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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2000AD Prog 79: Dredd in Las Vegas

McMahon’s cover introduces us to Las Vegas Judge Fingers and Dredd in front of a huge fruit machine (albeit one with death’s head symbols instead of fruit)!

The 2000AD Nerve Centre tells us that Dare is going to face the Doomsday Machine in this prog (recognise the name but the story eludes me for the time being). Tharg reveals that Tweak will be accompanying Dredd for the rest of the journey across the Cursed Earth (are you supposed to reveal that supporting characters will survive to the end of a story?) and that Walter will be back soon, presumably in a series of one-page strips.

Slade is being carried through the experimentation complex – and is fully drawn by Ian Gibson now. Slade and Kidd are stripped and examined by medical robots, who it has to be said look rather similar to the drones from 1972 film Silent Running. Ardeni Lakam may get naked at the drop of a hat over in Star Lord, but Sam Slade provides the (enforced) male nudity over in 2000AD. The word ‘Drokk’ get used by Slade… After a bit of pseudo-science the captive Robo-Hunter adjusts his blaster to cope with the hard metal which Verdus robots are made from and escapes – next prog promises a riot!

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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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Star Lord No 12: Experience body-shock now!

This is the second cover by Brian Lewis (his first was the Nazi World 2478 A.D. / Time Control 85 million B.C Time-Quake cover). It is rather reminiscent of a Dorian Gray film poster – it could almost be denied, except that’s a very distinctive belt!

Mind Wars usually takes the first story honours, and this issue is no exception. It opens with the funeral of Arlen Lakam (who is getting shot into space “to travel the stars forever” – if that’s the usual method of body disposal there must be a lot of space rocket coffins flying around the solar system). Doctor Varn wants Ardeni to help the Federal Interstellar Strike Corps to find the Jugla homeworld, though seeing as the compatriots killed Kola not so long ago she doesn’t have much time for this request. Tiller and Ardeni head off and are given a starchart by Kola’s people but the Jugla attack soon after. It’s all a ploy to trace Ardeni’s brain waves so that a projection cap can be put on Klee-Fang’s head (the shoulder dragon who eat piranha for breakfast) to send Ardeni mad.

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Star Lord No 11: ‘My brain is a time-bomb – programmed to DESTROY ALL HUMAN LIFE’

In general I’ve not been doing any research on each prog or issue, partially because books such as Thrill-Power Overload and The Mighty One exist but mainly because I have about three thousand comics (progs, megs, Starlords, Tornados, Crisises, annuals, specials and the rest) to read for this blog already, without adding to the reading material. For this I tried to find out who the uncredited cover artist was. I found out that Ramon Sola had been responsible for a couple of the more fantasy-oriented painted covers previously, Brian Bolland guested on issue 2, Ron Embleton on 6, Brian Lewis on 8 and Graham Cotton on 9 and 10. Nobody seems to know who did this Mind Wars cover though, which has an airbrush effect.

This is the episode of Mind Wars that has Ian Gibson join Jesus Redondo on art duties, though I can’t work out which bits are done by Gibson – there’s the odd touch every now and then that looks like it could be by Gibson but whether he was drawing panels, pages or handling pencils or inking duties I can’t tell. Story-wise, the twins are controlling Doctor Varn and force him to send a cobalt fusion bomb into the sun. The voice of Tilman snaps Ardeni out of the trance, but the Jugla control of her brother is too great and she is forced to kill him, but too late to stop the cobalt sun. The sun explodes but seemingly without too much effort she manages to unexplode it. More importantly than stopping the sun exploding, she reverses the control the Jugla have of her and becomes the first human to catch a glimpse of the Jugla homeworld.

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Star Lord No 10: Death at Warp Factor 9

Pointless cover of a fist smashing a spaceship, justified by being ‘Federation propaganda’.

A much better use of time is over the page with Mind Wars. The Solar Saint is destroyed in the first page, though anybody who is familiar with stories will know the occupants had already escaped before it blew up (at least it wasn’t used as a cliffhanger). They’ve landed in the Gobi Desert, and Kola the teddy bear does not cope with the heat well. Turns out I have something in common with the Jackal Troopers – sadistic ground forces who carry out punishment missions – they call Kola a teddy bear too. Better stop using thatracial slur then! Oh, and Kola dies from the heat / trauma of being assaulted by the Jackals. The actual cliff-hanger this episode is Ardeni and Arlen appearing in the office of Doctor Varn under the control of the Jugla.

Cutting Mind Wars by half a page is a Pepsi advert parody for 2000AD – though the campaign it’s parodying are slightly before my time so I’d have had no idea what it was going on about (other than the cola can with 2000AD written on it).

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