2000AD Prog 346: The dinosaurs are in town! “Hold your fire!”

Ron Smith introduces us to dinosaurs in Mega-City One in this Judge Dredd cover. Also features a speech balloon.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre features the awards the Galaxy’s Greatest comic has won lately – namely the Comics Adventure Strip of the Year from the Cartoonists Club of Great Britain and Character most Worthy of Own Series from the Eagle Awards.

Judge Dredd: Bob & Carol & Ted & Ringo. Part 1 by T.B. Grover and Ron Smith. Ron is back on the dinosaurs – I don’t think there’s been any since Blood of Satanus. These ones don’t even appear to be related to Old One Eye! The circus is in town, and I’ve already mentioned dinosaurs so you know it’s an animal circus with dinosaurs in question hailing from Sauron Valley. After a journalist-caused mini-stampede the dinosaurs get to the showground and the narrative switches to a parody of David Bellamy (complete with rhotacism) and the format of Bellamy’s Backyard Safari, a TV series of the era featuring Bellamy being shrunk to miniature size (using early 1980s video effects) to explore domestic wildlife. Behind the scenes of the circus a robot zookeeper-thing shows concern for the captured dinosaurs as the carnivores are not settling in well. The show-owner Skinner doesn’t care – as far as he’s concerned the carnivores can die and be replaced.

Next up, a colour advert for Krull, the film to be released in time for christmas and starring Ken Marshall, Lysette Anthony, Freddie Jones and Francesca Annis. Not mentioned: Bernard Bresslaw; Liam Neeson; Todd Carty and Robbie Coltrane. I say ‘next up’ but it actually interrupts the story. I don’t get why – there’s another colour advert in the second half of the comic, but that is preceded by a two-page story which could have been moved one page later and kept the Dredd tale in one piece. No point complaining though as 2000AD has gone through several changes of ownership and even more changes of editor and art editor ever since. Also it’s printed in full colour these days and doesn’t tend to run adverts on internal pages.

Back to Dredd! Robot keeper Granville tends to his charges, including the increasingly frustrated carnivores. Ted the allosaurus has injured his tail and sheds a few tears as Granville cleans him up (as an aside, reptiles only cry to clean their eyes, not to show unhappiness – but these are actually 21st century genetically engineered dinosaurs so normal rules don’t apply).

Rogue Trooper: The Gasbah – Part 4 by Gerry Finley-Day and Cam Kennedy. This is it! This is the episode which opens with a panel featuring a cameo by Skizz! Only as second background alien on the left though. The bubble dancer (still wearing tassels) and bartender monologue their big plan – the bartender is a war vet – but he’s a Nort war vet! And they have used the Rix Bah cellar to store thousands of ox-bottles – it’s going to be a supply dump in the next Nort offensive. I don’t think I mentioned that Bagman had provided alien translation services in an earlier episode. I think this is a missed opportunity to give Helm something to do other than being a pillow when Rogue wants to put his head down. As a military helmet wouldn’t it have made sense for him to be loaded with a translator as well as sensory equipment? Anyway, Helm – atop the paralysed Rogue – patches through to Bagman to provide a translation for speaking creatures that look a bit like fungus on the roof of the cellar (because of course the Norts left Rogue alive, alone and unguarded while they got on with preparing for the invasion). They find that the aliens are the survivors of an early conquest by the Norts and it doesn’t take much persuading to get them on side. Unfortunately things aren’t that easy as the Norts return and discover that the ‘fungus’ are actually mobile aliens and kill them all – but not before one of them gets a seal-burster bomb closer to Rogue. His paralysis doesn’t stop him from being able to reach for the grenade and hide it in his hand.

Nemesis the Warlock Book III by Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill. While smashing up the remains of Torque-Armada and the siege machines so that they can’t be used by the basilisks, Mek-Quake interrogates the flag robot for any information concerning Ro-Jaws and Hammerstein – getting a tidbit of information before the final destruction, but nothing to go on. Sir Evric leaves in a scene reminiscent of Brother Behell’s arrival on the planet Thrum from Nemesis Book I. By the time he’s arrived at Termight he’s undergone a change into a hideous (to human eyes) creature, explained in the final panel which could have followed on directly from the previous episode’s final panel as Nemesis states he’s always regarded a certain alien race as the most handsome creature in the galaxy.

