2000AD and Starlord Prog 108: The doctor will examine you now… Say ah… Aaaaah!

Dr Feeley Good appears on the cover, terrorising a pair of humes in their living room, cover courtesy of Mike McMahon.

In the Nerve Centre, Tharg takes recent industrial action as an excuse to push subscriptions. Tharg also blames industrial disputes on the changing of Belardinelli to Carlos Pino towards the end of Flesh (I’m still convinced it’s because he got moved over to The Angry Planet).

The Day the Law Died! reaches its climax as the de-programmed judges reclaim the streets from the Kleggs. Meanwhile, Dredd uses a roadliner (much like the one that crashed through to the Undercity) to break in to the Statue of Judgement. Fergee finally gets his opportunity to get heavy as the de-programmed judges weren’t as de-programmed as it had at first appeared – at least not in the presence of Cal himself. Pinned down, only Fergee has the strength to pick Cal up and carry him to his death (along with four brainwashed judges who tried, and failed to stop him). So dies Fergee (and Cal). Kleggs attempting to escape don’t get much further than the atmosphere, while statues to Fergee are erected citywide. Not for the last time, there are calls for Dredd to become the next Chief Judge, though his place is on the streets. Instead, Griffin is appointed Chief Judge, with Pepper as his Deputy. After the trials of his trip to the moon, his trip across the Cursed Earth and his trip to the Undercity, Joe needs a rest so will be back in two progs time.

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Tornado No 2: Your Multi-role Maydaypack’s got Codes; Tests; ID pass and all you need to form your own T.T. units!

Like the cover to the first issue, No 2 has a few panels from the stories inside, plugs the free gift, then shows a photo of Dave Gibbons as Big E. Boring! (sorry, Dave).

The Big Editorial has another photo of Big E, this time flying over a cityscape (presumably the view from Kings Reach Tower, as that would be the easiest way to get a cityscape if you work in a comic based there) and another photo of the editorial team – including the old Heroes logo. Tharg lurks in the corner.

Victor Drago and the Terror of Troll Island! Part 2. There’s a bit more to go on this week. Drago and Spencer (or is that Victor and Spencer – we’re not told if Spencer is a given name or surname) – are on the lookout for the murderer of Moffat but this being the second of seven (I think) episodes, they obviously don’t find them (though we do see a pair of shadowy hands just before they dispose of the body). They stumble on to a stately home occupied by a famous crime writer, Edgar Hollis, who invites them to a house-party, room and board included. Almost immediately Hollis lets them in to the secret of his success – he has a team of ghost writers and doesn’t actually write any of his own books (they also get to meet all the actual writers). One of two butlers (no explanation is given to why Hollis has two butlers) comes up to Drago to tell him that ‘they’ plan to murder him. It seems a bit more interesting than the previous episode, though I suspect my enjoyment of this story (and future Drago stories) will hinge on how this one resolves – if it fizzles out without loose ends I don’t think I’d be able to maintain interest in future installments.

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Star Lord No 19: Mek-Quake kill 99% of all known robots!

I suspect the Lipsmackinthirstquenchinacetastinmotivatingood buzzincooltalkinhighwalkinfastlivinevergivincoolfizzin PEPSI advert must have been shown a lot in the 1970s – not only was there an ad for 2000AD a few months ago but this cover has a strapline of Circuitsmashingpiperippingmetalcrunchingdroidddestroying… MEK-QUAKE!!! It isn’t the only modification to a then-current advertising campaign, with ‘Reaches parts of the galaxy other sci-fi mags cannot reach!’ parodying Heineken (warning, the linked 1978 advert features a rather dated blacked-up actor playing an Australian aborigine).

In Mind Wars it takes until the end of a full two pages for Ardeni Lakam to get naked, this time for a decontamination shower along with Tilman. When it comes time to get dressed Kareela la Borzac – an old enemy of Tilman – appears and burns Ardeni’s clothes. If not for a few interjections from Tilman, the conversation between Kareela and Ardeni would have passed the Bechdel-Wallace Test (the conversation was about clothes). Meanwhile the Jugla Empire are on the lookout for humans on conquered worlds who match the general description of the deceased Arlen Lakam, so that, through surgery, he can be made to look exactly like Ardeni’s dead brother. Meanwhile meanwhile, Ardeni, Tilman and their Lenarthian friends are in a Lenarth prison cell though Ardeni has just been knocked unconscious by poisoned food, provided by Kareela.

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Star Lord No 18: I can invade minds, stop time, warp space… I have the power!

Another cover from the anonymous airbrush-style artist, this time of Ardeni Lakam and Tilman.

