2000AD Prog 333: “Um… synthi-sausage!” On the trail of the World Eating Championships.

For the second week running a wraparound cover (no instructions on ‘how to activate’ this week though). I’m trying to avoid saying “this week’s prog cover is classic” as the nostalgia of my very first progs may colour my opinion – but this one from Carlos Ezquerra is undeniably a classic cover! Unfortunately the child who got their hands on this thought they could improve and there’s a bit of colouring in with felt-tip pens on the back.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre plugs the free gift this prog – but there’s more about that later. One medic is awarded a Krill Tro Thargo for donating his collection of progs to the children’s hospital they work at while there’s a second call for more Abelard Snazz. Tharg neglects an opportunity to plug Sláine when somebody calls for a story based on fantasy gaming (such as Dungeons & Dragons) though hints that there could be a role-playing game forthcoming. Judge Dredd The Role-Playing Game two years away so I suspect there were no real plans to do anything like that at the time.

Sláine: The Beast in the Broch – 3 continues as Sláine demonstrates the salmon-leap to avoid Nudd’s axe, following up by picking up a heavy stone slab and crashing it in to Nudd’s head (a nice touch from Belardinelli – worms are still attached to the underside of the slab). Now the adrenaline earth power is seething in this veins he barges down the heavy door deep under the broch to find an old friend, Blathnaid. After last week’s flashback to his days as a mercenary at the age of seventeen, this time Sláine, Ukko and Blathnaid reminisce to their highway robber days the previous year (Sláine is eighteen). Then Blathnaid has a personal flashback to another con she pulled and that led to her getting imprisoned in the broch. Having seen off Nudd, Blathnaid reveals her true self – a otherworldly snake-creature which killed Blathnaid and took her form. But now that she’s served her purpose, the creature wants to possess Sláine’s body, for he has the warp-power and during the oncoming flood she/it will be in his form to feed at the world’s end. So, the map of Tir Nan Og before the flood is made much more immediate – the flood isn’t just some far-off event, but something we’re likely to see in the course of this series (though it was still a bit surprising when it happened, but more about that later – on this blog some time in 2021 I think).

Robo-Hunter: Sam Slade’s Last Case! Part 3 by Grant/Grover and Ian Gibson. The quest is over – the droids have found the mysterious island of the evil Doctor Droid (against all odds). Of course, it’s not quite that simple as they’re invited in to the island by Dr Sigmund Droid. At this point Slade actually wakes up after three weeks of constant drug-induced unconsciousness and it does not take long to get to the bottom of the situation. Mystery Island is a health farm and the ‘prisoner’ is actually just a resident. One part of Stogie’s plan does get carried out though – he and Hoagy are about to see the old Sam Slade back in action, though the targets have been changed slightly. While Slade gives them a countdown they discuss whether the ageing former robo-hunter is joking or not, and decide he isn’t, just in time as he starts blasting.

Time to actually mention the free gift which was trailed in the Nerve Centre, and last prog. This promotion was for the Panini Return of the Jedi Sticker Album and a pack of stickers and ran across 2000AD, Eagle and Buster and I’d always thought I’d bought those issues to collect more stickers. From a quick perusal of covers of Eagle from the time it looks like I didn’t get any other IPC comics at that time (though later that year I’d be getting Battle Action Force and the following year I’d be getting Eagle, Tiger and Scream!). I still have that sticker album and flicking through it just now I see I was 59 short of the 180 stickers. back in the pre-internet, pre-home video days this was my Star Wars fix (along with a poster prog-style souvenir publication I think I got at the cinema showing and the novelisation) for a good few years.

Judge Dredd: Requiem for a Heavy-Weight Part 3 by T.B. Grover and Carlos Ezquerra. Dredd attends the aftermath of last prog’s stampede which killed two judges – this time it’s personal! Tricking some information out of another flab fixer (more details in the grailquote section), Dredd finds out where the World Eating Championship is due to take place in a week’s time. Meanwhile Arnold Stodgman gets a training montage. The episode ends with Dredd watching as the illegal eating fans filter in to a ruined citiblock…

Rogue Trooper: The Frisco Phog – Part One! by Gerry Finley-Day and Boluda. San Francisco -the-Second was a city built in a natural bowl, which meant with the onset of war thick low-lying clouds formed a phog (no idea why it’s spelled that way, other than to sound futuristic – may as well have been called smog). Because the chem clouds are so thick the Norts and Southers can only fight at the higher levels of the towers of the city, their suits vulnerable to the poisons at lower levels. Rogue decides to enter the warzone and is immediately hit by the thick chem-clouds, apparently he doesn’t like breathing carbonyl chloride. I looked this up and found it was better known as phosgene – ‘phog’ now makes sense!

The story takes a one page break for a Shreddies advert for tie-in games themed on Superman III – which I just about remember, though I’m not sure if I had any of them.

Back to Nu Earth and Rogue encounters Zappa – a Souther with Fort Neuro Syndrome – taking the affectations of the hippies that San Francisco is famous for (well, before Silicon Valley got quite so powerful). The other Southers are less affected and are more concerned with an incoming Nort attack.

Tharg’s Time Twisters: Kismet by Jack Adrian and Robin Smith (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 professional assassin goes back in time to produce a new attraction for a time-tours company – so a bit like at least two Time Twisters we’ve seen previously. This one is given the code-name Kismet. After carrying out the kill he returns to the 22nd century and there’s something about the last words of the target – “Kismet, Hardy!” This makes no sense! The assassin was not seen and even if they had been, nobody in the 19th century would know what the 22nd century code-name would have been!

The last panel of that was given half a page, the other half given to the results of the Techno-Police anime competition.

Interesting adverts facing this are one for the forthcoming Prog 335 and another for the latest from Forbidden Planet – button badges – and I’m pretty sure I have all of the ones shown somewhere. There’s eight altogether with the first four being pictured: Judge Dredd – I am the Law!; Judge Death; Nemesis; 2000AD logo; Judge Dredd’s badge; Rogue Trooper; Robo-Hunter; Torquemada – Be Pure!

Grailpage: Despite saying how classic the wraparound cover poster by King Carlos is, I’m going to go for the pages furthest from this (also by Carlos Ezquerra) as I pick the centrespread. Bits I like: ground level view of a block plaza and entrance; big portrait of Dredd’s chin (plus some other bits of his head) and Dredd on a Lawmaster in a dynamic pose.

Grailquote: TB Grover, Judge Dredd: “How would you like to go free?” (to and fro) Dredd: “Okay – put him back.” Happy Duff: “B-b-but you said you’d let me go free!” Dredd: “I asked you how you’d like to go free. The idea of actually lettin’ you go never crossed my mind!” Duff: “You dirty stinkin’ rat! I’ll get you for this when my nine’s done!” Dredd: “Correction, creep – your twelve. Threatening a judge is an offence.” I was tempted by some Hoagy and Stogie dialogue, but that’d be more like a grailsketch than a grailquote.

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