Kim Raymond’s first cover and Rookie Judge Dekker’s first appearance.
Tharg’s Nerve Centre has that stalwart of the letters pages – a fantasy casting for a Judge Dredd film featuring actors of the day. Even though Maze only appeared two progs prevoiusly, the next letter suggests more female characters. That’s a very quick turn-around for a letter, I was under the impression that prep for printing took longer in those days (not that I’m accusing this letter of being a plant or anything). Other character mentioned were Crazy Chrissie and Venus Bluegenes. Tharg responds by plugging The Ballad of Halo Jones, coming in early Summer. It’s actually six progs away.
Strontium Dog: Outlaw Part 8 by Alan Grant and Carlos Ezquerra. The latest episode starts with star-shells (look like flares, turning the night forests around the city to daylight). Middenface got one of his lumps shot off. Next weapon up are zigballs – I don’t even know how to describe these – some kind of zig-zagging ball lightning things? Middenface shoots stoor bombs, similar to the flares but creating a blanket of smoke. Bounty-hungry mutants commandeer some nearby dozers and don’t care too much whether they kill bounty hunters or bounties in their greed. The dozers actually end up helping the Alpha Gang more than anything else – Wulf gets a bullet in the arm but far more of the hunters are killed or injured. Time to head for a storm drain direct to the city.
Atari fork over the advertising money here in a colour two-page spread plugging Pole Position.
Rogue Trooper: Message from Milli-Com – 2 – An Officer and a Geneticman by Gerry Finley-Day and Cam Kennedy. The last episode ended with an inferred threat “We’ve been dying to meet you” – while pointing a gun at Rogue. This one opens with the gun placed down on the table and a more reassuring “Easy, G.I. We’re friends.” The deal on the table is that the group of five captains (presumably many more in the ‘club’ but not present) that a Nu Earth summit of top Nort leaders is to be held within forty days. The idea put forward is that -led by Rogue – they’re going to assassinate them, get promoted and then be in a position to run the war more effectively resulting in less Souther casualties and victory within a year. Even more importantly for Rogue is that they’re all to be granted amnesty and the bio-chips re-gened. It goes to a vote with only Gunnar against (he can’t trust them) and Rogue sets down his own R-V in twelve hours time to begin training, his way. Captains Willard, Maine and Coogan are to be on the death squad. Willard is a moaner, complaining that twelve hours isn’t enough to get ready, but Coogan (easily the most capable of the three) tells Willard to shut up and they’re at the rendezvous point in eleven hours – in a Funkus zone (smelly mushrooms). Willard has brought some lux-rations and he and Maine blather on about where he picked them up (not actually sure how they’re managing to consume them, as they’re still out in the open and wearing masks). Rogue shoots the rations out of Maine’s hand, then blows up all the luggage they’ve brought along. Maine isn’t happy, but once again, Coogan shouts “Quiet!”. As far as Captain Coogan is concerned, they’re operational now.
Desert Island Drawings! This readergraph has various editorial droids pick their favourite examples of reader art. Among the ‘real’ droids are SIM-1 (Simon Geller), Tom Frame and Burt (Richard Burton). The other droids are Spex, Ro-Jaws, D-Mil and D.J.1. My favourite is the one Burt picked – an original pic of Nemesis and Grobbendonk (with Seth in the background) that can’t be tied directly to a pic by O’Neill or Redondo.
Judge Dredd: Super Bowl – Part 1 by T.B. Grover and Kim Raymond. When Hershey first appeared she was intended to be a female version of Dredd – as capability and with a similar severe personality. Her hair was supposed to be vaguely shaped like a helmet. Dekker has a similar hair style though a pointier face. She’s also a rookie judge rather than a graduated-but-young judge (as Hershey was first time we met her). Before reading this today the only thing I knew about the Super Bowl was that it featured a half-time show. I now know it’s always been held in January or February and is between two different leagues (later renamed conferences) – the National Football League/Conference and American Football League/Conference. The story in this week’s prog is about the MFL (presumably Mega Football League) and is on Superbowl (all one word) CXXXIV. As an aside, the Superbowl due to take place in the year 2106 will be CXL rather than CXXXIV. Enough comparisons with the real world, on with the show. The centre pages introduce what Tharg calls Bionic American Football in the Nerve Centre, where 25 per cent of the player’s bodies are bionic. They also introduce Coach Bagglio, a homophobic coach, and Dredd (alright, we’ve met him before) who lets us all know that there’s been a threat to destroy the team, the South-Side Radiators before the final against the Old Town Rats. This story takes place around the time that Dave the Orang Utan’s story began and it’s obvious that this one should have been published before that one. I say obvious, but there’s going to be a letter in the Nerve centre in a month or so’s time, which is how I know about it. I even remember what Tharg’s reply is going to be. It’s like being able to see in to the future, doing a prog slog! On the second page we get another new character, and this one’s going to be around for a while (not that we’ll see much of her after her initial appearances). Rookie Judge Dekker has a half eagle and white helmet and is leading the investigation, though what is it with Dredd assessing rookies in sports stadiums? The first step is to search the locker room. As we know from crime blitzes and crime swoops, it’s rare for a mega-citizen to escape close scrutiny from Justice Department without some infraction of the law surfacing, and this is no exception – though Benghazi’s use of stookie pills is not the kind of misdemeanour you commit by mistake. There’s an interesting bit where Dekker slaps on another three months to the 12 month sentence as Benghazi is a person in the public eye. Other things I noticed – something I think Raymond did in the Anderson story in the annual was depict the H-wagon as actually ‘H’-shaped (rather than the letter standing for ‘hover’). The judge’s uniform is much blacker in Raymond’s episodes – the material literally just a blanket black. Just as the team are leaving for the game, Dekker runs a lie detector test on Shooter – the question is “do you know of any person or persons who wish to stop the Radiators winning tonight?” and when Shooter says no, he fails the test! Not trying to talk his way out of it, Shooters uses his bionic leg to kick Dekker in to a table laden with weights – cliffhanger!