Inside, Ardeni’s escape involves something to do with combined energy feedback which threatens to destroy the bridge of the Jugla warship and Ardeni granting powers to Tilman (which go to his head in more ways than one). I’m not too sure what the actual threat of being in an anti-matter field was supposed to be if she can use powers through it anyway. Good Redondo art on this episode but the plot probably doesn’t bear too much thinking about.

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Star Lord No 16: Massacre on the Moon! All our mates are being wiped out, Ro-Jaws – and we could be next!

A great Kevin O’Neill cover showing the events at the end of last week’s Ro-Busters. It’s all in the dialogue, so I don’t need to add any description!

In Mind Wars, Ardeni helps disentangle the vessels in the ship’s graveyard. While she waits for the locals (and Tillman) to go through the wreckage and make the Vegan Belle ship shape again she encounters a Stellar Federation officer who she starts to fall for. They party, they dance, he goes back to her place (to sleep in a different room to her), he gets killed by the Jugla, she gets abducted and taken off-world – the old story. Just to disprove what I said about Ardeni getting her kit off at the drop of a hat a few weeks ago – this time she sleeps wearing a nightie (well, two-piece bikini-style top and a sheer mini-skirt thing).

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Star Lord No 15: Earth Star-Squad hit by Droon! No Survivors!

As the title suggests, this issue has a Timequake cover, with the Droon drawn by Alberto Salinas. As it’s easy to forget, Droon are huge – about twice or thrice as tall as humans, and this one seems to be carrying two laser swords. If I was a bit older I’d have an idea of how prevalent laser swords were before Star Wars, but I’m not, so I don’t.

Mind Wars! While Tilman meets with his rescuers/kidnappers Ardeni continues to be hypnotised by the bird, who she asks to provide her with clothing (so despite earlier hints it looks like she isn’t a nudist). Yilik is waiting outside and asks Ardeni to get in to his car (calling a vehicle on an alien planet a ‘car’ in the year 3000 isn’t very futuristic, is it?) though their destination is the bottom of a flight of stairs leading directly from the villa she’s been staying at, so that was a wasted journey. Ardeni is introduced to the giant eagle who rules the hypnotising birds. Tilman and the Lenarthians break the birds concentration, allowing Ardeni to take a dip (to clear her head). It’s a bit unclear what happens next – the upshot is that the birds’ hold over the humanoids is broken and a mindblast is visible from 20,000 light years away on Earth and also wherever the Jugla homeworld is. Freed of mind control the Vegan Belle can now be repaired, but this week’s cliffhanger is that Stellar Federation and Jugla war fleets are both heading to the Chaotic Zone.

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Prog 62: Can Commander Lorna Varn survive on… Death Planet!

The cover introduces us to Lorna Varn and Death Planet. But before that, the Nerve Centre reveals that Walter is so upset that Dredd is taking off to the Cursed Earth that he needs to take a few weeks rest from his adventure with Doc Frankenheim. Presumably in the real world Bolland was too busy drawing episodes of full-length stories… For the second time, Walter signs a message with a splodge and the words “Walter, his oil mark”. I’m just now realising why there is the one-page Walter strip – Star Wars had just hit, and the fact that the first quarter of an hour focus on the droids must have had an impression on the Tharg/s* of the day. I’ve also just taken a look at the results of the 1977 Eagle Awards – Favourite British Comics character had Judge Dredd at number one with 25% of the votes, Dare in third place (11%) and Walter in fourth (6%).

And replacing Colony Earth! on to Death Planet. I’ve looked at other artwork by Lopez (full name Francisco Solano Lopez, so claim a few obituaries of said artist. Or is it? The 2000AD ABC video says it’s Cesar Lopez Vera) and characters there have full ranges of expression. For some reason characters in this story do not – every character has one fixed expession which they keep throughout this episode, no matter what emotional turmoil is being expressed in the word balloons. I don’t know how prevalent it would have been in other comics at the time, but the uniform of the security-guard type on the colony ship is rather judge-like. Future-Shock style, the commander of the ship is hidden in the first panel with a character shown, only making the big reveal that the captain of the ‘Eternity’ is Commander Lorna Varn. The text doesn’t make a big deal that she’s a woman, but all those Future-Shocks have let us know that if a character gets referred to but is hidden by shadows or objects in the panel, then when we finally do get to see them there’s going to be a twist in store.

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2000AD Prog 7: The Biogs from Planet Zircon are on the Rampage for their Main Fuel Supply… Earthmen!

