2000AD and Starlord Prog 102: What’s the big idea, creep? Your players are cheating! Play Robopoly with Robo-Hunter!

Two series went on hold for the 2000AD and Starlord merger – Dan Dare and Robo-Hunter. Dan Dare got a Dave Gibbons cover last prog, this week it’s the turn of Sam Slade, Kidd and B.O. ably brought to the cover by Ian Gibson.

The Nerve Centre is given over to overseas readers, from far-flung places like… the Channel Islands. (Also South Africa, New Zealand, Ghana, Germany, Dar Es Salaam and B.F.P.O. (which could have been on the mainland for all we know).

The dream team of John Howard, Brian Bolland and Tom Frame (other dream teams exist) bring forth The Day the Law Died! as Fergee leads the five judges and judge tutors to his palace. In the same way that the mystery of Verdus was revealed some way into the tale (robots programmed to think humans were superior only worked when SJ-1 was the only robot on Verdus), we finally find out how Cal keeps his reign of terror – his role as head of the SJS meant he compiled the daily crime briefings downloaded directly into the brains of the judge force of Mega-City One. Now they have an inkling of the source of Cal’s power, it’s up to Dredd and Fergee to creep to the Hall of Justice (Grand or otherwise) to use these tapes against him. Tapes! How fast technology can date sci-fi!

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2000AD and Starlord Prog 100: 100th Thrill-powered issue! Robo-Hunter Returns Still fighting – Still in trouble! Did Dan Dare die? Find out in Servant of Evil!

An unimpressive cover for the 100th Prog – no original art commissioned, just art taken from two stories inside and a small version of the collectable poster (which itself is just a blown-up reprint of the cover to the first Cursed Earth prog). The logo got redesigned so that 2000AD and Starlord are no longer sharing equal billing, with the word Starlord merely underlining 2000AD.

More impressive than the cover is the reader’s art in the Nerve Centre – one of Tweak and family (misidentified as ‘drawings of Tweak’ but it definitely shows both Tweak and his family) and another of Tharg, Starlord and a host of the characters from both comics – there are loads of word balloons but unfortunately the picture is reproduced at too low a scale to read.

Ro-busters go from the centre pages last prog to the first spot this prog – both are coveted spaces! Pat Mills and Dave Gibbons bring on the fight, with Charlie quickly dispatching Tyranno-Mek, Fantas-Tek and King Konka while Howard Quartz and Northpool Council leader Ron Murdoch trying to pin the blame on each other. When it’s clear they’ll both do their level best to avoid any controversy touching them they come up with a plan to blame Charlie. As robots can’t lie, their plan will also involve killing Charlie. A navy destroyer is on its way to trick Charlie into going out, before it unleashes its guns on the giant robot. Mek-Quake acts (and talks) more like Mek-Quake this prog. Quartz paraphrases Adolf Hitler (“the bigger the lie, the more likely we are to get away with it”) and the next prog tag is a direct quote from Mein Kampf: “The Big Lie!”

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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!”

Star Lord No 22: Starlord’s ship is waiting to carry him… Beyond the Stars! See inside!

Starlord’s ship appears to be a frog-shaped hovercraft with robotic spider arms. Or maybe it’s the jet plane above.

What can I say about the last episode of Mind Wars? Well, it starts well – we go two whole pages with everybody playing along that Ardeni has died in the heart of a nuclear explosion before she reveals herself and fake Arlen (real name Tarsh). She forces the means to contact the Green Star from the mind of a Lenarthian elder, very quickly learns how to control her powers, gets told the location of the Jugla homeworld, leads a huge Federal fleet there then attempts to kill Na-Rutha. As well as control of her powers the Green Star has taught her to use them ‘wisely’ i.e. not to use them to neutralise mass murderers and dictators. Instead she neutralises all of the weapons of both sides of the galactic conflict (which raises more questions – this might include everything from hand energisers to ship-bourne laser cannons (or whatever they’re called) but what about spears, swords, bows, arrows, knives…) The story as written says that the two sides have no choice now but to talk to each other – this happens in the last two panels of a 21-issue story – to say the merger has lead to a rushed ending is an understatement. It just about reads, though could only have been better if it had had a few more weeks. We’ll see what actually happens in a later annual (or was it the summer special?) As I write this, most of you will have had the opportunity to get the reprint of Mind Wars that appeared in the last two Judge Dredd Megazines, so you’ll have seen how jarring the sudden ending was.

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2000AD Prog 84: Ant Wars rages on! “For they shall inherit the Earth.” H.G. Wells

In a third Ant Wars cover by Kev O’Neill the artist goes for a much more straight-forward scene of a family defending themselves from a giant ant (as opposed to the introductory world-spanning ant and the newspaper headline covers).

Nerve Centre – teases big news, and any veteran reader of British comics in the 1970s and 1980s knows that can mean only one thing – two comics are going to merge! I was too young to read 2000AD at this time (possibly too young to read anything) but it’s something I experienced in the early eighties with Spike (from DC Thompson, merged with Champ in 1984), Scream! (merged with Eagle – also in 1984) and Tiger (merged with Eagle in 1985). For that matter, Revolver (which will be featured in this blog at some point in coming years) sort-of merged with Crisis.

Speaking of the forthcoming merger, this is the last episode of Robo-Hunter for a while as it takes a break to make space for the Starlord strips that are going to crossover (I don’t remember what happens in the next episode of Robo-Hunter, so I’m going to guess this made a more natural break than the next episode would – I can’t imagine that deadlines were getting on top of Ian Gibson, as he’d drawn a few episodes of Strontium Dog not long before). Slade approaches Smokin’ Joe, removing the disguise and letting SJ-1 recognise him as a human, not a sim. Things seem to be looking up but not long after Slade and Cutie get captured. Thanks to Boots they escape and the three head out to try to convince a planet full of robots of the truth…

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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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2000AD Prog 82: Alien Roots

Classic Bolland, showing Tweak in the alien slave market. For some reason those attending the market are throwing tomatoes at the slaves – would you mess up something that you were about to buy? p.s. this scene doesn’t appear in the comic!

Nerve Centre has a few letters from girls (curiously both in Ireland – which doesn’t even have a cover price) demanding better representation. Off the top of my head I can’t think when the next strong female lead will appear – Anderson is well over a year away and Ardeni Lakam only appears in Starlord. I agree completely that Lorna Varn is not a positive female character (so promising as well, appearing on the cover of the first prog with Death Planet).

Boots leads Sam Slade Robo-Hunter through what I will call Verdus city. It’s not long before the pair are surrounded by robocops shooting at them (even with Sam wearing Boots to run at 60 miles per hour). They finally escape when Boots jumps seemingly into thin air but actually to a far-off ledge. They make it to the Robotic Records Office, where the records clerk reveals where SJ1 is currently located and things appear to look up…

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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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2000AD Prog 80: You come any closer Mr. Robot and… …Robo-Hunter will get you!

Ian Gibson provides the cover, featuring Slade, Kidd and Cutie (the first half of the cover blurb is provided by Kidd, the latter by Cutie).

In the Nerve Centre, Tharg plugs the 2000AD 1979 annual – does that mean it’s out at this point, or it’s coming out in the near future? I hadn’t been expecting to be reading it (and the Dan Dare annual) for about another seven days…

Sam Slade carries on ploughing through the Verdus robots. The trio manage to escape the experimentation complex and go on the run. There troubles begin when they break into an apartment and find that everything within is robotic – kettle, boots, clock – everything! There are some nice touches – one of which I will probably leave until the grailquote section…

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