The Dungeons & Dragons competition and the deal with Games Workshop must have rubbed off on the copy editor as this cover gets two RPG references (both in the title of this post). Ortiz provides the pictures, and it’s not often we’ve seen their artwork with added colour (not mentioning that for any particular reason, you understand). Speaking of which – I really need to think about how I’m going to cover the Judge Dredd Roleplaying Game (the one from Games Workshop) as I know it came out in 1985 but I can’t find the actual publication date (and there haven’t been any ads in the prog yet) – this prog was out in August 1985. There’s a very special review of the game that appeared in White Dwarf, but more about that when I get to 1986…
In Tharg’s Nerve Centre the mighty one waxes lyrical about the latest Eagle Awards, where 2000AD naturally won a number of awards, as follows: Favourite Comic Character of 1984 – Judge Dredd; Favourite Comic Group – Mega-City Judges; Favourite Comic Villain – Torquemada; Characters Most Worthy of a comic all to themselves – D.R. & Quinch; Favourite Comic Story – D.R. & Quinch Get Drafted (Progs 355 to 359).
Strontium Dog: Slavers of Drule by Alan Grant and Carlos Ezquerra. This episode starts at the Valley of the Kings on a remote alien planet, which has a distinctly ancient Egyptian feeling and whose major claim to fame is that that is where great memorials to the despotic rulers are built. A popular misconception in the real world is that the Egyptian pyramids and memorials were built by slaves – it’s more likely the builders were chattel farmers who worked on memorials when they couldn’t work in their fields. In this story, however, the huge head of the latest ruler is built by slaves. We’re shown how bloodthirsty the slavers are, including by a protracted death sentence against the male members of the Keeble family (they’re flayed and hung up to die). Which is lucky for Johnny and Wulf because that gives them some time to sneak in to the camp under cover of night and find foment a slave rebellion. And that’s where we leave things at the end of this episode.
Tharg’s Future-Shocks: The Edge of Forever… from a planet on the far fringe of the galaxy to the most distant human colony (in the 27th century) in this Shock from classic pairing Alan Hebden and Jesus Redondo. Both the title and this story has a very 1950s / 1960s sci-fi short story / Twilight Zone feel. The set-up – the afore-mentioned human colony, inhabited by simple folk who work their farms during the day and watch broadcast media from the rest of humanity each night. The next bit of the set-up – an alien battlefleet has amassed and is approaching Earth (but this colony planet is the first inhabited planet they come across). The final bit of set-up – in the more cosmotpolitan regions of the human sphere of influence an enquiry agent (private investigator) has been hired by the boss of a spaceline company who wants to know why their ships aren’t allowed to land on the afore-mentioned colony planet. After being given the runaround between government agencies they end up with no option but to head to the planet themselves (on a liner operated by the Galactic Defence Agency). Predictably when they arrive on the plent they’re met from the liner by a Colonel who gives them a guided tour of the planet – including brain shield (heavy duty tin-foil hat). So – what’s going on? Turns out the settlers were bombarded by ‘primeval cosmic rays’ when they first arrived on the planet, resulting in a number of effects: they were made hugely telepathic (shades of primary neural irradiation from Mind Wars), reduced their intelligence and the power to return any unwanted thoughts (surely just a subset of the telepathic powers). In this way when they subconsciously detect hostile thoughts (say from approaching alien invasion fleets) they reflect the hostility and destroy the invaders. And that’s the tale of the Guardians of the Galaxy (as they’re referred to at the end).
Nemesis the Warlock gets a trailer frame, in a story which Eamonn and I discussed on the Mega-City Book Club – but more about that next blog post! On the same page is the customary Forbidden Planet / Eagle Comics ad – for a Bolland covered Judge Dredd and Judge Dredd’s Case File – the former for the mid-Apocalypse War and the latter for the Perp Runners. I distinctly remember this period as I’d discovered my local comic shop by this point, so as well as reading the Apocalypse War reprinted (Eagle from the local-but-one newsagent next to the pelican crossing on the way to school) I was also getting many of the original progs (from Fantasy World). The bottom half of the page has the trusty Robin Smith Thrill-Suckers reservation coupon.
