2000AD Prog 316: The Stupid Gun!

This Ron Smith cover heralds the first complete multi-part Judge Dredd story I ever read. This is one of the stories which implanted the idea of Mega-City One in my mind (though not especially this episode).

Tharg’s Nerve Centre has a complaint from one owner of a Judge Dredd boardgame who got two sections of the North but none of the South and another letter I remembered compliments Tharg on the first issue though predicts the letter may be somewhat delayed (by about six years).

Sam Slade, Robo-Hunter: The Slaying of Slade Part 5 by Grant/Grover and Ian Gibson. As I’ve written previously, when I was given a handful of progs by my neighbour I wouldn’t have been used to serials in comics (having only been exposed to the one-page self-contained gag strips in children’s comics). If I didn’t put them in order before reading them, I suspect this was the first actual prog I read. But that’s just a guess. Regardless, another first for me was my encountering the term ‘Pearly Gates’. Slade doesn’t make it through said gates as has to be processed by Immigration Control first. I don’t think the word ‘heaven’ is ever mentioned in this story, but it’s not looking hopeful that Slade will get in to ‘paradise’, though the defence counsel (Maurie Iscariot) thinks he might be able to get Slade off with a couple of aeons in purgatory (so taking the Dantean view of the afterlife). Having killed, stolen, borne false witness, covetted plenty, and not loved his neighbour (his neighbour was Kidd – this reference would not have meant anything to me for a few years, until I started collecting back progs) and lying about honouring his mother and father, Iscariot prepares Slade for the worst when the Entrance Board is about to make its decision. But the board doesn’t make a decision, for there is another Samuel C Slade on Earth, and this one is still alive. Judgement is postponed and Iscariot informs our Slade that if he doesn’t find the other Slade “and sort the matter out” then he shall remain a restless, wandering spirit (a ghost). Even young me would have been familiar with various comedy takes on the afterlife, so other than the veneer or red tape and paperwork, this would have been fairly familiar to me. Some people don’t like this story (and consider the sequence starting from Football Crazy to have ended the golden period of Robo-Hunter) but for me the Brit-Cit version was the best run of the series.

Skizz by Alan Moore and Jim Baikie. This is another episode that seems really familiar to me, which makes me wonder if this was the first out of the batch that I read. I don’t remember disliking this episode, but I imagine that reading four pages of Cornelius and Roxy being interrogated by government agents would have paled next to other episodes (for example the first, featuring a starship, crash and lots of techno-babble). Van Owen eventually releases the three, though keep Skizz (as you”d expect).

Dr. Dibworthy’s Disappointing Day isn’t branded as one of Tharg’s Time Twisters but it is written by Alan Moore, so is probably in one or both of those linked collected editions). Alan Langford provides the pictures. The Doctor of the title has invented a device capable of sending a small object one-way through time (to the past). To test it he attempts to kill people or influence events in history to observe how they affect his present. We, as third person omniscient observers, see Dibworthy’s archetypally British study get a make-over following each change of events – I can’t quite work out who the first ‘rulers of the world’ are, but the year 1057 saw some fighting around the Byzantine Empire and Constantinople. More readily identifiable are a German dominated study, a Japanese rulership and something very African-looking. I’d have got the general gist of the changes to history leading to alternative presents, though the final action may have confused me. Out of frustration at his apparent (to him) failures in changing the past, Dibworthy stops the primal atom from exploding, preventing the big bang. “Nothing happened. Nothing at all.” The universe now becoming a blank panel – marvelous (but did I understand it when I was eight? Who knows).

Spex is back for the Sci-Fi Book Scan. Christopher Stasheff – The Warlock in Spite of Himself and King Kobold are parts of a fantasy series, including time travel. R. Miller & W.K. Hartmann – The Traveller’s Guide to the Solar System is a collection of space-probe photos and artist’s impressions of other planets. The Best of Robert Heinlein Volumes 1 and 2 sound like they may have inspired from one a few Future-Shocks and Time Twisters.

