2000AD Prog 328: “I am the LAAAAH!” RIP!

A second week on the cover for Steve Dillon, and the third for this Dredd story – also the third to feature a werewolf, though this one is Dredd himself!

Tharg’s Nerve Centre and Tharg announces the first stage of Project Thrill-Power Unlimited with the advent of Sláine in two week’s time. An earthlet writes in asking what some of the words used by Tharg mean. Unlike those who boast of having all the progs (and yet haven’t picked up on the multitude of dictionaries and guides to Betelgeusian) this earthlet has only eight progs, and so Tharg is kind and welcomes them to the Squaxx dek Thargo (friends of Tharg). Meanwhile other earthlets spotted the I Am the Law I Am Judge Dredd Tshirt appearing on the thousand episode of Top of the Pops. It was worn by a member of the Human League during a performance of Fascination.

Sam Slade, Robo-Hunter: The Slaying of Slade Part 17 by Grant/Grover and Ian Gibson. Carlos Sanchez Robo-Stogie is the star of this episode in 30 out of 32 panels. If you’re not already familiar with his voice, I strongly recommend finding an audio or video interview with Carlos Sanchez Ezquerra – then you can read Stogie’s dialogue in the correct accent (the stogie is nominally Cuban, but he’s Ezquerra really). Great use is made by Steve Potter of the ‘dink’ sound effect as Stogie runs away from the Teeny Meks, eventually discovering that he’s in orbit – though I kinda wish we hadn’t seen that he was in space the previous episode so that we’d discover the revelation along with Stogie.

Advert time and Forbidden Planet T-shirts sharing space with the obligatory stamp quiz, Westminster comic mart plus the 1984 annuals (Orwellian reference as Dredd shouts “Smash Big Brother!” – which is pretty contrary to how he usually acts) and our first view of Ukko – “Would you buy a used chariot from this dwarf?”

Tharg’s Time Twisters: The Absolutely and Utterly Authentic Story behind “The Hitler Diaries” by T.G. Cribbling and Mike White (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). A poorly-paid over-worked government employee of the British Secret Service is sent to Ch*lt*nh*m to test out a time machine and also to verify whether some recently-surfaced Hitler diaries are genuine. The inventor is one Professor Krüppenkaiser whose name means ‘cripple emperor’ apparently – that doesn’t seem to be meaningful to this story. In Berlin in 1945 the civil servant quickly bumps in to his assistant, who was sent to find him a week later. On the way to Hitler’s bunker he bumps in to Krüppenkaiser, who doesn’t recognise him. Things start to get weird in the bunker as he notices that all the officers were secretly taking notes (apart from one, who was speaking in to his thumbnail). It emerges that they’re all historians from the future – yes, including Hitler. Other than being historians, it also emerges that they’re all poorly paid, and thus an idea comes to mind… After last prog’s Twister, this retreads some of the same ground, even having the middle-class civil servant going all cockney at the last moment as he does some wheelin’ and dealin’. On it’s own it’s a great story, but coming one week (or one day in my re-read) it’s marred very slightly. p.s. Cribbling is not a pseudonym for Moore (either of them).

The next page has a couple of IPC comics adverts, including one for next prog with a half-page portion of Kev O’Neill’s cover.

Judge Dredd: Cry of the Werewolf Part 7 by T.B. Grover and Steve Dillon. The centrespread is dominated by the portrait of werewolf Dredd, or Joe Dreddwolf (I choose to call him now) which Dillon bordered with a gutter following the silhouette. That’s the final panel of the page though – the rest shows the werewolf pack converging on the bridge, Dredd’s clawed hand reaching for the detonator and the pack falling in to the rad-pit below. Dreddwolf is much tidier than previous were judges we saw. Dreddwolf runs off in search of blood or flesh but hasn’t Dreddhuman’s street smarts and runs right in to a pit trap. The trappers aren’t sure what to do with Dreddwolf so decide to torment him a bit instead – when another judge on their Long Walk comes along. Note that this was my first experience of a judge on a Long Walk, so seeing all those other judges going in to the Cursed earth didn’t seem right to me. The Long Walk judge decides to execute the trappers, despite not knowing what they’ve trapped. The moment he sees it’s a werewolf he decides to execute the werewolf too. Luckily for Dreddwolf, Prager (for that is who the judge is) spots the uniform and the name on the badge. I’m not sure what the routine is for renewing supplies, but Prager has some stumm gas available to knock out Dreddwolf so that he can drag him out of the pit, chain him up (don’t want any bites if he wakes up) and carries him to the nearest city gate. When Dredd wakes up he finds that Cassidy has formulated a cure and both he and Korkoran are back to human again. There’s one thing I’ve missed out, but I’ll come to that later (near the end of today’s blog).

