2000AD Prog 290: Snap up a Pac-Man watch!

Not Robin Smith’s finest hour as he portrays Tharg wearing a wristwatch for this cover, but one of the things a commercial artist has to do at times. I hasten to add that I’m fully expecting to nominate some of Robin’s artwork as grailpages in future progs, and he draws a pretty mean armoured Tharg (as seen in annuals) too!

On the subject of the Mighty One, Tharg’s Nerve Centre has a deflection of the idea of a Judge Dredd comic (which would feature an ordinary JD story, a mega-epic and the life story of Judge Dredd). We’re kind of getting the life story with various Year One/Two novels, and the Megazine has either an ordinary or mega-epic each month. Nine more years and the Meg will be launched. Another reader recounts his thrill-deprived visit to New York, but it’s really just an excuse to boast about his foreign holiday and seeing E.T. before anybody else.

Ace Trucking Co. Stoop Coop Soup Part 3 by Grant Grover and Belardinelli. 2000AD has had a number of comedy strips over the years but despite my liking for Dash Decent, this is how it’s done. Garp’s plan to get Gator Magee out involves going in disguise as Magee’s mother, slipping Gator a sus-animation pill and taking the apparently dead body out. Unfortunately for Gator, prison policy is to cremate the bodies of prisoners – nobody leaves before their time is done, alive or dead. More fortunately, the effects of the pill wear off when exposed to the heat of the cremation oven. Less fortunately, Ace has another plan. The look on Gator’s face is priceless.

It’s the early eighties, so there’s a Pac-Man watch offer facing off against a Philips Video Games advert.

Harry Twenty on the High Rock by Gerry Finley-Day and Alan Davis and Harry is spinning off in to space. I already did the fortunately/unfortunately bit with Gator Magee, so suffice to say, Harry saves himself from dying in the emptiness of space or burning up on re-entry by manoeuvring to an abandoned satellite, but getting captured by slugs (who have all ghost-sats around the Rock logged so they can use them for phaser practice). Old Ben draws a map for Genghis and Harry – note: there are 18 levels of cells, plus a few levels for other purposes in the ‘cube’ section of the High Rock. There’s also a ‘visiting’ level, which must be the least-used part of the Rock. Harry’s plan is now clear – he’ll use workshop to get metal, the laundry to produce a parachute for his own satellite and learn about fuels in the library. What library? There’s no library on the map! Maybe it’s where the unused visiting centre is.

D-MIL is back for Cinefax. Mentioned are The Winged Serpent (which gains a ‘Q:’ by the time it’s released. Mike McMahon joined Kevin O’Neill on art for Mirrorman, which I couldn’t find any details on last time it was reported. Star Trek 3 is going to be called In Search of Spock (at this point). Other upcoming films: Android (never heard of it before); Superman 3 might involve computer animated sequences and there’s going to be reviews of Tron and E.T. p.s. names and details of films are as reported in the prog at the time – I know you know they’re actually going to be called Q: The Winged Serpent, Superman III, E.T. The Extra Terrestrial and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

After last week’s robot dogs, Ron Smith is properly back as Judge Dredd meets Blobs! by T.B. Grover. In what is surely more than a nod to the droog uniform from A Clockwork Orange, the blobs wear white dungarees, a glitter shirt, black toe boots and one luminous green kneepad (worn low on the left knee). Oh, and face change machines obliterate any trace of individuality in the face, complemented by an electronic voice scrambler. The perfect disguise to melt in to a crowd. Well, as long as everybody else in that crowd is wearing the exact same thing – an easy task for a well-coordinated craze, as organised by the Mega-City’s underworld. Initially it helps the city’s top criminals pull heists but as with other crazes before it, Dredd finds a way to restrict it without outlawing it (remember the Ugly Tax?) This time it’s indelible dye on the forehead of any blob, making them instantly and easily recognisable from the moment they’re caught on camera. Within the space of a month the blob craze was conceived, spread and then thwarted (as the criminals behind it hold a monthly meeting to plan the perfect crime – they’ll be back).

There’s half page ads for the 2000AD Annual followed by an Eletronic Hobbies Fair at Alexandra Pavilion (I’m guessing what is usually called Ally Pally – just up the hill from Crouch End, mentioned last prog).

Rogue Trooper: untitled by Gerry Finley-Day and Brett Ewins, but didn’t last prog have a new prog tag saying something about shadows? Though this may as well be called Fort Neuro, Prologue, but I’m getting ahead of myself. I thought this was just going to be filler and technically it is, but it acts as really good mortar between the bricks of The Marauders and Fort Neuro – I love a story with a good setting, and both of those stories have great settings. As filler, this four-pager has Rogue catch some rest (Helm on pillow-duty) and the antagonism between trigger-happy Gunnar and (in Gunnar’s words) “Kook” Bagman turn violent. Luckily Helm is there to wake Rogue and act as a bat to deflect whatever Gunnar’s firing today (wasn’t it lasers in one story? They’re making ptoo, zing and zang noises like bullets here) and a grenade from Bagman. Helm gets big-headed about saving the day again… Assuming all the maps we’ve seen have the same orientation, then Dix-I was to the south of Greater Nordland and Rogue has circled around the Western border of the territory ending up on his way to the sieged fort surrounded on its Southern and Eastern walls by Greater Nordland. You can tell I love maps, can’t you?

The Great Detective Caper: Hemlock Bones —- Who He? Part 2 by Jack Adrian and John Higgins continues and if the credit card wasn’t there I may have believed from some of the dialogue that it was actually written by Alan Moore. Through accident rather than cunning, Grice escapes being killed by the official executioners and is presented with the problem which justified the aliens kidnapping him in the first place. The equivalent of a prime minister explains that there are two contenders for the emperor’s throne with no clue to which is the eldest and rightful ruler (the younger of the twins will be put to death). To be fair to Grice, he takes on the role pretty quickly, asking some pertinent and concise questions right off the bat. He also comes up with the perfect answer. Perfect to protect his own life, that is – unfortunately it leads to the death of not just the youngest twin, but the eldest as well, as Grice concocts a plot to allow the second most powerful person on the planet to become the first most powerful person on the planet. Unfortunately for Grice the tractor beam technology which brought him here was good for one trip only, and he’s stuck. He ends up reverting to his previous profession as a clumsy actor who keeps messing up takes…

Rough Riders are a little toy car from a company called Emblem. Around two or three years after this prog was published there was a bit of a craze at my school for them (or a cheaper version of them) and we all had little battery operated cars with headlights in a variety of colours. I think I ended up with three or four, and predictably some people managed to soup them up by somehow fixing more than the usual two batteries to overclock them. Did they go faster, have brighter lights? Something like that, memory is hazy after over thirty five years! Anyway, the inside back cover has an advert for them (or the thing that inspired whatever it was that we had).

The back cover has The Dictators of Zrag: a Family Portrait – not unlike the Angel Gang portrait we had a year or two back. This is uncredited but it’s the Eric Bradbury version of the dictators, so either him or somebody doing a good impression.

Grailpage: Harry Twenty ends with a map! There could be no other choice, Alan Davis wins it!

Grailquote: Jack Adrian, Vulgan-Barff, Lord-High-Most-Things: “…YOU! Hemlock Bones – the greatest detective in the history of the universe!” Ernie Grice: “But I’m not…” Vulgan-Barff (whispered): “I know that, you blockhead! Those idiot scientists made a complete mess-up when they dragged you here! You’ll just have to do the best you can…”

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