John Cooper is back on the cover! Is what I’d like to have said, but then I had second thoughts and checking Barney this is the only time Cooper’s artwork ever graced the cover! Some nice effects printing Engels in green and yellow, rising like a spectre between Dredd and Mega-City One.
Tharg’s Nerve Centre trails ‘Things to Come’ later this very prog. One earthlet points out that the cover of Prog 281 teased that one of Dredd’s enemies would return yet two came back, to which Tharg responds that only one appeared in Mega-City One that prog. Another earthlet pointed out that a copy of Prog 271 appeared in an episode of Educating Marmalade. Completely irrelevant, but at various times I’ve lived around the corner from where the actress who played Marmalade Atkins, Charlotte Coleman, was born, lived and died (from a condition I also share), have stayed at the hospital that she was declared dead, lived on the road she went to school and also lived literally five minutes walk from a performing arts centre that has a scholarship named after her (I’ve lived in a few different places in the area). Having brought the mood down a bit, I’ll get back on track with an earthlette’s letter asking who Rowdy Yates and Gil Favor are – she knows but thinks it’ll be a fun teaser for other readers, to which Tharg agrees. Bizarrely Tharg says that answers are not invited from earthlets in the London area, for reasons which will be clear when the answers are revealed. Seeing as the answer involves Rawhide I can’t imagine what about that precludes Londoners from entering the micro-test.
Sam Slade, Robo-Hunter: Play it Again, Sam! Part 7 by Alan Grant and Ian Gibson. Grant and Wagner are really getting in to the musical format as you can picture the set pieces as Kidd sings that Slade should scoot until Joe (the trenchcoated member who brought him down in to the sewer in the first place – if in doubt, a character created by Wagner is called ‘Joe’) starts singing in Slade’s defence. I never mentioned, but the Human League wear weird hats – very slightly like deer stalkers. Luckily for the reader the one given to Slade fits over his trademark hat – which makes it look even more like he’s wearing a deer-stalker. Brit-Cit National Song Year on YouTube and Spotify.
One of my favourite non-strip sections next: Things to Come in 83. Nemesis the Warlock Book III is finally on its way back, new series Slaine is finally on it’s way (we get the logo), Skizz and the special progs are highlighted (300, and the 6th birthday) as well as the special (which I got when it came out) and annuals (which I didn’t, until much later).
Harry Twenty on the High Rock by Gerry Finley-Day and Alan Davis. Everything is almost ready, except for one thing – the capsule shell which has been constructed in the workshop needs to be carried outside to the place hidden from the observation pod by pipes. Old Ben Ninety snips a power cable which will take the High Rock’s computers eleven minutes to trace and repair. Big Red One and Sunset spot Harry and Genghis sneaking out in the darkness but, due to plot, Big Red realises they’ve got a task to carry out before trying to and lets them do so in peace. They don’t quite get back in time, ending up on the wrong side of the slugs when the lights come back on – this gives Big Red One the opportunity to provide another diversion – this time by shoving an unlucky number – and yes, just after typing that I checked and he is indeed Thurlow Thirteen – over a balcony to his death. Big Red points out this is the second time he’s provided a distraction – bad news for Harry! Better news comes from Old Ben who points out weather patterns and the forthcoming monsoon season which will provide cloud cover for when they make their escape.
Mega-Sounds with DJ-1 returns and confirms to that Phil Oakey from the Human League is indeed a squaxx dek thargo – apparently completing his back prog collection in a comic shop in New York.
Judge Dredd: The Last Invader Part 1 by T.B. Grover and John Cooper. Another favourite two-parter – there’s quite a lot of them in the years after the Apocalypse War. Judge Nikita Engels was separated from his kombat unit (gotta love those ‘k’s in East-Meg terminology) in the last days of the War. Taking refuge in the ventilation ducts above the Joe Bugner Block Stadium, the East-Meg Judge watched games and kept up to date with news about the end of the war by retrieving discarded audio magazine slugs of Megapolitan (though disbelieving what it said as ‘propaganda’). Audio magazines come in slugs so are kind of like podcasts but available as physical mini-cassette sized objects. This one is compatible with Engels’ kombat rekorder (double the ‘k’s in that one). The only voice he hears for months on end, he gets an unhealthy attachment to the voice of Agony Annie (an agony aunt) and sends of a tape recording describing his situation and asking for advice. Given a choice of “remain in hiding” or “fight a one-man guerilla war behind enemy lines”, Agony Annie opts for “see a psychiatrist”. Engels doesn’t take it well. I like this character, he’s only here for the one story (spoiler!) but it’s good to see the other side of the trapped-soldier-who-can’t-accept-the-war-is-over story. I could have just said hold-out soldier. We’ll get a few more on the planet Moab, but that’s some time away.
