2000AD Prog 315: “Look, mummy… the judge is going to miss his bus!”

You can always rely on Ron Smith to use an interesting angle as we get a top-down shot of Judge Dredd leaping off of a skedway towards a Hover Bus below. This is another of those detached-then-reattached covers.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre contains another letter pointing out disparities between Tharg’s treatment of male and female characters, having killed off Sister Sledge and the Executioner and not showing enough of McGruder. Tharg responds by pointing out that the first two were villains, which doesn’t really help his case about positive portrayals… He does ask if Roxanne O’Rourke meets the earthlet’s approval, though doesn’t mention forthcoming characters Venus Bluegenes and the bubble dancer from Rogue Trooper. Or the Beast in the Broch, but that’s getting way ahead of myself!

Sam Slade, Robo-Hunter: The Slaying of Slade Part 4 by Grant/Grover and Ian Gibson. A woman opens the door on the scene of carnage – I don’t know if she was a potential client, or somebody else based in the office building (I was going to say somebody who works there, but Slade was just about the only human who works in Brit-Cit). Hoagy and Stogie are repaired in the alliterative copshop workshop and there’s a wonderful scene of the robocop trying to get it through to Stogie that Slade is now dead. Though while a robodoc (or whatever they’re called in Slade’s continuity) and Slade’s assistants stand around his brain-dead body on life support, this spirit departs the body. Slade takes a relaxed approach to the situation, admiring the rugged good looks of his barely-there corpse and rueing that he hadn’t promoted Stogie before he snuffed it (Hoagy has sworn revenge, so we know not much will get done). His reverie is interrupted by Wilkinson, official courier, Department of Heaven. Taken away from Brit-Cit in a Heaven-Wagon (a hovercar – even heaven has moved with the times) Slade is taken to the Gates of Paradise. We’ve seen all this kind of stuff in popular culture, but it’s not usual for 2000AD (the closest we’ve ever got is people being taken to Hell, or a dimension very much resembling traditional depictions thereof).

As is almost becoming a tradition, the next page is given over to reader’s art with Strange Beings and Deadly Things! I was going to write that they’d been a regular occurrence since 1981 – the Year of the Alien – but we’ve been getting readergraphs of earthlet-submitted aliens ever since the early progs. Two or three look like they may not be entirely original, but if they’ve been swiped, I don’t know where from.

Facing that is a colour comic strip which looks like it’s for a boardgame called Diamond Hunt, which looks quite awful, if the strip is anything to go by. It’s set in Africa and is very post-colonial.

Tharg’s Time Twisters: The Big Clock! by Alan Moore and Eric Bradbury (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 is another of those stories that I’d have found entertaining when I was a kid but probably wouldn’t have understood most of the references, having Moore throw as many puns and time-based metaphors as he could get away with in to the five pages of this Twister. Examples: precious moments, golden years, salad days, tense seconds, nagging anxieties. I’d have understood the bit about time seeming to crawl in waiting rooms and at school but flying past when you’re on holiday though. I probably wouldn’t have gotten the reference to time having started the first time the Big Clock struck – the ‘Big Bong Theory’. Bradbury excelled at depicting this silliness. This story is especially notable to me as it was almost certainly the first time I’d heard of the city of Bradford when Keith gave the forecast about the city being in a low pressure area, causing time to crawl. These days I lived in a house with a Bradford lass, who found that panel hilarious.

If they hadn’t already, Forbidden Planet is now branching out in to T-shirts though they’re uninspired, merely reprinting a few covers or parts of centrespreads (You’re Next, Punk, Mortis and Death from the Four Dark Judges, Get Ugly and Rogue’s first prog). Other adverts include the boardgame, the omnipresent stamps, Prog 316, Anglo Bubbly bubblegum and a newsagent’s reservation coupon.

Judge Dredd: King of the Road by T.B. Grover and Ron Smith. A title isn’t actually given for this story, but the antagonist calls himself “king of the road” at one point, so it’ll do. There’s an old joke about somebody who buys a car, drives it around for a bit but then runs out of petrol. They go back to the place they bought the car and complain that it ran out of fuel. This is the Mega-City spin on that tail, as the fuel fool (Waglan) crashes through the dealership window. When Dredd arrives on the scene Waglan takes the dealer (Basil Cutey) hostage and makes a break for it. Not impressed by Cutey’s taunts about Dredd chasing them, Waglan presses the ‘passenger eject’ button (do all Mega-City vehicles have a passenger eject button? Enquiring minds want to know). The ejector seat knocks into Dredd’s lawmaster and Waglan is so self-congratulatory as he looks back that he crashes off of the road (and remember this is Mega-City One, so roads are seldom on City Bottom). As on the cover, he crashes in to a hover-bus, Dredd jumps after him and uncouples the coach they’re in. Waglan jumps off of the coach and gets hit by a truck and Dredd finishes the episode with a punchline “Guess he ran right back into fuel – in a big way!” – which would have had more impact if the truck had ‘Fuel’ written on the side. It’s entertaining filler, though stretched a bit longer than it needed to be – and thinking of it, pretty close to the Big Mo story in some ways. Or maybe it’s just because both were drawn by Ron Smith that I’m associating them.

Skizz by Alan Moore and Jim Baikie. At a loss of what else to do about the deteriorating Skizz, Loz suggest they get the authorities involved. Worried about what the authorities would do to Skizz, she’s kind of talked around when Loz mentions E.T. as the authorities in that film wanted to help E.T. and that Skizz would surely be treated like a diplomat. When they turn up, the authorities are (of course) led by Van Owen, and they’re none to gentle. I don’t think we’re ever told exactly what condition afflicts Cornelius, presumably he’s suffered a nervous breakdown. Whatever it is, he doesn’t react well to being dragged out of Roxy’s house. Cornelius tranquilised and Loz and Roxy in the back of an ambulance, Roxy asks what happens next. Punchline time! Loz walked out of E.T. before the end!

Rogue Trooper: Fort Neuro Part 4 by Gerry Finley-Day and Brett Ewins. As a Nort radio operator chokes to death atop Microwave Mountain (here called micro-chip mountain – proofreading!) Magnam has Rogue in the pistol’s sights. Rogue is mainly concerned about the suffering of the Nort radio (or whatever teh communication system is) operator and puts Gunnar down. Fortunately this leaves Gunnar in the exact correct position to shoot at Magnam just before the Major is about to shoot Rogue in the head. That keeps happening! As a Souther salvage squad arrives on the scene, Bagman dispenses items ten and sixty-nine, which are tweezers and a support-capsule capable of keeping Magnam’s biochip alive for seventy-two hours. Next prog: “Saved – but by what?” Good question – I don’t think we’re quite at the bio-wire or vid-vulture stories yet so it can’t be either of those.

Speaking of next prog – the inside back cover has a half-page trailer for The Stupid Gun (and an ad for the first issue of some kind of music magazine called No 1! (the exclamation mark is part of the title).

The red and orange on my wall get joined by some red and blue as Brett Ewins provides a read-out of the pistol which held Major Magnam, in the style of those Millicom blueprints in an annual (this one is a ‘personal hand-held weapons system, MK. VI/BRT/EW’).

Grailpage: another memorable cover from Ron Smith wins the grailpage this prog.

Grailquote: Grant/Grover, Stogie: “Senor Slade, he don’ die! He ees like the ol’ man reever – he jos’ keep rolleeng along!” Robo-cop: “Well, he rolled a bit too far this time!”

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