I love me a wraparound cover and Cliff Robinson provides for this week as two juve gangs (I’m presuming they’re juves – let’s say ‘street gang’) are about to meet. While singing.
Tharg announces in the Nerve Centre that Sláine and Strontium Dog end this prog, but that they’ll be returning soon so hold off of the hate mail (though Strontium Dog is going to be returning for a special story, so fans may not be happy – not that Tharg says that). Tharg picks out the next series of Sláine as being ‘a new form of thrills’ (it’s going to be Tomb of Terror for those familiar). Another celebrity Squaxx is mentioned in an earthlet’s letter as Billy Bragg mentioned how much he likes Sláine while reviewing the press on Radio 1.
Sláine: Time Killer by Pat Mills and David Pugh. Nest is continuing to use the talisman to try to turn the cythron Oeahoo into a friend, though this is difficult to do while Myraakothka is watching. The director of research prepares to start to turn Nest in to an orgot (organic robot) with an organic blender and a bio-welder – time for a change of scene! They’re a few books of Nemesis and almost two years off, but the sluaghs remind me of the ID-creatures that Nem is going to summon at the end of time. But I get ahead of myself, in 1985 Sláine and crew are heading through Gulag, city of dungeons when one of the dream shadows catches up with the crew (un-named former gladiator?) and turns him in to the imprint of a shadow on a wall (Hiroshima, anybody?) Conventional weapons are useless, but fortunately Sláine has a leyser sword (only light will destroy them – as Myrddin says). As they approach the Palace of Experiments a gang of diluvials (those proto-humans with skeletons on the outside) attack. Not sure what the point of that was, to be honest – it’s enough that the sluaghs were outside to threaten them and the new threat only takes a few panels to deal with. Once inside the palace there are some great short (about an eighth of the page height each), page-width panels showing the gang searching the passageways of the palace for Nest. They’re too late – Nest has been turned in to an orgot! In the best traditions of Future-Shocks we don’t actually see the converted Nest other than in silhouette. Page turn and Nest is standing on the stairs to the side (the unfortunate victim of the experiment is never pictured or mentioned again). Turns out that when Oeahoo fetched the bio-welder the cythron attacked her director and put her in the organic blender. So that’s all fine. Oh, except at this point Myrddin feels a disturbance in the force, but unlike Obi Wan the half-human, half-cythron can tell what it was that caused it – the dark god Grimnismal is awakening!
Tharg’s Future-Shocks: Speak No Evil by Pete Milligan and Eric Bradbury. I like this one – two pages long and the genius scientist has created a Clever Tank which increases the intelligence of creatures placed within it. Mice who have undergone the process construct a mini village (looks more like a small town to me – villages don’t have high-rise building). The people funding this research don’t see how this can be applied and the Professor reassures them that two apes (chimpanzees by the looks of them) who have been stewing in the Clever Tank for three weeks should have their intelligence increased ten-fold and will be able to do all the dangerous, heavy and boring work currently performed by humans. Ronnie and Reggie (for the apes have been named after the Kray twins for some reason) are put through tests. Well, the professor asks one of them a question. And it responds in typical chimp fashion by gibbering. The investors leave in discuss, tossing a banana to one of the chimps as they go. It nimbly catches it and fatefully says: “Cheers, mate…” The investors about face leaving Reggie to face the wrath of Ronnie – all he had to do was stay quiet, but now he’s condemned the both of them to a lifetime of toil! And this Future-Shock even has a punchline: “Sorry, Ronnie… Ain’t my fault if I’m too dumb!“
Strontium Dog: Slavers of Drule by Alan Grant and Carlos Ezquerra. Wulf may be an S/D agent but that doesn’t mean he can refer to a fellow S/D agent by a name based on their mutation (the other stront is Cecil ‘Frog’ Parsons). He shows Wulf and Johnny what he’s found – a two kay camouflage net which hides the slaver’s mother ship. Paying Cecil/Frog his bounty, Johnny wastes no time in using an electro-flare to set light to the camo net. Most of the slavers can only run for one exit (bit careless not having a fire exit there) where they’re picked off by Johnny and Wulf. Black Gumbs and the leiutenants head for the ship instead. Johnny uses a Number 4 Cartridge (equivalent to the Lawmaster’s high-ex judging by its effects) but this doesn’t destroy it. Though as it loops back, Johnny breaks out the Number 3 Cartridge (a high-intensity tunneller beam – stub gun?) which takes care of that. This has been quite a long-running story, but once it’s downed it all finishes in a couple of panels – pacing seems a bit off to me, but it doesn’t spoil my enjoyment of the story… I’m just going to dig out current games to see if they have a listing for the different types of cartridges – bear with me a moment… Right – the Strontium Dog Miniatures Game from Warlord Games has the two cartridges mentioned in this episode and describes their game mechanics but doesn’t seem to actually say what they are. From EN Publishing the Judge Dredd and & the Worlds of 2000AD: Strontium Dog book has a more complete listing: No 1, standard; No 2, armour piercing beam; No 3, high intensity plasma beam (incendiary); No 4, plasma explosion thing (so not quite matching up with the stub-like effect shown in this episode – but perhaps the last time it was shown it had a different effect).
