Oh no! It turns out I missed out an annual last year – I’d thought we reduced down to 2000AD and Judge Dredd for the 1982 round of annuals, but there was a lurking Starlord annual which I missed on my bookshelf!
After the previous year’s Brian Bolland ensemble cover we’re back to artwork irrelevant to what’s inside – this one is the Liberator from Blakes 7, bizarrely.
The Contents page has a pic of Starlord which I think we’ve seen before, though maybe not this colourful.
Strontium Dog: The Collector by Carlos Ezquerra, but there’s no
credit card blueprint given so I don’t know who wrote it. Wulf and Johnny are lured on to a ship where a glowing energy being forces the pair, plus a couple, to race to the docking bay pursued by drones armed with a paralysing liquid. I’m not a massive fan of gladiatorial or ‘human zoo’ storylines where the main characters are captured and forced to fight for their lives (which I’ll probably mention every time it comes up in future stories as I come across them) . Despite some clunky dialogue at the start (which seems to assume that somebody reading an annual four years after the comic it was based on ceased to exist is unfamiliar with the set-up of the strip) the rest of the story reads like a standard Strontium Dog one-off. The mutant energy being has a thermostat which stopped him overheating – Johnny used his alpha vision to discover the thermostat, shoot it, caused the being to melt and raised questions on why the mutant hadn’t melted before the thermostat was fitted…
Big Thrills on the Small Screen! The obligatory text features begin – this one is on special effects in TV sci-fi, mainly Blake’s Seven and Doctor Who (apparently Draconians were modelled on a sculpted head of Dave Allen – though I can’t see that myself). Oh, and Blake’s Seven justifies the use of the stock photo on the cover (apparently).
The Exterminator is a Future-Shock style story by an unknown writer but most definitely drawn by Gary Leach. I suspect it’s written by Leach as well as it’s little more than an excuse for him to draw stuff. There’s a maggot-y alien, a space girl who wanders around in a skin-tight jump suit before she gets killed and spacemen who wear slightly more voluminous jump suits (before they get killed too). On Earth the Exterminator of the title is called in after all the usual ordnance is thrown at the now-bloated space maggot, who deals with it by over feeding it until it explodes. Which we’ve seen in a few stories before. The artwork is all printed in grey-scale, so I wonder if the originals are in grey ink washes, or if there are full-colour pages lurking somewhere? I won’t complain about the anaemic story, as, apart from a text story further on, the whole of the rest of this annual is going to be filler features and reprint (from the pre-2000AD IPC archives). If this doesn’t take some time, it might seem like it.
We start the filler gently with a ten-question quiz (some of which have answers offering multiple points) in Journey to the Planets! Once you tot up your answers out of twenty you can follow a fan-shaped score-tracker to see which planet you ‘reached’. I tried this on Rackle and she got 17 points (taking her just past Neptune). For interest, the points and planets are: 0 – Earth; 4 – Jupiter; 12 – Uranus; 16 – Neptune; 20 – Pluto.
Reprint-time! The Robot Builders is very 1950s (though could possibly be 1960s). If I do research on each of these stories then it will take me even longer to get through this annual (putting the word ‘slog’ into ‘prog slog’) but it’s no good – I have to find out if this was contemporary with Thunderbirds as the family of scientists who live a secret base and send out gadgets to rescue people seems too close. Glad I did – it’s from 1967 and drawn by Ron Turner, providing a 2000AD connection, which is more than most of these reprints have. The story comprises a story compiled from episodes three pages each. The letterer changes half-way through and I have a feeling the second letterer may have worked for 2000AD at some point, but I’m no expert on recognising letterer’s handwriting. Plot-wise the first three pages are the pilot, showing the secret non-governmental Arrow family (father and two adult sons, Damon and David) rescuing the head of Britain’s atomic research centre from drowning in a pothole. After this the prime minister orders them to make their services available to any government in the world. A few days later the first government to call on their services is the British government, who have a sunk submarine which hit an iceberg because the captain thought it was a shoal of fish. This is the standard of writing we have on this one. One of the boys nearly dies but instead of having time to recuperate is sent straight to a forest or something (continued later in the annual).
