2000AD Prog 439: Robohunter: Wide-Eyed and Credless! “Play me again, Sam!”

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2000AD Prog 439 cover, art by Ian Gibson

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It’s been a while since Ian Gibson provided a wraparound cover – in fact, the only one I can remember is from about four or five years earlier, when the lesser spotted thrill-suckers attacked somebody eating some chips. This one is a bit more notable, showing Sam in Las Vegas (or something looking a lot like it) though still seemingly hassled by the one-armed bandit from Harlem Grits. There’s also a few Hoagy and Stogies hidden around this cover. I count three Hoagies plus one Stogie (and a huge neon Hoagy looming over the city).

Tharg’s Nerve Centre bids farewell to Robin Psmith due to delirium robotens though says they’ll still be available to produce scans. Reading between the lines it seems that Robin Smith has quit as art editor but will still be a freelance art droid. I know that Robin Smith continued to produce comics around this time, resulting in a few series of The Bogey Man. One insulting letter results in a prize from Tharg – the prize is: “£5 Winner but very lucky to be getting anything at all if you ask my opinion.” Tharg also rents out a corner of the inside front cover for a company selling pranks by post.

Nemesis the Warlock Book V: The Vengeance of Thoth by Pat Mills and Bryan Talbot. This episode opens with a polyptych of the underground city of Necropolis in Termight – a single image split in to four panels through which the narration and characters progress. Purity casually drops the info in this opening page that Torquemada sent her father to the vapourisation vats. Wait, we’ve not heard about this before, have we? You know what would work well here? A flashback – which is what we get over the page. We’re told a bit about life as a Termite. The thought-detector vans are a parody of the equally fictional TV detector vans which UK residents were told detected houses with TV signals but no licences. This version picked up anti-government thoughts from a dream that Purity’s father had one night, giving the Terminator a chance to quote Torquemada’s words: “Sleep is no refuge for impure thoughts” (subject of a starscan from one of my first progs). As Purity drops out of the flashback, we get a reference to another starscan, this time the one of The Tomb of Torquemada, which is located in Necropolis, ironically (not Mausoleum). Time to catch up with Candida – what’s she been up to for the past decade? She’s become a reporter, opposing the softening attitude towards aliens and keeping Tomas’ name alive. Which is ironic as one of the things she reports on is the burning of the ‘fake’ Tomas de Torquemada. Back at home the Grand Dragon Mazarin takes (concealed) delight in telling Candia about the deaths of her children earlier that day… Discussed on the Mega-City Book Club where I awarded one page from this episode the grailpage – will the same page feature at the end of this blog post?

Adverts and competition – the adverts are for Forbidden Planet / Eagle Comics reprints of Judge Dredd, plus the second issue of The Best of 2000AD Monthly – which has moved on to Rogue Trooper, showing the cover to Prog 228. The competition is offering the third of those electronic bikes.

Internal colour advert for Hubba Bubba (is that still around? It’s a bubble gum, for all of you too young or in different markets.

Robo-Hunter: “Farewell, my Billions” by Grant / Grover and Ian Gibson. Slade has no leads, other than that the two robots have the gambling bug. My guess about the destination on the cover was wrong, as, at the hoverport Slade looks at the departure board trying to decide where to go to look for the droids. Xtra Vegas and New Vegas are two of the options, but Slade plumps for Sin City – a mile-square platform in the Pacific. On the morning shuttle, a fellow passenger challenges Slade to finish their breakfast faster than them (sounds like the gambling starts on the flight over). But Slade hasn’t eaten for 48 hours, and that would have been on the Mysterious Island of Dr Droid – the other passenger had no chance. Slade also has pretty much no hope, except for one thing. While lost in thought Hoagy greets Sam on the escalator… This isn’t some contrived coincidence though, as we’ll see in future episodes, but more about that later… Giving chase, Sam ends up with Hoagy and Stogie in his grasp. Though also in a casino with more Hoagies and more Stogies – more than he can deal with – those three Hoagies on the cover were just the beginning!

