2000AD Prog 283: The shedding – Tharg as you’ve never seen him

Art editor Robin Smith provides a pic of Tharg’s face introducing us to the latest part work on this cover (more about that partwork on the back cover). This is another of those back progs I had in my possession at an early stage, so I know how some of these stories began but took some time until I found out how they ended.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre hypes the Robo-Hunter’s return after one prog off, with a new story and that partwork.

Sam Slade, Robo-Hunter: Football Crazy Part 1 by Alan Grant and Ian Gibson. Interesting for continuity buffs, this story regards the World Cup ’46. Sam Slade’s first story saw him sent to Verdus in the year 2140 and was published four years earlier. For a non-fan of spectator sports this is more interesting than the sports-centric story. There’s probably some caricatures of sports presenters but not only am I not interested in televised sports but these presenters would be before my time. So back to continuity – there are two aliens staying at the Savoy (who Hoskins the hotel detective falsely imprisons until Slade smoothes it over) – so aliens are known in the Sladeverse. Anyway, Slade has a similar attitude to the prospect of two weeks of football as I would – so of course he can’t escape it – ending the episode getting a call from the England (not Brit-Cit) football team manager. On the technical side of telling stories in the comic medium, one of Steve Potter’s word balloons morphs half way through in to a thought bubble as Slade has further thoughts on something he says.

We’re not at the centre pages yet, but the first two pages of Judge Dredd: Destiny’s Angels Part 3 by T.B. Grover and Carlos Ezquerra are still in colour, as the previous episode. The action takes place in the halls and ducts of Resyk as Dredd puts the alert out that Fink is on the prowl, ready to paralyse or kill as necessary. Ratty is no ordinary rat – and possibly not even an ordinary Cursed Earth rat, as he can understand the concept of ranged weapons, detect and communicate an oncoming flood and understand an instruction to lead a way out for a creature many times his size compare with a dog which isn’t even clear on what size of aperture they can fit through). Fink escapes with Ratty while Dredd gets an inkling of the force behind Fink’s escape as he finds out about the ‘sudden urge’ which led to a Resyk worker opening the ducts and releasing that flood which let the Angel escape.

Advert time! There’s something about footballer Kevin Keegan being involved with some competition – and he’s probably parodied in that football story as there’s a robot footballer called Kev. In the full-colour centrespread is Part Two of KP Outer Spacers: The Eyes of the Aliens which has art by Frank Langford.

Ace Trucking Co. The Kloistar Run Part 5 by Grant Grover and Belardinelli. Through fortuitous accident, Garp manages to avoid getting assassinated, though the next day sees the next challenge, and it involves a dragon (it’s the fire-breathing kind). This is pretty straight-forward storytelling and entertaining with it – as such there’s not much I can comment about, other than roll on the next episode.

Rogue Trooper: The Marauders Part Two by Gerry Finley-Day and Cam Kennedy takes over art duties from Colin Wilson. The pilot Player flies Rogue to the crashed milli-sat in the midst of the chem-jungle. In a reverse of what happened in this week’s Robo-Hunter, something Rogue thinks is followed by something he says – shown by Bill Nuttall as a thought bubble connected directly to a word balloon. And reminding me I really need to re-read Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. In the story, the Traitor General has a flashback to how he escaped the Buzzard Three but at the expense of his face as his escape pod also burnt up on re-entry. At the meeting with Rogue, Helm gets to do something – scanning up to a kilometre through the foliage for potential snipers. Unfortunately this isn’t enough, as Gunnar gets shot out of Rogue’s hands and the Traitor reveals himself – and that Rogue is in the sights of an exceptional sniper – outside the one kilometre zone.

Tharg the Mighty in The Shedding Part 1 written by T.M.O. (probably Steve McManus) but definitely with art by Eric Bradbury. Tharg travels to the methane seas of Jupiter to shed his skin and have his maggot-like inner self head off to rejuvenate. The Dictators turn up and find his discarded skin to take it to the Hag of Zrag. Steve Potter handles the lettering and does another of those speech balloons turning in to something else, though this one turns into a wobbly spell-casting speech bubbly balloon. She animates the empty skin and the dictators head to Earth to take over the Command Module, appointing Burt as sales director and preparing to turn 2000AD into the worst comic in the galaxy! Alec Trench makes a reappearance, but as a cameo on a poster “the writer’s writer”.

The back cover has the first part of the four-part Ian Gibson Robo-Hunter poster, featuring (as Tharg says) nearly ever droid ever seen in Robo-Hunter to date. I’ve never tried, but if we discount background droids (like all those defective robots in the Verdus robot factory lined up for destruction) I’d struggle to find any missing. Around the edges are quotes from earlier stories, though when I first got my hands on this prog I hadn’t read those stories – so I had no idea what was happening with the ‘King Sam’ line.

Grailpage: there’s loads of great art in this prog, though few splash pages, leaving me with the option to pick a low-key page showing Ratty on Fink’s shoulder as the rat clues his long-time companion to an oncoming flood of – well, it’s not specified exactly what the flood is of, but in Resyk there are plenty of options, few of them pleasant.

Grailquote: TB Grover, narration: “Then the two bosom buddies are together again – ” Fink Angel: “Hiya, pal!” Ratty: “Neek!”

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