Angie Mills provides this cover (yes, I know the artist is now known as Angela Kincaid, but I’m tending to use the credits as given at the time – mainly due to how tangled the web of pseudonyms gets at times). Pat and Angie spent a lot of time developing Sláine though I gather it wouldn’t have been practical for Angie to continue as full-time artist (and the true calling was in book illustration anyway). It’s a bit more complex than that, involving shouting down phonelines and crying in the background, but I’m not going to get in to that – more details can be found, erm, somewhere. I think I read one side in Steve MacManus’ autobiography and another take in Pat Mills’ book. This is an important prog for me. After that batch of ten which was given to me by the neighbour, this was the first prog I ever bought! As such, I tend to take this along to get signed by people who worked on it if they’re appearing at signings. Alas, Tom Frame, Jim Baikie and Ron Smith will never sign my copy of this prog. The first mark on this prog was by me though – 8-year-old me figuring they could do a better job at colouring in than the professionals who got paid to work on the cover. Pat Mills signed his name more recently. First cover of 2000AD to be credited to a woman, by the way – and the last for a very long time, unfortunately.
Enough of that – on with this prog! Tharg’s Nerve Centre (signed by Steve MacManus) has details of a signing as it happens, at the Denmark Street Forbidden Planet (it was on New Oxford Street by the time I got to that particular shop). Meanwhile one Alistair Morrison of Glasgow plugs his band The Primitive Grapefruit. I’m going to guess they were new wave – but the internet reveals four pages of results for the term “primitive grapefruit”, none of which involve music.
Sláine: The Time Monster by Pat Mills and Angie Mills (with disclaimer as mentioned in cover section). I’ve written ‘330’ on this page, so there’s probably going to be a poster this prog which I detached and stuck on my wall (but since re-attached). The story starts with a full-page view of the time-monster of the title. It looks like a tyrannosaur and the story’s written by Pat Mills, so it’s probably second cousin once removed from Old One Eye, because all tyrannosaurs are directly related! Never noticed the ogham on the weird-stone behind the dinosaur before (it’s only been thirty-seven years since I first read this). Ukko’s narration conjures some potent imagery, letting us know some of the things in store and making it clear that Uncle Pat had a lot of plans for where the story would go, right up to The Horned God. To start with though, he’s reduced from being a trained warrior of the Red Branch to acting the straight man in con-tricks run by Ukko (the con trick being to gamble on Sláine killing a time-monster by means of chucking a toad into its mouth – the toad then puffs itself up, causing the time-monster to choke). Back in the local town, the pair get attacked by some locals who feel cheated, but then the skull-swords arrive – for slaying a time-monster is illegal. Mention is made of Slough Feg (and his ‘fumes’), but we’re not going to meet him for some time. Escaping the pair are heading north through the Land of the Young. What’s the Land of the Young?
Glad you asked – there’s a rare internal non-advert colour page (that isn’t the centrespread). It’s the Land of the Young in Sláine’s Time, being the area encompassing the British Isles and Northern France during the last ice age. For some strange reason I wasn’t buying every prog of 2000AD at first (guess I had to split my pocket money between this and Star Wars figures and other, lesser, comics) so many of the things we’re going to see in forthcoming weeks were a mystery to me for some time. Gabala is in the Bay of Biscay, near to the Gironde estuary in the present day. The Sessair (Sláine’s tribe) are to the North of the Irish Sea Fresh Water Lake (Ireland, like the rest of the British Isles, is not an island yet). Because I like my pre-history (possibly due to reading this as a kid) I observe that Doggerland is called Midgard in this map, and is inhabited by Berserkers. In the real world that area was amongst the most fertile in Europe and would have probably been full of farmers. In fact, there’s the possibility that half the population of this corner of Europe lived in the now flooded lands.
Let the thrill-power roll! informs earthlets that the 1984 annuals will be available from the 27th of August – the same day as the next prog’s cover date. There’s also an ad for the Titan Judge Child Book One.
