2000AD Sci-Fi Special 1984 Summer thrill-power! Starring Judge Dredd The Right Stuff Cinefax Colourscan!

Ian Kennedy provides a painted Dredd cover. Has Ian done Dredd yet? It won’t be long before the Judge Amok story…

The contents page is provided by Ron Smith and features Dredd, Hershey, Orson and Lewis (plus another judge) in profile.

Judge Dredd: Booby Trap! by T.B. Grover and Cliff Robinson. I’d thought this was Cliff’s debut, but as the art droid has already provided two Future-Shocks this is merely his debut on Dredd. And what a debut! ‘Grover’ gives Robinson a lot of different things to draw, and he does them well, from leering game show hosts to a number of pranks befalling two blocks – particular highlights being a flash flood and a foam bomb – to graphic illustrations of flesh disintegrators at work. Quickly, the story is about the latest pirate vid channel and an illegal game show. The usual Mega-City One pirate gameshow format of questions get asked and the consequences are harmful – and in the case of the two contestants, potentially fatal. There’s some nice touches – the show is being broadcast from the back of a transporter, and Dredd, on Orwell Feedway catches up with it at Blair Boulevard (George Orwell was the nom de plume of Eric Blair). Another nice touch is when Dredd commandeers the transporter (running on automatic) and parks it under a viaduct. By the time the judge blasts his way in through judicious use of the lawmaster’s bike cannons the host uses an ejector seat to escape – not knowing that the transporter is now under a viaduct. Little details. As with just about every gameshow we’ve ever seen in 2000AD, there are no winners. Two blocks are damaged, both contestants have their flesh disintegrated and the host is seriously injured – he gets taken away by medics rather than the meat wagon, so presumably the CRAAAAAK as he hit the viaduct wasn’t life-ending.

Tharg’s Future-Shocks: A Droid in Distress! by R.C.H. Bongall and John Stokes. Annoyingly I didn’t realise this was drawn by John Stokes, otherwise I’d have taken it with me to get signed at Gosh! Comics a few years back when the artist was giving a talk about Marney the Fox. Two scientists, presumably in the future, have invented a time machine. What’s more they’ve also invented a robot, called Rob, for the purposes of sending through time without risking their own lives. What they didn’t do was plan how to get the robot back once it had been sent in to the past. The robot is not welcomed in the generic mediaeval time period in which it finds itself. After attempting to make friends numerous times it hits on the idea on donning a disguise. Long story short, the robot is Rob-In Hood, geddit?

Photo feature of The Right Stuff, a film I still haven’t seen. When it was released it had a 15 certificate, which this article admits means many 2000AD readers wouldn’t have been able to see it, but that doesn’t stop Tharg from devoting two colour pages to six photos. Other films which came out in 1984 include: Ghostbusters, Supergirl, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, The Last Starfighter, Night of the Comet and Dune. It’s surprisingly difficult to find a list of what the original certificate of films released thirty-six years ago were, but I’m pretty sure most or all of those were PG. I know Gremlins didn’t get a PG because the marketing and toys were disrupted when it got a higher rating than expected. Other films which definitely didn’t get PG include Terminator and Nightmare on Elm Street.

The 2000AD Star Pin-Up of Sláine is by forthcoming Sláine artist Glen Fabry (and my first exposure to his work). Also features Ukko.

Slidewalk Talk! It’s a quiz regarding Mega-City slang. I got a definite 18 out of 20 and wasn’t sure about the other two words: Mugglie and Bambo and “Uncomplimentary form of address” and “Stupid person”.

