2000AD Prog 365: I, Tharg, bring you Thill-power!

Robin Smith gives us the largest Tharg’s head we’ve seen on this very green and blue cover.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre opens with a big Tharg note detailing how to get back progs, annuals and specials and ends with an advert for the Forbidden Planet (Titan) T-shirts. I spot two original designs by Mick McMahon – the Fallen Angels (Ratty, Mean and Fink) and Sláine: I’m Warped! T-shirts. Pretty sure I’ve seen the Un-American Graffiti design (also by McMahon) and Strontium Dog (Starlord era pic by King Carlos) elsewhere. In between are a few letters, including some about Burt, recently departed from the prog (to go to Big-K). It is revealed that Burt’s replacement is SIM-1 – also known as Simon Geller, whom I dismissed a few progs earlier as being connected to Judge Geller in Sector House 9 – looks like that judge probably was inspired by Simon after all.

Sláine: Dragon Heist – Part 5 by Pat Mills and Massimo Belardinelli. Last prog’s cliffhanger (the Knucker awakening) is defanged pretty quickly as Ukko picks the lock and the thief and Sláine climb aboard as the stud dragon takes to the skies. Not that there have been any bad episodes, but this story is really getting in to its stride now as the dragon takes off, uncontrolled while on the ground the villagers have discovered the body of La (Gwawl’s widow) and seize Nest. They see her as the Knucker flies away out of control and Kicva the fish wifie rallies the villagers to use Nest as bait so that they can kill the both of them. This works, though Nest is experienced with dragons so keeps calm when the Mata arrives, delaying the feeding frenzy so that the villagers start shooting. The villagers come the worse off as the Mata starts breathing fire at them, which also attracts the attention of Sláine, just coming to terms with flying dragons… Looking at Belardinelli’s depictions of the dragons is a delight. At a guess I’d say the anatomy are based on dogs and cats, adapted to become winged creatures. There’s little details like the beginning of a fireball in the Knucker’s throat early on, subtle in black and white and only apparent in the following frame when the fire is used to provide thermals.

Adverts. What else was around at the same time as this prog was published? Crack It! – a 65p monthly puzzle magazine which I don’t remember seeing and Chunky Shuttle Lollipops from Blue Bird – which I’ve also not heard of / entirely forgotten existed.

D.R. & Quinch Go To Hollywood Part 2 by Alan Moore and Alan Davis. I’ve never noticed this before, but in the scrum of reporters that surrounds D.R. and Quinch, Quinch acquires the video camera which we’ll see him using for the rest of this story – stolen from one of the reporters. I had no idea who Marlon Brando was when I first read this (though I may have seen his skit in the Superman films) so wouldn’t have gotten the parody of his acting style, as we see when he takes a page from the unreadable script and reads it out in an incomprehensible manner – though we find out immediately afterwards from his manager that Marlon can’t read or write either. There’s a great panel I really like which has Quinch filming some huge dragon-like creature as a mouse-like creature watches with him. Alan Davis won’t have many more pages to contribute to the prog after this story, and he’ll really be missed.

Judge Dredd: The House on Runner’s Walk by T.B. Grover and Emberton. Simple story – a couple of old ladies who run a boarding house are kidnapping their residents and adding control boxes to them, cashing their welfare cheques. This is all going fine for over a decade until a runaway perp hides out at their boarding house. In the punchline to the story “He wasn’t our kind of gentleman at all” and they use their semi-brainwashed residents to kill and dispose of the perp’s body. Not brilliant at killing they leave fibres from their clothes (which Dredd saw in house-to-house enquiries the previous night) on the corpse. A short and sweet tale of casual brainwashing and murder. Eaglewatch – Dredd’s eagle is acting just like a normal shoulder eagle, but I have my eye on it…

Strontium Dog: Outlaw! Part 3 by Alan Grant and Carlos Ezquerra. The police find Harvey’s body and jump to the conclusion that Alpha and Sternhammer were responsible, broadcasting the news across the Doghouse. Immediate reaction? The bounty hunters are elated. The broadcast continues that the bounty on the duo has doubled to 100,000 creds apiece. Second reaction? Time to collect bounties, followed quickly by the fact that “them two’re stone killers” followed again by the equation that there are thirty bounty hunters against the two of them. Not everybody is keen to hunt them down though, as we switch to three old faces we haven’t seen in three years – Evans the Fist, the Torso from Newcastle (stretching the definition of an ‘old face’) and Middenface McNulty. Veterans of the mutant war, they smell a rat with the situation. Wulf and Johnny also hear the announcement…

And now it’s time for a commercial break for a range of trucks from Revell. It claims they can be driven ‘through the school playground’ but my experience of construction models is that they’re a bit fragile to do anything other than put on a mantlepiece.

…back to Outlaw! Under the direction of the brothers Stix, the thirty bounty hunters are put in to position next to the emergency escape pods which Wulf and Johnny are heading for and it looks like they’re trapped. Though we know that the old guard from the mutant war are around and likely to come to the rescue (along with “young Fuzz”, who Torso has gone off to fetch).

Remember those reader offers from IPC? Time for another with Patrick Moore’s Astronomy Game for £8.95. Available exclusively to 2000AD and Eagle readers (until it goes on general sale, anyway).

Tharg’s Future-Shocks: The Subterraneans! by Peter Milligan and Casanovas. Milligan’s debut as a script droid? Nope! He did The Man Who Was Too Clever way back in Prog 216 (thanks Barney)! That prog also featuring the mutant war mentioned in this week’s Strontium Dog, funnily enough. It’s only two pages long and starts with the destruction of civilisation and the survivors (who we saw in panel 3 and look like humans) hiding underground for untold generations. In the darkness we see shadowy figures preparing to head above ground for the first time. Cut to a gardener attacking moles with his spade. Because the moles are the evolved humans from generations earlier – though the gardener is also a human, so how come he survived or didn’t evolve while above ground? It works but I think would work that little bit better if we had just had a generic city destruction image in panel 3 instead of seeing the mole-ancestors-who-look-like-humans.

Back page and one more advert, this time for Weetabix Kodak Camera and T-Shirt Offers. Presumably I was inspired by this advert as it features the first camera I ever owned. I don’t remember the details but presumably I would have cut out tokens from the cereal boxes and sent off for it (£7.75). I distinctly remember it arriving through the post though, as it was the same day as a school trip. It must have included the first roll of film as I managed to use it on that day – though the trip was to a zoo, so if there wasn’t film in the camera maybe there was a shop to buy film from there. Except… the first pic I took was on the coach and there wouldn’t have been any shops I could have bought film from on the way to the pick-up point, so back to the camera including film in the first place. Enough of the stream of consciousness, back to the blog post.

Grailpage: I was tempted by some of Alan Davis’ D.R. & Quinch pages but am instead opting for the last page of Sláine featuring the Mata turning its ire on the Crumlyn villagers and Sláine and Ukko atop the Knucker, Sláine finally having gotten to grips with flying the dragon (and the Knucker itself having remembered how to fly with a passenger).

Grailquote: Alan Moore, Marlon’s manager: “How would you describe the film?” D.R.: “How could I adequately describe this film, man? It had an unreadable script, and an incoherent leading man who was also, like, totally illiterate. I decided to be brief and honest. ‘It’s a disaster movie, man.'”

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