2000AD Prog 287: Imprisoned one hundred miles above the Earth… with no hope of escape!

That’s the way to make a debut – Alan Davis starts their career as a 2000AD art droid on the cover, introducing three of the main characters we’ll get for the next twenty or so weeks.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre has a music theme as three different earthlets provide three musical mash-ups: Tharg/John Lennon, Rogue Trooper/Jimi Hendrix and the Dictators of Zrag/Funboy Three.  Tharg explains this is due to the ‘rock’ connection.  There follows three – yes – three letters explaining who Frank Zappa is.

Harry Twenty on the High Rock by Gerry Finley-Day and Alan Davis makes its debut!  This is very slightly before my time, but when I first started collecting the back progs this was one of the first stories I was introduced to.  By the way, I try not to listen to Space Spinner 2000’s coverage of the progs I’m about to read and write about, but they released the Harry Twenty collection a month ago today (as I’m writing this) so any insights or witty observations in this blog are probably going to be theirs rather than mine.  I doubt it get mentioned again, but this story takes place in the year 2060.  Something that will get mentioned again – but I think only in the last page of the entire story in Prog 307 – is Harry Twenty’s real surname – Thompson.  Harry’s smuggling has been to supply starving islanders in the equatorial zone with food.  In a nice touch, the Western Military bloc Harry lives in is at war with Oceania (a reference to Nineteen Eighty Four – in that novel Oceania is one of the three power blocs and encompasses the Americas and all the English-speaking countries.  So, secure in the knowledge that Harry’s twenty year sentence is as a result of being a political prisoner rather than an actual bad person, we follow our hero as he gets transported to the High Rock – an orbiting prison hanging in inner space.  Unlike outer space, ‘inner space’ doesn’t seem to have a scientific definition so let’s assume it’s somewhere around the boundary between the mesosphere and thermosphere – about 250 miles above the surface of the Earth.  Harry has the standard introduction to an unjust prison regime, seeing one prisoner killed and getting beaten to a pulp.  Mention should be made of the comically villainous Warden Worldwise, the guy in charge of the prison who dresses like a vampire with an eye patch.

 

Sam Slade, Robo-Hunter: Football Crazy Part 5 by Alan Grant and Ian Gibson opens well as Sam dismantles the Italian robot football manager, Antipasto.  In a nice sight gag, Hoagy’s robo-hunter notes reads “Step 46: Bzzz-zzitt!”  Finding nothing untoward, Slade is about to reassemble Antipasto but is interrupted by the Italian robot football team, who are none too happy about seeing their manager in pieces, laid out on the table.  The food themed names continue as Macaroni, Minestrone, Cornetto and Butoni show Sam, Hoagy and Kidd the door  in a Not So Gentile way (and a great display of slapstick from the Grant, Wagner and Gibson droids).  Satisfied it must be an inside job, Slade accuses Don the England team coach as being the only robot in a position to tamper with the affected players.  Under pressure (and the threat of being examined in the same way as Antipasto was), Don caves in.  Don’s motive?  Resentment that Ron the team manager always got the glory.  With ten minutes left until the start of the England/Italy match, Slade, Hoagy and Kidd are drafted in as temporary Brit-citizens and put on the squad.

Sci-Fi Book Scan (presented by Spex, who still + + + pppp + + + HAS THAT ANNOYING SPEECH PATTERN + + + PRINTOUTPRINTOUT + + +).  Books reviewed: The Best of Arthur C Clarke Volumes 1 (1937 – 1955) and Volume 2 (1956 – 1972), The Alien-Spotters Handbook by Ed McNab (apparently includes a profile of Tharg) and Micro-Computing: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know by Deakin.

Judge Dredd: Destiny’s Angels part 7 by T.B. Grover and Carlos Ezquerra has Fink’s message arrive by Ratty messenger.  The message is to “Foller the rat.  Come alone.  No tricks, see.”  Dredd is prepared and mentions having ‘discussed’ the matter with McGruder, as he does what the note says, without surveillance, which did seem a little unnatural though all was revealed by the end of the episode.   In a return of the slapstick, Grant, Wagner and Ezquerra have Mean’s head pop out of the ground, causing the Lawmaster to jolt to a stop and sending Dredd over the handlebars.  Then Fink’s head pops out of the ground, paralysing Dredd who falls stiff as a plank.  Fink manages to stop his brother from giving Dredd a face fulla 4.  I hope I included the ‘dial’ line in a grailquote in Mean’s first run, as that line will be impenetrable otherwise.  Fink has a better, and slower death in mind for Dredd and departs to work on the Pa Angel Mark One Super-Scream Torture Machine – the only death truly worthy of the man who killed the Angel’s family.  This is where the arrangements with McGruder come in to play.  Dredd starts talking because “paralysing poison doesn’t affect the lips” and without Fink there to contradict him, Mean believes Dredd.  Mean is goaded into butting Dredd on 2, allowing Dredd to get free and reveal he isn’t paralysed at all – the problem with signature moves (like paralysing prey) is that they can be countered when you know what they are.  This time Mean is taking no chances and goes right up to four – not the only time this is used as a cliffhanger.

Rogue Trooper: The Marauders part six by Gerry Finley-Day and Cam Kennedy.  Finlay-Day’s second appearance this prog sees Player the Souther pilot and Morgen the Nort sniper lead a fleet of hoppers after Rogue as he flees through the jungle. Most of this episode is taken up by Helm and Bagman moaning about how the G.I.’s equipment is being used to hunt down Rogue, with an interjection by Morgen on how picking off a helpless straggler reminded him of the battle of Carthage-2, which it turns out that both Player and Helm were at (presumably after the Quartz Zone Massace, as wasn’t that the first drop of the G.I.s on to Nu Earth)? The continual nagging from Helm must play on Player’s nerves though, as he cuts Morgen’s harness, leading to the sniper dropping to the ground…

Competition time! Win a print of the Robo-World poster by answering four questions. The (paraphrased) questions are:
1. Which robot met Yoda?
2. Name the paranoid android?
3. Who devised the three laws of robotics?
4. The robot from Forbidden Planet.

Tharg’s Future-Shocks: The War Game by Stavros and Jim Eldridge. It’s a darkened room, we don’t see the faces of the people involved and it’s a Future-Shock, so we know that whomever we might assume are having a conversation will be other people. The plan involves the USA (the protagonists) launching a pre-emptive strike against the USSR, who retaliate immediately. Using the kind of technology used by East-Meg One in the Apocalypse War, a warp is created by leaching the gravitational field of the Earth to protect the continent of North America at the cost of the rest of the Earth. The shielded Planet America now takes up a stable orbit around the sun but *shock* they’re just boys! But double-shock, one of them is called Ronnie and their mother thinks they’ll never grow up to be president if they keep playing silly games (the president of the USA at the time this was published was Ronald Reagan, as if you needed telling).

Tharg’s Droids: No 3 in an occasional series: Burt. Finally a real droid, instead of the three media droids this one is based on a real person! Robin Smith does the honours in bringing the disorganised droid to the back page.

Grailpage: I was tempted by the opening shot of the High Rock, but instead I’m going for the penultimate page of the opening episode, as Alan Davis shows the contorted body of Chief-of-Guards Thrower as he beats Harry Twenty to a pulp, the electro-baton arcing around to highlight the dynamism of the panel. The rest of the page isn’t bad either, but I love that panel.

Grailquote: Gerry Finley-Day, Harry Thompson (before he was assigned a number): “You lyin’ weasel!” He uses ‘weasel’ a couple of times this episode but it doesn’t stick in my mind as being a catchphrase later on, but it might as well be.

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