Prog 75: Have you the nerve to play the Cursed Earth game?

The cover is Dredd looming over the boardgame that starts this prog and looks like it was provided by an art editor (and is sort of an amalgam of Bolland, Gibbons and McMahon’s styles).

The 2000AD Nerve Centre has no letters and is also cut down to half a page by an advert. At least we get a mention of upcoming thrill Robo-Hunter – this is probably the tipping point for me – before this point it’s a kids comic whose main interest for me has been that it builds into the ‘classic’ 2000AD (like James Bond and Doctor Who – this being the one that was in place when one starts reading).

Inferno is at the front of the prog for its last episode – knew this was coming when three characters died last prog, one of which was only mentioned in a narration box! It gets worse this prog – Slim Shafto – a character who has been with us since prog 1 has two androids closing in on him and a tharg’s head narration panel tells us that “another Hellcat bit the dust”. Zack Harper is also dispatched in the same non-visual panel. Louis succeeds in intercepting the signal controlling the androids and uses it to get the to destroy themselves, and each other. And then he and Moody Bloo are assassinated by the Syndicate. The story backtracks on Cindy being a casualty and she was back to merely being hospitalised. I’d like to think that John Clay and Cindy go on to parent Judge Giant and in lieu of any other evidence that’s who the judge’s parents are. There is a ‘whatever happened to Giant’ story but that’s well over twenty years away and I can’t remember anything about it.

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Prog 70: Screee The Hell-bird is coming in for the kill! Time is running out for the survivors on the… Death Planet!

This prog’s cover could have come from the original run of Flesh! What do I mean, original run? There’s only been one book of Flesh! Must have had a premonition or something. The art looks like European art agency work and if the woman in futuristic spacey clothing was replaced by something more cowboy (or cowgirl) it could pass as a cover from the first 20 progs.

The Nerve Centre highlights that this comic was published in the 1970s and aimed squarely at boys. James Bejer from Southampton like how Death Planet portrays Lorna Varn as a ruthless woman, though ‘anonymous’ of County Cork says “I do not mind females READING your comic, but to actually have a female commander APPEARING in the pages of 2000 A.D. is going too far!” I wonder how these two readers would have reacted to the female antagonist who’s appeared in recent weeks (due to lead times at the time, almost certainly after they sent their letters)?

Inferno sees a wonderful opening with the Philadelphia destraught that Gruber had been smuggled in to their squad and used to attack the Hellcats (no mention made of the first casualty – the real Dimples Devine). The thing that makes this wonderful is Belardinelli’s depiction of the Freaks over-reacting – literal waterfalls of tears from one, windscreen wipers emerging from a brain hatch of another to wipe tears from the eyes of the caveman. From there the story goes downhill. One Hellcat wishes that Cindy Lamont and Hale Eegle could see the Hellcats cleared after police identify the now dead Torso and Chubb. So Cindy seems to have been killed off – she was in intensive care last time we saw or heard from her! Moody Bloo has lost his appetite (no explanation of why – it seems like it should have a pay-off, but no sign this episode) and Giant has constructed a replica of Gruber, to keep him on his guard. As Giant sleeps that night, the replica activates and goes to Giant’s room, in a creepy-stalker-y kind of way. Presumably this is part of Giant’s plan to keep on his guard – in the same way that Cato randomly attacks Inspector Clouseau

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Prog 69: O.K., come quietly – or else there’ll be trouble! Tweak!

Dredd and Tweak (not that we know who Tweak is yet) are surrounded, from our point of view 17 gun barrels pointing at them (more in the background). This is the way to do a Dredd cover, courtesy of McMahon.

The Nerve Centre has a few letters, one from a reader who noticed that the price for other planets was missing from the cover of Prog 61 and another from somebody who was shocked that Gruber had arrived in Inferno…

Speaking of Artie Gruber in Inferno – he cackles over the prone body of Clay, dowsed in highly flammable jet-pack fuel. As I thought, Louis’ ommission from the previous prog’s line up of helpless onlookers meant that he was the one to rescue Clay, using mindpower and that wrist aerial he had improvised earlier. Using the discipline circuit that Torso and Chubb had installed, Louis drives Gruber to take his revenge on the two, and as he finishes his work (which a gleeful Belardinelli portrait watches with relish) proto-Judges/the law/security arrive, though set fire to Gruber’s jet-pack, sending him to a firey death in the waterway outside. If you believe Gruber’s dead then you’ll be as shocked as that reader if he re-appears (the next prog says “The Return of Gruber..?” I suspect so).

