2000AD Sci-Fi Special 1982

A fully painted Ian Gibson cover here – I don’t remember us seeing his painted work before. There’s a hint of the animation that his shoulder eagle will have, but maybe I’m projecting my hopes on to the item of armour. p.s. Dredd seems to have abandoned his Lawmaster here, opting instead to leap in to the void.

Cosmic Contents gives us an intro by Tharg and a few frames bodged from various sources, including one of the reprint stories! This was one of the later additions to my collection, though that means I’ve had it for a little over a quarter of a century instead of more than three decades. It still seems that little bit newer to me than many of the other specials and annuals though.

Judge Dredd: The Tower of Babbil. by T B Grover and Casanovas. I’d completely forgotten that Jose had ever drawn a Dredd strip. I thought the closest he ever got was appearances from the lawman in Max Normal stories. This story has everything you could expect from a one-off Dredd. A glimpse of life as a normal mega-citizen. (Normal for Mega-City One). That eccentric mega-citizen over-reacting at a setback in life and turning to crime out of frustration. A victim of crime who then gets punished by Dredd. A firefight involving robots. Dredd arresting other perps as he passes them (in this case as he falls from a great height). A pun at the end. Things I noticed was a reappearance of the Police in Mega-City One – this story takes place after Pirates of the Black Atlantic but before The Apocalypse War, continuity-fans.

Judge Dredd Chainword. Someone really liked their chainwords – I guess they’re a bit like crosswords to create, but without having to make sure all the different words fit together (you just have to have one word begin with the same letter as the previous word ended). 24 questions, I’m certain I got 24 correct, but thought it was so easy I didn’t flip to page 63 to check the answers. Sample questions: Leaders of the Dark Judges (5) and Mutated Cursed Earth assassins (4-5).

Their Mission was Murder! This is a collection of five pieces of reader’s art on the theme of the Dark Judges. No names that jump out at me, though that panel from Judge Death Lives is represented.

Dragonslayer – A 2000 AD Photo-feature. Full-colour, five pictures and a brief run-down of the plot. What more could you want from a feature on a fantasy film? The photos are surprisingly good quality for the time as well – they contrasts strongly with the print quality of the weekly!

Rogue Trooper: Mill-Way Sixty-Six! by Gerry Finley-Day and Eric Bradbury. Carrying on the Americana themes from the usual Nu-Earth stories, this one is a riff on Route Sixty-Six (though that’s about as far as it goes). The route of the title is a camouflaged tunnel tellingly fitted with microprocessors (“like you” in reference to the bio-chips) to aid the train computers. I’ve only read the first three panels but felt I had to point out how subtle it was that those microprocessors were like the bio-chips. So far the chips have been shoved in to escape shuttles to stop burning up on re-entry and inserted into city computers. I wonder if there’s any chance that Helm, Gunnar or Bagman will end up acting as a cat’s eye in the railroad? Yep. Not even inserted anywhere – just placed on the ground for a Nort half-track to follow into a ravine as they tried to capture a train containing a plague vaccine. The most interesting thing to me is when Rogue (and Gunnar and Bagman) run out of ammo., which leads to the bio-chip trickery. The driver of the train sneaks some ammo and supplies to the genetic infantryman in gratitude. I think this is the first acknowledgement that Rogue doesn’t have a limitless supply of ammunition…

You Are a Mean Arena Player! 2000 AD Quiz Special! Alongise the seven multiple choice questions is the Brian Bolland pic of Tallon from the cover of Prog 248 (which looks so different in black and white that I thought it was an entirely new picture for a moment). Out of a potential total of 35 (0, 2 or 5 points per question) I got 24 points (in the top rank “Well hello, superstar!”.

Another annual or special, another feature on the Space Shuttle in Shuttle – The Future! This is more accurate than some of the future-gazing we’ve seen as it focuses on the cargoes that were ferried in to space. It’s not perfect (pretty sure we don’t mine passing asteroids), but the shuttle was involved with putting satellites in orbit and constructing the space station.

