2000AD Prog 261: “AAAAAH!” The Beast of Blackheart Manor strikes

Two progs after the last one, Sam Slade gets another cover (and wasn’t that first one the same as a previous star scan, or am I mixing up images?) Following on from the ads for a free packet of KP Griddes with New Eagle and another IPC title, 2000AD ‘s in on the act as well.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre packs a lot of info in. Details about claiming a few pack of crisps (or whatever Griddles are/were) but more relevant to me – the new Sci-Fi Special is out now – the exact week I was expecting it based on the previous year’s release. So the next blog post will be the 1982 Special, then on to the next prog the day after that. Forbidden Planet are upping there what-will-be-Titan range with four Judge Dredd T-shirts (a Bolland Dredd on a chair reading a lawbook, McMahon’s Cursed Earth cover, the words “I am the Law, I am Judge Dredd” and the “Stare Into the Face of Death” as worn by Nik Fiend from Alien Sex Fiend (though not quite the design advertised here)).

Sam Slade, Robo-Hunter: The Beast of Blackheart Manor by Alan Grant and Ian Gibson. Robo-Hunter seems to borrow a few concepts from Judge Dredd without actually being linked – the name ‘Brit-Cit’, ‘Mega-City One’ (though not judges) and now ‘Weather Control’. Night-time and under cover of lightning (a distortion caused by Weather Control) the beast strikes leading to a guest going missing. After another reminder that Talbot works on delicious pies, Slade gives chase but is stopped by a shoot-out with the Brit-Cit robo-police, or cop-bots or whatever they got called last prog (not robo-cops though).

Rogue Trooper by Gerry Finley-Day and Brett Ewins. The fight with the local Norts continues, and Bagman’s still taking an inventory of all his contents. Next time Gunnar needs to be reloaded, the clips can’t be found as the ground around Bagman is like a junk shop, so Rogue picks up the backpack and clubs the Nort with it (a bit like how Helm got used as a shield punch in the last story). The impact seems to do the trick and Bagman is back in the room – though doesn’t get a very welcoming reception from his biochip buddies, which I think is a little unfair – it’s not like they’d be impervious if they got hit by a laser bolt. Bagman hasn’t quite taken an inventory of everything yet – there’s still a sequence of micro-mines left to share with the Norts… There’s a hint that Bagman is not unchanged by the experience and may be prone to future lapses, though I can’t remember if it ever happens.

Over the page are a couple of half-page ads – one for the 2000AD Sci-Fi Special 1982 (which I’ll cover tomorrow) and another for Whizzer and Chips – which is one of the comics I’d actually have been reading when this prog was first published.

Facing those ads is a competition to win The Cursed Earth Part II, published by Titan Books (previous ads for these reprint albums have had the publisher as Forbidden Planet, so this may well be the first ever use of the name Titan Books in print). The blurb for the reprint points out that it doesn’t include chapters 11-12 or 17-18 (Burger Wars and Jolly Green Giant).

Judge Dredd: Apocalypse War Part 14 by T.B. Grover and Carlos Ezquerra. I meant to keep track. Perhaps next time I read through the progs, or just the Dredd stories, I’ll keep tally. How many times has Dredd quit? How many times has he faked his own death? (sorry, spoiler). Dredd sneaks in to the Grand Hall of Justice via the Hall of Heroes (as he did in Cal’s reign) and takes the uniform of Judge Gogol. The long and the short of it is that he very publicly accuses Chief Judge Griffin of being a traitor, which allows a small vestige of the true Griffin to surface to declare that he deserves to die. Dredd obliges. Then turns the gun on himself…

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

Ace Trucking Co. Last Lug to Abbo Dabbo Part 2 by Grant Grover and Belardinelli. Ace and G-B-H are swimming in treasure and call Feek over to get the Bloo Maru’s engines running. Everything goes swimmingly, so it’s about time for a few problems to emerge. The first is that thirty-nine holds are stuffed full of treasure but the fortieth cannot be opened. The second is that the ship’s computer has no trace of any crew records. The third is appearance of an odd-shoe wearing (space) sailor. Finally, Ghost notes that the Bloo Maru is heading on the opposite course to where they were supposed to be going. This is another of those things where I didn’t get the cultural reference and it would be years until I found out it even was a reference. The crewman recites and parodies the first ine of Felicia Dorothea Hemans’ Casabianca (this is a much-parodied poem). There’s also a much closer recitation of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner (or lugjoack). Oh, and Feek makes the acquaintance of what we’ll call Chief (of the Pigrats).

The Mean Arena by Alan Ridgeway and Mike White. Brazen and Crazy Lil fight it out for fifteen minutes before their tussle is declared a draw and it’s decided that Brazen can join the Slayers. On the lookout for a female would-be murderer, Tallon is wary of her. At the next game we get the owner of a villainous hand watching the match on a screen, gleeful that Tallon is being lead towards a cemetery…

The latest installment of Dave Gibbons’ Total War poster has Norts and Southers in melee combat and their tanks in the background. The text reveals a few things we won’t be seeing spelled out in the series – the war (may have) begun when rival exploration companies quarreled over which discovered a certain planet first. Also, the Norts have better machines and weapons.

Grailpage: gotta love Brett Ewins’ splash page for Rogue Trooper, showing Bagman’s inventory laid out on the ground!

Grailquote: T B Grover, Sov-Judge: “You fool, Dredd! You can’t hope to escape!” Judge Dredd: “I didn’t expect to, creep! But you won’t use me the same way you used Griffin – ” Next prog: …? Not the first, or last, time we’ll get a Dredd is dead storyline, but still one of the most effective.

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