2000AD Prog 380: Disguise in trouble… Dredd loses face! “You ain’t my pa!”

We’re waiting for the resolution of the ‘flood’ cliffhanger, but we’re getting another cliffhanger launched on us right from the cover as it looks like that surgical brainwashing on Mean is wearing off… Picture by Ron Smith.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre has an earthlet (correctly) identify that the stories run in Prog 366 (Portrait of a Politician) and Prog 371 (Superbowl) were in the wrong order, only for Tharg to dismiss it out of hand. Another earthlet has heard a rumour that The Stainless Steel Rat for President will be playing soon – though wasn’t this in a Things to Come feature, so not that inspired a guess?

Strontium Dog: Outlaw Part 18 by Alan Grant and Carlos Ezquerra. Wulf pulls a Rogue special by bursting out from hiding under the ground to take out a Stront closing in on the submerged starliner the rest of the Alpha Gang were hiding out in. Capturing them alive, they discover the new order at the Doghouse – Norman King has captured Johnny (whom he’s holding in a torture room) Middenface is dead – though then Middenface turns up and reveals he was saved by a thick money belt. Coming up with a plan to use a time transmitter at the International Time Research laboratories on the moon to home in on the time transmitter on the Doghouse (the one which was used to send a number of Stronts to 1945 Berlin) it’s time for Middenface McNulty to take “big licks” to Norman King. This would seem to be rushing towards a conclusion, but peeking at the next few covers it’s at least five weeks away.

Tharg: Portraits of a Legend – this readergraph opens with a copy of Ron Smith’s portrait of Dave (but with a Rosette of Sirius added to it). I’m liking Tharg’s Future-Socks (sic – they’re socks, not shocks) and Tharg, Lord of the Apes (a riff on the poster for Greystoke – The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes). Nearly forgot to mention – there’s an advert for Odyssey 7 in the corner of this page. I’ve been to Manchester a few times in the early 2000s and don’t remember seeing this comic shop – though I’m finding that most comic shops from the eighties that still exist do so in the form of another branch of Forbidden Planet.

There’s another advert for that new toy range, Trans Formers. In case you’re not aware (as the ad tells us) it revolves around the “Heroic Autobot” and “Evil Decepticon”.

The Ballad of Halo Jones by Alan Moore and Ian Gibson continues with an extreme close-up of Rodice yelling about how nobody is going to take her outside, the panel taking up almost a third of the page. This page introduced me to the word “Zen” and name “Rin Tin Tin”, plus there’s a mention of being ‘Kissingered’ which would have gone completely over my head. A little unhinged by the idea of being forced out in to the scary Open Spaces, she throws a zenade at Toby, which turns out to be a dud. She follows it up with her other zenades, almost all of which are also duds. All except one, which renders her incapable of anything but mediation, intuition and complete non-aggression (‘zen’). While Toby runs the long way around the Hoop (his guarantee doesn’t cover salt-air exposure, he says) Halo convinces the now pliant Rodice up the ladder to the outside and the two take the magnetrax up top to their destination. Though just as they approach the zenade wears off and Rodice’s extreme agoraphobia takes over. Though being guided down the ladder they find a gang of four (not the political kind) awaiting them inside. This gang are not dissimilar to some of the juve gangs from Mega-City One. p.s. I’m not going to go back and check the previous sectors they were in, but there seems to be an error as they pass indicators on the magnetrax – they appear to be travelling anti-clockwise around the Hoop, starting at W37, over N18 and ending up at E20…

Tharg has five ‘multi-screen pocket games’ to give away to any earthlet who writes in asking for them. As with many early eighties electronic games, as well as the pinball game, this also incorporates a clock and alarm. Underneath that offer is an ad for Forbidden Planet T-shirts, now up to 20 different designs. Plus there’s a third of a page panel trailing this week’s Dredd story, on the next page.

