2000AD Prog 310: “Kill me… it’s your only hope!” Dredd – victim of the Starborn Thing!

I promised I wouldn’t keep going on about how iconic some of these covers are, so I’ll just mention that the Mick McMahon cover was parodied a few decades later (though that one will have a wig attacking Joe instead of a squiddy-alien-thing).

Tharg’s Nerve Centre brings bad news. The galaxy’s greatest comic is going to go up in price to 20p! For reference (and because I tend to mention it every time the price rises) the current 2020 price of the prog is £2.99. Elsewhere an earthlet’s letter prompts a plug for Nemesis the Warlock Book III (half a year away).

Invasion of the Thrill-Snatchers Part 3 by Belardinelli. The swat from Tharg takes out half a million thrill-suckers in one hit. From the wreckage only the toughest survive and the Totenkopf Battalion join the Sucks-Fuhrer into the bloodstream. In the turmoil some are lost and there’s a few inverted word balloons from Pete Knight which I appreciate (even if printing sounds upside down doesn’t make sense). By the end of the four pages of this episode the suckers have reached the brain.

Tharg’s Time Twisters: Chrono-cops by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (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). First time I read this I didn’t realise any part of it was a parody. It was either explained to me by my dad, or explained to me by my dad after we saw the 1980s film Dragnet at the cinema. There are other references in this story, but they’ve been discussed at length on the 2000AD Online Forum, which I advise you to visit (after you’ve finished reading this blog post). The creative team behind Watchmen starts to polish their skills for self-referential storytelling which rewards re-reads with this five-page story. A lot happens in this story so other than starting on a lampoon of the grandfather-paradox (again, using a great-grandfather instead) the most important parts are Ed Thursday getting hit by Zanzibar Z Ziggurat who never forgave Ed for mistakenly trying to arrest him as a baby. The failed arrest takes place in Carey Street and the comic shows the Houses of Parliament in the background. The only Carey Street in the region doesn’t have a direct view of the Parliament tower, though it does have a pub called The Seven Stars that has a nice cat. I’ll have to go back there when lockdown is eased! Other than how long you can spend looking at background details (and in some panels the background details suddenly become the frontground details based on context) another thing I love about this one is how you never see Joe Saturday’s eyes (due to his permanently closed eyelids) until the last panel when they’re literal circles.

The Time Twister was interrupted by an advert, but as the advert took the form of a comic strip I’m going to write about it here. Also, I’m pretty sure I had some of the things being advertised. Well, probably just the sign saying ‘police’. Oh, it was a Legoland advert by the way!

Dredd Art – it’s a page that does what it says on the tin – as usual they’re generally so closely modelled after pictures we’ve seen in the prog that you can sometimes identify the original artist and panel they came from. Of particular interest is one of Judge Toyah by future art droid John McCrea of Belfast.

Another prog, another Action Video – this time No 5. The only computer I had in the 1980s was the ZX81 so all the talk of consoles goes right over my head. The Super VCS 5200 is to be released, and Tharg will be running a competition to win it. Games on the horizon include Donkey Kong, Space Invaders, Pac-Man and Space Command. Meanwhile the second page shows that the word ‘Star’ had to legally be in the title of a new game, being called out with a ‘game group’ Attack of the Star Fighters – i.e. games released at the same time with the same plot and gameplay – in this case Star Raiders, Star Voyager and Starmaster being reviewed. Action Video No 6 will be in Prog 314, according to a note at the end of no 5.

Judge Dredd: The Starborn Thing Part 2 by T.B. Grover and Carlos Ezquerra. As pointed out by Lobo Baggins on the forum, the Griff mountain range and Hossanjo Valley are riffs on characters from TV series Bonanza – if any other names come up I know where to check first! The three judges who survived the journey get to witness the huge alien inhabitant of the craft emerge, screeching in pain, seconds later dying. The tek-judges Deex and Runch (no discernible Bonanza connection) scan the creature as a squid-like tentacled creature breaks through its skin. Dredd is caught up as he tries to disentangle the creature from Deex until he gets stung by needle spines. Coming under the control of the alien, Dredd shoots Runch and this is the scene on the cover as Dredd gives Deex a single warning before shooting him.

Rogue Trooper: Fort Neuro Part 19 by Gerry Finley-Day and Cam Kennedy. Lime-ee Sector and Scan Sector join the fray, easily defeating the Nort assault now that they’re operating as one unit again. A final Nort frontal attack under General Vagner is attempted, but stands no hope. Everything ends well as the robe-runners are resurrected, though in a slightly different form as they resemble a motorcycle club riding trikes around Fortress Neuropa. Leaving for the fort and in a callback to the Assassination Run Rogue pays a visit to the Nort HQ, though caps off the story by finding that the general himself has been driven mad by his failure.

Skizz by Alan Moore and Jim Baikie. We’re introduced to Roxanne O’Rourke as she spurns the unwelcome advances of Darren, yelling up to her from under a streetlight. We’ve not seen many teenage schoolgirls in 2000AD (if any) and certainly not any as the protagonist. Going back to bed, she hears a sound from the back garden. Assuming it to be Darren she goes down to the garden with a flashlight and a poke (remember, from last prog?) After scaring each other, Roxy and Zhcchz make first contact.

Rogue Trooper: Saviour of Fortress Neuropa by Cam Kennedy features Rogue, the two main robe-runners we met and one Souther from each of the sectors (all in their pre-finale appearances before they got turned in to trikes or ditched their headgear). I thought I’d had this comic as part of the first batch which were given to me, but the lack of a newsagents mark on the front and the fact that the star pin-up wasn’t removed, stuck to my wall and then glued back on to the prog suggests I got it at a later date. Though I did still colour in Skizz’s visor at some point.

Grailpage: there are two panels which get repeated in different contexts throughout Chrono-Cops, but the only page that features both is the second page by Dave Gibbons, so I have to go for that one, even though McMahon’s cover was sorely tempting.

Grailquote: it might not seem like much, but the punchline of this episode has stuck in my mind which is always a good measure for whether I should pick it as a grailquote. Alan Moore, Roxanne O’Rourke: “Just give me your… hand? Uh… You’re, uh… You’re not from round here, then?” I don’t know what words you’re supposed to say when making first contact with an alien race (they’re supposed to say “we come in peace” or “take me to your leader”) but this has to get points for originality, right?

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