2000AD Prog 441: Flab Fever in the Future City! “Praise the lard!” Win Robotix monster machines!

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Prog 441 cover, art by Cam Kennedy

This blog post also available as a semi-automatic podcast.

The new character of Tony Tubbs and art droid Cam Kennedy gets their second appearance on the cover in two weeks. Bit of a give-away to how the story is going to go as the scales show Tony’s weight (then again he was introduced as 2-Ton Tony Tubbs on last prog’s cover, so there wasn’t exactly a lot of mystery there from the start).

What’s inside? After last prog’s Nerve Centre announcement of returning thrills, Tharg takes the opportunity to promise many more of The History of Justice pin-ups (all by Brian Bolland so far). I’m not sure there will be many, or even any more in the series after this progs offering, though there will be a few other series of pin-ups. Reader-wise we get a letter of ‘Steven A. Ross’ from Temple City, informing the mighty one that thrill-power has reached California (earthlet Ross is still a squaxx dek thargo nearly forty years later, and contributor to blog and podcast Everything Comes Back to 2000AD). Meanwhile Tharg answers another question about art by telling us that the average piece of artwork published in the prog is drawn ‘half-up’ – i.e. one and a half times the size than it appears on the printed page. Lead times vary between six weeks ahead of publication (the shortest possible time) and two years, averaging out at six months.

Nemesis the Warlock Book V: The Vengeance of Thoth by Pat Mills and Bryan Talbot. Short version: Nemesis rescues Torquemada, luring out Thoth and the two agree to destroy the world (before killing Torque). Slightly longer version – it didn’t take much convincing for Torquemada to allow himself to be rescued by Nemesis – mainly that they’d better not get caught or it might come out that this Torque is the real Torque and his name would live in infamy. There’s some good action scenes a Candida and Purity provide covering fire and escape. Satanus has been drastically increased in size by Thoth, but as well as more destructive power it created a greater hunger to satisfy, so the tyrannosaur gets a bit out of control. But at least Nemesis and Thoth get to meet face-to-face for the first time since the day after Thoth’s hatching except for the moments in the Necropolis apartment the day before. It looks like Nemesis is going to ally with Thoth to destroy Termight, but this is only a cliff-hanger – it won’t last long in to the next episode… Discussed on the Mega-City Book Club.

Tharg presents a competition to win Robotix. I can’t quite tell from the two pieces of line-art and description, but I think this is some sort of combination or equivalent of zoids, technic lego and/or mechano, with some kind of remote control (though the control console might be wired to the creation). Anyway, there’s a total of 20 prizes of 3 different sets available to those who fill in a word-search and come up with an “apt and original choice of name” for a Robotix.

Robo-Hunter: “Farewell, my Billions” by Grant / Grover and Ian Gibson. Slade is in hospital. It’s no good, he’s talked in to accepting that his obsession with catching his two droids, combined with a traffic accident outside a New York casino has led to his seeing Hoagies everywhere, and even seeing the doctor’s pen as the stogie. Except… one night he wakes up and makes his way to the night nurse’s office, finding that he’s the only patient getting any medication. Returning to the ward, he twists the arm off of one of the other patients, confirming that it is indeed a robot and gets locates his clothing and gun from the nurse’s office. Shooting his way through a locked door, he finds he’s in an empty ballroom. Though Slade isn’t alone for long as Hoagy and Stoagie appear, threatening him with death at the hands of all the other duplicate droids. Long-term readers of Robo-hunter will probably figure out what’s going on, as the mystery behind this story is similar to that in Sam Slade’s Last Case. Though don’t worry if you haven’t figure it out, because Slade hasn’t either!

Tharg plugs the 1986 Judge Dredd and 2000AD annuals once more (without giving space to all those other IPC annuals, like last prog). Sharing a page is a panel from next week’s Robo-Hunter episode and a Forbidden Planet / Eagle Comics ad for Strontium Dog No 1 (art by King Carlos) – the blurb tells us the story reprinted is part one of Portrait of a Mutant.