Reprint time! Flesh by K Armstrong and Boix and starting with a prehistoric snake. Though as you’ll remember, these continuing reprints were my introduction to the story of Flesh and for some reason I didn’t realise at the time that it was being serialised throughout sci-fi specials and annuals so I read them as self-contained stories rather than a continuing narrative. Claw Carver is generally presented as the bad guy, though I think their could be mileage in retelling this story from his point of view. In previous episodes the city which he’d saved up to create was torn apart by dinosaurs led there by Reagan (note that the city had a ‘no weapons’ rule, enforced by the robot sheriff – hives of scum and villainy are usually packed with gun-toting criminals). In this episode he’s saying that trying to save the doctor would be a waste of time – and he’s right, by the time Reagan kills the snake, the doctor is dead, and the survivors are slowed down enough that Old One Eye has caught up. Don’t other characters (presented as heroes) in other, later series have a catchphrase “You’re hit, you’re dead”? Ignore what I just said – on page three he shoves one of the other people on a raft off so that they can go faster (and so that Old One Eye gets distracted by eating him). The raft gets capsized by phobosuchus and Joe saves Claw’s life. Claw says he’ll repay the debt, but I don’t imagine it ever happens… Looks like there’s a page that wasn’t reprinted as the crew lay a pit trap but we don’t see Old One Eye fall in to it, instead we cut to the Dino Express – a tourist train and Orville Mainwright – a bratty kid not long for this world. There’s some dodgy plotting as the crew take over the control cab and roof-mounted guns and head off. Old One Eye sees the train heading away and lashes out with her tail to cause an avalanche in front of the train – how does that work? If it had led to the back of the train derailing that would be one thing… Orville gets munched – 2000AD, never shy of the graphic killing of children. I’ve realised that Earl Reagan has his own catchphrase: “There’s gotta be a final reckoning…” and “soon there’ll be a final reckoning between man and the dinosaur…”

Murals and Models! This is a two-page colour spread of reader-submitted photos. Two are murals (one from an Ian Gibson pic of Dredd on a lawmaster, the other Dave Gibbons’ cover to Prog 175). Model-wise there’s a resin carving of Hammerstein’s (war) head and a plasticine model of Rogue Trooper (there’s a wood and plastic rifle as well, but that isn’t in the photo). Plus somebody’s mother knitted a Judge Dredd jumper.

The reprint continues, featuring Invasion! by Gerry Finley-Day and Mike Dorey. It’s the Concorde Mark III story. Just one example of somebody not sharing the full plan with their second-in-command, meaning that Silk thought Savage was sending 500 resistance families to their deaths.

Tharg’s Future-Shocks: A Promised Land! by A.N. Other and Lalia. When I first covered this in Prog 31 I thought this reprint was in the first Sci-Fi Special I ever read – I was wrong, this is the second. The protagonist (who definitely isn’t a hero) lives on an over-populated Earth and sees an advert for a paradisic colony planet. It’s been a while since I’ve added to the Aarne-Thompson-Uther-Tharg Index, but this one is the first instance of something we saw again more recently where certain undesirables are tricked in to volunteering themselves to leave the planet – in that case it was werewolves and vampires, in this case it’s those who lie, cheat, threaten and bribe their way to paradise (which ends up being more like the Planet of the Damned).

Back to new material as Rogue Trooper arrives in Portrait of a Rebel! by Sim-1 and Brett Ewins. I wasn’t expecting Simon Geller to get on board the scripting duties until The Hits begin in the prog – I did check Barney when Tharg announced the new editorial droid but forgot to check out ‘other thrills‘. Continuity time first – this is set in the ‘ancient city of Raban’ though according to the broken public clock in a recent Rogue story the war broke out in the 21st century – I wouldn’t call less than a century ‘ancient’. With that out of the way, Rogue has joined a Marauder-like crew for some reason. Rogue and Gunnar are (apparently) fed up with being shot at by both sides, while Helm and Bagman claim that Rogue is a traitor for turning his back on the Southers. Rossa, a Nort woman (and as we know from Sister Sledge, Venus Bluegenes, that dancer from Fort Neuro and the woman from last year’s Sci-Fi Special story – all woman are bad) pours scorn on the idea of a G.I. turning traitor (never mind that the only time they ever saw action all but one were massacred). By the end of the third page we find out that the Maraud Vaghadhin get pointed at their targets (small supply columns) by a computer, which happens to be programmed by Rossa. I’d be surprised if you hadn’t started to guess what’s really going on yet. Helm and Bagman call Rogue a traitor again and he casts them away from him. Just happening to have them land next to the computer… Just noticed something – the Vaghadhin are not wearing chem-suits. This gets to show off Brett’s designs (not unlike some mega-citizens he draws) but there’s no explanation why they’re not wearing suits. Flashback time – I’ll give them this one, the flashback is to an Oasis – if the ‘O’ stands for oxygen then there can be some pockets of clean air – though the southers that Rogue sees the group murder through binox are wearing chem-suits. I wouldn’t go on about it so much, but everybody but Rogue having to wear suits is a core concept of the series… Too far away to do anything, they realise that the group used to attack anything that moved but have only been hitting Souther columns lately and decide to join them to find out why. Back to the present, once everybody else is sleeping Rogue checks up on Bagman and Helm who have been tapping in to the computer all night and have found a Nort Input Feeder, put there by Rossa. Rather than blow the computer and leave, Bagman reprograms the computer so that next day they hit a patrol. Rossa notices that it’s a Nort patrol, not Souther, but Rogue points out that they “kill whatever crosses our path”. It’s not just the loyalties of the patrol which was deceptive – turns out it’s a scout patrol for an entire Nort army! Leaving the Vaghadhin – which I’ve only just now realised is probably supposed to sound like Mujahideen – the (ancient) fortress also gets blown up with charges laid the previous night.

