2000AD Prog 322: AAAAAAAROOO Cry of the Werewolf

You know you’re in for a good Dredd story when the lettering droid has come up with a logo for it (Monkey Business at Charles Darwin Block, Block Mania) – though in this case it’s simply the title of the story, with hair on it. This is a great cover if you like Steve Dillon’s version of werewolves (which I do). I’m not covering it in this blog, but shortly after getting in to 2000AD I also got in to buying Scream, and I was sufficiently developed in my comic-reading habits that I recognised art styles such as Ron Smith’s, Eric Bradbury’s and Steve Dillon’s (also drawing a werewolf story in that publication, as it happens). This is also one of the comics which was given to me by a neighbour that fateful day in 1983. In the course of writing this blog post I found out the following events in 2000AD stories all took place in this year. Old One Eye’s skeleton was discovered. Harry Angel fused with his jet fighter computer. Skizz crash-landed on Earth. Quite a mix of stories there.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre has one reader notice how similar some of the Time Twisters are, complaining how characters are travelling back in time to marry their grandmothers, though interesting singling out Chrono-Cops as being brilliant (if you remember, the protagonist travelled back in time and married his partner’s grandmother). Another earthlet comes up with a list of the ten rarest things in 2000AD, starting with Judge Dredd’s face (which we still haven’t seen, as long as you discount face changed faces) though continuing with things we seen, such as Dredd smilinhg, Ace Garp’s feet, unzarjaz stories and Hoagy having a good idea. It was just the one good idea, but it still counted!

Speaking of Hoagy, Slade’s assistant doesn’t appear in the latest episode Sam Slade, Robo-Hunter: The Slaying of Slade Part 11 by Grant/Grover and Ian Gibson. Slade is given two options by his spiritual defence lawyer, Maurie Iscariot. The first is to wait for Slade’s clone, Sam Scumm, to die so that they can both be judged on the same day. The second is to share a body with Scumm – initially the two Sams would have a split personality but eventually they’d merge in to one. Not that Scumm’s keen on the idea – only being talked around when Slade suggests a plan to get out of jail (Scumm is eight years in to a fifty year sentence). After it’s too late for Scumm to do anything about it, Slade reveals the plan is to volunteer for the Time Stretcher – a machine which speed-ages the prisoner for the rest of their sentence – but if there are any medical emergencies in that forty-two years then the prisoner will likely die. I’ve seen this concept a few times, but this is the first time I encountered it.

Tharg’s Time Twisters: The Hyper-Historic Headbang! by Alan Moore and Alan Davis (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). To be honest, this isn’t branded as a Time Twister, but it features a whole bunch of time travel and I’d be surprised if it isn’t collected with other Moore Twisters. This is Moore throwing in a few different ideas, with touches of Spinal Tap meets Destruction Area and Hotblack Desiato (who was named after a local estate agent near where I used to live) on top of various sci-fi concepts. One of which is a planet-sized record played just one time using a gigantic diamond stylus space ship. In an effort to find the loudest sound possible in a rock concert, Max Megadoom and the Time Bombs wire up their arena in 5019 (Moore again one of the few 2000AD script droids who take us in to the far future) with a time-travel circuit so that the final song of the concert includes trips to the first atomic explosion, Pompeii, the Tugunska incident (we’ll see what caused that at some point in the next few years), the California earthquake of 1991 (then in the future, and which we previously saw was caused by D.R. & Quinch), a dinosaur attack, the end of life on planet Earth in the sun goes nova (the sun won’t actually go nova, as it is neither a white dwarf or a super massive star – it’ll instead turn in to a red giant and maybe a brown dwarf). After that the stadium goes to the Big Bang. The best thing about this story is that the last two pages (where the concert goes to all those time frames) is told in ten page-height panels across two pages, plus the third from last panel is in the shape of the word BANG. That’s the way you experiment with the comic form while still telling a good story! One thing I noticed is Moore’s use of the word ‘like’ – in Planet California it denotes hippydom, in Skizz it denotes Birminghamness and in this story it could be a bit of both – seeing as how most metal bands from the 1970s and 1980s seem to be from California or the West Midlands.

