2000AD and Starlord Prog 98: Onward, my beauties – sing while you slaughter! Slicey-slicey, oncey-twicey claw and fang’ll kill Dredd nicely!

Brian Bolland puts Kleggs on the cover, and they’re singing a song “Slicey-slicey, oncey-twicey Claw and fang’ll kill Dredd nicely!” (I didn’t need to type that out – just realised I’d already put it in the title of this blog post).

Tharg announces the hiring of AALN-1 in the Nerve Centre, produced by MACMIDROIDS. A reader submits a wordsearch (it took me 2 minutes 59 seconds to complete) and another reader complains about the (complete) lack of female judges, to which Tharg says ‘watch this space’ (not literally). (AALN-1 is Alan Grant, starting the long tradition of the assistant editor to Tharg being the actual human editor).

Brian Bolland takes the reigns of that Klegghound attacking Judge Dredd, or should that be lead? Dredd’s arm has been swallowed by the Klegghound, but it’s his gunhand – the Klegghound’s mistake! Judge Julio Fernandez is wounded bad and sacrifices himself to allow the others to escape. He looks and speaks like King Carlos – not the last time Wagner (sorry, Howard) will insert a parody of the long-term collaborator! Justice 1 makes its first appearance – as a hover-ship looking nothing like the starship we’ll later see (curiously drawn by the same artist). Bolland has some great moments depicting the madness of Chief Judge Cal as he blasts the roadway out of the Trans-Ohio tunnel (the location is important), leading Dredd’s roadliner to crash to City Bottom.

Continue reading “2000AD and Starlord Prog 98: Onward, my beauties – sing while you slaughter! Slicey-slicey, oncey-twicey claw and fang’ll kill Dredd nicely!”

2000AD and Starlord Prog 95: Burn them – burn the robot rebels!

Mike Dorey provides his first cover for Ro-Busters (apparently he also did the uncredited cover for Prog 6 – John Probe against Nazi skeletons underwater).

The Nerve Centre has letters about the 2000AD and Starlord merge – from those who like 2000AD and not Starlord, those who like Starlord and not 2000AD and those who like 2000AD and Starlord. Andrew Saunders is awarded the £10 prize for a picture of Starlord wearing the rosette of sirius and Tharg’s jumpsuit. Or possibly Tharg wearing Starlord’s boufant, robe and carrying his gun. Is this the first ‘Tharg the…’ reader’s picture?

John Howard, Brian Bolland and Gary Leach are back on The Day the Law Died, with lettering by ‘Thomas’ – Tom Frame has previously been ‘Tomas Frame’ so he seems to like playing with his name when crediting himself! The executions begin but Dredd has a plan. ‘Recruiting’ Slocum, Cal is told that Deputy Chief Judge Fish died at the time of the first execution. The death sentence is suspended and following an unattended funeral parade, Cal promises to make the city suffer like never before. There’s not much I can say about this episode, except how pitch-perfect it is – I’m not sure how the art duties were divided up (I’m guessing Bolland did pencils while Leach the inks) but they perfectly capture John Wagner’s script. Plus Tom Frame puts in a irregularly shaped speech bubble to surround the over-sized final word of the episode – “SUFFER!”.

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Star Lord No 21: Guardian of the Dark Star!

A rather colourful cover greets us, with a huge green alien striding over planetoids as if they were stepping stones. The cover’s not to my taste, and no doubt it will be revealed as an IntStelFed propaganda poster within the pages of this issue.

Events in Mind Wars have been building up for a few weeks, strands such as Kareela’s (successful) attempt to trick Ardeni, the latest Jugla attempt to trick Ardeni, the Controller attempting to use Ardeni to locate and attack the Jugla homeworld and the search for the Green Star. Possibly due to the forthcoming merge with 2000AD, all of these threads get at least some lip-service in this issue. Even though the episode is only six pages long, it takes two people to letter it. According to the ‘blueprinters’ (Star Lord version of the credit card) the letterers are Potter and Knight, though it also says that M. White is responsible for the art, and it is most definitely Redondo drawing the Green Star attacking Ardeni (and then retreating) and the Jugla landing fake Arlen, driving Ardeni to (apparent) suicide.

