Belardinelli’s back on the cover with a generic alien for a contest (see the title of this post for the theme).
The Nerve Centre has a reader-contributed comic strip with text to tiny to read (the punchline can be seen – the moon is sentient and swallows a lunar lander) and another short story which has a materialiser which creates whatever is asked of it – Future-Shock style the inventor orders up some cans of food but no tin-opener, crying out “Hell!”. His charred skeleton is discovered in the rubble. Due to the inferior paper and printing, reader’s photos are no longer welcome, meanwhile there is exciting new next week (it’s not a merger, so what can it be?)
Judge Dredd: Boing® from John Howard and Barry Mitchell. This probably acts as a precursor to the Judge Death story, which Brian Bolland has been working on for some time though also works in its own right, as the latest ‘Mega-City craze’ story – the first one must have been brain blooms and I don’t think there’s been any since then, but they’re definitely going to be a hallmark of Dredd down the years. This episode has a full page splash of the Palais de Boing® and a description of the miracle plastic that turns people into human pinballs (think Zorb balls, about a decade before they were invented). As an aside, showing users as human pinballs doesn’t occur in this story, though will at a later date. The third female judge (second with a speaking line) appears, though dies in her second panel as an illegal Boing®er lands on her. Next panel, with her dying breath, she forgets to use the ® symbol, or even un-italicise the ‘I’ in Boing®. RIP, Judge Parker. One of three Boing® pranksters kills himself by crashing into electrical cables, Dredd uses incendiary on another (changing the checmial composition of Boing® and sticking him to the West Mutieland Turnpike) while Dredd orders the West Wall gate opened so that the last of the Boing®ers goes through the gate instead of bouncing back in to the city. By the end of the strip, fifteen have died, the third boy has been adopted as a Boing® God by a band of Cursed Earth mutants and Dredd has passed another law – improper use of Boing® is now punishable by 20 years in the iso-cubes. As well as the set-up for the other story in development, this is great, particularly the running joke of the ® symbol.
Carlos Ezquerra (or is that L. J. Silver) provides a cover with Mongrol swinging around a tyrannosaur – I’m thinking this is not Golgotha.
The Nerve Centre misses the ‘Tharg’ from the heading this week (the reason I keep banging on about exactly what the Nerve Centre is called is beccause it was always Tharg’s Nerve Centre when I started reading 2000AD – so it doesn’t feel right to me if it says anything else). One earthlet writes in about his grandmother who is 92 years old and used to read Comic Cuts when she was a girl. For those who don’t know, Comic Cuts is often regarded as the first comic to be published (though there was another earlier which didn’t run for so long). Comic Cuts ran from 1890 to 1953, while The Glasgow Looking Glass ran from 1825 to 1826, though the first comic strip History of a Coat, appeared in the fourth issue. The phrase “to be continued” comes from the Looking Glass, as does the concept of word balloons. History lesson over, on with the prog!
Judge Dredd: The Invisible Man part two opens with Edwin Parsey confessing to the ‘invisiblity crimes’. From his first introduction he’s another great John Howard character – I keep thinking he’s a recurring character, but this story may be his only appearance (though as he’s so memorable he gets used in various spin-off games). The judges don’t believe Edwin is responsible for the crimes, though when he mentions one that hasn’t been publicised yet they take him in for interrogation, but Edwin wants to be charged for the invisiblity crimes rather than witholding evidence so maintains his story. Dredd orders a watch on the confessor (some nice background features from Ron Smith here, such as an Umpty Candy lorry – a confection which hasn’t been featured yet). Edwin walks past a bank, a robbery takes place, and the prime suspect that Dredd thought Edwin was following is apparently not the culprit, until Dredd reviews the spy-in-the-sky footage later. The twist is that the perp doesn’t turn invisible, he instead uses a device to slow time down within it’s field (technically I think time is sped up – but it gets warped one way or the other) and carries out a raid taking a few hours in the space of a hundredth of a second. Dredd busts the perp, though as the ‘invisible’ man activates the time warp as the bullet hits, he bleeds to death over the course of hours in the time it takes Dredd to run over to him. Clear?
Another prog, another classic Brian Bolland cover – this one celebrating multiple Eagle Award wins.
