2000AD Prog 443: Respect the Badge – Fear the Gun! Dread the Man!

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Prog 443 cover, art by Robin Psmith Smith

Also a semi-automatic podcast!

Psmith is on cover duties – I wonder why Robin Smith gave up the art editor job? The background of this cover re-uses one of Psmith’s most popular images, that of Dredd’s badge from Prog 262 (and still one of the most popular pages on this blog).

Tharg’s Nerve Centre contains the promise that, though Robo-Hunter finishes this prog, it will return. There’s going to be a change of editor (sorry, sub-editor), format, the comic will go colour, new script droids will appear and the next Robo-Hunter story will be very unpopular. If we’re talking about the original creative team then the return of Robo-Hunter (kinda) is going to take about twenty or thirty years. A reader had a lesson in the Celtic language and revealed that ‘Soth’ means ‘god’s truth’ (sounds like a post-pagan minced oath to me).

Nemesis the Warlock Book V: The Vengeance of Thoth by Pat Mills and Bryan Talbot. Torquemada and Nemesis fight it out watched by Candida and Purity – Candy seems shocked and dismayed while Purity is really in to it! The old enemies fight dirty but Nem stops short of killing Tomas, explaining to Purity that Tomas will need to be returned to his home time to preserve causality. Unfortunately Pat Mills ditches this idea about ten years later, making this all pretty meaningless – shame! As the ABC Warriors turn up (and we find out what happened to Mad Ronn, Nemesis lying about being sorry to hear about the death)) we get another bit of mystery-building on who the replacement Warrior is going to be. Seeing as that thread about ‘Tomas has to be returned to home time’ is being laid here (but will later be abandoned) it’s a bit ironic that non-threads from earlier stories are being tied together. So, when the Black and White Holes were constructed there was an amount of leakage, causing creatures to appear from millions of years in the future or from alternate Earths – such as the goonie bird from Killer Watt. I’d like to think the goonie bird might have come from the world (or future) of Metalzoic, though DC Comics might have something to say about licensing! The Terminator’s pogrom against aliens is retroactively expanded to include scientists, leading to the previous ages of technological know-how becoming the Lost Age of Science. Discussed on the Mega-City Book Club.

Jose Ortiz’s artwork is used in a trailer for the next prog (the image no doubt from the first page of the new series of Rogue Trooper).

IPC adverts for The Best of 2000AD Monthly No 3 (using the Mick McMahon’s cover art from Prog 204) and the 1986 Judge Dredd and 2000AD Annuals.

Where were we? Oh, yes – Hoagy was getting shot through the head – though the droid doesn’t use their head that much so I doubt it’ll make much difference… Robo-Hunter: “Farewell, my Billions” by Grant / Grover and Ian Gibson rushes to its conclusion with Slade seeing red and snapping the unco-operative Stogie in half! Through the rage haze, Slade notices that the remnants of the robotic cigar were built by Marconi in Chelmsford. Something’s up here – Carlos Sanchez Robo-stogie was built in Havana, not Brit-Cit! Calling Marconi, the trail leads back to where it all began – for both Sam and us – Slade’s old office in New York, as seen way back in Prog 76. Once there all is explained by the excited droids, who have prepared a party for Sam (the kind of welcoming party that doesn’t involve guns). As Slade’s release from the submergible health farm had been approaching, Stogie had considered that Slade would be at his fittest for half a century, but with 27 billion creds in the bank would soon slip in to old ways. And so the plan was hatched, not just to squander the fortune, but also to get Sam back in to the robo-hunting mood. It works, kind of. With no money left, Sam has no option but to take up robo-hunting again, but this time he’s going solo. Apart from anything else, he needs the capital from selling the droids. This was the last appearance of the original run of Sam Slade, Robo-Hunter. It’ll be resurrected in the dreaded nineties but it won’t be the same – I’ve not re-read it since the nineties, but I think any previous continuity gets ditched, so even at the time it was being run it couldn’t be said to be the same series. That won’t be the last we’ll see of Sam though. Over in the 21st century Grant and Gibson will return to work on a Slade story. Unfortunately the returned series will be left hanging, but it was a welcome return after the intermediate series. Those middle series weren’t all bad, by the way – some great artists were drafted in, perhaps not entirely suitable for a comedy strip, but then one of the writers didn’t appear to be treating it as comedy either. Anyway, I’ll deal with that when I get to the relevant progs, some way off (even if I do a blog a day, the nineties stories I’m talking about won’t be covered for another two years, and the return of two thirds of the classic creative team won’t be covered until the middle of the decade!

