2000AD Prog 360: “It’s alive!” The Haunting of Sector house 9

Brett Ewins provides a second week’s prog cover, this time featuring Psi-Judge Geller. As an aside, Geller seems to have no connection with script robot Simon Geller, who’ll start making contributions to the galaxy’s greatest in about three prog-year’s time. This prog has a 17 March 1984 cover date and cost 20p.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre breaks the news that next week’s prog will cost 22p. One earthlet asks what the future holds for the prog, after the year 2000 “will it be called 3000 AD, or what?” Tharg is not one to reveal plans, but does confirm it will not be called ‘what’. The other theme of letters regarding reading progs in out-of-the-ordinary locations also continues as one earthlet read it in a diving bell 100 feet below the sea.

Sláine: Sky Chariots – 9 by Pat Mills and Mike McMahon. As the gang of four are surrounded by the beasts of the forest (including a tortoise, so not sure just how threatening that’s supposed to be), Slough Throt finally reveals why he’s on the run – he stole Slough Feg’s plans for ragnorak. There follows some images of this plan, including the explanation that Feg’s master is Crom-Cruach – the worm god whom Medb was to be sacrificed to, who revels in destruction. What’s planned for the Land of the Young? A terrible war, a long winter, ice mountains (icebergs) sweeping down from Lochlann and a deluge which will drown the land. We know at least that the last of these will occur, as it’s what created the British Isles as we know them today (and there was a map in Prog 330)… The merchant accidentally put his arm outside the circle while gesticulating in despair and shows us what happens when the beasts get there paws (and teeth) on the gang. I notice that the tortoise didn’t appear to make it in time, with bears and wild cats having a feast. As he enjoys power too much, Throt is attempting to take the plans to the arch-druids at Glastonbury though that’s when the worm god makes its move as worms push up through the ground and engulf Throt, destroying the plans in the process. Sláine and Ukko are spared – it isn’t revealed why but is heavily suggested (via focus on a spiral-carved standing stone) that Danu has taken a hand.

1984 Reader Survey. I filled this in with a felt-tip pen which bled through to the other side (but didn’t send it off). Probably best that I didn’t send it as some of the answers would have confused the droids in the Command Module. I started reading 2000AD in Prog 350 though Nemisis (sic) was one of my favourite stories (even though Book III ended before my ‘first prog’). Interestingly I didn’t consider it my top favourite – that went to Strontium Dog though Nemesis was the story which I made plasticine figures from. Other comics I was reading at the time were “Spike Eagle Tiger”. Young me was prepared to fork out up to 25 pence for a proposed Judge Dredd fortnightly. We can look forward to some reader’s profiles in forthcoming progs.

The first page of Tharg’s Future-Shocks: Funny Customs! by Alan Hebden and Casanovas has some of the bleed-through from the survey. This follows Officer Jones first day as a custom’s officer at Heathrow Spaceport. This is an excuse to show a panoply of aliens and misunderstandings (Jones it pretty stupid – he has a computer with full notes on all the strange alien races he’ll meet – which he doesn’t then use). In the background I spotted an E.T. alien (complete with glowing fingertip) and police robots who look a little like Mr 10%’s cyborg body and a dalek. Smith’s last case is trying to get an alien to open its bag for inspection – but the bag is the alien and the humanoid holding it is actually some kind of artificial walking luggage. He goes mad and is stretchered off.

Half-page advert for the first issue of Scream! coming on “Monday 19th March (or even earlier)”. I didn’t manage to get the first issue when it came out as they’d sold out so started with issue 2.

Mighty Micro Page – The 2000AD microcomputer feature! The range of computers goes from ZX81, Spectrum, Dragon (?), BBC and the Vic 20. New games covered are Quest; Space Island; Castle Aventure and Countdown to Doom. The star program is Valhalla – allegedly about Norse myths though the cover picture is of the anglo-saxon helmet discovered at the Sutton Hoo burial site. As a complete aside, I’m on holiday at the moment and watching TV during breakfast was a programme about British history which featured Sutton Hoo, the Gower (which is going to be the setting for the next Sláine story next prog) and – surprise! – Jason Kingsley of current 2000AD owners Rebellion, showing two of his horses and a Boudicca-style chariot!