Tharg’s Nerve Centre (is this the first time it’s been called that?) has the first mention of an upcoming Robo-Hunter story next year (this prog is published in October 1979).
Judge Dredd: The Invisible Man from John Howard and Ron Smith. It’s a great set-up (I know how it ends so know what the twist is, and even that there is a twist) with artwork from Ron Smith that makes the Aftermath Square feel like a busy and large public space. John Wagner includes a few digs at modern art as a twisted coat hanger gets stolen, seemingly by an invisible man. An attempt to catch the perp in the act backfires as not only does he escape but he threatens repercussions.
It’s a great cover by Ron Smith, of Dredd arresting a ship – just a shame it’s the first one back on the letterpress after the luxurious litho printing we’d been getting.
I think this prog must have been published around the time of the 1979 General Election, for there is reader’s art of a Vote Tharg poster in the Nerve Centre.
Over in there’s a more-or-less untitled Judge Dredd story (which we’ll call The Battle of the Black Atlantic part 1, by association with the cover tag line). The first instance of a use of Mega-City One Criminal Code Section 59(D) – also known as a crime blitz. John Howard and cover artist Smith show the team of judges tearing apart a mega-citizen’s apartment, examining every facet of his life. Dredd is suspicious when nothing illegal is found and orders surveillance. We’re also shown our first “spy-in-the-sky” hover cameras. The cameras surveil scientist Reginald Sweet for weeks, based on a hunch, until he meets a unknown man in a burger bar. Once cornered, Sweet quickly caves in, revealing that he’d been selling laser defence secrets to East-Meg 1. Dredd cuffs Sweet to an impromptu holding post and gives chase to the unknown man. Smith draws a fantastic panel of Dredd cutting through lanes of traffic in pursuit – think the opening scenes from the 2012 Dredd film. The suspect escapes through a crack in the East Wall (why is there a crack in it? There’s not been any wall-shattering events within the last year, have there? Though perhaps the Black Atlantic wall pre-dates Cal’s wall surrounding the rest of the Big Meg). Another great panel shows Dredd commandeering a Customs boat. Dredd tries the new respirator – first we’ve heard of it, no sign of how it’s any different to the one that protected Dredd from the Zyclon gas before the Robot Wars. In a classic moment, Dredd follows the agent to an East-Meg anti-pollution ship and arrests the entire ship. The East-Meg judge aboard is not impressed, and orders the commander to plough through Dredd’s boat, full speed ahead.
Dave Gibbons paints the first cover for 2000AD and Tornado. Those readers arriving from Tornado must have been pleased at the better quality paper and printing after putting up with toilet paper-quality Tornado for the past 22 weeks. This won’t last. Seven days, in fact – then the brief period where 2000AD (and/or Starlord/Tornado) had decent presentation will be over.
As you’d expect, the inside front cover acts as a jump-on point for new readers, introducing Tharg and Mek-Quake. There’s the usual profile of Tharg, including his planet of origin (Betelgeuse 6 – it hasn’t been named Quaxxan yet) and a few Betelgeusian phrases – most of which still get used in the prog to this day. Haven’t seen Thrashoruns lately though. There’s also the obligatory run down of the characters that will be appearing, but most interesting is the ‘coming soon’ box – as well as (at least) the third trail for A Day in the Life of the Mighty Tharg – just print it already – there’s Starlord’s Guide to the Galaxy (don’t remember what this is). That’s all par for the course – the really exciting bits are the two new series: The Stainless Steel Rat and The V.C.s. Without the benefits of nostalgie (I was already getting in to my teens by the time my back prog collection had reached back as the 100s) the childish aspects of the progs detracted. Sometime in the next year I’m thinking the line-up will be solid enough that it can be considered a golden age, even by people who weren’t there at the time. Not to detract from the series bequeathed to 2000AD by Tornado (none of which will last as long as those that it inherited from Starlord), but perhaps the biggest contribution that Tornado made to 2000AD was to run the unused filler that would surely have run in 2000AD if it hadn’t been printed in those pages. I am speaking as somebody who likes Black Hawk, Disaster 1990 and Wolfie Smith – all series in this prog which aren’t as universally regarded as Judge Dredd and ABC Warriors. Captain Klep is on his own though.
