2000AD Annual 1986

The second 2000AD Annual I would have owned and this time around Massimo Belardinelli is on cover duties. As well as the familiar Ace, G-B-H, Feek and Chiefy Massimo also returns to Judge Dredd (first time since 1977?) and as far as I’m aware provides his only renditions of Strontium Dog and Rogue Trooper. I’m covering this publication around the time it was originally published, tidily fitting in between Prog 434 and jumping-on prog 435 (with all-new stories). Though there’s also going to be the Judge Dredd Annual and… something else… before the jumping-on prog. Being a christmas present the first time I’d actually have read this would have been at my nan’s house, christmas day 1985.

Cosmic Contents is, unsurpsingly, the contents page this year illustrated by Cam Kennedy and featuring Dredd arresting a huge mutant alien thing (with the words “You’re jay-walking, citizen!”. If I were to be overanalytical then I’d suppose that the creature isn’t a mutant or an alien, as neither of those could be referred to as citizens (not at this point in the timeline, anyway), so it must be the victim of some kind of shape-changing experiment instead. I don’t think aliens count as megacitizens, anyway? Muties definitely don’t.

Ace Trucking Co. by Grant Grover and Belardinelli. The story has no title and despite the link to a collected edition at the beginning of this paragraph as far as I know this isn’t actually available in reprint form (would be happy to be corrected though, as this story is one of the best examples of Belardinelli’s painted art that we ever got in Tharg’s publications). Speaking of which, this opens with the Speedo Ghost streaking through a gorgeously rendered cosmos, as colourful as the most rainbow-hued emission nebula. Before the end of the first page a stowaway has been discovered. By the second page a lugjacking is in progress. Like the Sláine story from last year’s annual (also painted by Belardinelli) the middle four pages of this six page story comprise double-page spreads, giving Massmio space to have fun in widescreen format. The lugjacker demands to be taken to Quuba (younger readers may not get this reference, but in the late sixties and early seventies there were a number of skyjackings where the skyjackers tried to fly to Cuba, which remained in the public consciousness well in to the eighties. Not all of the skyjackings between the USA and Cuba were one-way) but the lugjacker is easily caught (“point yer peepers thataway?” – looks that way – gets hit on head) and then gives Ace a sob story about what a failure they are. Which allows the lugjacker to snatch the gun from Ace’s hand, march the crew of the Speedo Ghost of the ship (and on to a distress buoy – they’re not that callous) and speed off. Just as G-B-H is about to throttle Ace for being so stupid, the Speedo Ghost comes back for the lugjacker to get directions to Quuba. Ace points out a star – then hits the lugjacker on the head again when their attention is distracted… It remains only for the lugjacker to be left standed on the distress buoy. A neat little six-page story. I distinctly remember moving home in 1986, having this annual with me and reading it while waiting in a takeaway to get that first meal at the new house. In case you’ve ever wondered what colour G-B-H’s hair was, between the cover and this story it’s shown as: blue and purple; blue, white and red; yellow and blue; golden yellow.

Shako Book I – and so the reprint begins. Though that was no problem at the time as this was the first time I’d encountered the only polar bear on the C.I.A. deathlist. There’s loads from the original story which isn’t reprinted in this version – the entire sequence in the hospital for a start (Progs 25 to 28) including the misadventures of traitor-to-the-human-race Unk. I’m tending not to dwell on reprint material if I’ve already covered it earlier in this blog, so onwards to…

…Judge Dredd: On the Waterfront by TB Grover and Ian Gibson. Some furtive perps are creeping around the Mega-City Docks at night, indulging in some illegal gambling. One of those present is from a ship, the Dolores del Peck – which appears to be an obtuse reference to Dolores del Rio and possibly Gregory Peck – who appeared in a film called The Boys from Brazil, which seems fairly logical, seeing as that’s where the ship in question is from. In the best Future-Shock tradition, mention is made by the judges of “the stuff”, “the goods”, “the poison” and illegal goods. We saw similar with the comics pusher story that introduced Max Normal and that story about white stuff (sugar). In case you haven’t read the story, and haven’t guessed by now, the illegal substance this time around is *gasp* coffee. I think the humour of this went over my head at the time – I was just on board for the action, designs and great artwork (in Gibson’s airbrush style, as seen in a Halo Jones starscan in the most recent Sci-Fi Special).

Rogue Trooper Quiz Special! Twenty questions, some a bit more obscure than others. Skimming through them I could answer about three quarters (but I couldn’t remember which of Rogue’s comrades got chipped first – it was Gunnar).

The next feature was called Design a Dredd Costume! on the contents page but is an Arms Buyer’s Almanac Micro-Update – Your Chance to Be a Judge! in the annual itself. This feature came up on a forum or facebook group not too long ago – apparently the judge costume depicted (in greyscale photo form) was marketing deployed by IPC Magazines at various signings and events in the mid-eighties. For those wondering, the model appears to be wearing shoulder and kneepads constructed from some kind of cut foam, a white motorbike helmet, rubber gloves and holding a convincing metalic lawgiver (could have been made out of cardboard and spray-painted silver for all I know).