Skizz by Alan Moore and Jim Baikie hurtles towards its conclusion, but not this prog. Or next prog. Maybe the one after that… For a story which started with a spaceship crashing through the atmosphere, it’s been fairly violence free, but that changes this prog, as Cornelius makes the first move by smashing his van in to one of the chasing police cars, running it off the road. He’s lost a lot in life, but he’s not going to lose Skizz. Van Owen is determined to order everybody to shoot to kill, though the police are a bit hesitant about this. Loz has mobilised a load of people on scooters and bikes. There’s a great moment when Van Owen questions Loz, asking what he thought he was going to achieve with this momentary delay. Not much, just enough time for busloads of witnesses to turn up. It all looks to be on the up. Roxy is happy. Cornelius is happy. Van Owen snatches a rifle and shoots at the van, blowing the tire and causing a flashback for that previous spaceship crash for Skizz. As Van Owen closes in with the armed police we get the most action-packed scene so far (funny how the other ones also feature Cornelius – whether he’s chucking people through windows or glasses against pub walls). The final words are ominous “This time it’ll be over his dead body. Next prog: casualty!”

Rogue Trooper: Eye of the Traitor Part 2 by Gerry Finley-Day and Cam Kennedy. The Traitor General gives his life story – at least the bits from when he sold out the G.I.s at the Quartz Massacre, through the Buzzard-5, Glasshouse-G and Marauder escapades. While the robo-shrink runs a diagnostic to help the TG, Bland and Brass manage to track the route from the hospital, ending up outside the disguised escape pod, surrounded by destroyed medical droids. TG assumes the robo-shrink led B&B here, so shoots him. Heading outside, TG takes out the helper droids B&B have in attendance, followed by the malfunctioning robo-shrink – sorry, that should be Schrink, because remember it has a cod-Austrian/Swiss accent, á la Jung or Freud. His words are enough to clue Bland in as to who the TG is, and that they have a shared enemy. Schrink, in the last moments before the shots prove terminal, provides the answer – instead of forever being on the run from the G.I.s, he should go on the offensive, and allow B&B to sponsor him in the new hunt.

The back page sees an advert for Robo Machines – robots that transform into an variety of vehicles. If you think this sounds like Transformers, then they came later. The advert says their sturdy, and I can attest to that as mine is still in pretty good condition – except for the stickers. And the accessories appear to have disappeared in the past thirty seven years. p.s. I did not get the tank robo-machine because it appeared in that advert, as I didn’t have this back prog until years later.

Grailpage: This is a tricky one – I was tempted to go for the page with the grailquote on, but I try not to pick grailpages based purely on one panel (not always successfully). Instead I’ve gone for Cam Kennedy’s flashback page featuring a scene from each of three Rogue Trooper stories (typically the last page of the stories they hark back to). Gotta love a good picture of a swamp.

Grailquote: it’s all about context. If gaze into the first of Dredd is the most famous panel in British comics then this one-word quote has to also feature in the top ten, next to quack quack Volg. The set-up from TB Grover, gate judge: “Hey, Prager – how’s things down there anyway?” Judge Prager: “Grim.” One word. If you put this panel of Prager’s face including that word balloon on a T-shirt, it’d be a best seller (in the niche world of British comics, anyway).

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