2000AD Prog 302: “Hee! Hee! Hee!” Ben Ninety – Android!

Alan Davis is back on the cover showing last prog’s stunning revelation regarding Old Ben 90. This was one of my first back progs and I’m pretty sure I got it from a comic shop in Bristol (Forever People?) while on holiday and read it while at a cafe on a dockside. It’s possible that the twist involving Ben 90 was my introduction to the character! Now that I’m writing about it, I think the prog containing the Clone Ranger story was one of the others I bought on the same day.

Once again, Tharg blames thrill-power for the reduction in size of the Nerve Centre (though funny how the other half of the inside front cover is taken up by an ad for that Air Aces Booklet in Battle this week). Meanwhile letters concern graphology (and how you can’t tell gender (or ‘sex’ as mentioned in the letter) from handwriting. Not mentioned, but more so seeing as they writing we saw in The Executioner was not written by a woman! Tharg gives a woolly ’22nd Century criminal investigation’ answer. The other letter awards a Krill Tro Thargo to somebody who started reading with Prog 170 and managed to collect every back prog. I feel shortchanged – I started at a later date (coming up soon in the prog slog) and managed to collect every back prog when there were twice as many to collect! Where’s my KTT, Tharg?

Sam Slade, Robo-Hunter: Play it Again, Sam! Part 11 by Alan Grant and Ian Gibson. As we’d guess from Sir Oswald Modroid having a hand in the arrangements for the assassination of the fake Iron Aggie, Slade is stitched up when he kills the real Prime Droid, immediately getting thrown in to jail. Obviously being programmed to be evil, he turns up to gloat in person and explain the whole plan to the chained-up Sam – at this point Sam had no idea who the head of the Human League was. The reason Modroid started the Human League was to give an excuse to get the humans out of the way – with Aggie out of the way the robot could arrest any human under the pretext they’re a League member. Brit-Cit National Song Year on YouTube and Spotify.

Under a half-page ad for Roy of the Rovers are a host of smaller adverts, including one for the Titan Comics collection containing the Uncle Ump story, a Stamp Quiz ad, the Westminster Comic Mart and a next prog box: “The time is out of joint; O cursed spite, that ever I was born to set it right! The man who wrote Shakespeare”.

A Blast from the Past: the mini-prog contains the first page of Harlem Heroes, the second and third pages of Invasion and the last page of the first episode of M.A.C.H.1.

The Pioneer by Alan Hebden and Redondo. You’d have thought this story of time travel would have been published under the newly minted Tharg’s Time Twisters, but it’s not (still has a Tharghead introducing it though). In 1850, the Barnes family are trekking from Ohio to California (presumably for the gold rush – but I’ve already done some research for another matter so I’m going to avoid getting distracted by finding out when the Californian gold rush was). In the middle of the desert and on the verge of losing his son to fever, Josiah Barnes goes ahead to try to find some help and stumbles across a 20th century highway. He interrupts the robbery of a roadside diner and gets given penicillin and Coke by the owners, insisting they take a dollar to pay for it (even though he saved their lives and they’re perfectly happy for him to have them for free). The thing I researched is that, after he left – back to the 19th century and his family – the local sheriff turned up and identified the coin as a 1847 silver dollar, which is enough for the couple to retire on. Though when I looked it up the coin in question was quite rare but would only earn them $5,000 – not much of a retirement fund, unless they’re expecting to live for less than a year – not sure of the exchange rate between 1980/1983 and now, but it’s not going to be that much!