Original story – check! Reprint – check! Quiz – check! Feature – check! Time for a text story. Diary of a Mad Citizen with words by Alan Grant and spot illos by Eric Bradbury. Being a diary this has calendar dates and takes place between the 19th of January 2107 and and 10th of February 2107. The citizen in question seems to want to make their Thursday special (though the 19th of January 2107 will actually be a Wednesday, but never mind). The story is about a megacitizen who believes his kneepad has started talking to him, has it ripped off in a fight and tries to commit suicide but is tricked and caught by the judges. There’s been worse text stories in the annuals and specials, and it has a decent enough punchline (ostensibly the character is cured but still wonders at something that the kneepad said earlier).

Shako Book II reprints the portion starting with the oft-repeated lie about suicidal lemmings and ends with the titular polar bear taking out some seal clubbers.

Countdown to the Apocalypse War. You might wonder why there’s a feature on the Apocalypse War three years after it ran in the prog. The reason is that it’s followed by six Daily Dredd strips related to the war and it’s aftermath (including the infamous – Apoc in 11-panels).

The Apocalypse War is the strips themselves, which I’d have covered in the Daily Dredd 1982.

The Milton Keynes Muties! Another page, another feature, this one reminding those who didn’t catch them first itme around about the prior appearances of Billy Glum and, well, it’s in the title. The one-page intro explains that the following story takes place ten years after the previous appearance.

Strontium Dog: The Beast of Milton Keynes credited to Alan Grant and Carlos Ezquerra. Continuity-wise we’re told the largest mutant ghettos are Milton Keynes, Blyth and Wolverhampton. A typical Johnny-does-good story as he and Wulf go on the trail of a mutant hiding out in Milton Keynes Mutant Ghetto, having been accused of murder on a particularly mutie-hostile colony world. Old acquaintances are greeted, the truth of the matter is established (the renegade was attacked by mutant-haters, one of whom was killed in a squabble over money stolen from the mutant) and then Johnny shoots the mutant, as he wouldn’t receive a fair trial and if he doesn’t kill him then other bounty hunters will kill him anyway. But it’s all a ruse, the shot was a stun shot, but the vid-recording in the nose of Alpha’s helmet will show the mutant being shot dead.

Shako Book III concludes the reprint material for this annual with Buck Dollar eschewing white man methods and killing Shako the eskimo way. With a bazooka. Um…

Judge Death Versus the Mekon! Lew Stringer, in possibly his only credited work for Tharg (?) provides the last bit of filler this annual.

Just before the last story, Tharg gets in an advert for this year’s Judge Dredd Annual. Coming in the next blogpost.

Rogue Trooper appears in an untitled story by Sim-1 and Cam Kennedy (first time we’ve seen fully painted art from Cam?) As I say, it’s not given a title, so let’s call it Nortville. Nortville is a mobile rest and recreation squadron (which translates to a travelling fair aimed at Norts). Among the shooting ranges (shooting at Southers, naturally), holograms and clairvoyants is a special exhibit in a sealed bubble – the Rogue Trooper! Though from the first page we know it’s not Rogue as this one has red eyes, instead of blank white eyes. What follows is an hour of humilation for the fake Rogue as a Nort soldiers beats him in a wrestling match, leaving what turns out to be a robo-Rogue begging for mercy. One of those spectating is not impressed, walking off and stripping off his chem suit to reveal the real Rogue. It may be only his ego being harmed, but he wants rid of this sideshow. I’m hoping this was intentional, but the following day the real Rogue has taken the place of the robot and the show is recreated. The bit I’m hoping is intentional is the placement – as you read the annual you can see both the ‘normal’ Nort show and the version with the real Rogue, so you can compare the two performances. The latest performances juxtaposes the showman’s words (about how Rogue is a coward and can’t face a real man) with what is actually happening (the Nort soldier is being beaten to a pulp by Rogue). Rogue manages to take out a few Norts, but he’s still in the middle of a town full of Norts? How can he escape. More nice juxtapositions here as he appears to escape on a Hover vehicle, switching from declaring that he can’t expect mercy from the Norts to a re-run of what Robo-Rogue was programmed to say earlier while begging for mercy. With a big explosion we cut back to the suited-up Rogue walking away from the scene. Once clear Helm and Bagman bemoan the waste of such a well-programmed piece of kit (Robo-Rogue) and then the scene shifts to the framing story which I didn’t mention at the top of this paragraph – southers in a foxhole talking about all this (the main story was a flashback). Their recounting of this tale is interrupted by the appearance of a blue-skinned figure. A figure without a helmet, backpack or rifle, but with red eyes…

Grailpage: I’m writing this only one story in to the annual, but I’d be surprised if any other page beats it. Massimo Belardinelli’s fourth and fifth page (second double-page spread and third page of artwork he’d have turned in) has it all. A double-page spread wide, two-thirds of a page high panel showing the distress beacon has a backdrop of colourful emission nebulae, atmospheric backgrounds and G-B-H’s hair in all its painted glory.

Grailquote: Alan Grant (and John Wagner), Wulf Sternhammer: “A favour? Leaving him to live in der hole like Milton Keynes? Do me der favour, Johnny – don’t do me any favours!”

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