Judge Dredd: The Midnight Surfer Part the last (it’s not numbered) by T.B. Grover and Cam Kennedy. What to say about this one? I imagine that 90% of those reading this will already be familiar with this story and particularly this episode (hint: it’s the one where Chopper the sky-surfer gets taken to the cubes by Dredd). Winding it back a bit – all those also-ran surfers get their route blocked off and decide to skip the area at which the judges have amassed and to head straight for teh Manfred Fox Tunnel. They don’t get very far – the more determined get killed and the rest give themsevles up. In the main story Chopper and Yakamoto are on the section of the course where they decide their own route, and the Mega-City One contender manages to take the lead as they dip towards the tunnel. While inside the reigning world champion (Yakamoto) is hit by a truck’s wing mirror and it looks like it’s all over until Chopper U-turns, picking him up and saving him (Yakamoto says he’s dying in the aftermath but we don’t actually see him die – I’d imagine he’d be a prime candidate for medical attention or at least freezing in the vault – my first argument there is that as a prominent figure they’d want justice to be seen to be done – they don’t like martyrs. Secondly he’s surely a mega-citizen of a different city – wouldn’t there be diplomatic fall-out?) Back in teh main story and Chopper gets arrested by Dredd as the Mega-City starts shouting out his name. It’d be a great ending, even if we never saw Marlon Shakespeare again. I’m not going to check exactly how long it’ll be, but he’ll be back within the decade. Actually – I don’t need to check – this is Supersurf Seven, Oz will relate the tale of Supersurf 10…
After Strontium Dog and Judge Dredd, John Wagner and Alan Grant are back for a third time this prog with Ace Trucking Co.: The Croakside Trip! credited as Grant Grover and joined by the late, great Massimo Belardinelli. Believing himself to only have a few days to live, Garp lays down an ultimatum for arch-enemy Jago Kain in an effort to put the earthman out of business. He lays down a challenge – a straightforward race to a specified planet and back – the winner takes the trucking company of the loser. Ace has two clapped-out space-trucks, Jago has more than three hundred. It’s not exactly fair stakes. Ace makes the challenge more appealing – Garp will attempt the journey twice while Kain only has to make it once. Even Kain can’t resist this, just to wipe the smile off of Garp’s face. Deeds are placed with an impartial person (the barkeep) and later the plan emerges. Only it doesn’t – there is no plan, Garp just said it on the spur of the moment. In the intervening days the crew try to prepare the Speedo Ghost but the small boosts and improvements they make won’t amount to much – certainly not speed to travel twice the distance. Garp’s second gambit is to the trusty back-up plan – to head through a meteor belt instead of diverting around it. Will it be enough? I don’t know – I can remember a scene in the next episode and a scene right at the end, but not the bits in between. Oh, and the piratical Evil Blood is along for the ride so that he can delight in Garp’s death, one way or the other.
Rogue Trooper: Antigen of Horst by Gerry Finley-Day and Jose Ortiz. Rogue is unconscious and surrounded by enemies – not for the first time. Not even the first time while surrounded by alien enemies. Except… it turns out these aliens are more Souther allies (and some of those other occassions might be genetically or surgically altered Norts and/or mutants – I can’t remember right now, but I’ll be sure to link them if I get around to it). By the way, after laying down for a bit Rogue sits up, more powerful than ever. What could be causing this surge of energy? Meanwhile Nort High Command has noticed that the rhino and bat alien are showing an interest in the antigen-eggs and demands an explanation. They reveal all about Rogue’s escapades on Horst while below ground Rogue is in the tunnels of the lizardfolk of the cover. And the prog is rounded off with another page of Ortiz artwork with added colour (perhaps I did mention it for a reason at the top of this blog post). This back cover has Rogue find out that the dragoids had theri eggs stolen by Nort robot rats (don’t queston it, just follow where the story leads). Rogue and the biochips put two and two together and come to the conclusion that the Nort ro-rats have stolen the very antigen eggs that they’ve been searching the planet for. Speaking of which a detachment of those ro-rats is heading their way in something that looks much more like a helicopter than we’re used to seeing on Nu-Earth and Horst.
Grailpage: I’m sure I’ve heard a podcast that picked the last page of this week’s Judge Dredd (where the city cries out Chopper’s name) but I can’t imagine what the collection was. My pick will also be from this week’s Dredd, but it’s the lower key second page (counting the centrespread as one page) as Chopper freestyles it through Mega-City One, including heading through a department store and getting a narrow lead on Yakamoto as they approach the Fox Tunnel.
Grailquote: there’s a line about Dredd calling Chopper a creep on the last page of this week’s Dredd, but I’m gong for the contents of a few word balloons on the first page as TB Grover, vid presenter: “We have been ordered by Justice Dept to strongly advise citizens to stay away. But of course if you do go down there, there’s nothing I can do to stop you. It’s a free city – and anyway, you don’t get a chance to see the Supersurf every day!” Might as well tell you the lines I didn’t pick as well – Judge Dredd: “Marlon Shakespeare – ” Chopper: “The name’s Chopper… world champion!” Judge Dredd: “Sharespeare – Chopper – you’re just plain creep to me! MOVE!“