2000AD Prog 373: Johnny Alpha – nailed in his coffin? “Rest in pieces, Alpha!” “Not this time, dog-brother…”

Carlos depicts a scene from within as Johnny and Wulf sneak past some trigger happy Stronts as they let loose on some coffins.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre points out that the holiday snap at the back of the prog features Burt, hiding out and ashamed at having had a complete circuit breakdown (a dig at Richard Burton having left 2000AD for Big K – but he’ll be back). Reader contributions include an obvious but well-executed pun on Strontium Dog. Forbidden Planet have a small advert for the Robo-Hunter series from Eagle Comics (second issue).

Strontium Dog: Outlaw Part 11 by Alan Grant and Carlos Ezquerra. They have their disguises, but Johnny plays it safe by putting in a fake call to Spaceport Control and claiming the Alpha Gang are sneaking in via those coffins on the cover. It works, until Middenface’s bleeding lump gives the game away. Having to run for it, they’re quickly surrounded – though the thrusters of a star-liner are pretty prominent on the last page, so I’m going to guess that it’ll blast off and all the fire / ion stream / smoke / whatever from it will allow Alpha, Sternhammer and McNulty to escape somehow (I’ve read this before, but not this century and can’t remember what happens next).

Tharg’s Future-Shocks: Food for Thought! by Dean Behnal and Jeff Anderson. Pretty sure this is Jeff’s debut in the prog and I’m getting the hang of unfamiliar names on the script droid credit – as I note that Dean Behnal is an acronym for Alan Hebden. Just saying. Those overweight and obese in the UK in the mid-eighties accounted for about 20% of the UK population. By the 2010s the rate had tripled to 60%, making this story pretty prescient – though the cause in the story is growth drugs, rather than increased use of convenience foods and sedentary jobs. The ‘protagonist’ of this story is the one thin person in a world of fat people. Taken to the doctor to deal with his lack of weight we get the background (about the growth drugs) and how the economy is based on building bigger versions of everything to accommodate bigger people. This includes doctors – as it doesn’t look like the health problems associates with weight have been dealt with in any way… The ‘shock’ just has the thin guy sat at a table eating loads – not really shocking though a memorable commentary on consumerism above all other considerations.

Mighty Micro Page (Ogham Special!) This is a reader-contributed program for the ZX Spectrum to convert English in to Ogham – though I don’t know how it would appear on screen.

The Real Right Stuff.? by Alan Behnal (Alan Hebden’s anagram) and Zacarra (no idea who that is). Revolving around the last test at the Star Corps Pilot Training Centre, the night before the test where only one out of the thousand of the recruits will become a star pilot one of those recruits expresses doubts (to say the least) while his confident friend has no such doubts. Their barracks are attacked in a Zingaran Commando raid while they’re asleep. I’m writing this while at the end of the second page and make two predictions – Vince (the hesitant one) will win while the raid will have been a set-up. Read it now, but I can still appreciate the ‘shock’ as the commander asks the former cadet / new pilot what the special thing he has that the other thousand cadets didn’t. It isn’t confidence or leadership qualities. It isn’t even bravery. It’s luck! The Right Stuff being a reference to a film, covered in this year’s Sci-Fi Special.

More 1984 Reader Profiles. We get a massive eight profiles this week. The youngest is 11, the oldest 43 years. Unlike last prog, there’s a few international readers with contributions from Dublin and the Transvaal. The only favourite stories specified are Ace Trucking Co – which Tharg tells us will soon return – and Judge Dredd. Other comics and magazine read include Eagle, Home Computer Course, Whizzer & Chips, Whoopee, Dr Who and Stardust. I can’t find anything about a Stardust magazine (apart from a modern Indian mag about Bollywood, which has a UK edition) so presume this should be either Starburst or Starblazer – probably Starburst which I think was published by Marvel, who also published Doctor Who at the same time – from that Kentish Town office featured in the Tharg and the Thrill Suckers story.

Judge Dredd: The Making of a Judge! by T.B. Grover and Kim Raymond. A bullion heist provides Dredd with the best test yet for Rookie Judge Dekker. Standard kind of story we’ve seen Dredd carry out before, but led by Dekker, and we get a commentary on the procedure she uses. She requests H-wagon surveillance but it’ll take too long, but a watching bay camera gives her a heads-up and they plot an intercept course until the heisters hide out in a citiblock and take hostages. Dekker goes up a floor, crashes through the window and shoots both hostage-takers before they can react. Her handling of the situation is enough for Dredd to pass her and at her graduation ceremony she puts down her success to Dredd’s Comportment – I think this is the first time we heard about this but it’s another case of a story I read in my first few months as a squaxx so it’s always been part of the mythology to me.