Judge Dredd: The Stupid Gun Part 1 by T.B. Grover and Ron Smith. I wouldn’t want every story to play around with the format of a comic strip, but doing something different every now nad then keeps things interesting. So this story begins with a vid tape recorded by Eck Muttox giving the background of how targets of the stupid gun lose the patterns of intelligence built up, leaving only base instincts. Or to put that another way – makes you stupid if you’re hit by it. This is framed by Dredd and a squad of judges in a room of people who have obviously been hit by it then it’s flashback time as we find out that Eck accidentally shot the inventor of the device (officially a neuro-pattern dissembler). Stuck for what to do with a newly stupid professor he panics and takes the prof home but his parents don’t play along. Before they can contact the judges and afraid he’d be put in the iso-cubes for years, he shoots his own parents, tripling his problems. Running out of money, he uses robs shops and steal from people walking on the pedwalks, leaving a trail of stupidity in his wake. The flashback ends after a small-time hoodlum spots him carrying out a ‘stupe-up’ and reports it to his boss. Some of those hoods were discovered in the apartment of stupid people and the episode ends with Dredd entering a shuggy joint full of people who had been hit by the stupid gun. It’s a great story touching on the slice of ordinary mega-citizen life we’ve seen in Cityblock and Unamerican Graffiti, and it can’t be a coincidence that this was also illustrated by Ron. Ron’s also drawn quite a few of the criminal underworld story, which is what the other half of this story is concerned with.

Sharing a page with a couple of reservation coupons is an advert for the 2000AD Sci-Fi Special 1983. This was a bit of a surprise as I wasn’t expecting it so soon. After I’d read and re-read the progs which were given to me the first prog I actually bought was 330, though this special was still on the shelves, so I may well have bought that before I purchased a prog. Though considering my age at the time, maybe somebody else bought it for me. Either way, that’s going to be tomorrow’s blog post.

Tharg’s Time Twisters: T.C. Spudd’s First case by Stavros and Jim Eldridge. I’d completely forgotten about this story until I read it today! A potato from the future materialises in the year 1983 though messes up his opening line so disappears and rematerialises so that he can get the line correct (“Freeze! Don’t move a muscle!”) and then shoots a man preparing dinner. A quick flashback reveals that humanity wiped itself out in 1999 (as well as the Volgan Invasion of Europe, a lot of things happened in 1999) and the Earth was inherited by those lifeforms which lived underground – first the ants (who reinvented the wheel), then the moles and finally the mutated potatoes (who invented lasers and time travel). For unspecified reasons the potatoes have decided to use their time machines and lasers to hunt down and ‘deliver justice’ to all those who harmed potatoes in the past. In this case the man who was shot was in the process of mashing up potatoes. The man’s wife, shocked, protests that the previous day she’d boiled potatoes the previous night. Spudd takes note and disappears. The previous night he materialises again (or is that for the first time) and delivers his opening line, without error. It’s a neat little humour story (though obviously doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny if taken as a serious tale).

Rogue Trooper: Genetic Infantryman of Nu Earth by Gerry Finley-Day and Cam Kennedy. There’s no real title for this, though there is that new sub-title. We get a three-panel history of the colonisation of Nu Earth (then called New Earth) and it’s decline to a poisoned planet. The Norts are after Rogue again and have formed toxin teams, comprised of 24 squad members, each armed with a different toxin taken from the Polar Zone and assigned to the Delta Zone where Rogue was last sighted. This one takes up residence in an abandoned warren of tunnels. A week in to their stake-out, Rogue wanders by and is hit by poison arrows. Even though they’ve been there for a week, it’s at this point that one of the members of the squad pipes up with the question – if the planet which poisoned the G.I. survived the war conditions which have tainted Nu-Earth, what about other life-forms such as animals? A few seconds later the body of a Nort is found and the rest of the squad are entirely wiped out by a creature. Hours later Rogue comes around and discovers the bodies, scarred with claw marks. When I saw last prog’s next-prog box I thought whatever it was was too early to be bio-wire, though that’s what we’re going to get next prog.

On the back cover, and threatening to disattach once more (the first time it was so it could go up on my wall) is a star pin-up of Harry Twenty on the High Rock, mid-riot.

Grailpage: I was tempted by Ian Gibson’s inhuman angels on the entrance board but instead I’m heading to Nu Earth (or New earth in it’s pre-pollution days) in Cam Kennedy’s opening pages to this week’s Rogue.

Grailquote: I didn’t mention it in the recap, but between Slade seeing the Pearly Gates and being taken to the entrance board he waited for a while in the Department of Immigration lobby where we saw a range of recently deceased. It’s a bit silly but I like the reference to the advertising campaign which was running for Shredded Wheat at the time (where it was considered a near-impossible feat to eat three shredded wheat). Grant/Grover wrote the original words for a pre-teen spirit, but Steve potter’s lettering looks like it was censored – presumably at the behest of lawyers as the actual line as published is: “I knew I shouldn’t have tried for that third krispie wheat!” (I don’t think the makers of Shredded Wheat would have been happy at a depiction of their product killing children).

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