Judge Dredd: Magnificent Obsession Part Two by T.B. Grover and Cam Kennedy. As promised at the beginning of part one, there’s no murders or thefts in this story but there are deaths and even Dredd sentencing people to the iso-cubes. Tony Tubbs walks away with the first post-Apocalypse War Mega-City Fats (literally – after a protest from other contestants Tubbs is forced to walk). Tubbs gets the crown, but that doesn’t satisfy the other entrants who mob the stage and cause it to collapse (killing 14 of them). Post-contest and as Tubbs predicted, riches soon follow with sponsorships, personal appearances, adverts and licensing. The tale of Tony Tubbs joins those of Marlon Shakespeare, Otto Sump and James Fenemore Snork in showing us a bit of slices of mega-citizen life. Oh, and those arrests were of the contest organisers, who hadn’t taken precautions to stop the stage collapsing.

Tharg’s Future-Shocks: Doing Time! by Pete Milligan and Robin ‘Psmith’ Smith (recently departed as art editor as of a few weeks earlier). This is almost a good shock, but there’s a few issues with it. The new leader of the country reiterates that their election promise to eradicate crime from society. Two criminals watching talk about how prisons are like holiday camps and that the maximum sentences is only a month. They go on a crime spree and we find out that the sentences given to criminals in the courthouse are indeed lenient, or so it seems. What actually happens is that they pushed through a time warp to the past and that the leader’s actual promise was to make crime a thing of the past. I think that term could have been done with being used at the beginning of the three pages, so the repetition would have had different connotations by the end. My other issue is that the sentencing is just a straight out lie – they’re told they’re getting three weeks’ community service or two weeks’ hard labour but instead being deported to the past. I think there could probably have been some clever word play that could have been inserted in the sentencing instead, maybe based on the historic location they get sent to?

Mean Team by “The Beast” and Belardinelli. As befits the final battle between two gladiators being watched throughout the galaxy, the battle between the Swamp Dragons captain and Bad Jack Keller lasts for much of this episode. It looks like Keller is going to win, but the Swamp Dragon’s suit has a hot-breath weapon and it goes on for a few pages more. My mistake – I thought the Swamp Dragons were humans in dragon armour, but once the captain’s helmet gets smashed to pieces we see they have reptilian ridges atop their head, so their either alien, mutants, genetically altered or something else. Having attained 5,000 kill-points, all Keller has to do now is accept the Dragon’s flag and win the championship. Which he doesn’t. In the words of the announcer: “The game is still officially in progress – and Bad Jack Keller is leaving the field!” The future sport part of this story is now over, time to find out more about the mysteries hinted at – next prog!

Advert time! This week we get a new ad for Dragon Warriors – a “multi role-playing adventure game”. Not entirely sure what that means, but I suspect you control multiple characters though I couldn’t say whether this is a fantasy gamebook or a roleplaying game. More traditionally we have another appearance from the Dungeons & Dragons ad.

Brian Bolland finishes the prog with starscan The History of Justice – Judge Death Lives: Progs 224 – 228. Despite Tharg’s promises I’m not convinced there are any more after this, but we’ll see. The spirit of Death emerges from Anderson’s eyes. Think I’ve seen this image in a few other places, so you may well be familiar with it already.

Grailpage: relatively low-key this week, especially in a week where a giant tyrannosaur blasts fire at Nemesis and Purity in an underground future city, but I’m instead going for one of Massimo Belardinelli’s pages of the battle between the Swamp Dragon’s captain and Bad Jack Keller. There’s two panels in particular that I like – the one where the fight turns (using that hot-breath weapon) and a cut-panel of aliens in a swamp watching events. They may be in a Dagobah-like swamp, but they still have a TV viewscreen seemingly built into a tree stump…

Grailquote: I was tempted to go for another Nemesis quote about Nemesis helping Thoth to destroy the world, but instead I’m going to go for TB Grover’s genre-savvy Tony Tubbs: “I suppose you’re going to arrest me now, Judge Dredd…” Judge Dredd: “What for? Wasn’t your fault the stage collapsed.” highlighting how it must seem to the average mega-citizen that whatever you do or don’t do, whether you’re the perpetrator or victim, the judges will arrest you anyway (and the previous episode, Dredd did indeed surreptitiously use the lie detector on Tubbs when questioning him about gaining weight while in a seg block).

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