Judge Dredd: Shanty Town Part 3 by T.B. Grover and Ron Smith. It wasn’t Ocks who was easily lured last prog – it was Judge Glennon. Also in Dredd’s team is Salvador, but he gets caught by Juve Dean and the Y-Shanty while monitoring Mad Mox on the South Side of the shanty city. Speaking of the Y-Shanty – I think (might be wrong) that this is the first appearance of the convention in Mega-City one for youth gangs to name themselves beginning with a ‘Y-‘. Mox activates a signal jammer, cutting of Dredd’s team as they Y-Shanty encircle Dredd’s base. Always thinking of the set-up for a skirmish game (must be something to do with the recent Miniatures Game that came out from Warlord) of particular interest is the breakdown of Dredd’s squad – as well as the two dead there are another eight altogether: Hershey; Dredd; Elvino; Blofeld; Ocks; Shaver and two more not-yet-named. Smith’s crashed Strato-V looks a bit different to the type we’re familiar with from Carlos’ epic work on the half-year’s worth of Apocalpyse War, though one picture would work as the basis for a battle map (including the positions of the lasers, rear access hatches and blast holes. As with The Black Plague, everything is set for a siege – though Dredd isn’t the type to settle in for a siege… The tension is upped when Mad Mox lets loose with his secret weapon – a stub gun, taking out one of the judges (the name isn’t given this episode).

Harry Twenty on the High Rock by Gerry Finley-Day and Alan Davis. Everything changes with this episode – up until now the whole emphasis has been to escape the High Rock, the constant plan from Harry. But now he’s found his cell-mate is an android. Warden Worldwise speaks through the android, taunting Harry and explaining that he felt he had to break Harry as an example to the others. Genghis isn’t interested and attacks the racist Pusser with a harpoon – I think successfully – though is burnt to death in the pcoress. Speaking of burning, Old Ben is burnt too as the slugs destroy all evidence of their presence when Hawaiin (sic) hover-craft are spotted approaching by satellite monitors. So, it looks like the Warden, High Rock and slugs have nothing to do with the Oceanic Zone, but once again before Worldwise (in person), Harry has it explained to him that other world powers – the Western Bloc; Russo-China; Pan-Africa – launched the orbiting prison to place their malcontents, political rebels and terrorists. Does this mean that all of the 10,000 men on board the Rock are political prisoners, rather than more standard criminals? Even those like Big Red One. Speaking of which – after the little chat with the Warden, Harry is thrown in to a zero-gravity cell with said felon (if he is a felon).

Tharg’s Time Twisters: Dr. Dale’s Diary by Alan Grant and Boluda (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). Folklorists use the Aarne–Thompson–Uther Index to analyse recurrent themes throughout the world’s folk tales. The original Aarne tale index was designed to classify European tales, the other two names have gradually expanded it to have a more worldwide scope. With a little modification an Aarne-Thompson-Uther-Tharg index could include a few of the themes we keep seeing crop up in the pages of the Galaxy’s Greatest (I’m not sure if the ATU Index includes alien invasion, for example). As you may be able to tell, this story contains a few things we’ve seen before, but is no less entertaining for it. A scientist neglects his wife (check – she also has the flu and could really have done with some care and attention), and invents a time machine in his house (check) in order to find out the truth behind a great mystery (check – we saw one of those pretty recently with the Star). He ends up causing the mystery he set out to investigate (check, also in the Star) and when he tries to escape back to the present a falling brontosaurus stumbles over the time machine, transporting it and the machine back to 1983 and leaving the scientist stranded in prehistory (check). The mystery was the extinction of the dinosaurs, by the way – though while not specified it also appears that due to Dr. Dale the flu originated in the future and was brought back in to the past, as with the metal eaters (check). Oh, and as the brontosaurus destroyed most of the house and Acacia Avenue, it looks like Mrs Dale was also killed.

Grailpage: as I said at the top, this was one of my earlier back progs when I started to find out about comic shops as a child. The images which struck me most when re-reading were by Redondo and Ron Smith. Smith’s centrepages showing Mad Mox holding aloft Judge Glennon’s bloodied helmet wins.

Grailquote: Gerry Finley-Day, Warden Worldwise: “They gave me one brief when they made me warden: “Do what you want,” they said. “The High Rock is yours.” “Just one thing,” they said. “No prisoner must ever escape!” And do you know something, Harry Twenty! NO PRISONER EVER HAS!

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