2000AD Prog 381: It’s zarjaz! It’s scrotnig! It’s ghafflebette! Mutie and the beast… “It’s not real! It’s all in my mind!”

King Carlos’ cover shows Kreelman in quite a strange mask while he tortures his son… Good use of colour by (presumably) Tom Frame to separate out Kreelman and depict him in blue lines instead of black lines, highlighting the illusory nature of the torture.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre is very limited, just containing a Thargnote, the usual voting coupon and a token for that KP Skips free comics promotion. Advert-wise there’s the familiar Forbidden Planet / Eagle Comics showing the Judge Dredd monthly reprint with a McMahon cover and Robo-Hunter. It’s a bit unclear but I think it’s Gibson’s Sewergator cover. And the lower half of the inside front cover has “This week’s fantastic comic news!” Seasoned readers of British comics knows what that means. “Scream’s best and creepiest stories to appear every week in EAGLE!” – it’s a merger as The Thirteenth Floor and Monster transfer over to New Eagle. It doesn’t mention it but around this time Max will be taking over as editor as well. This wasn’t actually terrible news for me as I used to buy both comics so it cut down on my expenses!

Strontium Dog: Outlaw Part 19 by Alan Grant and Carlos Ezquerra. You know a story’s been running a long time when the reintroduction of a character from earlier requires a flashback to events in earlier episodes of the same story, just to remind everybody what’s been going on (or to explain to people who have started reading in the meantime). While the Alpha Gang arrives on the Doghouse, the Gronk revives from his latest coma. The flashback continues on to new bits that we haven’t seen, as he has resuscitated from his last death and slept off the events in a safe ventilation duct. Before turning the page I imagine he’s going to look through the slats in the duct and see… let’s guess Johnny in torture Cell 13. Yep! Back with the Gang and they manage to evade electronic detection (security cameras) but bump in to some Stronts who activate a fire alarm in their death throes. Now their presence is revealed.

Alan Finch alias Super Freeze (advert). Schoolboy becomes a superhero when he eats a Mr. Freeze ice pole (or freeze drink as they’re called in the comic page). In case that sounds like a familiar theme, Bananaman had appeared four years earlier. I feel these characters might be connected…

The Ballad of Halo Jones by Alan Moore and Ian Gibson. Rodice prepares to fight off the four (what I’m going to call) juves with a Sputstik. In the process we find out that not only are shoes subject to fashion (within the Hoop dictated by pseudo-seasons) but weaponry is as well (this year is rounded weapons, not stick-shaped). No idea what the ‘sput’ bit of that name means, if anything. Though it does make a little ‘sputt’ sound when it’s activated. It seems to be something like a skunk-strength pepper spray and (unfortunately for Rodice) backfires when she tries to use it while standing upwind of the air conditioning. Though fortunately for both Rodice and Halo, the juves lose interest in mugging / killing a collapsed, vomiting victim. Subtly (too subtle for me first time I read this) Swifty Frisko reports on Ludy’s band Ice Ten being signed to Chop Leisure’s record label. But the reason we miss that is because the focus is on Rodice getting out of the contaminated clothes and being given some new ones to wear. Wearing some very un-Rodice frilly clothing, Halo subtly mentions that there’s a dota in the prock-hock (subtle enough for my nine-year-old self not to realise that whenever people look at buying something (like a comb or a chain for a pocket watch) from a pawnshop it’ll turn out to have been pawned by the person they wanted to buy it for). Background details: MAM points – those on Municipal-whatever the rest stands for appear to not be able to use hard currency but instead use their MAM-cards (I’m hypothesising); Sureways – future equivalent of Safeway; Swifty Frisko starting a newscast with the phrase “How’s your mom, Ed?” – I still don’t have any idea what this means but it’s a reference from MAD magazine, which informed the Chrono-Cops story. After spending so many episodes travelling to the shopping mall, they only actually spend half a page shopping before they start heading to the bus stop for the bus home. Sorry, skidstop for the ringroadster home. They’ve missed the roadster home and have to wait six hours for the next one – and the Hoop is sufficiently large that they elect to sleep at the skidstop rather than walk home.