As expected my slog got off to a pretty good start at the weekend but slowed to a crawl once pesky work got in the way.

Not the snappiest of cover captions there (I considered trying to edit it down a little, but want to see how WordPress reacts to such a long title).  The other cover line was: “Who can tear a building to shreds with his bare hands?  Answer inside…” by the 7th prog, any Earthlet who doesn’t answer ‘M.A.C.H.1’ hasn’t been paying attention.  Good work from Massimo on his first proper cover (his art had appeared on Progs 1, 2 and 4, but only in the form of Dare’s head, or jostling for space with the promotional blurb and free gifts).

Over the page a splash of Paddington station, as run by Volgs.  A pretty light episode on plot, but we see one of the units from the Red Alert / Futuregraphs in action (the Spyder Troops).  In the last few panels it turns out that the Mad Dogs get their best intel from Volg-run propaganda, which gives the game away by letting Savage know about the Volg informant.  Not the best strategy from the Volgans there…

On to Flesh where Old One Eye goes on the rampage, attacking through hate rather than for food.  The other characters start to get slightly more dimensions to them – having his home city appears to have sobered up the Doc enough that he gets Carver and Reagan to stop fighting.

Before Harlem Heroes we have a pre-skinhead Weetabix advert (this one featuring the one true Doctor Who).  In Harlem Heroes itself we have three pages which basically repeat the last page of the previous episode, showing us how little the Siberian Wolves care about their own safety next to the glory of Mother Russia.  On the last page Giant find out his jet pack has been sabotaged, cue cliffhanger.

Dan Dare sees the spacer taming the living Axe, which always reminds me of the Polymorph from Red Dwarf (which made its first appearance over a decade after this story).  What remains of his crew escape Jupiter to find the Odyssey is having problems with the Biogs spaceship, in a great panel that Belardinelli manages to cram into half a page of story.

The rest of the page is taken up with the omnipresent adverts for stamps and, after a break in the previous prog, a Thargnote sized Nerve Centre.  I almost missed it, but the term ‘Borag Thungg’ makes it’s first appearance here.

Onwards to M.A.C.H.1 where Probe goes off to Bolavia (sic) to rescue a distinctly unappreciative British arms dealer, who quickly proceeds to order the guard holding him captive to arrest his rescuer.  Probe gets captured due to showing those pesky emotions again and orders the computer to switch off his hyperpower in order to fool the guards.  Not entirely sure why he couldn’t just have acted as if he was weak.  Earthlings are warned not to throw secret police chiefs out of helicopters (or was it pulling down two thousand ton buildings we were warned against?)

In a week where we’ve seen a preview of a forthcoming Dredd story featuring a rebuilt Statue of Judgement (or possible building site thereof), in this prog we get the unveiling of the original Statue, still with a body of water behind it.  Apparently it was built by the people, though I do wonder how it became the HQ of PSU in latter years (maybe something that happened during the reign of Cal – I don’t remember if any details will be given).  One of the perps suggests Dredd is not human, a later scene is reminiscent of the film we do not mention, and we get a view of the Lawrod (though it isn’t named in this episode).  I don’t recall whether we’ll get many details of the Lawrod, but a slide on the side seems to suggest it has a Lawgiver-style ammunition selection, though this one goes up to seven!  One the back page we get an advert for the Flesh card game that will build up over the next four weeks, along with a distinctly un-2000AD children’s comic-style panel.  Not familiar with those types of comic artist, so I wouldn’t know if it was provided by a famous Beano, Dandy or Whizzer and Chips artist.

2000AD Prog 6: The Nazis have come Back from the Dead

Ian Kennedy returns to the Galaxy’s Greatest, though on Invasion! rather than M.A.C.H.1 this time.  The nasty Volgs are going to publicly execute innocent civilians in retaliation for the Mad Dogs first attack. The place they chose to do this was Wembley Stadium (renamed Victory Stadium), and so Savage’s response to this includes football imagery.  The song You’ll Never Walk Alone is used and I had to check it wasn’t Pat Mills on writing duties (though he was editor at the time, so perhaps he was in some way responsible for its inclusion?)

On to Flesh, and the main scene of interest to me is when Old One Eye accidentally kills her own son (not that she would have stopped if she’d realised).  I suspect this is the first appearance of the original Satanus, before he was reincarnated in the 21st century.  Shall have to compare scenes once I get to the Cursed Earth.

Facing the last page of Flesh is a fantastic splash page from Gibbons, of the Trans-Atlantic Tunnel.  Lots of visual treats on the sides of the trucks and superliners using it.  A racist commentator (who calls all of the Russian players Boris) notwithstanding, this is a pretty good episode.

