2000AD Prog 393: Move over, Ron – Slippery Jim di Griz is back! The Stainless Steel Rat… …for President!

A wraparound cover from King Carlos – it seems like ages since the last one – Umm, Synthi Sausage, I’d guess? We won’t have to wait too long for the next one! This heralds the start of the return of the Stainless Steel Rat (though not The Stainless Steel Rat’s Return, which never got adapted).

Tharg’s Nerve Centre hints that there are Judge Dredd and Rogue Trooper computer games on the way (there are, though the RT one was two years off (from Piranha Software) while the first Judge Dredd game will be another year down the line (the Beam Software / Melbourne House one) – I doubt either of these are the potential games referred to). Meanwhile, if I hadn’t noticed how taciturn the Judge is before now, a letter pointing out a smirk from Dredd at the end of Prog 387. I really should get up to speed on the games mentioned on this page at some point… Of more use to me was a list of first appearances that Tharg gave in answers to two earthlets, which would really have aided my targeting of which back progs to buy.

The Stainless Steel Rat for President by Harry Harrison, adapted by Kelvin Gosnell and Carlos Ezquerra. The first page introduces new Squaxx (and reminds the older ones) to Slippery Jim diGriz and other than a sentence at the end introducing the theme of politics, is filler. The rest has Jim and Angelina’s meal at a restaurant interrupted by police. Jim escapes according to their usual escape plan but is caught when Angelina leads the police to their safe house. Mystery is introduced as the victim of the first murder in over a century has a card with Jim’s name written on it (almost, the spelling is atrocious). Before long they call in some help from Inskipp and the Special Corps and, as it happens, they’re already interested in the home planet of the murder victim. No hint of politics yet (though as it happens there is news of a presidential election in the news in 2020 as I’m re-reading this story). Angelina is missing the trademark hatching on her nasal bridge (but gains it in the last panel – I guess Carlos was out of practice at drawing the character.

The Fleetway annuals get a full page advert, then the facing page…

…has another advert, in the form of Star Shadow (for Dungeons & Dragons) by Graeme Morris and Tim Sell. Five days out from Darkhaven the storm shipwrecks Morwyn, Matt and Klas before they can get to the Isle of Gulls. Though they get washed up on said Isle, so it’s all good. Klas the barbarian has some sort of slave brand on his chest – wonder if it’ll be important later? Anyway, they’re being watched, by The Watcher, who’s sent something that looks like harpies.

Judge Dredd: City of the Damned – Prologue by T.B. Grover and Steve Dillon. McGruder’s back to challenge Dredd (in his sternest challenge since the Apocalypse War). There’s not much to write about this prologue. Justice Department have developed a time machine. They’ve tested it for jumps up to a few weeks but now they want to try using it to jump years. Psi Division report that their precogs are predicting disaster backing up Feyy’s dying prediction of a calamity in 2120. McGruder puts the two together and also puts Dredd and Anderson together to take the time trip. Then they go to 30 April, 2120, open the door and that’s all we see this week.

Though there is A 2000AD Postergraph, also by Steve Dillon, showing a few select scenes from the forthcoming mega-epic (similar to that in the opener of The Apocalypse War). We’ve got a mutant, full frontal (kind of detracting from any mystery in later episodes), hellhound things (have to admit I don’t remember these), blue-skinned vampires and Hershey’s badge. Also some dog vultures.

Nemesis the Warlock Book IV: The Gothic Empire by Pat Mills and Bryan Talbot. Torquemada discusses the plan to assassinate the Gothic Queen Victoria and a back-up plan to enable him to be nearby in case the hit squad fails. Cue the dated racial stereotype (arguably justified as the Goths have based their society on early 20th century radio broadcasts from the British Empire) in the form of Mr Manchu, Chinese governor. I’ve got a feeling that the scene of Torque taking over the governor’s body was the first time I saw a full pic of Torque’s phantasmal form (other than the scriptorium scenes from Book III, which don’t show the organic / ectoplasmic nature of the phantom). Switch back to Hammerstein, Mad Ronn and Hitaki on the occupied planet of Khartoum and Mek-Quake is now on the scene, looking totally different to the siege belfry and confusing nine-year-old me.

More adverts and the first is for both ‘current’ Strontium Dog computer games (The Killing and the Death Gauntlet from Quicksilva). Also advertised is the Judge Dredd Annual 1985 and the latest 2000AD Albums from Titan Books / Forbidden Planet – Judge Dredd 3 (featuring a McMahon Fink Angel cover) and Nemesis the Warlock (Book II cover by Kevin O’Neill).

Ace Trucking Co.: Strike Six! by Grant Grover and Belardinelli. The workers’ co-operative that now comprises the Speedo Ghost lands on Orrybooryboro (I’ve held off naming the worm-obsessed planet before now as the only character who said it out loud was drunk and I wasn’t sure how much of it was slurred). Feek and Chiefy make their pitch to sell worms to the local inhabitants (who tellingly look a bit like worms themselves), finishing the pitch as Feek grasps a handful and eats them. This is around the time we find out that the inhabitants consider worms sacred (and not foodstuffs). It doesn’t take Feek, Chiefy and G-B-H long to realise they’ve been conned by Ace…

The Hell Trekkers by F Martin Candor and Horacio Lalia. Burying the Hemmingways (the victims of the tyrannosaurs from the previous couple of episodes) the one survivor, the baby boy, is adopted by the Scargilles. Plans are discussed to deal with the tyrannosaurs, with one suggestion by the Nebbs (to use Crustacia as a lure) does not go down well. This potential flashpoint is interrupted by the news of the black scab – a Cursed Earth plague with no known cure and an apparent high death rate. As the trek heads out on the third day the scab has spread to other radwagons…

Grailpage: Bryan Talbot’s opener to Nemesis the Warlock is my favourite that I’d seen from Bryan at this point – the one showing the Equatorial Express on a monorail speeding over the Britannia jungles before the view switches to the rear carriage and a greenhouse-style dining compartment at the back of the train. Oh, and the train essentially has the Crystal Palace on top.

Grailquote: Harry Harrison / Kelvin Gosnell, Jim diGriz: “This is treachery, o traitorous wife!” Angelina diGriz: “Jim, dear, the nice policemen just want to talk to us! And don’t use words like ‘traitor’ to me, or I will personally remove your larynx…” narration: “Angelina, as you may have guessed, has a violent streak that occasionally shows…”

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