2000AD Prog 348: A zarjaz christmas to all earthlets! “Rub-a-dub-dub.. um… three dictators in a tub!” “Ho, ho, ho!” The Dictators’ family tree

Eric Bradbury’s been away for a while – he’s back on this Tharg cover, featuring Burt, the Dictators of Zrag and Mike McMahon in the background.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre opens with an appeal for the Anthony Nolan Appeal, a charity involving a register of people to donate bone marrow. An earthlet asks what will happen to 2000AD after the year 2000 (have we had this question before?) Tharg does, of course, avoid giving a straight answer. I forgot to mention last prog, but this one also has an advert for Odyssey 7 – a sci-fi / comic / general pop-cultural geekery shop in Manchester.

Judge Dredd: Bob & Carol & Ted & Ringo – Part 3 by T.B. Grover and Ron Smith. David Baloney is filming a late-night TV spot on fauna and flora within the Mega-City One (most of, admittedly, having blown in over the West Wall). He doesn’t bargain for meeting a dinosaur (the dino in question is Bob, and the inevitable happens, leaving only Baloney’s boots behind). Meanwhile Dredd is getting close, somehow working out there are four dinosaurs despite not having seen them yet. Once he hears the siren, Granville knows any hope for a quiet escape is gone and the five run for the wall. Unfortunately they do this via the mutie pens and notably a busload of mutie prisoners. It never rains except when it pours, and judges converge – in Granville’s words: “Oh, dear! It’s all going so terribly wrong!”

Sláine: The Shoggey Beast – 1 by Pat Mills and Mike McMahon. Having encountered a slave gang, Sláine and Ukko went on their way – though not far enough to be out of hearing distance when the not-a-werewolf attacks the slave gang. Now we get to see it by firelight we see it has the features of a boar – hey, fact fans – ‘were’ comes from old English for ‘man’ while ‘wolf’ comes from the world ‘wulf’ – which gives a new complexion to Strontium Dog and Wulf Sternhammer. So anyway, Sláine fights the were-boar / shoggey beast – I wonder if shoggey beasts come in other varieties than boar? The slave master gets killed, Sláine chops off the shoggey beast’s hand (because how are you going to recognise them when they’re back in human form if they don’t have a grievous wound?) and the environment is used to good effect, as a living tree branch is used as a springy whip and later the shoggey beast is chucked over a cliff. Because he saved their lives Sláine now owns the slaves (whether he likes it or not – he likes it not). Ukko talks Sláine in to not setting them free and they don’t seem to object to the concept (though they do complain about a variety of other things – wanting drink, food, complaining about the cold and concerned about the shoggey beast). Through the night, Sláine sees once again the torches of Slough Throt’s war party. I don’t remember Slough Throt appearing so much before Sky Chariots, but this is his second (un-named) appearance and before those he got mentioned by Slough Feg.

Ro-Jaws’ Film of the Year in reverse order: Something Wicked This Way Comes; Superman III; War Games; Return of the Jedi. I’d actually change the order of Superman III and War Games – because who doesn’t want a cyborg-generating super computer? …and yes, I know many people don’t like the third Superman film. There’s also news of forthcoming films – as listed (one gets a slight name change before release): Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom; Supergirl (another film many think can be ignored after the first two Superman films – I happen to like it); The Right Stuff; Greystoke (the story of Tarzan) and Dune (there was some doubt from Ro-Jaws whether this would be released in 1984, or maybe at all).

Nemesis the Warlock Book III: The Final Battle! by Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill. The words “the final battle” get used quite a bit in Nemesis stories, though this time it really is the final battle. However, this final battle is not between Nemesis and Torque, but Chira and Sir Hargan (it also happens to be the first battle between the two, but never mind). I probably mentioned earlier, but Chira has some of the traits of human females that wouldn’t make sense on an equine / centaurine form – particularly considering the anatomy of the male warlock. Despite not having any hair (though he did have chest spikes in the World’s End sequence of Book I) Chira has both a full head of hair and eyelashes. She also has breasts – though when we get to see her in a full page battle scene against the terminators we at least get functional armour – i.e. not shaped to her form (hint – if there’s cleavage on armour then that will guide an enemies weapons towards the heart – you want to deflect blows, not attract them). p.s. that particular full-page panel of blooded terminators in the light of volcanoes is very, very red – probably the reddest page we’ve had in 2000ad to date, and possibly to this date (2020) as well. It’s really, really red. Not even any orange. As with Sláine there’s an extended, mostly wordless fight sequence and importantly, neither of the fights was just one person hitting another person, then being hit by that person – there’s progression in the scenes and the surrounding landscape is used. This sequence also contains the second most effective depiction of moving centaurines (second only to Chira and Magna’s first appearance in the first episode of this story) though it all ends with Sir Hargan leaping on to Chira’s back.