Sam Slade, Robo-Hunter: The Slaying of Slade Part 19 by Grant/Grover and Ian Gibson. One of my favourite stories from the batch of progs I was given – and it’s the last episode in the first prog I bought! Both John Wagner and Ian Gibson have been kind enough to sign this one for me. Last prog’s cliffhanger (Sam and Hoagy outside the Delleria space base having lasers fired at them) is skimmed over pretty quickly and Sam gets through the airlock The Teeny Meks are sent in, but Sam has a circuit disruptor this time and they destroy each other. The only real tension this episode is when the two Sams argue over what they’re going to do with Deller – but when Deller takes tries to take advantage of their hesitation the Sams are forced to shoot him dead in self-defence. With the reward from the recovery of the world’s greatest treasures (Brit-Cit Crown Jewels, Ming Ring, Coulee Diamond, King Tut’s Treasures), the Sams are set to spend the rest of their joint life lying in luxury in the Tahiti Pleasure Pavilion. Stogie is not happy – he wants a more action-packed life. Hoagy reckons Sam will snap out of it sooner or later (spoiler – he doesn’t. Double spoiler – that isn’t the whole story).
Judge Dredd: The Weather Man Part 2 by T.B. Grover and Ron Smith. I remember being doubly disappointed first time I read this – I was hoping for something like Cry of the Werewolf and instead got the second part of a 2-parter. Never mind, The Graveyard Shift would be along fairly soon. This is a Judge Dredd story, so why are we focusing on two judges who aren’t Dredd? Never mind, they’ve just been electrocuted! This story gives Ron Smith a great opportunity to show destruction on a mass scale (though all within a concert hall) though Dredd doesn’t do anything other than go in to the hall after everything’s finished to arrest the composer. Artwork good, plot and story not so much (though there are a few amusing moments where the megacitizens are reacting to the latest calamities to be bestowed upon them).
Skizz by Alan Moore and Jim Baikie. Another story I liked that ended in my first prog – gah! Skizz’s race arrive. Van Owen has Roxy and Skizz in the sights of his rifle, though it turns out that Cornelius wasn’t killed, and he chucks Van Owen over the edge of the Gravely Interchange (technically making him a murderer now, but I’m sure we’ll eventually find out if he has to suffer any consequences of this – around a decade later, if memory serves). Zhcchz says his goodbyes, each human acting characteristically, to paraphrase Zhcchz’s description of humanity to Shipmaster Rvttvr, with style, a proud hug and a tearful kiss. Re-reading this today reminded me that I made Plasticine models of Skizz and friends riding on their hover platforms when I was eight or nine.
Rogue Trooper: Eye of the Traitor Part 4 by Gerry Finley-Day and Cam Kennedy. This story goes right up to the last page, so much for my theory about my writing in the prog number for those which had detached covers. It does mean the last page of my copy of this story is a lot grubbier than the first four pages. This ep opens with a view of the Nu Earth night sky and the flying missiles are quite reminiscent of the images that came out of Iraq of tracer fire over Baghdad during the Gulf Wars (both the one by Thatcher and Major as well as the one by Blair). An alien ship brings some goods for Bland & Brass – a lightweight chem-suit which will even the odds between the Traitor General and Rogue, plus a service – the delivery of hundreds of portable holograms containing a challenge, which Rogue happens to see dropped (guess B&B’s information on Rogue’s current location is pretty good). B&B aren’t all sweet-natured towards TG though – their real motivation (other than getting revenge on Rogue) is to broadcast the showdown across the galaxy, in the hope that it will make them the richest men on Nu Earth.
Grailpage: I’ve said a few times that I try not to pick grailpages based solely on a single panel – but I’m not very good at it as I’m picking not one, but two page this week – both based on the single page-wide panel at the bottom of each page. The first is Angie’s townscape of Gabala, featuring some very Robin Hood’s Bay-esque (village in North Yorkshire) steps, a chalk hillside animal in the style of the White Horse of Uffington (it’s a bit indistinct but I think this one is a bull though). Plus there’s a sabre-toothed tiger, and a hint of untoward things happening in the shadows. My other pic is the final page and panel of Skizz (thought the top panel from Jim Baikie showing the alien spaceship leaving Gravely Interchange is none too shoddy either).
Grailquote: Pat Mills, Ukko: “Don’t leave little Ukko! I’ll wash your waist-mat! You can beat me every day!” Sláine: “I already do.”