Judge Dredd: Dredd Angel Part 4 by T.B. Grover and Ron Smith. It just occurred to me to look up the meaning of the Cursed Earth town that Dredd and Mean have been in for the last few episodes. Oxter is apparently Scots English vernacular for ‘armpit’. The flood doesn’t take long for the pair to ride out, and the cover cliffhanger also doesn’t take long to resolve, and by the fourth page ‘Pa’ Dredd is asking Mean what he’d do if he’d stolen the Liberace treasures. From where they are, Texas City lies South, Gila Munja territory East (not specified in the comic, but towards Louisiana), the town they’ve come from (Armpit) is to the West and Tulsa to the North. This makes me wonder just how big Texas City is. I’d assume it comprises Dallas and Houston, in a Boswash-style conurbation. I’m completely aware I’m probably putting far more thought in to this than John Wagner and Alan Grant did, but Oxter could be all that remains of Oklahoma City by the early 22nd century. Following a rad storm (or radioactive dust storm) the pair come across the remains of one of the mobile midwives, along with the body of one of the judge clones. Cremating the body, Dredd lines up a punchline I wouldn’t have gotten: “How long to Tulsa, Mean?” “Twenty-four hours.” Meanwhile the narrative switches to the Tulsa Melts and the hideout of the mutant bandits and we meet the leader, whose name appears to be ‘Ugly’.

Ace Trucking Co. On the Dangle. 3. by Grant Grover and Belardinelli. Yes – this Ace story gets a title and a reminder of which episode we’re on as of this part. What things was Massimo good at drawing? Natural formations (like rocks and stuff) and weird creatures (like aliens). What do we get plenty of this prog? Pirate bases hidden in rocky asteroids and piratical aliens! First, Evil Blood makes Ace swear to keep the location secret, as it has been for two hundred years and more, but Ace’s fingers (and those of his animated scarf) are crossed behind his back. Inside the asteroid lies the pirate city, Porto Bucko, and not only is it a hidden city but it’s also a domed city (being in space and everything). The city looks a bit like your typical yujee city from Meltdown Man. While we’re alluding to other stories, the celebratory feast (after a mild mutiny is dealt with upon Evil Blood’s return to his bubble, Blood Cove) rivals that during the Kloistar Run – I wonder what a triptych of this feast, that feast and the one on the Bloo Maru would look like? The other pirates question Garp’s badness in a scene reminiscent of Tom Baker’s turn as a sea captain in Blackadder II – though two years before that series was made, before challenging Garp to slaughter an innocent dancing thing (a slim dancing woman’s body with a hairball for a head). Will Garp murder in cold blood? Find out next prog!

Rogue Trooper: Blind Terror Part 2 by Gerry Finley-Day and Steve Dillon. Though this story isn’t titled. I’ve just been speaking to Conrad from Space Spinner 2000 about this story as, in a bout of serendipity it was reprinted in the Rogue Trooper Annual 1991. I’ll post a link to the podcast when it’s broadcast in a few week’s time. While temporarily blinded, Rogue has re-slotted the biochips in the wrong pieces of equipment. Bagman, in the rifle, forgets the standard soldier training – when questioned only give your name, rank and number to the enemy. Instead he blurts out that “Rogue re-slotted us the wrong way round!” – way to rat on your comrades, Bagman! Not familiar with the bag he’s in, Helm dispenses the wrong equipment, chucking a plasma bottle instead of a grenade. Gunnar has more luck in the armoured headwear and we get the memorable scene of a flying helmet slashing Nort’s chemsuits. Helm finally gets to grips with the contents of the bag and picks out some grenades, just in time for Rogue to take out half of the Norts while they’re rushing him. Bagman in the rifle shoots the remainder – apparently the ability of the immobile rifle to coincidentally be pointing in the exact correct trajectory to shoot the most valuable target continues. The last few panels highlight some of the best aspects of the Rogue Trooper series – the interplay between the biochips as the squabble among themselves, moderated by the calming influence of Rogue himself. The last page also got to be printed in colour.

Grailpage: tempted by Ron Smith’s rad-storm but I’m going for Rodie throwing dud zenades on the floor, followed by a close up of the single non-dud as it nears the floor and goes off with an AUMMMMmmmm that stretches in to the ultimate void as Halo’s face appears through the blur of meditative clouds. I’d be tempted to stick the following dialogue in the grailquote section, but I’m going to include it here instead, Halo: “Are you okay?” Rodice: “Am I okay? I feel wonderful!” Halo: “She feels wonderful.” Toby: “I’m happy for her.”

Grailquote: Alan Grant, third-person omniscient narrator: “The Torso from Newcastle makes a wry comment in his sign language. But as no one is watching him, his pearl of wisdom is lost forever to posterity.”

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