2000AD Prog 292: National Song Year declared in Brit-Cit! Robo Hunter stars in Play it Again, Sam!

Second week running, Ian Gibson is back on the cover and this time it’s a wraparound heralding the new Robo-Hunter story – with the Human League on the back – which reminds me – Dare I write a blog post on the Human League?

In Tharg’s Nerve Centre one earthlet with a double-barrelled name falsely states that Anderson’s long name appears on her badge (it just says ‘Psi’) and wonders how Justice Department would react if they became a judges. Tharg thinks the earthlet is being a bit presumptuous… For some reason another terran asks why George Lucas is making the Star Wars films out of order (why ask Tharg this?)

Sam Slade, Robo-Hunter: Play it Again, Sam! Part 1 by Grant/Grover and Ian Gibson. Of course, since Robo-Hunter arrived in Brit-Cit, all of the stories have been written by Alan Grant and John Wagner, even if they were only credited to Alan – this prog has credits to Grant and Grover/Wagner. So, this is a musical story. And not just one musical interlude in a longer story, but an entire over-ten-part story with lyrical content taking up a large part of every episode. If this doesn’t appeal to you, take heart that Slade thinks exactly the same way. Some songs that Grant and Wagner have written in other stories can probably be fitted to existing songs but it’s much more overt in this story, with helpful ‘Sung to the tune of’ narration boxes when characters break in to song. I’m going to put together a playlist as I go along, so if you’re reading this story as well this may help or hinder your enjoyment of the story. Brit-Cit National Song Year on YouTube and Spotify. The first time I read this I would have only known around half the songs and before the internet there was no easy way to find out what the other ones sounded like… The story itself has two strands – prime droid Iron Aggie (guess who they resemble?) institutes National Song Year to cheer everybody and brighten up Brit-Cit (under pain of fines or imprisonment). The second strand concerns the Human League, an anti-robot organisation who are only mentioned in passing. Which reminds me – there will be a musical interlude tomorrow and back to normal service the day after. It’s still relevant to 2000AD! Carlos Sanchez Robostogie reveals their musical side (to the tune Mexican Hat Dance) and Hoagy makes a stab at singing along. Sam is not happy with all this singing when there’s a knock at the door – it’s a singing robo-postbox, delivering a telegram. Why yes, it is a singing telegram, how did you guess? Ian Gibson’s art on this is amazing – maybe to counter the silliness and cartoonishness of the robots, Sam is brooding in shadows or the background of panels in which he appears, making a nice juxtaposition. Oh yes, and the telegram summons Sam to Downing Street to meet with Iron Aggie.

Harry Twenty on the High Rock by Gerry Finley-Day and Alan Davis. So, every episode of this story so far has told us that there are 10,000 convicts on the High Rock. I have a logistic query about this. They’re all named for their given name and a number representing their full sentence, hence Harry Twenty. But he can’t be the only person out of 10,000 with the name Harry and doing twenty years, can he? Granted their are convicts from all around the world, so there’s a mix of cultural origins for the names, but where I work (in an office of between twenty and thirty five people, over the last decade) we’ve had multiple people with the same name. We don’t have a ridiculous turnover but I can think of nineteen people sharing names with at least one other person and at the time of writing there are three with the same given name. Anyway, that’s just something that occurred to me, it has no relevance whatsoever to this story as written. Harry is about to get beaten to a pulp by Big Red One but the thing on his mind is that Toady might see the diagram he’s drawn on a napkin. I say about to get beaten, but he’s pretty handy at evading punches and even manages to lob a canister at Toady’s head in to the bargain. In the confusion he threatens Toady not to say a word (of course Toady will report it, but only when after Harry’s gone) and snatches up the paper napkin. As he gets back to his cell, Pusser is called away to the scanner room and so Harry takes the chance to try to encourage Pusser to beat up Genghis as a ruse to get up close to the guard. Pusser returns shortly with Guard Rogan (we’ve had staff on 2000AD with the surname Rogan, right?) and a psyclops scanner. The scanner has nothing to do with psychic powers, by the way, it’s just for paper, material or metal. Forcing Harry and his cell-mates to strip and stand outside, the slugs give the cell a scan with the psyclops. When they can’t find the paper napkin anywhere in the cell they turn it on Harry himself, contrary to regulations (something to do with radiation). Pusser is angry at Toady when they still don’t find anything and is surprisingly candid with Harry – enough that the number can retrieve the paper napkin he secreted in Pusser’s pocket earlier – that thing about radiation also guaranteed the scanner wouldn’t go anywhere near the slugs – whether this is intentional or not I don’t know. Guess those guard uniforms are pretty thickly armoured, allowing people to tuck things in their pockets without them feeling a thing… Oh, and that Rogan surname – Ian Rogan is a pseudonym of Steve MacManus, so probably a dig at the editor.