M.A.C.H.1: To Kill the President, reprinted from Prog 4 and given credits to Pat Mills and Enio this time around. I kind of skipped over this last time I wrote about it, so a little more detail. Little did I know that this features a recurring villain (the villain only recurs once, so it’s easy to miss). Probe’s mission is to prevent an invasion of a neighbouring country by the Suadi Arabia / Iran analogue. Rather than get past the countless troops by fighting or sneaking, he instead declares his intention to kill the president of the country at customs. This works, and he’s soon introduced to Colonel Krall, chief of secret police. Word gets to the president and Probe is then taken direct to the presidential palace. He breaks the chains he’s in, kills the president but gets shot by Krall. Having enough energy (sorry, hyper-power) to crash into Krall, he defenestrates the pair of them (when am I going to get the chance to use that word again – I imagine when Nikolai Dante comes along). Crashing to the ground, Probe’s computer predicts that Krall has a 2% survival chance. In Probe’s thoughts “I ain’t got time to check that 2%. But Colonel Krall must be dead.” Wanna bet? Editor’s note – we’re told not to copy what MACH 1 has done. Which bit? Declaring an intention to kill the president when entering a foreign country? Breaking through half-inch thick strengthened steel chains?

The middle pages and time for some filler with Get the Dog-Droid! A Sam Slade Robo Hunter Game. Lifting its art from the Day of the Droids storyline, it isn’t even in colour. It’s a re-themed Snakes and Ladders.

The next six pages are given over to Judge Dredd in the Daily Star (what we’d generally call The Daily Dredd these days). I won’t cover these in this blog post as I want to cover them separately. Hopefully tomorrow if I can find my copy of the complete Daily Dredds Volume One. Longer if I can’t. I will say one thing though – in one of the stories Dredd is called to deal with a futsie in Stan Ogden Block. I can’t get my hands on The more recent Daily Dredds collection, but I did check The Judge Dredd Collection – the first time they were collected in one place (though incomplete) – it’s been changed to George Orwell Block…

Black Hawk: The Longest Walk by Staccato and Joe Staton. The Vile is the local challenger against the Entertainers’ Select, which in this case is Blackhawk, Beezelbub (the crustacean who Blackhawk was friends with in the text story in the most recent annual) and Snood. I don’t recognise Snood – he looks like a tall version of Zog. Snood doesn’t last long, and Beezelbub does not exactly fight bravely (though does fight, and does survive, just – thanks to the Mending Vats).

Pursuit Across the Cursed Earth! by Bill Henry and Brett Ewins. The text stories favour leaving the Mega-City and heading into the Cursed Earth – I wonder if this one will feature a familiar character? It starts off with somebody whose name is “not quite Peter”, makes it look like a hint… Judge Golightly – is this the second black judge with a speaking role? Nah, that’s probably Council of Five member Quimby. After three pages, this story gets interrupted by the next two-page feature but then continues for another three pages. So, this story is a bit weird in that it takes place after the war currently raging in the pages of the weekly. The two judges are pursuing ‘Peter’ through the Cursed Earth, but their quarry gets caught by one of two local gangs. Once the leader of one of the gangs becomes aware that there’s something about him of interest to the judges, the mutant leader questions the amnesiac ‘Peter’ but finds nothing. Seeing the person of interest as a way to get in to the camp of the other gang – led by a fugitive doctor from the Meg (who has amassed a bunch of 22nd century technology in the largely low-tech Cursed Earth). Turns out that Peter is actually Piotr, a Sov-Blok sleeper agent with a mini-nuke implanted in his head – and the scanner which detected it has also primed it! The judges encounter Piotr after some inter-gang fighting (and scarpering, once the doctor found out there was a primed bomb in the vicinity). Rather cruelly, Judge Golightly tells Piotr all about being a sleeper agent and having a bomb in his head, before leaving him to die (the judges are aright, they’ve got their Lawmasters and can get out of the blast radius). They could have lied to him, because he thought he was just a normal mega-citizen, told him to wait for aid, then left him to blow up five minutes later. Instead they told him he was actually a spy and was going to blow up and there was nothing he could do about it. These judges, eh?