Facing that section is the ad for Big K, a next prog ad featuring that Sláine story – Dragonheist and a Forbidden Planet T-shirt advert (pictured are the McMahon CRIME, I Am the Law…, Stare Into the Face of Death and a Gibbons’ Rogue Trooper target T-shirt).

Judge Dredd: The Haunting of Sector House 9 – Part 2 by T.B. Grover and Brett Ewins. A disembodied hand forms out of green glowing blood-ooze dripping from the wall as Dredd tries to gain entry to Chief Erikson (deceased)’s quarters. Side-note – Psi-Judge Geller’s kneepads and elbow pads are red, probably coloured by Tom Frame. I don’t think this ever gets followed up with other Psi-Judges – certainly not Anderson, also a telepath. While Dredd blasts his way in and find an unknown power forcing him to turn his lawgiver on himself, we get a trademark Brett move in a zoom-in panel (via a photocopier). Joe pulls the Gaze Into the Fist of Dredd trick by being able to fight paranormal influences and lets off a round on the spectral hand. We also get a shot of a shouting mouth making threats against the sector house. It doesn’t take long for these threats to start taking effect as poltergeist-style incidents start across the sector house. Dredd takes Patel outside and plans a quiet evacuation, so that potential victims can be removed from the building, hopefully without the ‘ghost’ noticing.

In addition to the earlier Future-Shock, that gap between the most recent and next Strontium Dog story is also being filled by Tharg’s Time Twisters: The Long Haul by Jack Adrian and Massimo Belardinelli. A young family man has a job awaiting him on moonbase, but on his way to the spaceport he’s shanghaied by the crew of a freighter to go on a long haul flight to far distant stars. The method of reaching the stars is ‘null-space’ which involves time dilation effects. The kidnappee doesn’t understand all this stuff, so resigns himself to being away from his family for ten years and hopes he can pick up where he left off when he finally gets returned. After a few panels of events on the journey we skip forward ten years to find out, along with the family man, that during those ten years in null-space fifty years passed on Earth. His new-born son is now a fifty-year old who thinks his father deserted the young family while his young wife is now old enough to be his grandmother. How does he react? This time he does desert his family, leaving them in the squalid poverty in which they’ve descended in the intervening fifty years. No winners on this story!

Rogue Trooper: You Only Die Twice – Part 3 by Gerry Finley-Day and Cam Kennedy. Rogue, Bagman and Helm are cornered. Stuck in a long canyon, Norts at either end and walls two sheer to scale. The master-blaster doesn’t have the range that Gunnar’s G.I. rifle did, so the only hope is to trick the Norts in to going slowly and carefully, giving Rogue time to wait for the twin suns of Nu Earth to go down, plunging the area in darkness and giving the G.I.s the advantage. Just a moment – since when did Nu Earth have two suns? That’s never come up before, has it? Oh well, let’s shrug that one off while Rogue uses Helm and Bagman to synthesise Gunnar’s voice to scare the Norts in to trepidation. The ruse works and the surviving Norts try to escape. They’re out of the range of the master-blaster but the hopper appears to clip the wall of the canyon, exploding. But it didn’t clip the wall – it was shot down and Gunnar’s (bio-chipped word ballooned) words echo down from atop the unscaleable walls. The only reason I mention the same of the speech balloon is because I know what happens next episode, though I don’t remember if the balloons will normalise…

Alan Davis gives us a 2000AD Star Pin-Up of Chrysoprasia Crazy Chrissie (featuring the omnipresent beer cans with ‘continental’ writing as well as three-eyed teddy bears).

Grailpage: there’s a few pages I could have picked but it’ll have to be that opener to the last episode of Sky Chariots as Sláine, Ukko, Throt and the merchant are barely visible through the tree trunks, branches and animals which surround them.

Grailquote: TB Grover, Judge Dredd: “Damned if I’ll give in to a spook!”

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