Tharg’s Xmas Spectacular! Someone in IPC Magazines Ltd is working overtime to get stocks of bargain presents for readers to buy, namely: a telescope that looks like a pen for peepers to spy on others undetected (it specifically calls out that “only you will know that you have the power to immediately magnify far-away objects 15 times”); a 750x magnification microscope; some x50 binoculars; a point and click camera; an illuminated microscope (it calls out that you can look at your stamp collection with it – don’t ever change, 2000AD).

Judge Dredd: The Executioner Part 2 by T.B. Grover and Carlos Ezquerra. Racket boss Jack Beaty began his fall from the hovering restaurant last week and continues this week. Rather than leave the way she came, the assassin heads in to the racketeers quarters to shoot his henchmen and sort-of-save the person they were beating up (too late to save him from a broken leg though, by the sounds of it). Heading back to the powder room she removes her mask and cancels her dinner – there’s another tell-tale pause when she mentions her husband who “… won’t be coming.” The judges piece together a description of the Executioner from staff descriptions of the “woman at table 14”. That night we see a little of the Executioner’s home-life – we still don’t know her name, though her children are Daryn and Treena. I say we don’t know her name – I know her name because I’ve read this story before back in a time when I only owned a hundred or so comics altogether, but it hasn’t been revealed in-story yet. Next prog comes the copy-cat killings, and the report reveals that the gender of the killer hasn’t been revealed, so I expect the copycats will be male…

Rogue Trooper: Fort Neuro Part 2 by Gerry Finley-Day and Brett Ewins. This is a sight-seeing episode, confirming to Rogue (and us) that the residents of Frank Sector – renamed the Napoleonic Complex – have indeed fallen victim to an unusual obsession with the past during their years under siege. This manifests itself in what is, essentially, a half-remembered mediocre high school understanding of French history and language. Is there nobody who can help Rogue? There is, but I’ll save that to the grailpage section at the end of this post… By the way, first time I read this I had no idea that ‘Napoleonic Complex’ was a reference to a psychological condition, in the same way that I didn’t know that Fortress Neuropa was a reference to Fortress Europa. The thing that Harry Twenty on the High Rock and Rogue Trooper share in common is Gerry Finley-Day’s love of puns and allusions.

Ace Trucking Co. Stoop Coup Soup Part 5 by Grant Grover and Belardinelli. My remembrances were correct – Ace’s plan involved using low resistance yellow paint which burnt off upon atmospheric entry. They then turned around, told their pursuers from the penitentiary that the Yellow Line ship had boiled past them, then high-tailed it out of there. Then it’s time to head to the planet where the treasure was buried, though spending three decades imprisoned mean that it takes Gator Magee some time to find it, but find it they do. Not unexpectedly, Ace, G-B-H, Feek and Chiefy end the episode with Gator pointing a gun at them, unwilling to share the big byms.

Grailpage: there have been off flashes of brilliance, but for me this is the beginning of Brett Ewins most sustained golden period, and I just have to pick Robspierre’s first appearance on the last page of this episode of Fort Neuro. Why have their been no robo-runner miniatures produced over the years? Let’s hope Warlord provide some soon.

Grailquote: Grant/Grover, Sam Slade: “Don’t tell me, Stogie! You feel a song coming on!” Robostogie: “Caramba! You get eet een one, senor!”

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