Rogue Trooper: Message from Milli-Com – 5: Coogan’s Bluff! by Gerry Finley-Day and Cam Kennedy. As Rogue cogitates on what he still doesn’t know about the mission, the team come across a ‘Nort patrol’ in the mists. Further identification is interrupted as Coogan gets attacked by a swamp mutant. By the time Rogue’s “G.I. muscles” have crushed the mutated snake the patrol has passed by. Bagman somehow manages to apply a medi-spray to Coogan’s painful arm (through the chem-suit) and Maine takes point – immediately tripping a ‘Nort alarm beam’

And Rogue is interrupted yet again, but this time by a Weetabix advert for free Choose Your Own Adventure books (I suspect this involved cutting out tokens and sending off for them – probably having to pay for postage and packaging). CYOA being the inferior version of Fighting Fantasy books.

Back to Rogue and Maine is frozen by the alarm beam. Rogue goes underwater with a lachete, cutting down a camo’s boat patrol as Captain Coogan uses Gunnar to wipe out the patrol (whom we don’t see up close). Maine is dead – according to Coogan because the ‘Norts’ must have turned up the beam but he then spots an air drop as capsules splashdown among the giant mushroom-shaped vegetation of the Neverglades. Coogan’s ecstatic, but Rogue’s distinctly unhappy that half the squad are dead and it’s just the two of them against the summit. He’s going to be even more unhappy when he gets closer to the ‘Nort summit’ in the next prog or two.

Another Future-Shock, Gorilla Warfare! is also from Ben Haldean with art by Steve Hatton. It’s getting so half the prog is shocks, twisters and one-offs, most written by Alan Hebden and drawn by previously unknown artists! Two pages show a Cruise missile making it’s way across the U.S.S.R. while the narration extols the high spec nature of the weapon. Until something goes wrong. Over the page the last half-page has a hatch open and shock! two chimps inside asking for direction. In a nice touch the chimp’s names are Ronnie and Bonzo – a reference to a film starring a cowboy actor who went on to be the U.S. president and their co-star.

The last half of that page is for the 2000AD Sci-Fi Special 1984, which I’ll cover tomorrow. This faces off against the now traditional inside back cover ad featuring a panel from next week’s Dredd and a reservation coupon.

The 2000AD Star Pin-Up has Tharg and the droids enjoying A Day at the Beach… as mentioned in the Nerve Centre. Eric Bradbury’s pic is supposed to be Southend Beach, though the presence of cliffs in the background make it less convincing (the closest I’ve been to Southend since before this prog was published was Leigh-on-Sea though – the last town before the resort). The only identifiable droid is Burt (and we can only see the top of his head behind a shoreline groyne). My favourite detail is the robo-crab.

Grailpage: Kim Raymond isn’t the most distinguished of art droids to have worked on Judge Dredd (though his career really took off after leaving comics behind), but does contribute one of my all time favourite images of the Mega-City as Dredd and Dekker speed down a dizzyingly high skedway snaking between citiblocks.

Grailquote: TB Grover, Rookie Judge Dekker: “You people all right?” Mrs Connor: “Yes! Thanks to you, judge!” Mr Connor: “She ain’t no judge – she’s just a rookie!” (ungrateful, much?) Judge Dredd: “Correction, citizen. As of this moment, she is a JUDGE!

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4 thoughts on “2000AD Prog 373: Johnny Alpha – nailed in his coffin? “Rest in pieces, Alpha!” “Not this time, dog-brother…”

  1. I think Stardust was a Quality Communications magazine based on science fiction movies, published long before Warrior turned up with Alan Moore et al.
    I could be wrong…

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      1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starburst_%28magazine%29?wprov=sfla1
        Im actually surprised by this.
        Theres a few cover pics on google images, but i cant remember seeing a copy. Weirder still, its apparently remains in publication
        Not sure if it is QC publications after all, but edited by the same guy (Dez Skinn), and adverts for back issues often appeared in the back pages of Warrior Magazine.
        And not to be confused with Bollywood or Opal Fruits rebranding!
        All the best!

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