As for the thing that interrupted that text story? Ro-Jaws’ Technicolour Book Review covers (in rating order) on 9 out of 10: Terror! by Peter Haining (a history of pulp horror illustrations – and I’ sure I’ve seen one of the beastly pictures on the cover in the progs recently). Edit: while looking back through this special to decide on a grail page (and after having looked through about five recent progs for that picture), I found it – The Vile from this special’s Blackhawk story is ripped off directly from it! The New solar System (compiled by a team of scientists and encapsulating everything that has been discovered about the solar system from the previous 40 years). The Judge Dredd Annual 1983 (I don’t need to say anything more than this is a plug for the forthcoming annual – out in August – though Ro-Jaws says he doesn’t normally have anything good to say about Old Green Bonce – but didn’t he give last year’s JD annual a good rating as well, back in the 1981 Sci-Fi Special?) The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander gets 8 out of 10 (and seems to be easier to get as a collected edition as part of The Prydain Chronicles these days). Alternative 3 by Leslie Watkins gets 7 out of 10 (not an anthology, as I’d assumed, but a sci-fi novel – the cover looks more like an anthology than a novel as well as the name being a bit non-descript). At the bottom of the pile, with a still not-unrespectable 6 out of 10 is Crisis on Conshelf Ten by Monica Hughes (paraphrasing, fairly well-written, passable, tolerable).

Reprint time, and it’s the Invasion! story from Programme 7. It’s the one where Savage traps a Field Marshal on a level crossing so that he gets killed by an Express train carrying Volgan troops (which then derails). It has a superfluous traitor who we only meet when he’s actually confessed – and whom Savage wouldn’t have known about at all if Volg state-run media hadn’t told them about a tip-off in the first place. First time this was run it wouldn’t have had credits – this time we find out Pat Mills wrote it, Sarempas drew it and ‘Aldrich Mk 1’ did the lettering – this is a nice touch, it’s before the Aldrich droid developed faults and was replaced by Aldrich Mk II.

Ace Trucking Co. by Grant Grover and Belardinelli. I have no idea if this gets collected with the bulk of Ace stories in the two or three collections this century, but it reads like a normal stand-alone episode from the weekly as Ace and company encounter a bamfeezler – an inhabitant of Planet Dianetik (reference to sci-fi scam Scientology?) who tries to hypnotise the crew, getting as far as G-B-H and Ace Garp. G-B-H’s hair stands on end while he’s hypnotised and gets sent off to kill Feek. Feek is a bit limber but in the subsequent chase a box falls on G-B-H’s head, snapping him out of the trance and allowing him to confront the bamfeezler (which is basically a head on legs with hypno-eyes) – at the moment the hypnotist tries to re-hypnotise the biffo, Feek emerges from his hair, holding a mirror and reflecting the hypno-rays back. I was going to have the closing words as the grailquote, wrote them out and everything but then decided to go for something else. As it’s as easy to copy and paste as to delete what I transcribed, here they are. G-B-H: “Supposed I’d better wake the bamfeezler and get him to bring Ace round – ” Ghost: “Wait! Don’t be too hasty! Let him and the bamfeezler go on sleeping! It’s the only way to guarantee this trip without any more trouble!” This is one of the better stories we’ve had in 2000AD specials or annuals.

On the back cover are home-made (or adapted) models sent to the Nerve Centre by readers. One sent in a Judge Dredd and some Thrill-Suckers while another sent in a scratch-built Lawmaster.

Grailpage: Casanovas’ page where Dredd gets knocked over the edge of the construction site, along with his Lawmaster and while falling to his potential death still tries to arrest two perps and then shoots them when they resist. All whilst falling.

Grailquote: Grant/Grover, G-B-H: “The game’s up, you little crook! Your influence wore off!” Bamfeezler: “Oh yeah? Well, I’ll just have to wear it right back on again!”

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