Tharg’s Time Twisters: Amalgamated Ancestors by Alan Hebden and John Higgins (those links are to old collected editions which are probably pretty difficult to get hold of these days – and only cover the Alan Moore Twisters in to the bargain). Both of these creators have attended Southern Contingent gatherings – for the uninitiated, meet-ups of 2000AD and Judge Dredd readers at a pub near Covent Garden, usually on the date of a comic signing at one of the central London comic shops. I don’t think they were at the game gathering though. Set in a Mega-City style future, the psuedo-science on this story lets the company of the title use memory genes to view snapshots from the lives of the ancestors of their customers, their selling point being that they can find the ‘famous ancestor’ for every customer – guaranteed. And if they fail on that guarantee then the company will pay out a billion megabucks (which would send the company in to bankruptcy if it ever happened). The shareholders are a bit nervy about this guarantee but the doctor in charge explains that the numbers are on their side as once they go back far enough, everybody is related to everybody else. Dramatic timing intervenes as the latest customer, Wilbur Meek, appears to have no notable ancestors. Going back to Roman times the computers have only found an unbroken line of peasants, serfs and slaves. Even an intensified search using back up computers finds nothing as they go through the bronze age and back to the neolithic. Ninety thousand generations before the present and Meek’s distant ancestor appears to be having a 2001 moment. Will neanderthal Meek invent the first weapon? Nope, he tosses it away. The doctor watching in the future-present prepares to liquidate the company as they pay the billion megabucks to Meek. Unfortunately for neandermeek, they hit another neanderthal when they threw the bone and that person does invent the first weapon (in a very close take-off of that scene from 2001), and tries it out on Meek’s ancestor. Amalgamated Ancestors is saved! Wilbur Meek is presented with a special badge: “My ancestor was the first victim of the first weapon” – the only member of Meek’s family to ever ‘achieve’ anything. This is a perfect Future-Shock / Time-Twister – a set-up that can be understood, some fantastic settings and an unpredictable and memorable pay-off, revealed in the last panel or two (as long as it’s on the last page, it counts).
Rogue Trooper: Fort Neuro Part by Gerry Finley-Day and Cam Kennedy. This is still one of my favourite Rogue Trooper stories, though the plot devices show. Having left Gunnar as a decoy in Frank Sector, Rogue is being bad-mouthed for trying to capture a Dix-I veteran. Helm is not happy at the G.I.s being black-balled by the Lim-ees and while in the trophy room hits the high notes with his synth – smashing the trophies. This is where the plot device comes in, as Rogue is forced to leave Helm behind until the biochipped hat can pay for the damage. Why is he forced to do this? So that he can still request a robo-runner to show the way to the next sector. Robspierre gets a friend, Ro-ger and a double-act is formed – pseudo-French and pseudo-British robots trundling together in harmony! This is good, but then that’s because I really appreciate robot-related puns (and bees too – we saw a bee collecting pollen this morning – now dubbed Poppy Bee Brite). Anyway, Rogue, Bagman and the two Robo-runners head off to Rom Sector and Cam gets to depict Bagman’s guesses at what their ‘craze’ will be – Ro-man or Ro-many are the front contenders. Meanwhile, the Dix-I veteran has identified that the Rogue trooper is in Fortress Neuropa and there are two V.I.P. planners who will deal with him.
On the back page we get Judge Anderson’s legs (remember we got the top half of her body last prog) along with the months July to December in the 1983 calendar. I’d better make a note now – the 1984 annuals will be on sale on Saturday the 27th of August. No sign of when the Sci-Fi Special will be out, so I’ll just have to keep an eye out for adverts in the progs.
Grailpage: John Higgins’ opening shot of Amalgamated Ancestors – not only a cityscape but one with loads of fine details, some of which are picked out in dialogue between characters.
Grailquote: TB Grover, Judge Nikita Engels: “Dear Annie, I am an East-Meg judge who has been cut off from this unit. My problem is, do I remain in hiding or do I wage a one-man guerilla war behind enemy lines?” Agony Annie: “Dear Nikita, I think you should see a psychiatrist. you’re obviously quite insance. The war’s been over for months!” I shouldn’t have typed that bit out in the Judge Dredd story recap, I should have realised it was going to be my grailquote as well. There may well be a similar Agony Aunt line within the year…