2000AD Prog 273: The League of Fatties! “Wheel!”

Ron Smith draws a classic cover for a classic story. This is also another of those progs I got at an early stage, but didn’t have the surrounding progs to add context to the stories within.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre has a letter from a reader who noticed on a re-read that the postergraph that opened the Apocalypse War in Prog 245 contained a clue to Dredd’s faked death in Prog 262. Another reader questions the propaganda we’ve received about the Southers = good and the Norts = bad. Tharg encourages this questioning attitude by declaring that “war itself is hell”.

Speaking of Rogue, he’s taken the first spot in the comic as Brett Ewins takes the reigns from Cam Kennedy for Rogue Trooper: All Hell on the Dix-I Front part eight written by Gerry Finley-Day. Under Brett’s pen, Sister Sledge’s chem-suit has gotten a lot tighter since Colin Wilson’s episodes, as Rogue and Sledge head to the Ozark mountain range. Being above the chem-line, Sledge can once again remover her helmet, though only after they get attacked by a group of pacifists who tell them that no weapons are allowed here (as they hit Helm with a stick, which is kind of like a weapon). Up above the chem-clouds (and leaving the biochips and their equipment behind) Rogue gets food and rest for Sledge in Freedom – a refuge from the war and its effects. Sledge has a quick change of clothes into something more revealing – I mean more comfortable. The next morning the Norts have arrived in Freedom, removing their masks and killing the leader in their search for a blue man. Rogue prepares to give himself up to prevent further deaths…

The last of the comic strip adverts for the film The Secret of Nimh appears. The blurb underneath all these ads has made a big deal of how the film is full-colour – like there’s any children’s films for the twenty years preceding this one which weren’t in colour?

Trouble on Tree-World, An Agent Rat Adventure by Steve Moore and Alan Langford. Alan had a long career for 2000AD, five years, though only about one or two episodes a year – when not drawing comic strips in 2000AD he was illustrating Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, some of which I had at the time they were in their heyday and (I think) all of his I now have. He doesn’t have the same fan-favourite style we’re used to in the regular 2000AD artists, but as a professional illustrator there are some panels that shine – including the first in which Agent Rat’s ship lands on Tryon (the Tree-World of the title). Just imagine the Imperial Landing Platform from Endor, though hefty enough to have a city under it. For a long time this story was my only glimpse of Agent Rat (and this two-part story is only the second of two appearances) and I still think it’s a bit of a shame we didn’t see more of him. I guess he didn’t go down as well as Abelard Snazz and Joe Black had. Rattus R Rattus is on the trail of two fugitives. In a re-run of what happend that time Johnny Alpha went to a planet and the local (female) law enforcement officer ended up tagging along, Liaison Officette Loretta Pazz joins him as they leave the enclave to go by foot along walkways to the Ewok-village like nearby settlement. All Rattus has to go on is that there are two fugitives, one a male with scars on both cheeks (which is a local custom, so all the males have scars on both cheeks). Loretta heads off to a Bachanalian (women-only) festival to see if she can find the female fugivite, but just after she leaves Agent Rat gets hit on the head and pushed off the walkway, just catching a glimpse of blond hair as he heads down. Luckily the agent’s reactions are fast enough that he can grab hold of a branch before hitting the forest floor where lurk Scallywags – large reptiles along the lines of alligators and dinosaurs. Climbing back up to the village, Loretta brings worse news – the forest between villages is on fire.

The Mean Arena by A Ridgway and Mike White. Through sheer fluke, Tallon avoids being killed by the longstop before heading underground to try to find the Vampire’s goal-yard. Possibly getting tricked by Mother Vlad’s psychic and/or microwave messages, Tallon is sealed off by a rock-fall and sees or hallucinates a spiked ceiling lowering to crush him.