Judge Dredd: an untitled one-shot from John Howard and Biran Bolland. Fog is shrouding weather district 6 of Mega-City One. I’m wondering if this ties in to the more familiar sectors or not. Judge Kelly (a female judge – and the first female character who is unequivacably shown to be a judge – with a badge on her right breast instead of left, as Dredd’s is) looks after a witness while Dredd follows the infra-red footprints of Sweeney Tood, who has snatched a mega-citizen off of the streets. (Sweeney is a robot, from the local futuristic waxworks equivalent).
If I’m not mistaken, Mike Dorey draws the Lawless Touch cover this week. If I am mistaken then it’s probably Mike White. If I’m really mistaken then it’s somebody else entirely. At least the weekly prog in 2019 (where I’m writing this, if you’re reading this in the future) credits the artists. Though you must be reading this in the future, because as I’m writing this I haven’t posted it on the blog or scheduled it to be published or anything.
The Big Editorial – quite a few letters, nothing especially notable and news that Sam has a half-page later in the issue (probably going to be a Smile with Sam! feature).
On with the comics – The Lawless Touch continues in the scene pictured on the cover – Johnny in the water being attacked by Dobermans. Johnny is turning into a bit of a James Bond-like super-spy. He escapes the dogs by flipping a switch on the listening device which I probably forgot to mention last issue (but was in the story). Last week it was used to listening through a window to what was being said inside the boat, this week it emits a low-frequency sound which drives the dogs away. Having used this bit of tech, Johnny sinks below the waves, feigning death, and dons an underwater helmet with in-built oxygen supply. Sounds like Q has been working overtime equipping Lawless, Johnny Lawless. He just about manages to get back to his hotel room before passing out. The way it was handled I thought he’d been poisoned, but nope, just fatigue and conventional wounds. He wakes up to find his controller, Mother, and a doctor looming over him. Ordered to take bed rest he instead jumps on his bike and zooms off to the Prix award-giving to warn of the impending assassination attempt. What could go wrong? Forgot to mention – brought to us by Ian Rogan and Mike White.
The cover series has been branded – we had the Supercover Saga in 2000AD, now It’s Your Turn in Tornado. This one is a Belardinelli effort with a newspaper editor uttering the words in the title of this post, even as a giant rat crashes crawls through the window behind him. To be honest I think this whole image works as well as it’s going to as it is – Belardinelli’s linework, that caption – what more need be said?
The Big Editorial is very focused on next week’s issue – this seems strange to me – shouldn’t the trailers for next week be after this week’s issue?
The Lawless Touch starts off with news reports in the background from the state of Qarain. After the appearance of Volgans recently, I had to check whether Qarain had appeared elsewhere – apparently not, though I suspect it’s somewhere in the vicinity of Turkostan and Irania (M.A.C.H.1). Lawless is called to meet with Mother at a closed stretch of M25 (I’m guessing it was still under construction when this comic was published). He encounters a reckless sports car driver on the way. You know that the mission will involve the two having to work together, and it does. The pair end up parachuted into a middle eastern country and trying to recover a Tornado jet (nice tie-in with that cutaway centrespread). Making this seem even more M.A.C.H.1-ish is the artwork by John Cooper, though Lawless’ friction with his colleague is very Invasion. Words and fake country names provided by Tufnell.
This week’s cover is a dynamic (and very yellow) image from Ron Smith, of Dredd jumping from one ambulance to another.
The Nerve Centre trails a Starlord spaceship feature later in the same prog.
