Prog 78: War Declared on Humanity!

This is a particularly famous early cover – the first 2000AD newspaper-style offering, with a ‘photo’ provided by Kevin O’Neill of a giant ant over a prone man.

In the Nerve Centre a reader asks for models of Walter and the Quasar bike (Lawmaster). It only took about five more years for the Lawmaster to get a figure made of it (though I’m thinking of the 35mm scale RPG figures from Citadel Miniatures). Fast forward three or so decades and larger, more detailed models have been released. Another reader has submitted a Lego model of Dare’s Space Fort – not the last time Lego versions of 2000AD vehicles or characters will be printed in the Nerve Centre!

Jose Ferrer still has some art appearing in Robo-Hunter – though I think this might be the least episode with some panels redrawn by Gibson – if I remember correctly, from here on in it will be purely Ian Gibson’s artwork. One of the robots that tries to arrest Slade is ‘Police 5’ – named for the Crimewatch / Crimestoppers precursor. After the not-so-successful attempts at humour strips (I’m looking at Walter and Bonjo here) it’s good to have Slade’s noir-inspired voiceover injecting sardonic commentary. Slade and Kidd get taken prisoner as ‘Sims’ and taken to the Experimentation Complex. We get our first view of the streets of Verdus and taken into the prison (sorry, experimentation) complex. Ferrer was an artist with his strengths, but depicting vast future cities and dystopian isn’t one of them. He’s much more suited to more contemporary stories – which were more prevalent (and successful) in stablemates such as the 1980s Eagle – except that hasn’t been re-launched yet, it still being 1978.

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2000AD Sci-Fi Special 1978

There’s no snappy tag-line on this cover, just a Kev O’Neill piccy of a reptilian cowboy shooting a robot dropping a bag full o’ groats. It does have a brief list of what’s inside: Judge Dredd – good; Mach Zero – hopefully good; Dan Dare – as we saw in previous non-prog stories – jury’s out until we’ve read it; Mach 1 – same as Dare; Rick Random – ? One of those stands out…

Uh-oh – the cover isn’t allowed to stand on its own – it has to have a back-story to accompany it – didn’t Tharg learn his lesson from the Supercover Sagas? Despite a good pun (Butch Cathoderay) and a not so good one (the Sundroid Kid) the story can be safely skipped (despite the reptilian cowboy and the robot on the cover, the short story talks about two robots). If the story came first at least it inspired Kev to create that cover – if the other way around, at least it only takes up half a page. Sorry, Rick Preston!

The Dare story is written and drawn by Gary Leach, so at least the artwork should be good. The story is better than has appeared in other non-prog stories (and some of the weekly stories) and the artwork stands up well next to Belardinelli and Gibbons. It’s not quite the Leach we’ll later see on V.C.s Marvelman and Warpsmith, but it’s much better than the agency artwork we’ve seen so much. The story is set on Mars and takes place sometime between the Biogs story and the Legion of Lost Worlds story, after Dare has been reinstated by S.A.S.A. It does remind me slightly of the Alan Moore ABC Warriors story, which is also set on Mars, though *spoiler* this scientist survives!

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Prog 63: Beware of… RATS..! The Devil’s Lapdogs

Dredd has been given his mission. Dredd has assembled his team (much like Dare on his Legion of the Lost Worlds, he refuses suggestions and goes to find somebody from the criminal element). Now he’s actually going in to the Cursed Earth, and McMahon’s cover reveals that the first thing he’ll find there will be rats, henceforth to be known as the Devil’s Lapdogs!

Dan Dare finishes his Nightmare Planet excursion by realising that everything is an illusion and convincing his crew (well, the landing party) not to believe anything they see. Turns out that beings of light created the planet using mind-energy. This story has been one illusion after another, no peril at all (the defence of light-mind-energy beings is to scare off would-be intruders) and finishes by ‘and everybody wakes up’. Can you tell how unimpressed I am? It does have its good points though…

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Prog 56: Approaching planetary surface — now! Yaaaargh!

Another Dan Dare story, another planet, another type of life-form. Dave Gibbons practices his giant-tentacle-alien skills (that he will use to such effect on Watchmen). Through judicious use of anti-grav and servo-thrusters gives the giant alien burnt fingers. Tentacles. But that isn’t this week’s real threat – that comes from a tidal wave that knocks out the Eagle scout crafts motors and sends it into a twenty mile deep sea trench. The thing about Dare at the moment is that each episode has to have either a cliffhanger on the front page and a cliffhanger on the last page or the cliffhanger on the front page and a resolution on the last page, which means the threats have to come fast and furious and sometimes seem rushed.

This week’s Tharg’s Future-Shock comes a lot earlier than we’re used to. Alan Hebden provides the story, Magullans (who?) draws the piccies. The story is the standard ‘experimental time trip to the prehistoric past, kill a monkey, come back to the present to find that everybody is a hairy ape intead of homo sapiens’ i.e. the Butterfly Effect – a term taken from a science fiction story. The only twist is the very last panel where one of the time travellers stands in front of a mirror, preparing to remove his own helmet and see what’s underneath (we never find out if he’s the modern day human he went out as or if he’s been retrospectively evolved as a hairy ape).

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Prog 55: Bear… times six! Only one of you is real — the rest are clones that must be destroyed! But which ones do I kill?

is res

The cliffhanger for Dan Dare resolves in the same way I predicted (but hoped it would not). Dare tells Bear to go for his gun and the five fakes try to wrestle the real Bear for his real gun. As Bear is best known for his great strength and bear hug I’d hoped it would be some way other than the method used to unmask DoppelDare from earlier. Nice use by Jack Adrian of the planet bombs mentioned in the Space Fort cutaway from a few months earlier – again it makes me wonder if the ideas were introduced for the cutaway or pre-written into the weekly story and part of the brief for the postergraph.

MACH One goes pretty much how I’d expected, with Probe being chucked in a pool and insta-frozen. We find out that while his reaction were slowed, Probe’s hyper-acu-reflexes allowed him to prevent the wound from the thrown knife being a fatal one. The mafia have stolen a dolphin to lead them to a secret research area, while Probe (having de-iced himself by raising his body temperature to dangerous levels) follows a different dolphin to the same area.

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