2000AD and Starlord Prog 99: The Terra-Mek’s hurling us into its atomic grinders… We’ll be crushed to a pulp!

Dave Gibbons gives a spoiler to the contents by showing us Fantas-Tek about to munch away on a couple of humes in a flying car (hover car?) I wasn’t too sure which one it was as it’s blue on the cover and purple on the centre pages.

The Nerve Centre looks a bit more like my ‘classic’ Nerve Centre, with the black background at the top and the letters black on white. Still an advert for stamps though.

After Bolland last week, we’re back to McMahon on The Day the Law Died!. I would have first read this story in the Titan collected edition and compared Brian and Mick’s renderings of the roadliner, seeing how too different artists represented the same design in wholly different ways, while still recognisably being the same vehicle. All of which is a prelude to an announcement of Dredd’s death as it crashes into City Bottom (in fact, through City Bottom to the Undercity, in the locale of the former Ohio River, now called the Big Smelly – I said the name of the tunnel would be important). As well as the wreckage from the roadliner, we see bodies in judge uniforms and everything, so Dredd is definitely dead, not like the other two times he’s been announced as dead in the preceding 97 progs. In celebration of Dredd’s actual death, Cal declares crime legal for the next 24 hours. Of course, the citizens fail to take advantage of this offer, crime figures falling drastically, blinds drawn and flags at half-mast (flags haven’t generally been very prominent in Mega-City One up to this point, so I’d love to know which flags are at half-mast). Judge Cox tries to placate Cal but ends up being ordered to shoot himself to show his love for the Chief Judge. A bit too late, Slocum and another judge (badge a little unclear -atting?) realise that Cal must die for all their sakes, but that the one man strong enough to do the deed is dead, and they helped. I’m trying not to just type out exactly what Slocum said – so it must be a contender for grailquote!

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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 97: We take… a giant step for comic-kind every week!

A generic picture of a giant robot striding through a ruined cityscape, a couple cowering behind a pile of rubble. With a bit of luck there won’t be a hastily-subbed story to explain what’s going on.

Over the page… For a moment I thought there was, but it’s alright, it’s the first of the reader-submitted short stories – which promises to be Future-Shock-tastic (what else can you do with 250 words?) As with the last post, I’m writing this on a bank holiday Sunday in the garden, so the title of the short story appeals to me – A Hot Summer’s Day – the story in question is a variant on the ‘question of scale’ style Shock.

On to the thrills – The Hounds of Klegg! take to the streets in The Day the Law Died! and they have Judge Dredd’s taste. Considering how much happened last prog (exodus, halted, wall ordered, finished, Klegghounds appear) not much actually happens this prog – the hounds basically run through the city and find Dredd, the episode ending with Dredd’s arm in the maw of the hound. Not that I’m complaining, it just leapt out at me while writing the synopsis.

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2000AD and Starlord Prog 96: We’re gonna hit him! That guy’s dead… unless he’s – Superman! Eject into hell with – Angel!

Aircraft on the cover means that Ian Kennedy is drafted in to bring an Angel illustration.

The Nerve Centre has a warning of a ‘special shock issue’ – no idea what this is a reference to.

The Day the Law Died! sees Grampus, leader of the Kleggs, appointed Deputy Chief Judge, replacing Fish, and a plethora of draconian laws brought in, designed solely to make the mega-citizens suffer. This leads to a second page splashpage, showing a column of evacuees appearing to leave through a gate in a wall (not that there’s supposed to be city walls at this point), with little touches like ‘Booth is a bowb’ graffiti on a ruined wall in the Cursed Earth / Mutant Land. Cal is not happy (but when is he?) and gives the new Deputy Chief Judge absolute power to stop those attempting to leave. With Grampus on the case, the exodus is stemmed by late afternoon. Cal orders that wall built, one mile high with gun emplacements and searchlights. In the course of a single episode we see a guerilla attack by Dredd to disrupt the construction, but to no avail as the wall goes up within three weeks. Cal still isn’t happy that ‘Dreddists’ continue to resist his rule. Grampus isn’t just along for the ride – he gets involved, and brings in the Hounds of Klegg – in his words “creates nothing can hide from”. The hunt is on!

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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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2000AD and Starlord Prog 94: Citizens of Mega-City One, I sentence you to… Death! Can no-one stop the insane Judge Cal?

Chief Judge Cal glares out while pronouncing his death sentence on Mega-City One in this eye-catching cover by Mike McMahon. Possibly the first colour depiction of a Chief Judge, the gloves and shoulder pads are all red, rather than green or yellow…

The Nerve Centre is jammed full of letters this week, half on Ro-Jaws and Hammerstein the others on a variety of topics, including one who wants to see Dredd’s face in Prog 100 on the grounds that “Never, but NEVER have you shown us JUDGE DREDD’S face!” – I’d let that slide but they were very insistent. Dredd’s youthful face was shown in profile in The Return of Rico, alongside his brother on the shooting range. You can’t see much, but it does disprove both ‘Never’ and ‘NEVER’.

