2000AD Prog 394: Tomorrow’s evil in the City of the Damned! “What the drokk…?” “The Hell Street Blues!”

I’d have been too young to have watched Hill Street Blues, but I would probably have gotten the pun on this cover from Ron Smith. It’s only know when I look it up that I find the blue vampire judges shown are named after characters from the show. A brief search suggests the vampires in question look a little like characters from the show, but from what I can work out the badges are on the wrong vampires? Never having seen it, I wouldn’t know.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre has a freebie of a Stainless Steel Rat Saves the World computer game from Mosaic Publishing. I’ve found a few references to it but no images though I suspect it has nothing to do with the 2000AD adaptation. The company itself is on Upper Street, Islington – a road I know fairly well, though it has a high churn of businesses. The address is currently an ice cream parlour…

The Stainless Steel Rat for President by Harry Harrison, adapted by Kelvin Gosnell and Carlos Ezquerra. Jim and Angelina pay a visit to Paraiso-Aqui. They know nothing about the place, other than its economy relies on tourism and a resident died trying to contact Jim. Very quickly Jim is approached by a local and very soon afterwards (seconds) is approached by the local police. Quickly meeting back up with Angelina they arrange for Jim to run the police a chase while Angelina meets up with the local (presumed) resistance. Being in a hotel, this involves Jim crashing through windows and blasting through floors (technically molecular debonding). As is common in this kind of situation, this involves crashing couples in bed and women in the shower, each time being interrupted by the police shooting through the doors. The following morning he meets up with Angelina again where they’re (once again) accosted by the police. But as this one is in public Jim plays the tourist act as loudly and disruptively as possible, risking the planet’s reputation for high-class tourism. They’re allowed to leave, as long as they do leave. But they’ll be back…

Nemesis the Warlock Book IV: The Gothic Empire by Pat Mills and Bryan Talbot. As Hammerstein faces Mek-Quake robot bystanders discuss how he was the first robot to have emotions (in the context of a legend, but it’s true). This story was also the first time I encountered the word ‘gratuitous’ (as in gratuitous violence). The war droid is rescued from Mek-Quake’s clutches as the Black Cardinal arrives, having reviewed Hammerstein’s war record. The inquisitor robot has a mission in mind – a suicide mission (whether Hammerstein wants to or not – conscience circuits can be bypassed, and self-destruct programs can e fitted). As with most episodes of this book of Nemesis, the focus then shifts, this time back to a disguised Nemesis on his way to the Brick Moon with the Gothic Queen Victoria and a disguised Torquemada.

Tharg’s Future-Shocks: Medusa! by Pete Milligan and Cliff Robinson. Having read this before I’m not sure how obvious the ‘shock’ is, but reading it for the first time in about a quarter of a century I guessed how it was going to end. Though was it a guess or just a remembrance? Humans and an alien race dubbed ‘medusa’ want to make contact, but their bodies and mental auras are fatally poisonous to each other. One human has been chosen to examine one of the medusa in complete safety. The first stage of this is to place an M.T.M. (helmet) on his head. It stands for ‘mind transference module’ – was their any doubt that their minds would be switched?

Star Shadow (an advert for Dungeons & Dragons) by Graeme Morris and Tim Sell. Yep, they were harpies and it looks like they’re only there so that the Watcher can manoeuvre them in to a trap. A trap set with the aid of the former slave / barbarian Klas Bara, who leads them to a hewn tunnel – assumed to be the king’s tomb in which the gem of night lies.

