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Robin Smith provides the central image for a messy cover featuring a couple of panels dredged from the stories starting this prog, plus about seven different typecases (in addition to the usual logo, prog-and-date, ‘in orbit’ and price boxes). You can probably tell this wouldn’t make my ‘top covers of 1985’ list.
Tharg’s Nerve Centre – you know the drill – it’s a jumping-on prog so Tharg introduces new readers to the alien-editor conceit, invites readers to send their letters, stories and drawings, publishes a Tharg Data File (including the familiar Some Betelgeusian Sayings) continues with intros to Judge Dredd, Robo-Hunter and Nemesis the Warlock and the ubiquitous voting coupon.
On to the new thrills! Nemesis the Warlock Book V: The Vengeance of Thoth by Pat Mills and Bryan Talbot. The opening page has a sub-heading ‘All Will End In A Sea of Fire And Blood’ – you’re not supposed to capitalise the articles! Narrative-wise, Torquemada was killed (again) at the end of The Gothic Empire, but ten year’s later his memory lives on in the form of a giant robot statue which recites slogans while crushing prisoners to death. Over on Gandarva, Nemesis has lost interest in fighting Termight, ever since becoming engaged to Magna. Whiplashing back to Termight and we catch up with thoth, who continues to scare Sir Hargan with a new ‘pet’. Back once again to Gandarva (referred to in this episode as ‘the warlock’s planet’ and ‘his father’s planet’ – has Mills forgotten this planet had a name?) for the wedding of Nemesis and Magna. Once again we cut back to Termight and Thoth is opening a time-warp to drag Torquemada (before his accident in the transporter) in to the present. The present being above the signing of a trade agreement between the latest Grand Master and alien Ambassador Slurth – Torque isn’t impressed, immediately cleansing the alien. I discussed this on the Mega-City Book Club with Eamonn. Good points about this episode – I remember that I liked the art when this first came out – now that I was acclimatised to non-O’Neill artwork on Nemesis! Having said that, one thing I don’t like is the human touches to the homelife of Nemesis. In contrast to the alien feel of The Hatching this episode has Nemesis and Magna in human beachwear and a distinctly Western Christian wedding. Good point – that giant robot statue that opened the episode. Bad point – Magna despatches Grobbendonk in the course of three narrow panels. No more shall we hear Gibberish (a Fringe World dialect) uttered.
Walkie Talkie Freebie! A company has donated 20 Walkie Talkies, which Tharg is giving away for free. I don’t know why the company would do this, but it reminds me that I had a similar pair of walkie talkies, which (like these) featured a morse code button. This offer is joined by an advert for the Conan role-playing game from TSR, which I think I covered in a previous blog post.
Robo-Hunter: “Farewell, my Billions” by Grant / Grover and Ian Gibson. One of the thrills running in my first progs returns, and there’s not been many stories since that one and this one (I started with The Slaying of Slade). It’s a set-up episode and when your protagonist is a multi-billionaire it can be difficult to find a motivation to call them to adventure. A common way to start is by taking away their fortune and that’s exactly what Hoagy and Stogie do to Slade, as Sam returns to Tahiti from a two-year stay at the health farm (also known as the Mysterious Island of Dr Droid). In best noir fiction tradition, Slade also gets ambushed upon entering the apartment. Our Sam had been hoping to get revenge on the wayward droids, but instead got in to a fight with a copper-plated hoodlum droid. I’m not going to work it out right now, but Slade is probably about 120 years old here, though due to light-speed de-aging has the body of a mere 70 or 80 year old – lucky about those two years on the health farm! Not enough to stop Slade feeling his age though, but time to head to track down Hoagy and Stogie, who Slade finds out has cleaned out his account of 27 billion credits.
Speaking of people who look younger than their years, Judge Dredd: Back on the Streets by T.B. Grover and Cam Kennedy and immediately I notice that the given population of Mega-City One has crept up to 420 million, just three years after the Apocalypse War. It’s a good one-off, though it is ‘only’ an intro to Judge Dredd for new readers – we see the Mega-City, a gang of four perps in uglymasks, we’re told what the lawgiver is (and that it has six types of bullet) and finally a mega-crime – that thing I mentioned at the top of the paragraph – a 90 year old stookie user who looked 30 years old. There’s also an example of Justice Department trickery – I”d be tempted to enter it for the grailquote section, but the setup and punchline are two pages and many panels apart (Dredd: “as long as your mouth stays shut, these stay with me” – ‘these’ are stookie capsules, keeping the perp a third of their true age. After giving up the information the perp demands the capsules – the response? “I promised nothing, creep. Stookie’s illegal. You’ll do your time straight.”)