Tharg’s Future-Shocks: Chain Gang! by Alan Hebden and Casanovas. You can guess from the title where this one starts as some convicts from a local penitentiary carry out hard labour on a hot day in the American South. The guards are probably breaking as many laws as the convicts did, using violence, forcing them to work through their lunch breaks, denying them water and threatening to make them work until the next day. As the guard is about to take the whip to one for asking for water an alien spaceship appears and fires beams at the guards, knocking them unconscious. The convicts escape on to the ship though shock – they discover it’s a slave ship and they’re going to be sold on an alien planet because they’re experienced slaves. There’s a nice juxtaposition of the human guard’s mirror shades and the alien leader’s mirror visor in the twist panel.
Speaking of twists, it’s not billed as Tharg’s Time Twisters but it might as well be as Kelvin Gosnell and Belardinelli bring us The Art of Advertising. This is another one where people have access to a time machine but use it for mundane purposes. Wishing to use it to make money, instead of using it to make large amounts of money the owner of an advertising agency instead uses it to film an advert that’s different to the sci-fi adverts that the chairman of Coco-Wheetiflakes Ltd is bored of. Chatting to a journalist friend he finds out his latest story is to write a story on a professor who has invented a time machine. Conning the professor into believing he’s going to be documenting the first usage of the machine for posterity, once in the past (16th century Florence) he hunts out the workshop of Leonardo da Vinci, where he pretends to be a friend of the Medici family. It’s all in Latin (translated for the reader by Tharg the Linguist) but the professor doesn’t speak Latin so looks around the workshop while the advertising agent tries to con da Vinci, who immediately recognises that the camera he wields is not of this time or possibly this world. The agent has to come clean and explains 20th century advertising to the polymath and gets the Mona Lisa to hold some breakfast cereal while he takes photos. Back in the 20th, he shows his new advert to the chairman, who responds in the same way he did to the sci-fi advert, but this time saying everybody’s sick of nostalgic ads. The chairman angrily tosses a book on culture at the agent and sees what affect his escapade in the 16th century had. the Mona Lisa went on to advertise other items, along with a couple of other famous works… The nudity is classical in this story as Micky’s David sells soap while Botticelli’s Birth of Venus advertises bath-robes. This story has a punchline as well as a last-page twist as the agent contact the professor again to ask if they can travel forward in time. Apart from the second page which has seven panels, most pages in this six-page shock have three or four panels, allowing Massimo’s artwork really breathe (compare with The Angry Planet in Tornado, which I feel was really harmed by how many panels were squashed on to each page).
The next prog box has a pic of Sláine by Robin Smith (it’s going to be another Action Figure – cardboard cut-out standee). There’s also an advert for the so-called Nemesis the Warlock Book Two (actually Nemesis Book III, but Titan neglected the real Book II). Other stuff: a tiny ad for G*1 (a new space board game) and Convention News for the Birmingham Comic Art Show at the Midlands Art Centre in Edgbaston. As with some previous ads, creative droids will be there but it doesn’t say which creative droids.
One last colour advert for the F-14 Tomcat model kit from Revell.
Grailpage: you couldn’t go wrong asking Roman artist Massimo Belardinelli to recreate classic Italian artworks, though my grailpage this week is a few pages earlier, where the sky gets all time-warpy as a vehicle-based time machine travels back in time (but it’s a battered old van, not a delorean). On top of that we’ve got some great cobbled streets in Florence, plus a portrait of da Vinci.
Grailquote: Gerry Finley-Day: Rogue Trooper: “The picnic’s over!” Captain Maine: “Rogue Trooper! You… You’ve been here all along!” Rogue: “That’s lesson one: – camouflage. Here’s lesson two: – on Nu Earth, you travel… LIGHT!” (as he tosses a grenade at their supplies)