Judge Dredd: City of the Damned – The Hell Street Blues by T.B. Grover and Ron Smith. Another episode another art droid. As much as I like Ron Smith’s artwork, I remember being disappointed that Steve Dillon was so quickly replaced on this mega-epic as the episode starts with a double-spread splash introducing us to the blue vampire judges. It’s a bit jarring as the rest of the episode reads as if it, and the cover, don’t exist (the vampiric nature of 2120 judges is presented as a shock reveal). Anderson and Dredd encounter a mega-citizen who runs at the sight of them. They hear a few clues about blood drinking and ‘Hell Street blues’ from which Dredd surmises they should investigate the local sector house on Hill Street. This is where we’re introduced to the Hell Street vampire judges. Ron Smith excels at depicting the ruined Mega-City (we already knew he could depict the city getting destroyed, but he can show the aftermath too). Oh, and Anderson got a psi-image of the four-limbed, big headed Mutant.

Ace Trucking Co.: Strike Seven! by Grant Grover and Giollitti. Giollitti is a Rome-based art studio which was headed by Alberto Giollitti (previously seen on Flesh). I’ve no idea what relationship there may have been between the studio and Massimo in the eighties, but Belardinelli had worked at the studio in the preceding decade. If I ever go to Rome I’ll be sure to visit the family café, pastry shop and ice cream parlour. None of which has much to do with this episode. p.s. missed it last prog but Feek said “Tasty! Tasty! Very, very tasty!” when eating the worms – a reference to a Bran Flakes jingle which made its debut in 1982. Ace confirms the suspicions that he tricked the workers co-operative in to committing blasphemy on the worm-obsessed planet and blackmails them in to ditching the idea of representation in exchange for rescue from imprisonment. The following day they get taken to court and face death in the slime pits – though as they’re strangers and no malice was intended the judge allows them to leave “and never again take the sacred worm in vain!” Rescuing defeat from the jaws of success, Ace turns up and dumps the remainder of the load of worms on the courtroom – oops!

Advert time! The 2000AD Annual 1985 tops the page while the Eagle Comics reprints of Judge Dredd No 14 which appears to be running earlier stories than I’d have expected, only just having had Dredd return from the Moon from the McMahon cover. Meanwhile Nemesis has a Kevin O’Neill Torquemada cover (more recently familiar from the Termight edition). A next prog box has a Cam Kennedy panel from Rogue Trooper.

The Hell Trekkers by F Martin Candor and Horacio Lalia. As is becoming routine, the helltrekkers bury somebody, leave an area and the tyrannosaurs come along to dig up the body, this time in the ghost town in Terra Haute as the radwagons head towards the Slough of St Louis. The Slough is heavy rad-smog which must be travelled through to avoid “up north you got wild mutie bands, down south you got even wilder mutie bands!” (courtesy of trek guide Quint). With trekkers dropping from black scab they head into the rad-smog on auto-guide while behind them the episode ends as it began – with tyrannosaurs digging up the freshly buried dead. Tyrannosaurus appear to be immune to black scab – I wonder if their glands would provide a cure? The scab does look a bit like black boils…

Grailpage: Bryan Talbot, the page from Nemesis the Warlock showing the Star Tower, the Equatorial Express and the jungle it speeds above. There’s also a robot crocodile (or conceivably an alligator).

Grailquote: Harry Harrison, Kelvin Gosnell: Paraiso-Aqui police: “Stand aside, woman! This is man’s business!” Jim diGriz (thought bubble): “Oh, dear. If only he hadn’t said that… I mean he could have said, “Excuse me, madam, I wish to shoot your husband”. Then Angelina wouldn’t have broken any bones.” KRAK! Paraiso-Aqui police: “Noooooo!” “Aaaah!” Also, Pat Mills, Mek-Quake: “He really into gra… gra… gra…” Hammerstein: “Gratuitous violence?” Mek-Quake: “Mek-Quake’s favourite kind!” and later on in the same episode (also from Mek-Quake – I get the feeling he’s one of Pat Mill’s favourite characters): “Is this a good idea, boss? Mek-Quake think Hammerstein should be destroyed now… yeah!” Black Cardinal: “Are you questioning human orders? Perhaps you’d like to go on this suicide mission yourself?” Mek-Quake: “No, no, no… suicide missions not Mek-Quake’s style at all! Oh no – whatever you say, boss. That good enough for mek-Quake!”

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