IPC Magazines have partnered with Lucasfilm to offer Return of the Jedi duvet set, which takes up the next page and then it’s back to the stories for…

Tharg’s Time Twisters: Que Sera, Sera! by Staccato and Robin Smith revolves around a pun. A superhero foils a kidnap attempt on a wealthy heiress, knocking the culprit into the middle of next week. Next week the would-be kidnapper falls out of the air, knocking out the heiress and allowing him to steal all of her jewels. Two pages and a bit silly.

Another page, another competition, first for a radio badge (a 1.5 volt battery operated pocket-watch shaped radio), plus an offer to buy them if you don’t win then an ad for 2000AD – place a regular order today!

What was that colour page in the second half of the prog? Another Weetabix gang advert. Taking the day off from their genocidal campaign of ‘exterminating titchy breakfasts’ they’ve formed a fan club so that children at home can start getting out the heavy ordnance and imposing their will on other people, with a membership card, a secret code book, five stickers (which will no doubt be used to deface public property), a 12-page comic and a poster.

Sláine: Hero’s Blood – 2 by Pat Mills and Mike McMahon. As with Rogue, Sláine is held underground, unable to free himself. While the pair are hung up by their feet, Ukko reads out some ogham scratchings on the wall, left their by previous prisoners before they were bled dry. There’s a diagram of the ogham alphabet, though it’s a straight transliteration of the English alphabet in ogham script – outside of this comic the scripts I’ve seen haven’t been so directly correlated. historically there’s only twenty letters (one of which is ‘ng’) most but not all of which match up to those in Sláine, plus five additional letters (which aren’t in this story at all). While reading this, Bran appears, having dug his way in to the cellar (having formerly been a flint miner before the metal forge had been set up in the village). Sláine isn’t one to sneak off once freed though, and takes the trouble up above. A fight ensues but Sláine is knocked down (unconscious again?) and Domnall prepares to quench his masterpiece, the sword ‘war-flame’ in Sláine’s blood. As with Rogue, Sláine ends the episode lying prone on the ground as the bad guys prepare to carry out their evil works. Actually, if we include the dinosaurs from Judge Dredd, that makes for three stories with captured protagonists at the end of their respective episodes this prog!

Even more adverts – the prog only tends to run ads for directly 2000AD-related publications in 2020 so it’s easy to forget how much advertising there was in previous eras. These include the Judge Dredd and Judge Death candles (costing £6.50 each – at a time when the prog costs 20p – the modern equivalent where the prog costs £2.99 would be for the candles to cost £97.28 – I remember seeing one each of these at my local comic shop about two or three years after this advert – no wonder they didn’t sell). Other ads are the usual for the next prog, the 2000AD annual and one for a Model Engineer Exhibition.

Other the page – another advert! Atari are pushing a tank combat games called Battlezone at a cost of £29.99 – always surprises me that games prices have stayed pretty constant over 37 years!

Grailpage: Kevin O’Neill – the pages where “the silver ships left Demotika” and arrive back at Termight (one panel later!) – the silver ship we see landed and disgorging it’s crew looks organic in much the same way the blitzspear is a living ship – though belonging to Terminators I’d expect it’s been killed already (though it does have something that looks like a living eye still looking out). This panel is followed by a gooey-looking ectoplasmic phantasmal form of Torque, his head in shadow.

Grailquote: Pat Mills, Torque-Armada: “I think I’ve seen the robot with the teeth before… he made an odd gesture at me once.” Mek-Quake: “That could be Ro-Jaws.” Torque-Armada: “I was in a military parade and he kept calling out ‘Knickers’!” Mek-Quake: “It’s definitely Ro-Jaws!”

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