Judge Dredd: The League of Fatties! part one by T.B. Grover and Ron Smith. A large subject requires a large opening page, and Ron Smith uses a single panel across the entire centrespread to introduce us to the League. It’s a cold open before we head in to the story – almost like the postergraph which started the Apocalypse War but without the subtle clue. This second post-war story tells of how the fatties we’ve previously met are coping with rationing. I.E. not at all, and starving mega-citizens aren’t too happy about the situation either. When I say fatties we’ve previously met, we literally see Bub ‘Jellybelly’ Jones from Anatomy of a Crime, who took advantage of an East-Meg One bomb damaging his iso-cube to escape. There’s plenty of over-eating jokes in there and I do wonder how this story would go down in modern Fat Pride times. Being used to over-eating before the war, the fatties demand higher rations in relation to their weight. Justice Department’s response? Everybody gets the same ration, regardless of their size. That night, the League of Fatties convene, and decide they will fight (literally, not figuratively).

Tharg’s Future-Shocks: The Disturbed Digestions of Doctor Dibworthy by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Seems like ages since we had an Alan Moore Future-Shock which lasted more than two pages! I wouldn’t be surprised if this was rebranded a Time Twister for the Titan collection, and I’m pretty sure the same character will make another appearance in about a year, funnily enough in one of Alan Langford’s yearly appearances in the prog. The doctor has folded a piece of paper into an interesting shape which is giving him an insight. Answering a knock on the door, he is greeted by himself, from an hour in the future telling him that in five minute’s time he will invent a time machine but that he must register the patent right away. In quick succession further (apparent) versions of himself arrive from a week, a year, ten years and twenty years in the future to tell him respectively not to register the patent as he will be run over on the way, that that doctor is an imposter who wants to register the patent for themselves, that the time machine will make trans-temporal war a reality and that… Well, the last one is cut off by the contemporary Doctor Dibworthy, who is overwhelmed by all the squabbling. Finding out what actually leads to the invention of the time machine, he finds it’s the insight gained from looking at the folds in the piece of paper. To which he throws the paper in the fire, closes his eyes and when he opens them, everybody else is gone. In a masterful twist, the doctor settles down again, staring into his glass of port, looking at the flower-pattenrs in it’s swirls. There’s a knock at the door…

I’ll let you know straight away – I love this story (though it falls victim to my at-the-time patchy run of progs, so I can’t remember how it ends! Ace Trucking Co. Too Many Bams Part 1 by Grant Grover and Belardinelli. Ace is headed to the home planet of the Bampot race – related to the hypnotic Bamfeezlers who we encountered in the Sci-Fi Special a prog-month or two ago. Prog-months being a month in the original publishing schedule, rather in my current, 2020-as-of-blogging reading schedule. Bampots are essentially heads with arms and legs sprouting out of them. Their home planet is so ludicrously over-populated that they don’t mind where you land as a few are going to get squashed wherever you put your spacecraft down. Similarly, their own transport (a teapot belching smoke and striding across the landscape on long legs – though it should be pointed out that the landscape is a sea of bampots with a single Spacedrome Terminal building poking out) almost seems designed to kill more bampots, having large plate-like feet that squash them with every step. The job is to take a team of colonists to a newly-discovered planet (called Gordon). The leader of the colonists is a bampot called Professor Max Challenger, though he looks more than a little like Belardinelli himself. There are six colonists in all (which surprises Ace, as it doesn’t seem like enough to colonise a planet).

Grailpage: Alan Langford’s opener to Trouble on Tree-World. Contains a forested planet (which will always win favour from me), the landing platform contrasting, plus a bit of wildlife in the foreground. Lovely.

Grailquote: on the principle that there must be something about quotes that stick in your head, TB Grover, un-named fattie: “Show pity! I’ve only had eight square meals today!” Also from the same story, Judge Dredd: “I sentenced you to nine months not long ago – what are you doing out?” Bub “Jellybelly” Jones: “Well, uh, an East-Meg One bomb blew open my iso-cube. Didn’t think anybody’d mind if I just kinda waddled off.” Judge Dredd: “I mind. You can just waddle back again!”

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