2000AD Prog 314: “Meet my metal assassins, robo-hunter!” Teeny-Mek attack!

Ian Gibson’s back on the cover and showing the scene in which (spoiler) Sam Slade is going to die! This is another of those progs that came in my very first batch, so no sooner did I meet Slade than he was killed!

Tharg’s Nerve Centre is interesting for me – following the earthlet versus terran debate in the previous century of progs, I’d thought that there was a similar earthlet versus earthlette debate when I started reading, but from this Nerve Centre it looks like it begins and ends with one letter, when Tharg joins the twentieth century in treating all earthlets as equal. If all that seems like gibberish to you then the letter says that if Tharg shows no discrimination between the sexes then why does ‘earthlet’ get changed to ‘earthlette’ when correspondence is written by a female hand. A less important topic but still interesting (to me) is reader’s art encapsulating scenes from the recently completed Harry Twenty. I’d thought I found out Ben’s secret when I met him on that memorable cover but it turns out it was from the very first day I was introduced to the galaxy’s greatest (even though it’d be years until I actually read any H20).

Sam Slade, Robo-Hunter: The Slaying of Slade Part 3 by Grant/Grover and Ian Gibson. Slade is knocked out by the teeny meks so it’s up to Hoagy and Stogie to deal with them. Hoagy lasts as long as you’d expect and Stogie only a little longer as they both get killed (but they’re robots and they’ve both died before and been fine after). They mysterious watcher waits for Slade to regain consciousness so that he can gloat in revenge (Slade doesn’t recognise him, and neither do we), before ordering the teeny meks to kill Slade. We’re told his head is partially destroyed and that brain activity reads zero. This episode did not survive being given to an eight-year-old without damage as that eight-year-old (me) decided that Ian Gibson obviously didn’t know what he was doing and made a few additions. Could have been worse, at least I only scrawled over five of the panels (and it’s all still readable).

Techno Police – this is a competition to win some videos. Being from the early eighties, it does of cours eask whether you want that in VHS or Beta (plus something else I’ve never heard of called V2000).

Mr. Macabre: A Tharg Special Thriller by Stavros and Belardinelli. I suspect this one hasn’t been reprinted much – according to Barney, not at all, so if you haven’t read it in this prog you probably haven’t read it. A sinister (one might say macabre) figure walks the streets of Milton Keynes, ending up at the office of Sir Josiah and showing his business card ‘saver of souls’. For no discernible purpose (other than narratology) Mr Macabre invites Sir Josiah to tell the story of a contract which led to his going from being a tramp living from the dustbins of Milton Keynes to becoming the ruler of the largest industrial empire on the planet – starting immediately when Josiah came across an ancient contract in one of those dustbins which, when read aloud, summoned a demon or devil or something. Josiah did not read the fine print – then again, he only wanted the devil to go away, and also the really fine print could only be read under an electron microscope. What did it say? That the contract will expire after one year and that the signatory’s soul will be claimed on that day. The continuity geek in my would want to point out it should have been more than one year, to allow time to use the immediate riches showered upon Josiah to grow the largest industrial empire and also to give time for this empire to have an effect which gets reflected in the honours list so that Josiah becomes Sir Josiah. Eight-year-old me didn’t notice things like that. Anyway, Mr Macabre deals with the demon when he turns up to claim Sir Josiah’s soul. Sir Josiah is happy, briefly, before Macabre leers greedily at him and sucks his soul from his body. Because he’s saving souls, and Sir Josiah’s will made a fine addition to the collection. Is it any wonder that I can’t read a short story without expecting a future shock-like conclusion when this was my introduction?

Action Video No 6 proclaims Star Wars: Jedi Arena as ‘zarjaz’ – though posterity looks upon the first computer game to feature light sabres in a different light.

Judge Dredd: The Starborn Thing Part 6 by T.B. Grover and Carlos Ezquerra. The last part! The mutants who were hit by the alien parasite have reached the globular spaceship – or ‘the nest’ while Dredd’s had a baby, to the delight of Tek-Judge Strang. Dredd informs Chief Judge McGruder about the nest and an H-Wagon is sent to investigate. As I mentioned on Space Spinner 2000, the first stories you read stick with you – in that case I read the story which revealed that Dredd was a clone of Fargo early on in my Squaxx-days – so it’s always been part of the background for me. In this prog one of the crew of the H-Wagon is a black female judge – possibly the first? She doesn’t last long though, as the H-Wagon gets to Hossanjo Valley just as the sphere closes and the powerful magnetic forces tears the ship apart, along with all the crew. All they can do is wait for the hatching as the magnetic force will switch off just beforehand. Thirteen days later Dredd gets the call while on patrol, is picked up by an H-Wagon and fifteen minutes later he’s dropped off in the valley and ready to peek in to the nest. There’s lots of squiddy things. At least incendiaries work against them, and he orders the Wagon to burn them out, then run a spectroscopic scan on the entire valley. Back at Justice HQ (not called the Grand Hall of Justice) Strang has incubated Dredd’s baby and, echoing what has been observed with real-life cephalopods has given it a few pieces of metal, which it manipulated in to a laz-rod.

Rogue Trooper: Major Magnam Part 3 by Gerry Finley-Day and Brett Ewins. I was expecting to encounter my earlier handiwork again in this episode – I must have resisted scrawling over this one. After an early use by Ewins of copied (or photo-copied) artwork – the one of Microwave Mountain – Rogue interrupts Magnam’s pistol-whipping by suggesting that the five G.I.s show the human soldiers how it’s done, and they launch an assault on microwave mountain. Magnam shows how useless they are in combat by loudly admonishing the ‘lootenant’ to speak clearly, thus breaking their cover and leading directly to the death of a corporal. They take the pyramid, but at the cost of the lives of every single Souther troop. By the time Rogue and the chips regroup with Magnam, the Major has been in touch with Millicom and found out that they’re all deserters. Despite being lousy in a battle, the Major reckons that Rogue and the others are the ones who are a disgrace to the G.I.s – and more importantly has them in the pistol’s sights.

Skizz by Alan Moore and Jim Baikie. Zhcchz isn’t doing well. He’s flat out on the sofa and seemingly has picked up an alien (Earth native) disease. Meanwhile Roxy has to go to school where she discovers that Darrell has told everybody that he stayed at her house at the weekend. As before, Alan Moore’s naturalistic language and Jim Baikie’s mastery of body language and facial expressions make this live on the page as Roxy tells Darrell in no uncertain terms that she’s not happy at the falsehoods he’s spread about the… By the time school’s out and she gets home, Zhcchz condition has deteriorate rapidly and she’s left with nobody to turn to other than Loz (and Cornelius). They race over but it’s clear they’re in over their head. There’s a few mentions of a phrase that Skizz has picked up, a term that Roxy (and Loz) use in dire situations: ‘flippy-neck’. I’m not entirely sure if I’d have got this reference at the time!

On the back page is another star pin-up that would have adorned my wall for some time – this one by Massimo Belardinelli, of the Greater-Spotted Thrill-Sucker. Along with the previous prog’s Fink Angel, my wall must have looked very red and orange in the early eighties!

Grailpage: loads of good art throughout this prog, but the image that has stayed with me, and always comes to mind if I think of Chief Judge McGruder without any other context, is the centrespread, including the panel where she says “DROKK!” Ezquerra was responsible for this.

Grailquote: Alan Moore, Zhcchz (internal monologue): “…he would shortly be faced with the prospect of discorporation. Discorporation. Death. “Flippi-neck”.”

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