If you think from the amount of text in that title that this cover may be a bit ‘busy’ then you’d be right. I’m no minimalist, but there’s too many uncoordinated elements here. Apparently the original artwork is by Robin Smith but I wouldn’t have guessed if Barney hadn’t told me.
Tharg’s Nerve Centre contains a a few plugs for Return of the Jedi-related features coming up while the letters draw parallels between Skizz and a certain other film. Presumably they weren’t Squaxx when Tharg was ‘heavily influenced’ by The Six Million Dollar Man.
Sam Slade, Robo-Hunter: The Slaying of Slade Part 9 by Grant/Grover and Ian Gibson. Slade gets to the bottom of the mystery of two Sams as he witnesses his injured, unconscious body in the care of Doctor Deller – who isn’t actually that interested in healing, more in cloning. I didn’t have this prog in 1983, but I have a feeling the next episode will be more familiar (though it’s not like I haven’t read them all before).
Enter this Mega-Zarjaz Competition! (and also) WIN a galaxy full of star prizes from Palitoy & Parker Video Games. Word of the original Star Wars film inspired the creation of a new sci-fi comic, so it’s no wonder that said comic dedicated two pages to a Return of the Jedi competition. The competition itself involves working out which lettered X-wing and TIE fighters pair up in a string maze, noting down which letter comes first in the alphabet out of each pair then using the five letters to make a word. The word was REBEL. I would claim credit, but about half way through I realised the previous owner of the prog had shaded in the loser out of each pair in pencil.
Tharg’s Time Twisters: Ring Road by Alan Moore and Redondo. No explanation is given for the events of this story, but then none is needed as it’s more of a mood piece. A young woman, just released from a Detention Centre in 1935 is offered a lift by an old woman driving a car. She kills the woman and drives off. Outside the car (and on the radio) things change. It’s pretty obvious to the reader (though how obvious to the young reader) that she’s encountering snapshots of the 20th century. Moore’s skill is in depicting the reaction of a person from 1935 to these vignettes. Considering he’s easily mistakable for a hippy, Moore once again lampoons the popular image. Times change outside the car (and on the radio) as she drives through the 20th century. Times change substantially more when there’s a big flash in the West. There follows a series of cosmic events, similar to what the protagonist from The House on the Borderlands experienced (but without the pigs). Then time loops around and she sees flying lizards, cavemen and finally a young woman by the side of the road. She offers a lift to the woman. The woman kills her. As I say, there’s no explanation, and the story may seem a little dry when recounted like I’ve just done, but it’s the way Moore tells it!
There’s a page an advert for Humbrol model kits (and assembly and painting kits), the obligatory stamp advert, a 2000 AD Albums ad from Titan, a plug for prog 231 from Tharg and most significant of all, a teaser labelled “Sláine is coming”.
Judge Dredd: up to Condo Part 2 by T.B. Grover and Carlos Ezquerra. The centrespread opens with two large panels as Gemini 3 gets hit by a meteor shower. Insider the condo, Dredd discovers the saboteur is actually a robot disguised as a human Tek, but tricks the robot in to hitting a transformer and electrocuting itself. Warning condo control, we get the scene on the centrespread Getting a situation report from condo control, the space colony has sustained estimated 47% casualties, taking the total (including the previous Gemini losses) to half a million people.
Skizz by Alan Moore and Jim Baikie. Jim illustrates a nifty Victorian pub, capturing the feel of those up and down the country. Roxy appeals to Loz and Cornelius to help her rescue Skizz. Neither are keen and when she uses Cornelius’ catchphrase (I’ve got my pride) against him the situation explodes. Luckily for Roxy she breaks down in tears before Cornelius’ temper gets the better of him, and changes his mind in to the bargain. Cornelius, who we assume had a nervous breakdown following the loss of his job, and for whom getting a job is everything puts aside his desires to help Roxy. The confusion he feels at the world that sometimes seems alien allows him to empathise with Skizz for whom the world is alien. Roxy’s fears that Van Owen is experimenting on Skizz are confirmed when we switch to the government building where Van Owen is determined to humiliate Skizz (whose speech patterns are less faltering yet still suggestive of the interpreter’s alien nature). Van Owen orders one of the government doctors to cut part of Skizz’s underwear off, to which the doctor protests, but still goes to carry out the instruction. He should have acted on his instinct, for the fabric, wired to Skizz’s bio aura cannot be removed, the doctor being electrocuted and immolated in the attempt.
Rogue Trooper: Millicom Memories Part 3 by Gerry Finley-Day and Cam Kennedy. Now that Gunnar’s been humiliated by Rogue’s mumbled memories, it’s the turn of Helm, as the wounded trooper harks back to Millicom days and Venus Bluegenes. Young me had no idea this was a reference to a song. There’s another pun in G.I.s and dolls – guys and dolls, get it? The secret this time is that Venus (who Helm, or Trooper H as he was officially known back then) was not interested in Helm in the same way Helm was interested in her. What’s more, a foolhardy attempt to save her from sexual harassment but rescued by quick thinking from Rogue led to Trooper R catching her eye instead. So the Helm-secret is that Venus fancied Rogue, not Helm. Bagman seems to be enjoying all this a little too much, but mention of Trooper B’s name spurs Rogue to start on the biggest secret yet. Next prog “Behind the green door”. Unlike the previous 1950s music inspired puns, this one was probably inserted by an editorial droid.
The back cover has an ad for Cluedo, in the same comic style as those ads in previous progs for what look like dreadful games.
Nemesis the Warlock Book III by Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill.
Grailpage: tricky one, after much consideration (possible contenders where one of the Millicom flashback pages and a meteor shower page) I’m going for Redondo’s page where the driver travels through the punk era, then the end of civilisation, then the end of the world.
Grailquote: Alan Moore, narration: “He kept telling me I was “out of sight”, even though I was sitting right next to him.” This is another quote that stuck in my head for decades, so I had to pick it when I came across it.