Dave Gibbons provided this cover, featuring an ensemble of Hammerstein (with Ro-Busters head), Slade, Rogue, Johnny Alpha, Dredd and Speedo Ghost in the background. I don’t remember much about this annual, so can’t remember if they all appear inside (in proper stories).
Cosmic Contents has Robin Smith’s armoured Tharg casting a spell or something.
Sam Slade, Robo-Hunter: Hoagy’s First Case. by Staccato (which is usually just Alan Grant but could be Grant/Grover) and Ian Gibson, showing he’s pretty good with colour as he breaks out the paint brushes. Contrasting with Sam Slade’s Last Case, starting in the prog the same day this annual went on sale, this one focuses on Hoagy (you can tell that by the title, can’t you?) in this pre-death tale. Observations – as this is the first time we’ve seen Ian’s colours on his own creations, Hoagy is blue and has a purple tinge when in shadow, while Stogie is orangey-red. This would have been published around the time that Ian was going to start work (with Alan Moore) on the first book of Halo Jones, and the robo-dog in this story is a little like the rendition of Toby in Halo episode one (which itself is different to the more familiar style in the rest of the Ballad). I know some of you out there haven’t read Halo, so I’m going to go and get on with this story instead now. Sam’s out on a case when Hoagy takes a phone call at the office. After getting lost on the way there he eventually gets to a house with a ‘rogue robo-dog’ inside (Stogie has left a note for Sam to come urgently). The stripe-topped archetypal burglar outside explains he was about to move house when he burst the lock and the robo-dog went haywire. While Stogie distracts the dog, the burglar takes everything out of the house. As the burglar is almost finished Hoagy uses a broken chair leg to stop the robo-dog attacking the burglar, sending it in to biting frenzy and starting an electrical fire. The burglar (still not revealed as a burglar, but I think most readers would have worked it out) shows little interest in the damage to the house, telling Hoagy that he’ll phone the fire brigade (he doesn’t). Stogie suggests that Hoagy wait outside the house. On the last page Sam turns up and reveals the real owner.
Godfrey’s Grids! is a reader-submitted quiz page involving answering nine questions, writing the answers in a numbered grid then copy the letters in numbered squares to a second grid. I got all the answers in the first grid but didn’t want to write deface my copy of the annual so skipped the second grid (which end up with names of sci-fi films). Number 5 is two words of four letters each, with the first and last letters the same – so I’d be astounded if it wasn’t Star Wars. Skipping forward to the answers section, some of the questions in the first part were quite clever – one of the films is 2001: A Space Odyssey meaning that two of the answers (2000AD and MACH 1) provide the numbers needed.
Staccato is back, this time with Kim Raymond, in Kim’s first work to be published by Tharg. The story is Judge Anderson in The Haunting, which I believe is Anderson’s first solo outing. A Persian demon (released from a Jinn-style bottle) has possessed the mind of a worker at a museum, technically abducting his mind. Anderson goes in to the mind to arrest the demon. While in there we see a tombstone – the second we’ve seen in 1983 and funnily enough both had the same birth date on – Sam C Slade and Cassandra Anderson were both born in 2080! The demon plays mind tricks but the astral body of Anderson uses (meta)physical fisticuffs to capture the demon and force him back in to his bottle. He gets a rather harsh sentence – the bottle is sealed in indestructible plasticrete and dumped in to the Black Atlantic. That demon was from Ancient Persia, meaning it was already around two and a half thousand years old. Assuming it isn’t even immortal, that’s a long time to spend in solitary with no chance of ever being released. Imagine being trapped in a transparent coffin sized chamber at the bottom of a murky body of water with no distractions for a day – then multiply that length of time by 912500. That isn’t the focus of this story though.
The Burt Interview – Star of Star Wars – The man behind Lando Calrissian – Billy Dee Williams. There’s about two thirds of a page of text here, though with pictures it covers three pages. Interesting bits? Lando and Han the same kind of character but Han would shoot his way out of a situation while Lando would use charm. Williams speaks as if the Star Wars saga was going to continue, speaking on what aspects of Lando’s character would develop as the series goes on.
Home is Where the Micro Is – A Special Report which is built around the idea that most homes will have a microcomputer by the year 2000, making them as common as fridges, washing machines or pop-up toasters in 1983. I don’t know about you, but in the year 2000 I had a fridge and a computer at home, but no washing machine or pop-up toaster. There’s the usual predictions, some of which have come true, others are possible but not many have implemented them (like running a house from a computer – answering phones, cooking, switching lights on and off).
Tharg’s Mighty Micro Pages has four BASIC programs, two written for the ZX81, one each for the Apple II and VIC-20.
Bonjo From Beyond the Stars is a reprint, with a heading “Back from the memory banks – where he should have stayed…” and considering the lazy Asian stereotypes I’m inclined to agree. There is one new full-page panel of Bonjo at the end, taking place a few years after the main story and featuring the title character having drunk all the water in the ocean.
