The hexagonal Mike McMahon ABC Warriors cover is bold, and unlike the usual comic cover.
The Nerve Centre promises to publish both positive and negative letters in reaction to the 2000AD / Tornado merger, while also attempting to placate old Starlord fans. Meanwhile there are three pieces of reader art (all of which look original, i.e. not traced from the pages of 2000AD or other sources) plus a letter comparing Tharg’s hair style to that of punks, and suggesting he put a safety pin through his nose. Tharg’s response? Find it in the Grailquote section at the end!
Judge Dredd has an untitled story this week, though it tends to get called The Mob Blitzers or Dredd and the Mob Blitzers. Joe “Lips” Lazarus is testifying against fellow mobsters The Hammer. A week ago the Hammer tried to silence Lips, though succeeded only in destroying his body (22nd century medicine able to amputate the body while leaving the head more or less healthy. This story is centred around the mob blitzers – each implanted with self-destruct machines in case they get captured, preventing them from doing just what Lips is about to do. Meanwhile, Dredd is losing patience with Lips, who is a dab hand (when he had hands) at doing voice impressions, including Conrad Conn (previously seen in the Day the Law Died) and The Hammer himself. Speaking of which, the Hammer launches an assault on the hospital at which Lips is having a new body attached. Cleverly, ‘John Howard’ uses Lips voice impersonation to convince the mob blitzers that the Hammer has surrendered them, leading them to self-destruct… Dave Gibbons did the pictures and, unusually for him, not the letters, which were handled by Tom Frame. Next prog: Sob Story!
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).
This cover is fully painted and shows Savage and Bamber with a montage of scenes. For those experienced in reading children’s comics from the 1970s and 1980s (can’t speak for other decades) the most important part of the cover is the writing at the bottom. “Exciting news inside!” can mean only one thing in IPC-speak – next week is going to be a merger!
The Nerve Centre confirms that 2000AD & Starlord will be no more and 2000AD & Tornado shall be formed, with three Tornado characters being turned into 2000AD worthy of the prog. The only story which is really going to change will be Blackhawk, but more of that next week. Reader contributions-wise, one letter gives Tharg another chance to plug forthcoming story A Day in the Life of the Mighty Tharg. My favourite contribution this week is a photo of a Ro-Jaws model (complete with barrel bin).
Judge Dredd: The Guinea Pig Who Changed the Law (the story as printed doesn’t have a title, but I’m sure I’ve seen it called that somewhere – probably Barney). John’s Howard and Cooper re-introduce us to the world of scientific experimentation on animals, but instead of apes we get cats and guinea pigs this time.
Dave Gibbons’ provides a full-colour Dan Dare cover.
The Nerve Centre has reader art introducing Tharg’s sister, Marg, who will one day appear in comic form – I had no idea she was a reader creation! Taking pride of place in this nerve centre is a comic strip created by Steve Noble and Kev Sutherland. I had it in my head that Kev would be a regular art droid down the line, but apparently he’ll only contribute a single Captain Klep strip (while still at school) and a Ro-Busters strip in a forthcoming annual. He will go on to do other comics and become a comedian, appearing on TV.
Judge Dredd: Father Earth Part 2 from John Howard and Brian Bolland. Starting as the first episode did, with the Doomsday Dog on the offensive, though this time in the Power Tower instead of a Cursed Earth trading post. Their attack is quickly dealt with by Dredd and the other judges and apparently their plan is foiled when one is shot before they can set off the bomb plunger. Dredd goes out to handle negotiations with Father Earth, purposefully skidding to put dirt in the face of the cult leader. Some Chief Judges think he’s bad at diplomacy – he’s not just bad, he’s actively awful on purpose! Meanwhile the election goes on. For continuity geeks, it appears there’s seven humanoid candidates for the mayoral contest (assuming one sits behind the Robin Day parody presenting the show) plus a cat. I like this subtle humour – I first read this story around four decades ago and I’m pretty sure I never noticed the cat before now! While watching the election, Dredd realises too late what the true plan was – there’s a second bomb in Power Tower, in the auxiliary lava feed pipe, and it’s primed to go off when the moment of the election triggers a surge as millions vote across the city. Thus the Power Tower becomes an artificial volcano.
Following standalone Dave Gibbons and Brian Bolland covers, this week’s prog has a painted spaceship by Kevin O’Neill. Unfortunately there’s so much text on the cover that the image has been cut to half size.
The Nerve Centre contains instructions on assembling the robo-booklet, so this week’s back cover must be the last piece.
Judge Dredd: Father Earth is a multi-part story starting this week, though doesn’t have a ‘part one’ to clue us in. John Howard and Brian Bolland bring “Behold the Doomsday Dogs!” to us, starting at a trading post in the Cursed Earth. As well as Doomsday Dogs we’re introduced to Father Earth, a mutant on whom plants grow, who has a bone to pick with cities and technology. In conference with Chief Judge Griffin and Judge Dredd, Deputy Chief Pepper decides the 10,000 followers of Father Earth aren’t anything to worry about, and that they should all concentrate on the mayoral election taking place that day. Meanwhile, at the Power Tower, a robot reveals that the central bore hole tapping red-hot lava to generate electricity goes one hundred miles below the surface (it’s actually more like 1,800 miles – maybe the decimal place is in the wrong place). The Dogs, disguised as monks, have gained access to the geothermal power station and proceed to kill the robots within so that they can plant bombs. As the alarms are sounded it just happens that Dredd is passing by. He immediately guesses that it could be mutielanders causing the emergency, next prog: “Power Tower erupts!” This is a great episode, hitting the (Cursed) ground running and introducing concepts that will live with us for decades (even if they don’t get shown all that often). Howard/Wagner enjoys taking pot-shots at politics and politicians, including a call-back to Mayor Grubb’s appearance in The Day the Law Died (Grubb now gets the given name ‘Jim’. I’m not sure what the gimmick is with Grubb’s opponent – her name is Myra Schryll, her campaign slogan is “Put a doll in City Hall” and she looks a bit like the Statue of Liberty. I can’t tell whether she’s supposed to be a robot or a person in a mask.