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Prog 64: Watch the Sky! UFO – reader’s report –

I’m writing this episode in the garden because it’s a nice summer’s day and I’ve lit the barbecue. As such it’s being written in notepad and I don’t have internet access. I’m assuming the cover to this prog is be Brian Bolland, but could be wrong. It’s the most distinctive cover 2000AD has had since the first one (and that had a Space Spinner covering up the whirlwind around Tharg’s face) with the letters UFO written large, completely dominating the entire cover. Once you’ve added the standard 2000AD logo there’s barely a sixth of the cover left for a picture of a spaceship, a man, a woman and a car.

The nerve centre is taken up by reader’s reports of UFOs which leads into the final episode of Probe’s latest and last alien encounter.

The Final Encounter Finale! closes the file on MACH One in an extended 8-page episode. We prevously said goodbye to Silk, a long-running character, but this was the first lead character to die in the pages of 2000AD, and one who had been in the majority of progs since launch. I think the willingness to kill major characters and later on the adherence to continuity (without endless rebooting and constantly ending every story with everything in the same state as at the beginning) is one of the things that has set 2000AD apart from other comics, particularly those from the USA. Anyway, on to the actual story – Pat Mills presents the death of Sharpe, then the self-sacrifice of Probe to protect Fred. The official enquiry concludes that Sharpe exceeded orders and endangered Earth, and so Probe’s name is cleared. And that’s it for M.A.C.H.1 (though there is still the MACH 2 robot, though I don’t recall ever seeing that again).

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Prog 46: Bodies, Dare, bodies of those who have dared to defy me — remember them well, for soon you will join them!

The first prog of the New Year brings a few format changes. The Dare story pages take to the front of the prog for a while, much like he did in various iterations of the Eagle. This means the wordcount on covers goes up considerably and it might not be so easy to pick a tagline. As Dare is on the front, Dredd now takes the centre pages for the first time.

Speaking of Dan Dare – he’s still being held prisoner. He seems very self-aware that he’s in a story, because his thoughts betray that the crew of the Space Fort lands on Starslay “in three minutes and I’m still a captive!” He knows he won’t be a prisoner by the time four pages have passed…

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Prog 45: Dan Dare greets the galactic New Year

2000AD’s first New Year’s Eve brings a Brian Bolland cover of Dare holding the future-British flag, ready to greet the ‘galactic new year’. At least it was mostly drawn by Bolland – the original had Dare looking off to the side but a managerial / editorial decision was made to have him look straight on. There’s something very Robin Smith about the eyes on Dare’s head, though I don’t think there’s been any other sign of Smith being involved with 2000AD yet. Earthlets wouldn’t have had long to snap up this prog – thanks to bank holidays it would only have been on the shelves from Wednesday to Saturday!

Judge Dredd, 22nd Century Futsie. I was going to start off writing about the second appearance of a Futsie, or how JD doesn’t appear until midway down the third page, but then I noticed something strange about the credit card. The lettering and names of the script and art droids are in one hand and the name of the lettering droid is in another. Flicking through the comic, the same happens with Invasion! Weird, especially as there was a missing credit in a previous prog, by the person who physically would put the credits on the page. Anyway, on with the story – if we didn’t get the idea that Mr Moonie needed to be investigated before (and Judge Dredd seems not to have taken the hint yet), this time we meet an employee of the oligarch, who we see where’s a KKK/Neon Knights-style head covering. One of the other employees predicts that the employee, Arthur, will end up in an alleyway full of blaster holes. He actually succeeds in working through a month’s worth of backlog in one day, finishing just before day and year’s end at midnight, though one of this stupid colleagues (possibly the same one who predicted Arthur’s forthcoming death) knocks all of his paperwork on the floor and the destraught Arthur goes futsie. Arthur’s son (also called Arthur) recruits Dredd who knocks the deranged Arthur out so that he can received medical treatment (rather than just shooting him dead, which is presumably what would have happened if one of the other Luna judges had gotten to him first). The prediction of a premature death almost comes true, but Dredd against two thugs isn’t much of a contest, though it is an excuse to see the hover bike in action (it loses its ventral gun when Gibson draws it – be interesting to see if it reappears when McMahon or Bolland draw it again). We get the promise of meeting Mr Moonie next prog, along with Dredd being in colour. Over the page is an advert for next week’s prog, including the cover which – in an Eagle-style turn of events – will be the first story page of Dan Dare. Though the advert is before this week’s Dare episode, so we already have an idea of how this week’s episode will end before we’ve gotten to it – good planning, droids!

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Prog 38: Killer rock!

Did I mention that I think Trev Goring can do great, atmospheric artwork that induces feelings of tension and distrust? Unfortunately this cover is not well-suited to such a style. The space snake creature is a fine enough design though the spaceship is a sphere with legs. Colour does nothing for this image (trying to imagine it in black and white makes it better). p.s. Trev is still active and attending conventions, though I don’t know what his current style is.

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