Judge Dredd: West Side Rumble by T.B. Grover and Cliff Robinson. I haven’t seen West Side Story, so other than catching on that the title of this tale (and general format – it’s told in rhyme) is a reference, I don’t know if it goes any deeper. Yep, my assumption on the cover was correct – one juve gang (the Zits) is lying in wait to ambush another (the Sharks). It isn’t a long-running feud or anything, they just want to rumble which gets broken up by Dredd’s arrival. When the tide turns (well, the tide was always against the juve gangs) they try to escape and get picked off by other units. Simple enough story enlivened by the pseudo-musical setting. Oh, this is taking place in the Bernstein district – I’m going to hazard a guess that’s who wrote West Side Story. Let’s consult wikipedia and see if I can work out the other references… The named Zits don’t look to be references, but locations and judges do: Zits and Sharks – Jets and Sharks (two teenage street gangs); the afore-mentioned Bernstein – Leonard Bernstein (wrote the music); Moreno Alley – Rita Moreno (performer in the film); Tamblin Underpass – Russ Tamblyn (performer); Judge Krupke – Gee, Officer Krupke (song, and presumably a character too); Sondheim – Stephen Sondheim (lyrics). One other thing jumped out at me – one of the juves tries to escape by climbing the sector wall. We’ve not heard of sector walls before – did Cal erect walls around each sector as well as the West Wall hemming the city in?
Advert time! First up is The Conan® role-playing game from TSR – not to be confused with Conan Unchained! or Conan Against Darkness! (1984 modules for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons also from TSR). Or, indeed, GURPS Conan (a 1988 sourcebook for GURPS – admit it, you probably guessed that one from the title). Also not to be confused with Conan: The Roleplaying Game (2004, Mongoose, based on D20 and sharing some of the creative team with both of the Mongoose Sláine roleplaying games). Or the latest stab at roleplaying in the Hyborian Age – Robert E. Howard’s Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreadmed Of (2017, Modiphiusm, based on the 2d20 system and current licence holders). The TSR non-AD&D version is based on the Marvel Super Heroes rules (which have been resurrected, IP-free, in the 21st century as ZeFRS – Zeb’s Roleplaying System. I found this out just now). If that roleplay talk is too tangential, then the Games Workshop Judge Dredd game got released around the end of 1985, so I should really cover that soon. The other advert is for The Judge Dredd Collection as seen last prog – the incomplete mid-1980s equivalent of the Daily Dredds volumes which Rebellion has released.
Lest We Skidoo – Ace is gone, but his memory lives on in a 2000AD Memorial Scan by Massimo Belardinelli. Though it’s a bit disappointing that, after those internal colour pages devoted to Thoth recently , that this memorial scan is in black and white (though I believe colour often obscures detail, so it’s not like I’m upset about it).
Pete Milligan’s back, and so are Tharg’s Future-Shocks: Car Wars with art by John Higgins. I’ve not read this story for ages and han’t seen or even heard of the film Taxi Driver first time I read it, so didn’t get the reference to the planet this story starts on – De-Niro. The set-up is that taxi companies are violently opposed to each other across this system which we’re introduced to as a fare takes a ride to the spaceport. It’s not so much a shock as a five-page story that takes that concept and runs with it, including escaping one inter-company cab war by using some kind of hyperjump. Some parts of which have not aged well. I was going to give it the benefit of the doubt when the cab driver and his fare encounter the ‘Kami-kars’ cabs on Planet Nipan but then the asiatic exaggerations of R and L come in to play… There’s no shock in this Future-Shock, but there is a punchline in that the fare ends up getting a different form of transport when he can’t pay his fare (as the journey took at least three days). He ends up in an ambulance…
The future is zarjaz… …pass it on! – the last two internal pages of this prog are given over to promoting Tharg’s latest productions – the Judge Dredd Annual 1986, the 2000AD Annual 1986 and Prog 435 – next week is a jumping-on prog, featuring the returns of Robohunter and Nemesis.
Grailpage: Cliff Robinson’s wraparound cover, showing the Zits hiding in the shadows (on the back cover) and the Sharks, walking along the better lit alleyway (on the front).
Grailquote: Pat Mills, Myrddin: “The girl we knew is already dead. Let us remember her as she was… as a beautiful maiden, full of life. That wretched creatures isn’t Nest.” Nest: “That’s very true. I’m a little shaplier, thank you very much.”