Speaking of great art, Belardinelli is next on Dare, with our first view of the BIogs’ Base.  Not sure the use of red, blue and black works that well – black and blue might have picked out the detail nicely but the third colour doesn’t work for me.  Anyway, Massimo gets to draw lots of strange aliens, so all is good (and we get the first appearance of the Axe of Office).

The Nerve Centre is next with a (doctored) photo of Tharg, flanked by a couple of adverts for stamps (from different companies!)  If I remember my Thrill-Power Overload correctly, this is Kelvin Gosnell dressed up as Tharg, terrorising a secretary.

Next up, M.A.C.H.1 fights for Himmler’s Gold.  Neo-Nazis, actual Nazis and Stormtrooper skeletons crop up in a story which is pretty similar to every other tale we’ve had of the M.A.C.H.man.

Rounding the prog, story-wise, is Dredd coming up against Frankenstein 2, an transplant organ harvester.  Dredd is in Sub Sector 6, rather than Section 6 now, so getting closer to current terminology.  One of McMahon’s best panels to date on the third page (where Dredd is blinded, except he isn’t).  Classic Dredd elements here – future crime, punchline and a comment from a mother to her child about how grim Dredd is.

Rounding the prog off altogether is a cut-away of the Harlem Heroes superliner provided by Kevin O’Neill, where we get to find out what those other satellite vehicles are (hover car and seven mopeds in addition to the helicopter, essentially).

2000AD Prog 5: Dredd’s Attacking the Cyborg!

Dredd makes the cover!  He’s a tiny dot on a Lawmaster, but he is there!  He’s not attacking a cyborg either, whatever the strapline says – it’s a plain old giant robot, albeit covered in fur.

The intro for Invasion! is over, with Savage now being part of the Resistance the Mad Dogs have entered London, ready to start causing trouble for the Volgs.

The resistance is going strong in the next story as well, but this time the dinosaurs are fighting (well, biting) the humans in Flesh.  Once again, Old One Eye is toppled, but this time she doesn’t stay down for long.  The poorly programmed Robot Marshall won’t let anyone have their guns back, so it’s going to be up to Reagan and Carver to burn down Carver City to drive the dinosaurs away.

I like the intro page for Harlem Heroes, bordered along the bottom of the two-page spread by the Harlem fans – that Dave Gibbons is going places!  The next page sees our introduction to the wild staring eyes of Ulysses Cord, offering a sparkly new superliner with a chopper and other satellite vehicles, with no strings attached.  Not at all dodgy then.  The first mention of a Transatlantic Tunnel as well.

Three chameleonic Biogs greet us on the next page, communicating with each other through changing colour.  If they turn red, then get away quick.  Monday and Dare defeat one, not that it makes any difference as they end up captured in a stomach prison cell anyway.  Back on the Odyssey, Ziggy Rodann tries to make the supreme sacrifice for the good of the ship, but acting commander Milton hesitates and she lives.

The next page sees the Nerve Centre, and the first appearance of the voting coupon – ‘This is what I like best…’ – kindly, the mighty one has filled in the first choice for us – that’s one vote for Tharg then!  Tharg isn’t a hands-on kind of editor apparently, as he has a letter-reading robot and a popularity programmer.  On the same page is an odd advert from the Home Office to answer questions on the police.  I forgot to mention, the previous prog saw an ad for the Air Training Corps.  Not seeming so anti-establishment now!

We get another Futuregraph – this one is for ‘War is the Volgan way of life’.  There seems to be a two-tier system in Volgan society – peasants work in the fields and factories while everybody else gets into fatigues and marches off to war.  There’s another secret message for those lucky souls who have a Red Alert Survival Wallet.

M.A.C.H.1 is off on holiday (recuperating from being shot the previous week) and showing off to Karen, who he asks too many questions when he shows off his hyper-power.  He can’t step on to a beach while on holiday without running in to an illegal weapons dealer though.  Towards the end of this episode he has a few doubts about his position as a man with a non-conscience in the form of his on-brain computer (Probe has the conscience, the computer tries to get him to ignore his emotions).  Pictorially this is an inauspicious start for the art droid who later will bring us talking cats, displaced Sov Judges and the Gila Munja, though its not every day you’re asked to draw a secret agent punching two people out of opposite sides of an aircraft…

Finally we get Dredd, in an Ezquerra-illustrated story featuring Kevin O’Neill, but as a character, not an artist!  I bumped into O’Neill last year, and he seemed completely unaware that there was a Dredd villain with his name (or he’d blocked it out).