Daily Dredd – I’ll cover the next batch after this year’s annuals though I think I’ve already covered all the ones reprinted here.

Laugh, and the Whole World Laughs with You (…except for any Betelgeusians who happen to be on the planet at the time!) Notable to me for featuring motördredd – I wouldn’t have known who Motörhead were at the time. One of the other pictures is very obviously based on that Dredd panel (the ‘most famous panel in British comics‘).

Time for a text story and The Nightcomers, a follow-up to last year’s Von Ballin Tape (the stealth Time-Quake tie-in). It’s written by J.H. Teed and has illustrations by Trev Goring, whose atmospheric artwork – think chiaroscuro – gives it a really different tone to last year’s text story. Art and text take up roughly half each of the six-pages. Either ‘J.H. Teed’ (Chris Lowder) has dug up a map of Dorset, or he’s just come back from holiday to the county, as this is the most geographical story from 2000AD since Slater’s Slayers took a tour of Reading. If it wasn’t for the presence of last year’s secret Time-Quake story this would serve as an adequate mystery time travel or ghost story. Von Ballin is travelling between towns in Devon on a snow stormy night when he gets told by a police sergeant that a prisoner has escaped from the local prison, hears a hint about a family feud that turned in to all-out war. After crashing off the road due to ice, Von Ballin is attacked by a woman fleeing from her family’s farmhouse, under siege from the other family. I’m simplifying things here – the attack was depicted first, then the bit with the police was told in flashback. After a bit of fighting he escapes only to run in to the police sergeant again, this time accompanied by a snow plough. Turns out that feud happened in 1947, not 1981, and it’s now dawn instead of being the middle of the night. Other than the sentence “Timeslip, I thought.” this would serve as a good standalone mystery short. With it, it turns in to an addendum to Timequake, which I always thought could have been better than it turned out. Still time for a modern sequel, either with Blocker or Von Ballin. Or Suzie Cho, Princess of the Haniken Empire in the 32nd Century.

Data File Special: Burt. Nothing new in this, as you’d probably expect.

As is tradition on the inside back cover of the weekly prog, this inside back cover is also given over to advertising, plugging this year’s annuals and giving us first sight of McMahon and Ezquerra’s cover artwork.

The back cover is a colour advert for Forbidden Planet – featuring the “People like us shop at…” Brian Bolland artwork, pictures of two T-shirts (Stare into the face of Death and I am the Law) and representations of four Eagle Comics (using panel artwork rather than actual covers): Judge Dredd; Nemesis the Warlock; The Judge Child Quest and Robo-Hunter. Along the bottom are four of the button badges: Judge Death; the 2000AD logo; Nemesis and Dredd’s badge.

Grailpage: I’ve not done a page count but it feels like well over half this special is reprint or ‘feature’. Luckily the pages of original work are all illustrated by great artists, making this a bit of a tricky choice. In the end I’m going for Ian Kennedy’s cover, which is probably the most colourful that Dredd, Lawmasters and Mega-City One have been so far in my prog slog.

Grailquote: pretty sure we’ve had this line before, but if so I’ve not picked it before. Sim-1, Gunnar: “Naughty Norty…”

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