The next two pages are given to reader’s art with Dread of Dredd. Remember this was one of the first batch of progs I ever read, so my entire exposure to Dredd’s villains was from reader’s art (and that pin-up of Fink Angel). I had no idea who the following where (all featured here): Chief Judges Griffin and Cal; Judge Giant; Grampus; Slocum; Trapper Hag; Judge Fear; Fergee; Judges Death and Mortis and ending with Fink.

Back to the present (in 1983) as a new story starts – Judge Dredd: Cry of the Werewolf Part 1 by T.B. Grover and Steve Dillon. The opening panel gives a few clues as to where this story is going to head, so let’s ignore it and get in to the story. It’s a normal day for Dredd as he makes his 300th arrest of the day – though he’s been on shift for thirty-six hours – so is that the 300th arrest on shift or on the actual 24 hour period? Detail-obsessed squaxx want to know! It’s time Dredd had ten minutes in the sleep machine (first appearance? I wasn’t paying attention if they appeared earlier). As he returns to the streets, elsewhere in the Mega-City a claw stretches out from a crack in the foundations of a block – a crack which we’re told stretches down to the Undercity. Where there are creatures from horror stories there must then follow a scene where some young lovers get cornered and slaughtered by said creatures, and that’s just what happens. Judge Fogg is on the case – but the name doesn’t stand out so I don’t think he’s going to survive for long.

Skizz by Alan Moore (back again this prog) and Jim Baikie. The pieces are set up – though there is a curious anomaly where Tony Jacob’s original lettering appears to have been replaced in a different hand (I’m presuming ‘kangaroos’ got replaced by ‘wallabies’ but can’t imagine why). The various pieces involve two giant toy wallabies being stolen, a protest rally being publicised, thirty-six rats being stolen, a laundry van driver’s drink being spiked and a warning that a car attempting to enter R.A.F. Stafford should be searched. From there we see parts of the elaborate plan fall in to place including the rats making an appearance as they leap out of the car while it’s being searched. The protest and fake bubonic plague outbreak are merely decoys so that Loz and Cornelius can make their way on to the base in the driver’s stolen van. It took me some time to find out exactly what happened next as I didn’t own the next prog for a few years, skipping one.

Rogue Trooper: Milli-Com Memories Part 5 by Gerry Finley-Day and Cam Kennedy. The bio-chips are a tad fatalistic. The Norts are approaching and just because their pride has been hurt they’re willing to let them kill Rogue and the chips. Rogue is starting to come around and realises the secrets he’s revealed. The accusation is sometimes levelled against Rogue that he’s a pretty one-dimensional character, certainly the least interesting of the four G.I.s. That may be true, but he’s also the most intelligent and quick-witted as despite still being groggy he still manages to bluff his way into convincing the chips that he had been responsible for all the calamities that he’d told them in the previous three episodes. Now pitying him instead of jealous and resentful, the biochips kick their suicidal idea and start working to try to protect Rogue (not that it succeeds, they get overwhelmed). Fortunately the officer’s pistol that Rogue kept from his Magnam encounter is unknown to the Norts and he recovers enough to take them all out. Just for good measure, Rogue plays the innocent and asks the chips if he said anything in his sleep. They all cover up and Rogue reveals (to us, the third person omnipresent reader) that the Milli-Com memories were TRUE.

Script Robot Alan Moore is both the title and subject of the 2000AD Star Pin-Up – Tharg’s Droids: No 7 in an Occasiopnal Series. I’m pretty sure I remember seeing somebody hand a copy of this prog to Alan to sign when I met him as an eleven or twelve year old. The pic is by Robin Smith and is centred around Skizz and Time Twisters.

Grailpage: so many great pages this prog! I could pick the front cover, the back cover star-scan or quite a few of the pages in between. While I was reviewing the pages to pick one I noticed Ernest Errol Quinch in the crowd for the Hyper-Historic Headbang concert. I’m finally going to pick Alan Davis’ final page featuring audience-viewpoint pictures of the end of life on Earth, then the primal atom and the big BANG.

Grailquote: on the basis that it’s a panel that’s stayed with me (this being one of progs in my first batch), Grant Grover, Sam Scumm: “The Time Stretcher! You’re crazy!” Sam Slade: “Crazy like a fox!” This was probably the first time I came across that term as well. Close second is also TB Grover, Judge Dredd: “Some kind of animal is my guess.” Judge Korkoran: “Animal? In this city?” Dredd: “Either that, or we got a citizen who doesn’t cut his toenails.”

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