Another page, another reprint – this one of Invasion! The Channel Tunnel from Prog 36.
Skizz – How he came to be, apparently written by Alan Moore. This reads like citizen reportage, revealing the truth about working in the Command Module. Moore has hidden in the coffee slops tank (because all that coffee must go somewhere when Tharg tips it out to eat the plastic cups) while Jim Baikie went to extremes to hide from the Mighty One – hiding out in the Orkney Isles! This is illustrated with a few bits of concept art by Jim Baikie (plus the pic from the back of Prog 308).
More reprint with Judge Dredd from Prog 38 (the one where a criminal mastermind is kidnapping the children of Mega-City One’s top chairman, replacing them with robots and collecting industrial secrets).
Rogue Trooper: First of the Few by Alan Moore and Jesus Redondo. This one features another prototype of the genetic infantrymen, but unlike the green-skins from Millicom Memories, this one was once a human – an anti-war protester ripped from his family by the government and operated upon then dumped on Nu earth to see how long he can survive. The rest of the unit was dead before the day ended, but this pacifist hid from the war, spending decades getting old in the mountains. Waiting to die but unwilling to commit suicide, he feels that he is on the verge of death and his only desire is not to die as part of the war. Rogue fends off a Nort patrol coming up through the mountain pass to protect the once-human’s dignified death, allowing him to die – against all odds – with peace. There’s a few hints of the poetic nature of Moore’s writing in this story, which wasn’t always there in pre-Skizz work.
Next up – more reprint, this time Flesh continuing on from the reprint from the Sci-Fi Special. This one is credited to R. E. Wright (rewrite, geddit?) and Sola. This covers the bit between Reagan’s team arriving at Carver City to get a cure for Joe up to when dinosaurs get through the dome of the city and Reagan and Carver call a truce to fight the dinos. It occurs to me that the black boils that Joe has caught from tyrannosaurs is similar to the disease that hits the Helltrekkers in the Cursed earth, 65 million years later (in about a year or so). I’ll keep an eye out so I can compare.
2000AD Fear-File: War Marshal Kazan – not a reprint but still filler. Apparently Kazan wore those glasses to hide “the bulging eyes that mark all clones” – maybe that’s why Dredd never removes his helmet?
Speaking of Dredd – Judge Dredd: The Beast in 24B by Staccato and Robin Smith in full colour. This is the kind of one-and-done story you could get in the weekly. A flying carnivore has broken loose from an alien menagerie. Meanwhile, a child is conducting their latest experiment at home, something their parents are used to. The Fang-Beest crashes through the child’s bedroom window and eats the child (2000AD never shy of killing children) and the parents burst in, mistakenly believing their child has turned in to the Fang-Beest and treat it accordingly – going to show that even vicious aliens can be tamed if you treat them firmly. The beest is still hungry though, and starts on the neighbours (at 24C, Bill Bixby block). For those who recognise the name Bill Bixby from The Incredible Hulk TV series, yes, the Fang-Beest is green. Once Dredd’s on the scene he shoots it out of the sky while the mother fails to appreciate that he hasn’t just killed her kid – off to the psycho-cubes with her! Not a massive fan of Robin Smith’s artwork on this story, not helped by the palette, which is almost entirely primary colours, plus the green of the Fang-Beest.
2000AD Fear-File: Artie Gruber, filler using a reprint of Belardinelli’s Gruber.
Tharg’s Mega-Crossword. Not filling in on the page, we played it mostly as a quiz instead. 53 of the 53 across clues, 43 of the 44 down (I got ‘space trucker slang for ambulance’ wrong).
Nemesis the Warlock: A Day in the Death of Torquemada by Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill. Last year’s annual story concentrated on Seth the blitzspear, this year’s features Torquemada as he uses the exocyst to use the body of one of his Terminators to spend the day in physical form. It’s revealed that Torque wants to pick up a bestiary for Candida’s birthday, though the person who created it in the scriptorium has been driven mad by the process. Torque orders him taken away for treatment – in the background we see a Terminator running him through with a word. At the Winter Palace we catch a glimpse of Murcalla de Torquemada, Dowager Grand Mistress – the only time we’ll see her in a strip, I believe. Candida will be making another appearance, however. These four pages are a great addition to the Nemesis mythology.
Meet the Droids introduces us to Script Robot (Alan) Moore, Spex, Lettering Robot Frame, D.J.1 and D-Mil.
2000AD Fear-File: Traitor General – illustrated with a Cam Kennedy picture.
Ace Trucking Co – not a story but a quick three-pager of original Belardinelli art centred around a two-page spread cutaway of Speedo Ghost – not the usual highly-detailed cutaway we used to get from Bill le Fevre, this one just has little vignettes of what the crew are up to between adventures.