Tharg’s Time Twisters by Stavros and G Senior. This story doesn’t appear to have a name – not in the comic anyway. If it’s been reprinted, no doubt it has acquired a name in the process, but if that’s happened then I don’t have it so I’ll see if I can come up with one by the end of this paragraph. A reporter from a very flat-looking Fleet Street (it’s quite an undulating street) is sent to cover a frivolous story concerning a scientist who claims to have invented a time machine by his editor, who hates him. The reporter fails to get a taxi and has to walk – he ends up in the countryside – a rough calculation suggests that walking from Fleet Street to the undulating hills of the country would take a minimum of six and a half hours. Just a strange choice considering that 2000AD was quartered just across the river from Fleet Street at the time, so the writer and editor would have known how far the countryside was… Anyway, no sooner does the incredulous reporter meet the scientist than an egg-shaped object appears, following shortly afterwards by two time cops from the year 2100, here to thwart an attempt by time bandits from 2090 to steal the first time machine. While all this has been going on, the reporter has interspersed sentences with the word ‘jog’ – “joggin’ dutchman”, “the old jogger”, “jog me”, “knocked me down with a jogger”. The time bandits appear, but are prepared – they’re wearing gasmasks and the object which appeared just before the time cops was an amnesia bomb. Before leaving, the bandits steal the clothes of the report, professor and two time cops because their clothes “could come in handy on future jobs”. I’d have thought snagging the world’s first time machine would have brought in enough that there wouldn’t need to be any future jobs – and if there were then they could just buy clothes. They don’t take all of the clothes by the way – just enough to leave all four men in their underwear, so that when they come around all those uses of the word ‘jog’ come back to suggest to the reporter that they’re athletes, so they go for a job. I guess “Jog On” would be a suitable title for this story… Art-wise I’m not sure if Senior will be back on the prog, but I know he goes on to have a career away from the galaxy’s greatest. In this story I’d say his style hasn’t developed and it looks kind of like a cross between Ron Smith and Robin Smith – and I didn’t pick those two artists because their names rhyme!

Unexpected colour on an internal page – so the back page must be an advert to pay for it! 2000AD Star Pin-Up: Rogue Trooper in front of a target pock-marked by bullet holes, by Brett Ewins (featuring the biochips down the side).

Rogue Trooper In… Timeslip! by Gerry Finley-Day and Boluda. I barely remember this story, though think it’s going to be largely filler, so I’ll put my brain in to low gear and just look on it as entertainment rather than propelling the plot or world-building of Nu Earth. It starts with an encounter with bio-wire where Rogue falls down and gets scratched by the wire’s bio-acid, but he’s otherwise unharmed. They come across the glint of a sealed installation where the camo has worn through. Investigating they find it’s a museum of Old Earth artefacts (almost all of which are specifically from the 20th century – I guess more futuristic stuff would just look like Nu Earth artefacts to our untrained eyes). Before heading out to repair the camo, Rogue is offered a drink by the curator – who seems genuinely concerned when Rogue falls down – so it looks like whatever the drink was reacted badly to the fresh bio-wire acid. Or maybe the drink was poisoned – we’ll find out next prog as something I do remember is that this story will be over and done with by Prog 350.

A busy couple of pages finish the prog as Earthlet Art (the pictures, all of which look like original work and are pretty good) shares space with the Forbidden planet metal miniatures (the 45-50 mm scale minis rather than the more familiar 25-28mm fantasy roleplaying and wargaming scale), the Model Engineer Exhibition, another ad for the 2000AD annual, the next prog and the Judge Dredd boardgame. There is one other advert as well – and it’s for the shop where I probably bought my copy of this prog – Fantasy World in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent where I would later meet Bryan Talbot (shortly after the Valkyrie launch of Luther Arkwright – the first edition that actually completed the tale).

The back page is indeed an advert – for Killer Bees on the Philips Video Games Club (pic by Frank Langford).

Grailpage: quite a low-key page, but Kevin O’Neill’s six-panel page featuring Chira surrounded by terminators, kicking out, headbutting, smashing with and axe, leading away from Thoth’s hiding place and wheeling around.

Grailquote: TB Grover, Granville: “Now, Bob – easy!” David Baloney: “The wobot has appawently mistaken me for someone called Bob. Pwobably a fwiend!” Granville: “NO, BOB!” Bob: CRUNCH!

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