2000AD Prog 280: “It’s tasty!” GUNGE

This is one of the most classic covers from Ron Smith – by the time I first saw this back prog I’d probably have already met Otto Sump. If not from the Eagle Comics reprint, then from the Smart Sweets story. In my personal mythology a back prog is one of those prog which was published before I became a Squaxx, so in about a prog-years time I’ll just be re-reading progs, not back progs…

Tharg’s Nerve Centre has a reader write in questioning whether Frank Zappa Block was named after a real person or not. Tharg isn’t entirely helpful, stating the only Zappa they’re aware of works for London Transport. The Falklands War must still be in operation, or recently finished, as an earthlet from 63 Squadron (BFPO 666) is stationed in the Islands and they haven’t seen a prog in six weeks!

Sam Slade, Robo-Hunter: Killing of Kidd Part 6 by Grant Grover (not ‘Alan Grant’ this week) and Ian Gibson. Things are properly hotting up now as a ‘monstero’ crashes through the swirling smoke. Strange that the monster didn’t appear in last week’s cliffhanger – stranger still that we’re only told that the resident alien on the space soap opera (it can’t really be called a space opera, as that’s something different) that Kidd stars in is a shape-changer (to save on budget – ‘Andy’ plays all the aliens in the show). Grabbing hold of Andy as the alien sprouts wings and flies out of the window, by the time Slade is on the ground with a subdued the two are some distance from the hospital. Andy reveals that he’s merely the decoy. Should have kept quiet, Andy, otherwise Slade wouldn’t be trying to rush back to the hospital. Meanwhile, back at the hospital, it’s time for Kidd’s operation. What operation? The whodunnit turns into a whodidn’tdoneit as just about every character we’ve met in this story is masked and gowned up to carry out their revenge on superbrat Kidd. All the cast members, the director and even Kidd’s mother. Perhaps that should be especially Kidd’s mother.

Rogue Trooper: Hats Off to Helm by Gerry Finley-Day and Cam Kennedy. Bagman had the blues, now it’s Helm’s turn to head the bill (I know, I know). While hiding from overhead atmo-craft, the piece of equipment that Helm is slotted in to bounces loose of Rogue’s head. Gunnar shoots at him,k pinging him under a rock. For some reason it’s considered Helm’s fault that the chem clouds have eaten away at the chin strap that attaches the helmet to Rogue’s head. Gunnar’s insufferable about it, meanwhile the Nort atmo-craft carry out their mission, to drop a line of pillboxes across the landscape. Pillboxes being the futuristic automated equivalent of the pillboxes that studded the landscape I grew up in (those examples were from the second world war, but there are older varieties still extant). Rogue chucks a couple of grenades through the embrasures but one of the automated pillboxes uses a pick-up arm within to return the grenade. Helm asks Rogue to cover the grenade with his helmet so that the plasti-steel smothers the blast. I think I remember how this one starts – the bomb’s a dud, but can’t think what fills the rest of next week’s episode…

The Mean Arena by Alan Ridgeway and Mike White. I remember roughly how this story ends, and (as the next prog tag at the end says) this is the beginning of the end. The rest of the Slayers offer to help Tallon out in his vendetta as “Paul’s death was a crime against all of us!” but he refuses. Cut to two shadowy figures in front of a vid-screen – though they’re not so shadowy that we can’t see they confirm my theory from last week – though they’re the obvious choices ever since we knew there was a vendetta to be waged a year earlier. Particularly as the owner of Kosi-Flex and sponsor of the Slayers is just a variant on the sponsor of the Harlem Heroes. Part of the city of Reading has had a huge dome placed over it turning it into “a giant video game”. It just looks like the usual arena but with a circuit board instead of the sky. Oh, and there’s something about rogue droids and bikers hinted at.