Ro-Busters: Stormeagles are Go! by Alan Moore and Joe Eckers. Storm being similar to Thunder, and eagles being types of birds – I think you know what this disaster rescue squad is reminiscent of. There’s a nice touch where the names of the Stormeagles are spoofs of a 1970s pop group (whose name I can’t remember right now because it’s a little before my time) and the seven dwarfs. Osmonds, that’s it. The plot of the story is that the other rescue squad are getting to disasters before the Ro-Busters, threatening to put them out of business. They are, of course, responsible for the disasters, thus know where they’re going to take place – a tactic thwarted when the brains of the organisation writes in a stutter, causing the wrong code to be programmed in to Weather Control and causing an earthquake, among other disasters. This seems like an old Moore story which has been on the shelf for some time. I’d guess it was written before Old Red Eyes is Back or Bax the Burner.
Ask Tharg contains the kind of questions answered with bravado and reader-submitted pictures we normally see in the Nerve Centre, though all obviously with a Tharg-centric theme.
How a 2000AD Cover is Created! shows Step 1: The Rough (by Robin Smith I believe) and Step 2: The Finished Version by Brian Bolland. The cover in question is to Prog 236 (the Block Mania wraparound cover) and my copy of this annual had the finished version badly cut out – though I’m more interested in the rough as I have Prog 236 already. I’ve seen more recent roughs for covers and Robin Smith’s sketch is pretty prescriptive, though maybe comic editing has just loosened up in the intervening decades to allow for more creativity on the part of the artist. The missing page does mean that….
EDIT – good news! Somewhere along the way I picked up two copies of this annual and the other one didn’t get this page removed, so I do have the uncoloured but inked version of Brian Bolland’s wraparound cover poster and the first page of the next two-page feature. In the next paragraph I’m wrong about the Terminator going to the Galactic Olympics – it’s actually an earlier appearance of the Travel Tubes – the Satan Dart cover (also be Kev). Let’s do a breakdown of the 18 covers: Brian Bolland: 2; Mike McMahon: 5; Kevin O’Neill: 3; Carlos Ezquerra: 2; Dave Gibbons: 2; everyone else: 1 cover each. Dredd: 9; nothing else had more than one cover picked out.
…the first page of the next feature is missing from my copy of this annual, so I don’t have the first nine selected covers. Without spending time comparing them to actual covers, I’m guessing one has the Death Planet cover, another the Terminator Outrider going to the Galactic Olympics and the last the Dredd stump gun Apoc War by Ezquerra.
D-Mil’s Movie-Mad Quiz next, ranging from ridiculously easy questions (the two droids from Star Wars) to more challenging ones – (name the five Planet of the Apes movies and the years in which they were released). The only one I actually got wrong was about a film starring Farrah Fawcett-Majors and Kirk Douglas and the robot that appeared in it (‘Saturn 3’ and ‘Hector’).
2000AD Fear-File: Tiger Commander – obviously illustrated with a picture from Meltdown Man by Belardinelli.
Flesh is back taking us from a fight between Claw Carver and a Terrible Claw and possibly featuring Old On Eye killing the dinosaur who would be resurrected as Satanus. I’ve got a feeling this story continues in the Sci-Fi Special which was released a few months earlier – mistake in scheduling?
2000AD Fear-File: Warden Worldwise – filler with an Alan Davis picture.
Judge Dredd: Selected Strips from the Daily Star. I’ll cover these at some point, but not this point.
Tharg’s Mighty Answers Page – does what it says on the tin!
Great Monsters of 2000 AD is like the Fear Files, covering The Titan of Peem, Sagbelly, the Hungry Planet, Pole-Axe, Golgotha, Rex Peters. and Satanus – the only member of Old One Eye’s clan not features id Old One Eye herself!
Time for a text story – we’ve not had any so far this annual! Strontium Dog: The Iraldi Job by J.H. Teed and Chiaroscuro. Not sure who Teed really is, but the art is actually by Robin Smith. Johnny’s eyes are white, but glow red when he’s using his powers. The rest of the story i told from a purported bounty being hunted by Johnny and Wulf, though – spoiler – he’s actually a Galactic Crime Commission agent acting as a lure to help locate the local criminal gang. Unusually the big boss manages to escape – I’m wondering whether they reappear in a future text-story. We’re getting in to the era where I read them first time around, so I’d be surprised if they do reappear as I’d have thought I’d remembered them. We’ll find out. one interesting aspect of this story is Starfire Quartz, which allows starships to enter null-space, allowing for much quicker travel around the universe.
The inside back cover has an ad for the Judge Dredd Annual 1984 (I’ll cover that tomorrow).
The outside back cover has a ‘Tharg seal’ featuring a Robin Smith Tharg-head and the words Splundig Vur Thrigg Squaxx Dek Thargo around it.
Grailpage: Belardinelli’s two-page pic of Speed Ghost, with cameos from all of the crew (including Chiefy the Pig-Rat).
Grailquote: Pat Mills, Tomas de Torquemada: “You are the strongest, finest of my Terminators. You must die!”