Judge Dredd: Cityblock 1. Ron Smith’s splash page shows, in order, a portrait of Judge Dredd, a view of the outside of Charlton Heston Block and a view of a mall inside the block. This is the first named cityblock to be shown, and so one of the most iconic features of Mega-City One is in place. In the foreground is Dredd chasing a citizen through the mall, a park (including beach), hospital and the streets of Mega-City One. In the background are a myriad of nice touches: Fergee, The True Story at the cinema; an Approved Bookshop; robo-ducks in the park (residents only)… The story is perfectly matched with the art, with the final page listing the citizen’s crimes, most of which are an escalation of the original offence which prompted Dredd to call out to him (punchline) – dropping a candy wrapper. Next prog: Cityblock 2. I’ve read it, but can’t remember any details – maybe a scene with a robot careers advisor which gets destroyed with the vandal taking on the role (until they get arrested). I may be mixing it up with a later story though…
Another ‘new comic cover’ with a tiny picture of newcomer Storm taking about a fifth of the cover space, a photo of Dave Gibbons’ face and the rest promoting the ‘sensation free gift’ which, when, laying out the comics I’d be reading in the coming week or so, gave no clues to what the gift was going to be (I know now that it was a spud gun, from the teaser ad in the previous issue). Hopefully this is the last Tornado cover that won’t have a big picture on!
The Big Editorial is not so big, and for good reason – it’s cut to about a third of normal size to make way for new thrill Storm. Despite it’s reduced size, Big E’s blurb still gets cut down further when ‘newshound Billy Preston’ speaks over him to tell the true tale of Lachlan, a wild boy in Clydesbank in ‘the last war’ – this was before the Falklands and I’m going to guess Billy doesn’t mean Korea or Vietnam! Anyway, so Storm is either based on or has parallels with this Lachlan.
Storm takes the front spot from Drago. Scot Goodall delivers poetic narration while Musquera has a more grounded, less fantastical Belardinelli style, particularly when it comes to wild landscapes. Andrew Kane has given up a job in the city as a research chemist to become a shepherd in the Scottish highlands, working for Sir Gordon Forbes, the Lord of the Manor who only has an interest in visiting once a year, and then only to shoot at wildlife. Storm is a mysterious wild boy who saves Kane’s dog Bracken when she slips down a crumbling embankment. Later, Storm attempts unsuccessfully to save a stag shot by one of Forbes’ hunting party. Kane is ordered to give chase in a landrover and follows Storm to a cave, where he is not welcome. It’s a good opener – I have no idea whether Storm is actually supposed to be superhuman – he runs around in winter barechested but for a furry waistcoat thing, swims in icy-cold water and can run across rough terrain at twenty miles an hour.
The fledgling merged comic gets its second ensemble cover, with cut and pasted images cobbled from Strontium Dog, Flesh and Ro-Busters. This is common with jumping-on progs but is out of place when all stories are mid-run (also, where’s Dredd?)
The Nerve Centre has letters provoking Tharg to offer Galactic Groats for readers to write in with 250-word stories. Can’t say I recall this bearing fruit but maybe it will. Another reader ‘casts’ a perfect prog, along with art droids (but completely ignores the script robots) while another complains that the Earth price of the prog has risen even though other planets in the solar system haven’t.
The Tyrant’s Grip! takes hold over Mega-City One. A newsreader informs the public about the raft of new measures that Cal is bringing in, and as it customary in such circumstances, gets arrested by enforcers in the studio while live broadcasting. Citizens are pilloried in mobile wagons, a curfew is brought in, most new laws seemingly punishable by death. Meanwhile, the robodocs have finished operating on Dredd, removing the bullet and regenerating damaged brain tissue. Before he can undergo further treatments, judges break into the recovery room and snatch Dredd (against robodoc’s orders). That place where the judges are based gets called both Justice Central and the Great Hall of Justice – not quite the Grand Hall, but getting there! As Cal is now Chief Judge, he now appoints a successor in the role he previously filled, infamously installing Deputy Chief Judge Fish (in a panel which Mike McMahon hates – though the fish is well drawn). Cal says that Fish has been a faithful friend for many years. As goldfish have a reputation for a short lifespan I looked into it – apparently most goldfish in captivity just aren’t cared for very well – if looked after they should last ten years. I also found out they have better memories than folk wisdom would suggest – also my ten-minute research suggests that Deputy Chief Judge Fish is a lionhead goldfish. Or, y’know, some new breed that arises in the next seventy-something years. Dredd is brought before the new Chief Judge and his initial outburst gives Cal an excuse to execute Dredd, personally. Judge Giant pipes up that shooting Dredd at such close range would spatter blood over his uniform and requests to deal with Dredd personally as revenge for his rookie days. While on their way down to the holding cells, Giant takes care of their accompanying guard and starts an escape attempt.