Even more adverts, this time for the 1986 Judge Dredd and 2000AD Annuals, along with Dungeons & Dragons. This is probably for the edition of D&D that I ended up getting the following year, though mine was purchased in California.

Judge Dredd: The Man Who Knew Too Much Part Two by T.B. Grover and Carlos Ezquerra. The freehacker waits for an opportunity to investigate the mysterious Riochem factory – they know they’ll face the cubes if caught (they’re wrong) but it’s the biggest story of their lifetime. We’re not left waiting for the mystery to be revealed for long as the centrespread shows huge tanks of tranquiliser gas. Stowing aboard one of the hover-tankers the freehacker finds out where they’re taking it – to Weather Control, where the tranq gas is used to pacify the mega-citizens! Time for Dredd to make an entrance – as we know, the judges have been keeping an eye on the freehacker from the start. Dredd has a point in that the increased violence would kill more than even the thousands killed in the accident the previous episode, but the conversation shifts to a ‘Justice Department must keep power at any cost’ tone. Sure we won’t get any more stories like that in the future… Dredd gives the journalist a choice – solitary confinement for life or remedial brain surgery. The freehacker doesn’t appear to opt for the surgery, but gets it anyway…

Tharg’s Future-Shocks: Eric the Wild! by Pete Milligan and T Jozwiak. Think we’ve had a few shocks illustrated by Jozwiak previously but it must have been three or four years ago. I already remember how this one ends from the opening page, so I won’t do any predicting. At an old people’s home a newcomer gets chatting to one of the residents. Turns out that the resident was a famous gladiator who sold their memories to be embedded in other people’s minds, meaning that there are hundreds of people thinking they are the character in the title. You can’t go straight to the punchline though, so we get a flashback to that gladiatorial career, starting with the first fight against a sentient vegetable. It’s been a couple of years since the last vegetable-based lifeforms. Eric (or at least the memory of Eric) goes on to combat alien alligators, squids and mutants. But every gladiators career must end one way or another, and Eric the Wild is somewhat fortunate in keeping his life. The story mentions that a distinctive scar given in that final battle was surgically removed but that the gladiator had not kept any of the winnings and had to sell their memories. You’ve probably guessed that the newcomer is the real Eric, the bit about removing the scar having been planted by the memory dealers, because “a true gladiator would never part with his battle-scar!” Tharg should throw that Milligan droid a longer story to work on!

Gladiators fighting alligators in an arena broadcast across the galaxy? Time for a Space Spinner-like segue to Mean Team by “The Beast” and Belardinelli. But before the Mean Team can go up against the other team in the grand final, Bad Jack has to placate the disoriented Henry Moon, now in a panther body. One thing Belardinelli excels at is the depiction of the natural world, and among all the artificial backdrop of Artificon (called a planet, but conceptually looks more like one of the B-Hives from Ace Trucking Co) the panther fight stands out. Coming around to the idea of living, even if it’s in a panther body, Moon soon finds that their natural psi-powers are enhanced by a sixth sense from the feline body.

For a third week running, a Massimo panel from next week’s Mean Team comprises the next prog box depicting those alligators (well, dragons, and they’re humans dressed in dragon-shaped armour rather than alien gladiators), joined by the classic Robin Smith – sorry Psmith – reservation coupon.

Grailpage: I’d been looking forward to this Robo-Hunter wraparound cover by Ian Gibson as I thought it would be a natural choice for the grailpage – but then I opened the cover and had that polyptych by Bryant Talbot greeting me on the next page! Neon floating future city versus underground future city? I can’t choose between them, so they both take joint grailpage!

Grailquote: Pat Mills, Nemesis (about Torquemada): “Can you imagine how he’ll feel being rescued by me? The arch-deviant?” Purity Brown: “Everyone would think he was in league with you… It’s the worse thing that could happen to him! Oh, you’re sly, Nemesis! I under-estimated you!” Nemesis: “People often do, Purity!”

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