The Great American Space Adventure! I should have mentioned that Carlos’ Strontium Dog pages earlier on were in colour. So is this feature. There’s the usual narrative – thankfully not too densely-written and some good pictures (most are photos, one is an artist’s impression of the Pioneer spacecraft over Jupiter). It is filler, but as a sci-fi themed comic I can’t argue it doesn’t fulfil the remit – and the educational nature probably helps deflect criticism of the fun stuff in the annual.
Starlord presents Your Journey Into Space! is a roll a d6 (six-sided die) and move a counter along a track, obeying whatever instruction appears on the square you land on (11 out of 91 squares have instructions). Good luck moving counters when you get near the fold of the annual – this kind of boardgame works between when you can flatten the paper out entirely.
Flight Report ZX 04001 is a text story, uncredited and I don’t recognise the art style. There’s a nice touch in that the framing story is printed in sans serif while the flight report of the title is in serif. Unfortunately the flight report is also printed in black on dark red, so while readable, it’s not easy on the eyes. The framing sequence is about a VIP who complains about their journey between planets (there was a jolt leading to a spillage and they arrived late). The red bit explains some of the things that happened – the usual: a space storm; a stop-off on a planet to pick up a spare; space pirates; alien creatures; the blinding of the pilot. Back in the black sans serif on white frame and the VIP has it explained to them that they’re not late at all – they left their watch on space-time instead of planet-time. If you’re interested, the captain / pilot was only temporarily blind – they’ll see again.
A Visit to Concorde! Looks like a reader-reporter text and photo feature recording a visit to the concorde hangar while it was in for servicing. The reporter in question is James Tomlinson and possibly some of the photos are taken by his sister Jennifer (unless she’s just along for the ride).
Concorde is Very Special! is written by a concorde captain (and president of the Junior Jet Club – I’ve never heard of it, but apparently it ran from 1957 to 1984). Even this bit of filler is reprint, though is interesting for it. It details the procedure of a transatlantic flight and most of it probably applies to other commercial flights, so interesting if you’ve ever travelled on a jet plane. Interesting fact – the concorde stretched by almost a foot after flying at maximum speed for two minutes! As there’s hardly any credits for anything else in this annual, this one is written by Captain Leo Budd.
More reprint. The Robot Builders part two (though really just the next story along) and it’s time for the comic relief as a little robot called Eggy makes an appearance. Oh, and if it didn’t get mentioned earlier in the story – father Arrow’s name is Andy. The robot is described as ‘midget-sized’ – word to the wise – the preferred term for those with the medical condition of dwarfism is little person, not ‘midget’. The story? A South American country is going to flood an area by releasing the sluice gate on a dam (I was under the impression it was the other side of a dam that gets flooded when they build a dam…) and an opportunist general is going to use the flooding of a pre-Columbian city and loss of the treasures within to mount a military coup. The general almost gets away with it as well, except for that time he tells Andy the entire plan before falling off of a floating tank and drowning. That’s about as much as I’m going to say on this story – at least the pyramid doesn’t turn into a spaceship.
Flash Gordon – this is more like it – a photo-feature on the film. Shame the photos are in black and white.
Vintage Laughs has the sort of spot cartoons we’ve seen in a few previous annuals, though unlike those is honest that they’re reprinted (from Tiger, Lino and Comet). p.s. I don’t know the previous jokes pages consisted of reprints, but I’d be surprised if they weren’t…
Starlord Hardware Profile: Tornado, Hawk and Puma. Any pretence of this being related to sci-fi is lost here though there is marginal interest for me on the second profile – just because (completely unplanned) I saw the Red Arrows fly overhead yesterday as they were on their way to a fly-past.
Grailpage: I like the pic of Jupiter but it’s a library picture taken from NASA or a similar organisation so doesn’t count. Meanwhile the original artwork is split between Carlos Ezquerra and Gary Leach. Both put in good shows, but I’m going for the first page of Strontium Dog showing the Butterfly (spaceship) hanging in space.
Grailquote: there’s a sparse selection here, so an un-named author puts the following words in to Wulf Sternhammer’s mouth: “Shut der cakehole, small man. Ve have company.”