Judge Dredd: Gunge by T.B. Grover and Ron Smith. I’m not keen on those stories that turn out to have been an advert all along, but if a story starts off with an advert then that’s different. This story starts off with an advert for an amazingly disgusting new food-stuff. Or rather range of food-stuffs. Some of those foods are Slime Sauce, Mould Jam, Krispy Snake Rings, Bacteria Soup, Maggot Steaks and – why, yes, they are produced by Otto Sump. How did you guess? Dredd pays a visit. I love how Otto always greets the judge as an “old buddy” and completely fails to understand that Dredd is not his friend! Dredd subjects Sump’s products to the full gamut of Justice Department tests and find that, especially in a time of food rationing, gunge is actually twice as nutritious as prime munce (the usual miracle food in the 22nd century). There’s always some busy-bodies who want to complain, and also want to stop other people from doing or eating what they want, even if it has nothing to do with them. After a hate campaign waged by the Moral Health Committee against Otto Sump the pressure on the iso-cubes forces JD to act (both Justice Department and Judge Dredd). The solution is simple – the Department carries out a compulsory purchase order on the entire stock of Gunge products, shutting Sump down. The goods are then mashed and pulped until they cannot be recognised. In a not-at-all suspicious move, the next day a new range of Justice Department approved foodstuffs is released – without an ingredient list because if Justice Department says it’s approved then you can’t complain… In the best panel of the episode, the leaders of the self-appointed Committee – now in iso-cubes (though all five in one cube, so not very isolated) – dine on the new food-stuff “It makes our protests all worthwhile!”

D-MIL is back with more Cinefax and the early eighties were good for sci-fi and fantasy films (though not always for good sci-fi and fantasy films). But, on the horizon at this time are Revenge of the Jedi where it sounds like the shoots for Endor are taking place under the name Blue Thunder and there are rumours of a Mark 2 version of the Death Star which will be featured. Also coming up are Friday the 13th Part 3, Creature from the Black Lagoon and Jaws 3, all to be shot in 3d (no idea if the first two were, but I remember that the third Jaws film was called Jaws 3d). I don’t know if the remake of Creature from the Black Lagoon was ever produced, let alone in 3d. I would spend some time researching it, but once you get down the rabbit-hole of researching every little detail in a prog you break the momentum necessary for a daily blog. So I won’t. Other films are: Blade Runner, Raiders of the Lost Ark II (still not named), Krull, Battletruck, Superman 3 (some people may disagree but I like this one), Octopussy, Mirrorman (in my very quick internet search I couldn’t find any details on that one) and Supergirl (two years away so probably stuck in development hell), Airport and the Airplane sequel.

A repeat of the Green Cross Code Droid advert – this time not breaking up a story for no conceivable reason…

Ace Trucking Co. The Kloistar Run Part 2 by Grant Grover and Belardinelli. The attack by Jago Kain and his biffo (Crusher?) continues and yes, it turns out to be a hologram rather than a mac-mac induced hallucination. So now we know what Feek, Chiefy and Ghost were up to last prog. From the name of this story I couldn’t work out where it was going (remember, I’ve read all of these before, just not within the last two decades) so at this point I still can’t remember which story this is – a bit like the first few minutes of an episode of Futurama or a James Bond film where the pre-title sequence don’t give much clue what the actual body of the story will be about. This is handled like a Future-Shock. Ace, Jago and their crew take their cargoes to be signed in at Kloistar City. The Import Officer is looking down at a clipboard. He continues not to look up. He hasn’t seen Ace. And then he does look up and everything changes, just like when you see that the shadowy figure who you thought was a normal human being is actually… Garpo! No, that doesn’t mean anything to the first-time reader either, but all will be revealed next prog!

Tharg introduced a new feature in the Nerve Centre, appearing on the inside back cover. In the style of a weather forecast comes Your Long-Range Thrill Forecast! And the droid assigned to this means it when they say long-range. Some of these thrills are a long way off! One (Harry Twenty on the High Rock) is a complete story which will be finished before one of the others (Skizz) starts, which itself will finish in the same prog another (Slaine – no accent in this feature) begins, and then be followed a few progs later by another (Nemesis the Warlock Book III). Unashamedly this is the classic era of 2000AD for me – however good stories can sometimes get in the current progs, they don’t have the nostalgia on top of quality that these stories hold for me. Sorry, current creators – no hard feelings though, I still love your work! Now, if only they can re-named those star pin-ups to starscans, like they should be.

Speaking of which, 2000AD Star Pin-Up – Tharg’s Droids No 2 in an Occasional Series: D-MIL by Robin Smith. Not so many background jokes in this one, though a nice robo-monocle worthy of Verdus sits on the film droid’s shoulder.

Grailpage: Ron Smith’s Otto Sump cover takes a lot of beating!

Grailquote: Grant Grover, Hoagy: “Just for the record, what kind of operation are you performing?” The actor who plays Dad from Space Family Olsen: “Every kind we can think of!” (we don’t get many names of characters for Kidd’s co-stars – maybe if they’d had names they wouldn’t have been so resentful – also if Kidd wasn’t Kidd).

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