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2000AD Annual 1979

Kevin O’Neill provides the cover featuring two green aliens one threatening a woman in a skin-tight spacesuit and another being shot by some kind of cyborg. Thankfully the image stands on its own – i.e. there’s no Supercover Saga copy inside the annual to detail what’s going on.

On the contents page is what might be another commissioned cover featuring a manually-controlled giant robot scooping up cavemen.

The first story is The Biggest Game of All! written by an unknown writer and drawn by Marzal Canos, according to Barney. Ray Bradbury wrote A Sound of Thunder in 1952 (and popularised the concept ‘butterfly effect’ though that term isn’t introduced until the following decade). The set-up is similar and has been used in many short stories and even Future-Shocks down the years. A big game hunter travels to the past in order to bag a dinosaur. The narrative points out that in some universes (such as the ours, where Trans-Time go back to farm dinosaurs) you can mess about in pre-history as much as you wish without any ill-effect in the present, but in other universes any change will have repurcussions down the ages. The dinosaur the big game hunter has gone to kill has been seen in the time-viewer to fall off of a cliff and die in ten minutes time, so what happens to it before will have minimal effects. The big game hunter Kirst quickly shows that he doesn’t want to kill a brontosaurus that was going to die anyway, but instead kill a tyrannosaur – more than that, he attacks the Time Safaris guide and kills a tree lizard, just to make a point. In the best tradition of Flesh he quickly gets killed by a tyrannosaur while the others on the safari manage to escape back to their time machine. They don’t manage to escape successfully though, as the slaughtered tree lizard was the ancestor of apes and thus the human race. I first read this story when I was about eleven or twelve (managed to get the annual from a car boot sale with my dad on a summer’s day).

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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 73: Harry Winthrop was a meek mild mannered man, until he tried on… The Suit. The power… the pain… the Suit!

This prog has a Kev O’Neill cover which is a bit too similar to the MACH Zero story in the Sci-Fi Special (so much so that the colour starscan in the special made me think it was a representation of this story until I turned the page and realised it was for the story in the special).

The Nerve Centre is dedicated to letters hoping for a return for MACH One – tough, it doesn’t happen!

Ant Wars has Villa be condescending to Anteater and completely fail to convince the owner of the crop plantation that Anteater leads the pair to that there are giant ants around. Despite not believing them, the owner still pulls in all the plantation workers, including a trailer full of grass. Eventually some ants are seen approaching, but as the owner rushes to the radio hut an ant explodes from the leaves. So the ants are showing cunning. They also show some sort of antennae communications – not sure what it’s supposed to be, but if they were robots it’d be radio waves / sci-fi equivalent. The ant follows orders and sacrifices itself to destroy the power generator. Cliff-hanger time – ants in formation have cut off any escape route.

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Prog 71: Are YOU Prepared for… Ant Wars!

A giant ant straddles the Earth on this Kev O’Neill cover, hopeless faces staring out of the cloud cover while a boy stands with a bloodied knife – it can only be Ant Wars!

Eating ants is very much a theme of this opening chapter, and the name Anteater will stick (pretty sure the boy on the cover never gets a name other than that). This story is as subtle, and entertaining as Flesh and Shako! We’re going to go on a tour of South America but to begin with we have scientist’s experiments, brutal soldiers and downtrodden natives. Oh, and giant ants, but that’s in the title, so it’s hardly a surprise.

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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 50: More Starslayer ships — but they’re opening fire on the battle fleet!

The anti-cliffhanger from last episode is replayed and still isn’t a cliffhangar as you turn the front page – the approaching ships that are attacking the Starslayer fleet are, of course, slaves who have risen up and come to Dare’s aid. Dare leads the charge against the Starslayers outside the Space Fort and completely forgets that they have the Dark Lord of the Starslayer Empire in the Reactor Room. Dark Lord takes advantage of Dare’s lapse in judgement and (apparently) goes on a killing spree. The last panel is a proper cliffhangar with the flying star heading straight for Dare’s eyes. In true pulp fiction style, instead of ducking out of the way, Dare completes a full sentence. Then the Dark Lord also completes a full sentence. Dare also has a laser broadsword. I’m guessing this will be relevant in the first few panels of the next episode.

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