I want to say this is a jump-on prog, but with three continuing stories it isn’t. The composite cover features plundered artwork from Carlos Ezquerra, Ian Gibson and Colin Wilson or Dredd, Slade and Rogue respectively, plus – if you remove the badge – a Tharg’s head hiding underneath. Not an incredibly inspiring cover, but it certainly gets the message that this is prog 300 across.
Tharg’s Nerve Centre isn’t a Nerve Centre – it’s The Mighty Tharg presents Prog 300 instead, featuring the usual ‘Some Betelgeusian sayings’ section. The honours list features an explanation of the Krill Tro Thargo, Squaxx dek Thargo and I think a new one – Meggo Thargo – any earthlet who has read 2000 AD since Prog 1.
Sam Slade, Robo-Hunter: Play it Again, Sam! Part 9 by Alan Grant and Ian Gibson. Total aside, but while I was searching for the Hokey Cokey to add to the Brit-Cit National Song Year on YouTube (also on Spotify) I was playing The Kongos – Come with Me Now in the background – made for a strange combination. Second aside – I first read this at a sufficiently young age that whenever I hear the Hokey Cokey the lyrics of this story run through my mind “The vicious, malicious Human League!” Slade sweet-talks his way out of being revealed as a robot sympathiser, aided by having been seen by Human League members smashing up three robo-cops. One montage later (and lots of smashed robots later) Slade realises he isn’t getting anywhere and comes up with a plan. He announces it to those assembled in the sewer hide-out. That there is a plan, that is, but not what it is – because with Kidd present if it’s a good plan then the rat would claim all credit. Slade will only reveal the plan to the head of the Human League, in person.
Earthlets’ Tharg Gallery has three entries: Abeltharg Snazz (in Ezquerra’s style though with double the usual amount of eyes), Tharg the Fatty (Ron Smith’s style) and Ace Tharg (in Belardinelli’s style). They can be forgiven as the point of Tharg pics isn’t original art styles but whatever Tharg is being crossed with.
Harry Twenty on the High Rock by Gerry Finley-Day and Alan Davis. Harry is prepared to fight off Big Red, Root and Sunset to enable Genghis and Old Ben to escape, though is saved by a wall of ice exploding out as the engine of the capsule flares. Genghis drags Harry in and then the capsule departs the High Rock. I won’t detail every frame, but obviously the capsule survives entry into Earth’s atmosphere, the parachutes work and they splash down in the Pacific. The three pages since blast-off would work perfectly as an end to the series, with Harry, Genghis and Old Ben escaped to Earth – no longer numbers but free men – the first men ever to escape the High Rock. Oh, but what’s this? Next prog: Hark, hark – a hungry squark!
Judge Dredd: Shanty Town Part 1 by T.B. Grover and Ron Smith. There’s a good chance I encountered stub guns in this story before I saw them in the Apocalypse War. But that’s for a future episode – this one introduces us to Shanty Town under a kilometre outside the West Wall. Over a million refugees scratch a life in the ramshackle collection of buildings, preyed upon by gun-toting criminal gangs. We’re introduced to all of this by being shown organ leggers smuggling body parts and a live child through a gap in the wall (before being dispatched by Dredd and a judge patrol – the smugglers were dispatched, the child was saved). Then the narrative sneaks into flashback mode to show us how the child ended up being smuggled. It’s a pretty harrowing depiction of life as a refugee of war (or famine, etc) though given a sci-fi twist. Y’know, just checking and there is no sci-fi twist. Real people in the real world are selling organs, including eyes, for cash to people toting guns. So much for science fiction. They decide to sell their son, Humphrey, to the organ leggers so that he can be fostered by citizens who lost their children in the war. Not only would they be paid enough to survive for weeks, but Humphrey would actually have a chance at life. Back to the present and Dredd delivers Humphrey to an infant hospital – the hundredth child from Shanty Town to be admitted that week. McGruder allows Dredd to assemble a squad to clean up Shanty Town, starting with notices of intent, the first of which gets hammered to the motor parts shack in which Humphrey’s family has died, due to eating contaminated food. There’s not many sci-fi worlds in children’s comics which show the after-effects of a war like this!
Tharg’s Time Twisters: This is Your Death by Jack Adrian and Mike Dorey (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). This one starts with Albert J Weems, a civil servant, walking along a very ordinary looking terraced streets, with doors opening directly on to the pavement. He’s accosted by Eamonn Anthrax (name and role based on 1970s and 1980s host of the British This is Your Life programme) as Weems is shown dead faces from his past. Other than the resurrection of the dead, so far, so much like the real programme. The end is where it differs as Weems is told that in five years time he will be murdered, and shown the person who will kill him. Weems is returned to the ‘real world’ and immediately starts to become a recluse. Personally if I knew I’d be killed in five years time I wouldn’t start trying to avoid the person until the time came close. Though the nature of stories like this is there is no escape, and the so Weems goes through extreme isolation but then starts using public transport after a few years. Five years, in fact. The death is two-fold – the person at the bus stop reading a newspaper (headline “Shock shortage heart… lung & kidney donors”) he sees the face that was shown years earlier and recoils into the path of a bus. That’s not all though – luckily for Weems, the ambulance driver comments that there was a doctor at the scene. In the hospital it appears he’ll live until the doctor in charge makes a highly unethical decision to switch off life support at the external injuries will make the patient ugly and the organs can be used to help deal with that shortage. Not unlike the Shanty Town story then…
Rogue Trooper: Fort Neuro Part 10 by Gerry Finley-Day and Brett Ewins. Opening with a good shot of the Fortress Neuropa map – might be the first one where we’ve see the whole fort – the Norts decide to use sonic-cannon to send a morse-code-like signal to sleeper agents who have been planted in all sectors of Neuropa. With one sector left to go – Scan Sector, Rogue hopes they’re going to be more useful as soldiers. He should have taken a warning from the fact that they were still in contact with Rom Sector. At a disco called Roscos (Ro-m sector, Sc-an sector) the perfume presaged the Scans in the same way aftershave signified the Roms. What’s the gimmick? Scans are female scandinavian beauty queens and disco dancers! Of course! Oh, and they’ve all heard of Rogue before as well. Basically Rogue gives in at this point, he can’t beat them so he ditches Bagman (a ‘bio-chip chaperone’ as he calls his old comrade) and goes for a dance.
The inner and outer back cover are taken up with a half-size reprint of Prog 1, which I won’t cover because a) I’ve already covered that at the beginning of this blog and I’ve only minimally been covering reprints of stories I’ve already posted about and b) the mini-prog is in eight parts and the pages aren’t published in reading order. I will say that I would have read these stories in this format before I owned a copy of Prog 1 though.
Grailpage: I was tempted by one of the pages by Brett Ewins showing maps of Neuropa, but I’m going to skip picking pages because of single panels (this time) and instead head for Ron Smith’s centrespread showing – from one of the less usual angles – Dredd on his Lawmaster intercepting the organ smugglers.
Grailquote: Alan Grant, Sam Slade: “You stole the shroud off your granny’s corpse to make a nappy!” Kidd: “Well… it was going to waste, wasn’t it?” and (swear I’m not just picking out references to grandmothers) TB Grover, Sherman’s granny: “I’m still in one piece. We could sell some of me!” Sherman: “Don’t be ridiculous, granny. Organ leggers don’t want old parts. They’re no use for transplant surgery.”