six months of the year on Brian Bolland’s calendar, along with a few 2000AD special occasions (Prog 250, 5th birthday (not in February), Tharg’s birthday (21st June?) and the annuals go on sale (26th of August – shall have to make a note so I do the blog posts at the proper time).

Grailpage: this was tough – none of the pages stood out so much that I was tempted to pick more than one page, but there was a high standard of art throughout the prog. I’ve ended up picking the G-B-H flashback, simply because it’s the only origin story we’ll get for the Sha’ka’kan warrior (plus Feek comes up with a radio made from a baked boonz tin – which I didn’t mention up above).

Grailquote: for sheer lyrically opaque language which would give Grobbendonk a run for his money (though Grobbendonk does’t have legs, so is that a slither?) I’ll pick Grant/Grover, Ace Garp: “Breaker, breaker! This here’s Ace Garp in the Speeo G niffskiff, sector vectors unknown! I’ throwin’ ya the big ten-zero! This is no flan, good buddies! Hit our twenty quick or we’re really in the niff!” This is how Ace speaks most of the time – when you’re out of practice you have to really read it carefully to make out what he’s actually going on about.

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