Judge Dredd in The Day the Law Died (Behold the Hordes of Klegg!) starts with one of those flash-forwards I dislike so much, and perfectly shows why they’re a bad idea. The splash-forward page shows Kleggs raining from the sky and shooting rifles. In the actual story, art duties are shared by Bolland and Leach and start with Dredd and his army of tutors and citizens driving Cal’s judges back to the Hall of Justice with Joe giving Cal an ultimatum. Cal responds cooly, telling Slocum that Dredd will get his answer in five minutes. If we hadn’t had that splash-forward page already we’d have no idea what Cal’s secret weapon would be, as it is we’ve seen it and it’s been given two names (Hordes of Klegg and the Curse of Cal). That aside, we get five page of rebellion, alien mercenaries and a finale showing Cal outlining how his earlier sentencing of the entire city to death will be carried out.

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2000AD and Starlord Prog 92: I, Tharg, have journeyed from the depths of space… Do you dare to share my travels?

This prog has a Tharg cover by Colin Wyatt, apparently the only work he ever did for the Galaxy’s Greatest. It’s a pointillist pic, seemingly traced over a photo of an editorial droid wearing the Tharg rubber mask and boiler suit.

The Nerve Centre features a reader who has created a composite picture of a model spaceship on a cosmic background (and explains the process – to think, before the digital age people would have to cut out all those pictures). Letters call for the return of Robo-Hunter (yay!) and Dan Dare (erm…) and Tharg recounts some of the thrills from 2000AD and Starlord and whether they should return (Mind Wars – will return in an annual, Timequake – will return in a year or two, but not for long, Holocaust – nope, MACH-1 – nope, MACH-Zero – yep! Inferno – nope).

Judge Dredd: The Day the Law Died! introduces Mayor Jim Grubb. So, the Brotherhood of Darkness story featured an un-named Mayor’s son – that annual story had Mayor Amalfi (“wind resistance”) and this story has Mayor Grubb (first name isn’t actually mentioned in this episode). Either Mayor Amalfi had a son who wasn’t mentioned in his appearance or he had taken office recently. Similarly Mayor Grubb can only have been mayor for less than a year (based on what has been presented so far). Grubb’s robes of office are not unlike those of the chief judge, complete with cloak, chains, eagle and skin tight jumpsuit. I don’t remember seeing another other mayors wearing a uniform – though I could have just forgotten. Maybe… Brett Ewins shows us the first revolt against Chief Judge Cal and its suppression (and has to use an arrow to guide us around the panels, a pet hate which I’ve written about before). Dredd has recouperated enough to lead the squad of Academy tutors. It seems strange to see Dredd ordering Griffin around, as I mainly knew him as Chief Judge (hope that spoiler doesn’t ruin anything for you!) The squad are on their way to rouse a revolt in a full-page splash cliffhanger ending.

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2000AD and Star Lord Prog 91: Out of the way, Volgs – us war droids are programmed never to surrender! Hammer-stein is… Mek-Warrior!

Dave Gibbons presents an image of Hammerstein racing towards the enemy under heavy fire, hammer poised and shooting a jet of flame from the other limb, with a red/green colour scheme provided by an un-named editorial or lettering droid.

On the inside front cover, Tharg is still plugging the 1978 annual squashing a much-reduced Nervce Centre to the bottom half (and a third of that space is a promo picture of next prog’s cover).

But I didn’t buy this comic to read the Nerve Centre – on with the thrills! Judge Dredd in The Day the Law Died! continues where it left off last week, with Judge Percy (one of the two judges knocked aside by Giant last prog) reporting that Dredd is on the run. The first half of the episode is the standard ‘escape from capture’ sequence, though with Giant taking the lead and Dredd merely a passenger. The highlights begin in the second half, with Slocum helping Judges Percy and Glass escape the full wrath of Cal by pretending that Deputy Chief Judge Fish has sentenced the pair to dress like little girls as they didn’t act like men while Dredd was escaping. It gets better as the manhunt for Dredd begins, particularly the reaction from the citizenry when a one mllion credit reward is posted. The comedy set-ups lined up by Wagner (sorry, Howard) are ably carried out by McMahon, when citizens make unlikely accusations against other citizens (or even themselves). Meanwhile, Dredd comes around to find himself surrounded by tutors from the Academy of Law, most of whom were wounded in action. They may be all that stand against the might of Justice Department, but that’s going to be enough for Dredd.

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2000AD and Star Lord Prog 90: Galaxy-crunching atom-splitting Sci-Fi!

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.

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2000AD and Star Lord Prog 89: Don’t die *sob* dear Judge Dwedd – please don’t die! Murder in Mega-City One!

Mike McMahon leads us to believe that Dredd is dead with Walter crying over his body (again – McMahon already showed us Dredd’s funeral once, about a year earlier – Walter was there as well).

In the Nerve Centre we get told the Future Shock will be archaeological in nature, that the Preying Mantis cutaway begins this prog and that there’s a futuregraph of the Lawmaster.

Judge Dredd: The Day the Law Died! begins, letting us know that Clarence Goodman has been Chief Judge for 43 years and that he has monthly rejuvenation treatments, just before he gets stabbed to death. Judge Cal’s SJS try to block Dredd from seeing the Chief Judge in the moments before he dies, getting a clue pressed into his hand in Goodman’s last moments. Away from Judge Cal’s SJS (they’re always referred to in this way – I wonder if the SJS was actually set up by Cal?) and Dredd sees the clue is an SJS button, ripped off in the struggle. Before he can do anything about it, he’s shot through the head by Judge Quincy. Quincy reports the success to Cal (not knowing Dredd wasn’t killed in the assassination attempt) but Cal spots the button missing and orders Quincy to undress, performing all his duties from that point onward in his underwear. Cal got a new haircut, so doesn’t look like Pat Mills any more.

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