A generic Dredd cover telling a story of its own here (for more details, look at the title of this post).
The Nerve Centre brings dire news – the Galaxy’s Greatest is going to go up in price from next week. Gone are the days when 2000AD cost 10p, it’s 12p from here on. The most notable thing about this Nerve Centre though is a piece of reader’s art. The artist? It’s only Colin MacNeil! I wonder if he ever included that Mega-City Prison Guard in any of his pages once he became a fully-fledged art droid?
Speaking of Judge Dredd, it’s time for A Tale From Walter’s Scwapbook (the second instalment). Last time Dredd arrested Walter, what’s going to happen this time? John Howard and Ron Smith (and Walter) bring us the tale of Ralph Bryce, an orphan who repeatedly got caught jimping (the term jimp isn’t used) until Dredd takes pity on him and enrolls him in the Academy of Law. We’ve seen the life of a rookie before, but this gives us a brief chance to experience the Academy as a cadet.
After last week’s disappointing film tie-in cover, this colourful giant robot from Dave Gibbons is more like it – though there’s an awful lot of blurb swamping the cover…
Tharg gives the Nerve Centre over to Ro-Jaws to celebrate the robot special this week. There’s a short story by one Andrew Taylor. I’m wondering if this is either the former guitarist for Duran Duran (around 18 years old at the time of this prog) or the birth name of Andrew Eldritch (who would have been 20). Probably neither.
Judge Dredd: The Forever Crimes from John Howard and Brian Bolland. Even though I’ve read this story many times over the past three or four decades, I can still see new details – like the ape in the background of Ryker’s Shuggy Hall. Speaking of which, shuggy is almost synonymous with Max Normal, but is this the first time we’ve seen the game? Whether or not it’s the first appearance of shuggy, it’s definitely the first appearance of the Vaults beneath the Grand Hall of Justice, which will have a few more patrons over the years.
The cover is taken from the James Bond: Moonraker film poster, with a few 2000AD-specific things pasted around the rest.
Tharg’s Nerve Centre features a short reader’s story (punchline the human race wiped itself out) and a picture by future art droid Adrian Salmon!
Judge Dredd: A Tale from Walter’s Scwapbook (not actually titled, but the next prog tag last week was along those lines) from John Howard and Ron Smith is an entertaining one-shot story. While Walter stories can get tiresome, the interplay between Walter and Dredd is much more entertaining, with Walter interrupting Dredd as the ‘hyper-cop’ attempts to break a bank robbery. Highlights are Dredd being forced to eat some soup in the middle of the Lawmaster blasting through to the bank and Walter defending Dredd from hostile crowds after Dredd arrests the robot for striking a human.
IPC may be pretending that the weekly 2000AD is actually 2000AD and Starlord, but the same cannot be said of the Sci-Fi Special, and so there is no ‘and Starlord’ above Brian Bolland’s picture of Judge Dredd and the Ape Gang. There’s a strip with a few promo pictures from within messing up the bottom of the cover.
The contents page has a good picture of the Space Fortress approaching an inhabited asteroid. Unfortunately it’s a reprint, though still better than some contents pages we’ve had previously.
Judge Dredd is brought to us by A. A. Grant and B. Ewins – Alan Grant’s first time on the lawman, in a story called The Billion Credit Caper. We already know who the antagonists are going to be though, ‘coz they’re plastered across the cover. Which is a shame as the mystery of Dredd’s would be assassin is kept until the end of the third page where we get our first clues (small like an animal, and Dredd hasn’t seen a tommy-gun used for years – not true – he saw them in Las Vegas last year). On the next page are Future-Shock style mysteries of people talking in shadow or viewed from behind so that we assume they’re humans. This page also has bananas strewn around the table… An accusation sometimes levelled at new Dredd scribes these days is that their stories tend to be based too much in continuity – rather than being entirely fresh tales they read like the author (sorry, script droid) has based their story entirely on older stories, so it’s interesting that Grant’s first story directly references an earlier story. There’s an interesting scene where Walter gives Dredd a massage, which may make it to the grailquote section at the end of this post…
Carlos Ezquerra’s cover shows our Stront trio in a boat crossing a lake or river of liquid fire. There’s somebody else in the boat with them – I’d guess it’s Fly’s-Eyes, but if it is then he’s donned a hood.
The Nerve Centre points out the lack of Dredd, plus we get reader’s art of Fergee for the second week running (I’m wondering if the previous prog’s was the first reader’s art submitted by a female reader).
Robo-Hunter is heading for a resolution, with Slade getting the idea to use Radio Verdus to transmit a signal that will destroy the circuits of all robots on the planet. Boots is unimpressed by the latest plan (which involves using technology banned on earth as it leads to all cybernetics being damaged). Despite this being the episode where Slade gets the idea of how to ‘solve’ the problem of Verdus, it’s otherwise not exceptional (though the annoying cab-robot is well done).