The opening page of Ace Trucking Co. On the Dangle: 4. by Grant Grover and Belardinelli starts off with a recap of the cliffhanger from the previous episode where Ace has to kill an Innocent Dancing Thing to prove he’s evil enough to be a pirate, meaning the end of the page takes us no further in the plot than we were the previous week. “Will Ace exterminate the entertainment? Find out after the Dredd…” – that’s right, once again the pages of the Ace story gets split up…

Judge Dredd: Dredd Angel Part 5 by T.B. Grover and Ron Smith. Departing from his usual ‘destroying Mega-City One scenes’ Ron Smith’s art opens up this episode as the city of Tulsa is destroyed by a thermo-nuclear device. Like in the real world it doesn’t explode at ground zero, but a kilometer above the city (the bomb that exploded above Hiroshima did so at 580 metres). Being made from a new material – glasseen prolypropylop – the city melts. Smash cut fifty years forward and Mean has led Dredd to the Tulsa Melts. They come across a mutant who refers to Dredd as a judge (which doesn’t go unnoticed by Mean) and has a ransom note with him, offering the judges of Mega-City One their judge clones back for ten billion creds. As Dredd fires off some emergency flares, blinding the mutants within the melted, reflective fortress…

…the comic returns to Ace, or as the narration box says “Meanwhile, back on Porto Bucko”. Ace is saved from slaughtering the Innocent Dancing Thing by the interlocution of G-B-H who offers himself as a target of piratical attack. Pirattack. We get a bit of fighting, but then it’s interrupted by…

The Best Pals Club is for you and your dog. We had this advert already. It appears to have nothing to do with Pal dog food.

Back to Ace, who is actually managing to hold his own in fighting the pirates (though the biffo’s share goes to G-B-H) until most of the other pirates are piled in a heap. It doesn’t save the Innocent Dancing Thing though, as Evil Blood has dispatched her while the others were busy. Change of scene and G-B-H and Feek the Freak verbalise how they’re not exactly happy with the pirate life and would like to go back to serve their jail sentence now. Ace points out two things – the first is that while their sentence has less than a decade left, his has almost three left. The second thing is that he has a Deputy GP (Galactic Police) badge on him – they’re on official business.

Rogue Trooper: Death Valley Part 1 by Gerry Finley-Day and Cam Kennedy. This got reprinted in the Rogue Trooper Annual 1991, so I read it just the other day so I could talk about it on the Space Spinner 2000 podcast (due to be broadcast in a few weeks). We narrowly miss out on seeing a map as Rogue reads a text warning on the digi-map, just in time for it to get shot out of Bagman’s grabby hand. The person who shot it out of the hand was a member of the Kashar Legion (not the Kashan Legion). They’re bad guys but seemingly honour-bound and that shot was too early, so the person responsible commits ritual suicide by falling on his las-sword. This is where my memory failed me. I thought that Rogue hid out in a field infested with bio-wire. It’s something that acts in a similar manner but apparently the cane field is alive – mutated than genetically manipulated? Bagman found this out when a tendril caused Rogue to miss a shot against the pursuing Kashars. Surrounded by hostile flora, the Kashar and the ‘genetik infantryman’ form a truce.

And on the back page, Collect four free comics with KP Skips – the one-page comic advert that we’ve been seeing since before the strike.

Grailpage: Ron Smith depicts the (first) melting of Tulsa. A futuristic city (but not quite as futuristic as Mega-City One) gets blown up by a thermo nuclear device. We also get a panel of the effect it had on the city as it melted. And then another of what Tulsa looks like fifty years later. I’ve been swayed away from picking some of Ron’s pages in earlier episodes because I knew this one was coming up and was looking forward to it.

Grailquote: Alan Moore, Toby: “Hi. You got over your naked terror, I see. Well, over the terror, anyway…”

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