A one pager in Tharg’s Future-Shocks: The Long Sleep by Pete Milligan and Jeff Anderson has the not-at-all subtly-named Captain Sandman putting their crew to sleep before preparing to go in to suspended animation. Sandman says how much they’d like to meet the inventor of the suspended animation capsules before waxing lyrical about how great they are for a few panels. The panels are configured in a starfish shape like the ones from the beginning of Alien, by the way. Unlike the ones from the Nostromo, however, these can only be operated from the outside. After the hatch has been closed. On a 200 year mission. Sandman repeat the earlier line about how they’d like to meet the inventor – Milligan managing to give the same words new meaning just five panels later.
A double page advert from the Department of Transport admonishes children to leave more space between themselves and the vehicle in front when cycling.
Tharg the Mighty in Exit the Wally by T.M.O. (probably Steve McManus) and Ezquerra. Richard Burton had headed off to edit computer magazine Big K while Simon Geller did some sub-editing on 2000AD. In this story, Burt comes back to Tharg, begging for his old job back but Sim-1 has replaced him, and is doing a much better job than Burt ever did. A contest is set up by Tharg the fair between the two droids. Apparently Geller was responsible for many of the puns, wordplay and homonyms that characterise this period of 2000AD covers and next prog boxes and one of the contests highlights this as the two droids have to come up with snappy cover lines. King Carlos gets to illustrate art droid Ezquerra under the thumb (or whip) of Sim-1 after Burt completely fails to motivate the art droid. Sim-1 wins all the contests easily but Tharg the Merciful finds a position for Burt – shrinking the hapless droid to the size of a paperweight (and yes, that’s what the new position is).
Adverts: Welcome to your future! The Best of 2000AD Monthly No 1, opening with The Man Who Drank the Blood of Satanus. I think I’d already got this story in the Eagle Judge Dredd reprints so wouldn’t have been keen on getting this new reprint series. I did get the odd issue later on though, starting with (if memory serves) issue 8 and the end of Book I of Nemesis the Warlock. Also promoted are the signings for the 1986 2000AD and Judge Dredd Annuals (taking place at Forbidden planet in Denmark Street). Two art droids will be present – Ian Gibson and Bryan Talbot, joined by a host of script droids – listed are T.B. Grover, Alan Grant, John Wagner, F. Martin Candor and John Howard. Hang on a moment, there’s something fishy going on here! At the bottom of the page is an advert for Jokes for Pranksters, which I assumed was a stamp advert until I looked closer. When I looked much closer I saw that readers are invited to write to ‘Dept KA’ which I suspect is code for 2000AD (K = thousand, A = AD) so that the advertiser knows which advert garnered a response..
The Mean Team makes it’s debut courtesy of Massimo Belardinelli – in the shape of a 2000 AD Star Laser Scan. It’s not always highly rated, but I’m looking forward to this story making its appearance. It’s been decades since I’ve read this story, so I’ll just run through the visual appearance of the as-yet-unnamed characters depicted in the scan: a robot, an ape, a human warrior, a panther and some Klegg-like opponents.
Grailpage: Cam Kennedy takes it with a stunning depiction of Mega-City One – one of my favourite ever images of the future city. The image stuck with me so strongly it took me a while to figure out it was from the opening of a ‘intro to Judge Dredd’ story, rather than something more exceptional. I should probably mention what you can see in the vista – a high-angle view from a citiblock of clear-walled pedways, hover-taxis, megways, flying burger joints, hang gliders and block-top vegetation. Effectively my grailpage is a grailpanel, but it’s not like there’s anything wrong with the rest of the page.
Grailquote: Grant / Grover, Sam Slade: “When I get back to civilisation, I’m goin’ to buy a war-cruiser an’ blow you outa the water!” Dr Droid: “That’s what they all say. Goodbye, Mr Slade!”
Nope, I couldn’t resist it, I had to work out how old Sam Slade was, and how old his body was. From his tombstone (cover of Prog 312) we know he was born in 2080 and killed by the Teeny Meks in 2147, at which time he was physically 32 years old (due to the ‘mishap’ in the light speed journey). He was resurrected in the body of Sam Scumm (don’t think we got told how old Scumm was, but he looked identical to 32 year old Slade) and he/they spent 51 years sitting in deckchairs drinking cocktails on Tahiti (over which time their consciousnesses merged). Two years on the Mysterious Island of Dr Droid leaves us in 2200 with a physical age of 85.