2000AD Prog 265: Free Bubblicious juicy soft bubble gum Great new cola flavour!

At this point I think the only comic strip work that art editor Robin Smith has done was a few Captain Klep episodes, though as art editor it’s often your job to step in at the last moment to fill in gaps, and I suspect that’s what’s happened with this generic Dredd cover (fairly generic – though the city is in flames behind the judge). The cover line refers to a promotional pack of bubble gum, which has resulted in a small tear and hole in the cover of my copy of this prog.

The inside of the front cover hasn’t fared much better as Tharg’s note in the Nerve Centre is unreadable to over-saturation of black ink on the paper. Using an online emulator I typed out the very simple computer program one BASIC user sent in (which is exactly the same as every “Hello World” program you’ll see in a BASIC manual, but with one subtle difference). The program was as follows:
10 PRINT “Tharg is Mighty”
20 GOTO 10

Sam Slade, Robo-Hunter: The Beast of Blackheart Manor Part 6 by Alan Grant and Ian Gibson. After weeks of set-up this all ends pretty quickly. Talbot is called away while trying to ‘disappear’ Slade when Cook discovers that Hoagy wasn’t actually dead, merely temporarily deactivated. Hoagy finds his way through the secret passages of the manor as Sam is unsuccessfully trying to discover said passages. Following the passages, Slade finds the robo-butler and chef chopping up one of the disappeared guests and in one final page there’s a rather wordy explanation that the estate needed the extra revenue to keep afloat, that they guests were being fed to the Krokilla in the mutari park (not in the pies then) and that an eerie wail which preceded the disappearances was an old air-raid siren used to summon the Krokilla. So, all those pies were just there to trick us in to thinking we had a Sweeney Todd situation going on. Or my theory, after the trouble 2000AD almost got in to regarding the human-eating Bubo and the Bad Boys they might have shied away from having Slade become an unwitting cannibal.

Tharg’s Future-Shocks: Return of the Thing! by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. The most notable thing about this two-page shock from the team who would go on to create Watchmen is that the team would go on to create Watchmen. A spaceship lands outside a futuristic suburban dome-house. The self-described housewife within is afraid as she isn’t ready yet, before huddling next to an array of buttons on the wall as a multi-eyed, pincered monstrous shadowy figure bursts in to the house. Turns out that the silicon-based alien life-form is her husband and, thanks to a hi-speed thermonuclear pressure cooker, she’s managed to get his dinner ready at short notice. Moore likes his last-panel advert reveals…

Rogue Trooper by Gerry Finley-Day and Cam Kennedy. Yes! Cam’s back in the prog, and making his debut on Rogue Trooper! As I’ve mentioned previously, Cam – along with Brett Ewins – was one of the regular Rogue artists when I first started reading 2000AD, so it hasn’t felt quite right until now, when both are about to become the regular art droids. Another debut is the first appearances of two new characters – Mr Bland and Mr Brass, two Nu Earth professional looters who scour the battlefields (after the battles have departed) and take what undamaged or easily repairable equipment remains. This latest battlefield isn’t quite deserted though, as Rogue lies beneath the surface, awaiting the arrival of some Nort hoppers. They do the typical war story non-combatant gag of waving one flag when troops of one faction is around the other other flag when the other are around – and the standard mistake of waving the wrong flag at the wrong time. But Rogue and the chips are wandering Nu Earth in search of revenge, so leave them alone. But the damage is done – Bland and Brass have seen him with their own eyes, and now know that he is not merely a legend. Gunnar’s rifle is worth an estimated 10,000 Nu Creds (in comparison, a slightly damaged Souther scout car was worth around 2000). Oh, and the cockpit of Bland and Brass’s craft looks a lot like the Eagle from Space 1999…

Judge Dredd: Apocalypse War Part 21 by T.B. Grover and Carlos Ezquerra. Dredd’s hijacked Strato-V fires a Twister at a concealed missile silo, the diamond/titanium head drilling through the rockrete shields of the bunker before stopping – without exploding – inside the installation. A Sov bomb disposal team is dispatched to disarm it while Dredd’s squad (who have used anti-grav chutes to escape the Strato-V before it was blown from the sky by other Strato-Vs) use the intense heat from lasers to melt a glass tunnel through the sand. Speaking of intense heat, as one of the judges remarks while sharing a diagram of the tunnel with Dredd, it’s “Hot work”. So hot that the judges have to remove their tops in order to work at the front of the tunnel, where the sand is turning to glass. This includes a back view of Judge Anderson, which I gather has stuck in the minds of many readers of the time… The bomb disposal squad discover that the warhead was never intended to detonate at the exact moment that Dredd appears at the end of the Twister tunnel… You know this story’s heading to its conclusion soon, though there’s a few more twists and turns (not of the missile variety).

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

In Ace Trucking Co. Last Lug to Abbo Dabbo Part 6 by Grant Grover and Belardinelli Plack concludes his story. Now the only sane person on the pirate ship, he shoved the pirates out into the freezing vacuum of space and started taking revenge on all of the truckers of the Lugster’s Union – all 80,000 of them. He’s been doing this by luring them aboard with the treasures and feeding them Heeble in the food, then locking them in plasteen cubes (looks like it’s a form of suspended animation akin to Anderson when she was encased in Boing® for a year. Plack cubes up Ace, G-B-H, Chief (the pig-rat) and Feek, but Ghost’s scrubbots manage to get Ace’s cube out of the Bloo Maru and Speedo Ghost-wards.

The Mean Arena by A Ridgeway and Mike White has Tallon accuse the Ants of being in league with the Hexa gang (I won’t call them the Hexa-Six as the number will be diminishing further). This results in a full-on fight between the Ants and the Slayers with the first moves towards aggression being made by the Ants, meaning the Slayers are in the clear as “it was them started it”. The following day their sponsor Rollo Hartie gives them an ultimatum – a challenge-match against a mysterious competitor. Less mysterious is Wolf Rawker, who looks very slightly like Tom Jones in a shiny skintight catsuit as he jumps out of a fourth-storey window and does a (non-crouching) superhero landing on the ground.

The Nerve Centre Extra has yet another reader’s letter positing that the Apocalypse War is the tragedy which Feyy foretold, though this one goes further and suggests that Dredd should sentence himself to death.

On the back page are four pieces of reader’s art which the colouring droid has been hard at work on, in Danger:UAB (UAB standing for Undesirable Alien Beings).

Grailpage: Carlos wins again as the centrespread shows a less common frontal view of a Strato-V, a cutaway of part of the missile silo and the pool in the recreation level (as the twister splashing in to it).

Grailquote: Grant Grover, Ghost: “Get him aboard! I don’t know what I’m going to do with him – but get the joob aboard!”

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