2000AD Prog 424: Midnight in the Mega-City… Surfing on the street! “Crazy skyhog!”

A fantastic cover from Cam Kennedy introduces us to a new mode of transport in the Mega-City, and a new character (!), the Midnight Surfer.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre contains no prize winners as Tharg awards £0 to four letter writers and two drawing drawers. In the corner is an advert for what I believe is the final stock of Titan miniatures (45 to 50 mm tall), ready for Citadel Miniatures / Games Workshop to take up the licence in a year or two.

Anderson Psi Division: Revenge by Alan Grant, John Wagner and Cliff Robinson opens with a re-run of the scene from the last episode where the Dark Judges converge on Anderson’s location and the psi-judge reciprocates by shooting Judge Fear’s dimension jump and teleporter (with one shot – go Cass). No honour among Dark Judges as the others teleport out of there when the regular judges turn up, leaving Fear stranded. Anderson chucks the Justice Department D-Jump at Fear as his spirit leaves his destroyed body, sending him to a limbo dimension (there’s a limpet mine attached to the D-Jump so it explodes before Fear can use it to return). The other three sense that Fear has departed and teleport to somewhere else to consider their next step. McGruder rescinds Anderson’s suspension (partially as she already broke suspension and secondly because her plan to get rid of Fear worked) but she’s no off the hook yet – she still has the Titan trip facing her once the other DJs are dealt with. A great episode representing the tide turning against the DJs (but what comes next? I can’t remember!)

Sláine: Time Killer by Pat Mills and David Pugh. Murdach and Sláine fight the two bathing cythrons though having defeated them it looks like there was a submarine orgot (not an organic vehicle, just a biomechanical cyborg who happened to be underwater). Back with the others and the Ventla transdimensional craft has landed on Cythrawl and Myrddin continues in exposition mode, with a sneaky appearance by Hitler (in the control of the cythrons). Turns out that he was an agent used to start wars, creating negative energy (fear and hatred) to be sucked up by time worms through their vacuholes while the other ends of the gigantic macrobes are anchored in Cythrawl farms. Got that? It’s better when you have pictures to help you through it. There’s something about animals not creating a powerful enough energy aura when they’re fearful or angry, so humans are the best bet for prana/negative aura-hungry cythrons. The big secret that Myrddin teased last prog is that humans have been farmed by the alien race. Nest objects but Myrddin points out that sheep or cows in the field are also unaware that they’re being bred for slaughter. Back with Sláine and it looks like what I thought was an orgot is actually the same cythron that Sláine was fighting, but it got re-energised by his prana and perhaps the extra arms were just its old skin as the refreshed cythron sloughed it from within? Anyway, he finally dispatches it and steals its uniform. Back at the Cythrawl alien farm the Guledig has arrived and he resembles the triskele!

Tharg’s Future-Shocks: The Mousetrap! by Alan Hebden and Massimo Belardinelli. Three pages, classic scenario (and as is the case with many Future-Shocks, if you’ve read a few year’s worth of them then you can predict roughly how it’s going to end. George N. Zola (the name doesn’t have any particular meaning, other than this story involving mice) wakes from a dream that mice were going to enslave humanity and starts going on a shooting spree – George has a shotgun within reach of his bed. He ends up in a mental hospital where he shouts about the mice. The last few panels do, of course, reveal that a mouse in the hospital is monitoring George and reports back to its masters – aliens in a battle-cruiser approaching Earth. Next!

Judge Dredd: Midnight Surfer Part 1 by T.B. Grover and Cam Kennedy. What to say about this story? Only that it introduces the powerboard to Mega-City One – probably the closest thing that 2000AD has to the lightsabre – the cool gadget that every kid would want. And would be incredibly dangerous in real life. Just having a flying surfboard would have added something to the Dreddverse, but in the hands of John Wagner, Alan Grant and Cam Kennedy it’s handled beautifully, the description of catching thermals rising between the housing blocks perfectly complemented by Cam’s artwork. Oh, and Chopper is back – but I wouldn’t have known who Chopper was first time I read this story, but the clues were there for longer-time readers. For those who knew who the character was there were a few clues. Our protagonist tapes over the name on the powerboard, the art showing the bottom half of the letters CHOP and the whole of PER. The top of the zip on the surf clothes is shaped as a ‘C’. The rest of this opening episode has Chopper flying around and trying out a few illegal manoeuvres, namely low level surfing (flying at street level) before testing himself by flying through a busy road tunnel. Having done that and garnered Dredd’s version of admiration of his surf skills (Dredd was viewing from a judicial watching post).

Rogue Trooper: Antigen of Horst by Gerry Finley-Day and Jose Ortiz. Rogue (disguised as a rhino-head alien) gets to talk to the alien horsehead Souther bio scientist, but unfortunately for both of them, horsehead isn’t too healthy. Not that he dies from illness – he gets killed by rhino-headed Nort aliens for being too slow. Not before telling Rogue about the director in charge of a project, and who will know where to find the antigen. Implausibly there’s another clue, horsehead’s last words were ‘colla’, which Bagman assumes was the beginning of the word ‘collator’ (because the director-doctor collates information). What it actually is is the beginning of the word ‘collaborator’ as the doctor is working with the Norts. The reason this is implausible is because it was translated, so we’re meant to believe that the words in an alien language correspond to the same rhyming as in English. Anyway, Rogue’s off to visit the Doctor colla, not knowing that they’re actually an enemy, not a friend.

Strontium Dog: Big Bust of 49 by Alan Grant and Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny and Wulf return to the eating hall to find Middenface sitting pretty, with Xen in a jar. Except Xen’s actually in Middenface’s head – Johnny pushes Wulf out of the way and manages to avoid the two getting shot by Middenxen. How did Johnny know? Did he use Alpha vision to see Middenxen’s hand holding a blaster, ready to shoot them? Did he use Alpha vision to see Xen in Middenface’s head, like he did with the cook in a previous episode? Is it just really fast reactions? It isn’t explained. Alpha manages to trap Xen in a bottle though, and the story concludes in double-quick time, the trio getting their bounty and Middenface going off somewhere to spend his share (but not back to Tam’s World, where his wife is waiting for him).

Grailpage: got to be the opening page of Midnight Surfer by Cam Kennedy. One of my favourite depicters of Mega-City One with a bunch of unusual top-down angles plus the debut of powerboards all on the same centrespread.

Grailquote: TB Grover, Judge Dredd: “Never seen surfing like that before. Creep’s either a maniac or a genius – or both.” As I say earlier, Dredd’s version of admiration.

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