Judge Dredd: Death of a Politician by T.B. Grover and Steve Dillon. In my head I’d remembered this farewell to the greatest mayor Mega-City One has seen as having been illustrated by Dave the Orang Utan’s co-creator, Ron Smith, but in the event Steve Dillon has the sad duty to relate the sad events of this tale… Bit of a whodunnit, plus a why-did-the-do-it involved with the murder of Dave. Though perhaps Dave wasn’t the real target (clue, the ape wasn’t the target). I can barely write about this episode – quick version, the bartender killed Billy for the insurance money – Dave was just collateral. So Mega-City One says farewell to its best every mayor, and all for a lapsed insurance policy…

Mean Team by “The Beast” and Belardinelli starts with a repeat of the promise which has driven Bad Jack Keller for Jack’s entire Death-Bowl career. Back with the other young trainees, the seven-year-old Jack finds out the truth – the promise of freedom with 5,000 kill-points is a hopeless dream – in four centuries only one person has managed to score even two thousand points. We get regaled with Bad Jack’s record-breaking career – youngest ever trainee to enter the Junior Pits and then on to the full Mean Team, cutting a swathe of point-earning death. Reminded of the promise, Richman Von back-pedals and claims it was only a joke. Bad Jack doesn’t care about this and demands his freedom. In front of the cameras, the galaxy witnesses the demand and joins in the cry for freedom. Von refuses. Jack checks that’s Von’s final word on the subject, which isn’t a brilliant idea from Von. Being stood right next to an armed gladiator who has cut that swathe of death and violence for the past twenty years, leading up to this moment. No need for Von to lose his head (but that’s what happens). This was one of the most memorable moments from the first series of Mean Team, the rising action to which it’s been building – where too next?

Tharg the Mighty in Psmith’s Farewell by T.M.O. and Carlos Ezquerra. A bit late, this one, seeing as we were told about Psmith’s departure some time ago in the Nerve Centre. Psmith is getting old, and in answer to the Tom Frame droid’s questions, there’s no robots’ rest home or pension for the old art editor droid. In Tharg’s words, “sentiments have no place in robotics – or in business, come to that” – can’t help think that this is a dig from editorial and creative to IPC management… It’s been a while since we saw Mek Quake, but that’s where Psmith is destined to end up. Back in the nerve centre and Tharg is perusing the latest script from Alan Grant – for Bad City Blue. Unfortunately there are no art droids available as we get a run-down of what they’re all up to. It’ll be interesting to see how they match up to future stories – Cam Kennedy is on a five-part Dredd – Sardini? Or could be The Warlord?, Glenn Fabry and David Pugh are working on Sláine – must be the Tomb of Terror, Ezquerra is working on the next Dredd annual and Gibson is working on the extra-length third book of Halo Jones. Sim-1 points out that it was a shame that Psmith has been sent to Mek-Quake as he might be too old to work on the weekly but could still have put in a good job on the story. A last-minute phone call saves the droid – though Psmith has been somewhat mashed. Still, what does an art droid need other than one eye and one arm (the good right arm)? Saved from total destruction, Psmith has been put to work on forthcoming thrill Bad City Blue by Tharg the Magnanimous. There’s some sort of sub-text to this story, not sure what it is though. As an aside, Robin Smith doesn’t tend to be regarded in the same reverence as Bolland, Ezquerra, (Ron) Smith, et al, but I do think there are a few 2000AD career highlights coming up in the next year or so, before he heads off to work on The Bogie Man at the end of the decade. Let’s see how my memory of his work holds up when I re-read them!

Grailpage: Bryant Talbot’s glimpse of overland, as affected by the overflow from the time wastes, including flashbacks to the rise of the Terminators.

Grailquote: Pat Mills, Ro-Jaws: “Bit like a sewer really. You need overflow pipes there, to stop it coming back up the -” Hammerstein: “Yes, yes, we know!” The words of a war droid who’s heard it too many times over the centuries… Though I also have a liking for TB Grover, Mo Molinsky: “Ya mean I killed my best pals for nothin’?” Judge Dredd: “Not for nothing – thirty years, creep.” – not the first time that Mills, Wagner and Grant have shared grailquote honours and no doubt it won’t be the last.

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