2000AD and Starlord Prog 110: It’s the Rebel Leaders! Guards – Kill Them!

The first thing to say about this prog is that the printing has improved drastically (as was noted in other prog slogs), more akin to Starlord than to 2000AD or Tornado. A forum thread details changes over the years. This particular prog has a Dave Gibbons cover of Dare and Sondar on the run.

The Nerve Centre does not mention the change in printing at all, though does have a reader write in to inform us all of the Strontium Bitches, a group of girls in South Shields who want more females in starring roles. Tharg’s reply alludes to Judge Death, which won’t be printed for nearly forty weeks – I’d heard Brian could be a slow worker…

Speaking of Brian Bolland, in Judge Dredd Punks Rule! this prog. In the wake of Cal’s reign, Gestapo Bob Harris has declared himself Chief Judge of Southside Sector 41. In the style of the first Judge Dredd story, one judge suggests getting together a squad of judges (50 or so) but Dredd declares that one judge will be enough, to give the street punks back their fear of Justice Department. Hmm, Gestapo Bob surrenders, is forced to say he’s a cheap punk after which Dredd uses water torture on him to force him to say it again – wouldn’t that be excessive violence? I’m sure other judges will be sent to Titan, and cadets expelled from the Academy, for less. Instead of being cubed, Dredd drives towards the South Mutieland Tunnel and expels them from the city for, revoking their citizenship for ten years. Something curious about that though – the word balloon obviously changes style for the second half with “As punishment for your crimes I remove your citizenship.” In one style of handwriting and “You will not be allowed to enter Mega-City One for ten years!” in another. As for Dredd’s hard line with the punks, going on about how citizenship is a privilege, not a right, and that the law must be obeyed – this is a bit rich considering some of the laws that have been in place for the previous 100+ days under Cal!

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2000AD and Starlord Prog 105: Judge Dredd is a Wotten Cweep Twue by Judge Walter Dredd Betrayed!

Bolland draws a classic Walter pic, giving away the contents of the comic somewhat by showing him wearing a judge badge. This is the Walter that will appear in later annual one-page stories.

The Nerve Centre introduces us to Big E (re-named from E-Man, as he had been a few weeks earlier), shaking hands with Tharg. This is not a spot illustration by an art droid – they got one of editorial to don the rubber Tharg mask and Dave Gibbons to get dressed up as a superhero! So, the next post after this one will be about issue one of Tornado.

Ewins and McCarthy show Walter cowering before Cal in The Day the Law Died! before carrying out Dredd’s plan – to betray him! Cal sends for the Badgemaker and, as shown on the cover, Judge Walter is appointed – Mega-City One’s first robot judge – take that, Mechanismo! Slocum questions Cal’s judgement in making Walter a judge and makes a big mistake – he calls the Chief Judge ‘crazy’. This is picked up on, and Slocum claims he was just worried. There follow the panels featured in last prog’s teaser page – featuring parodies of late 1970s TV personalities and talk shows – I’m a bit young to get them, but I thinkthey’re Frank Bough, Robin Day and Russell Harty. All too aware that calling Cal crazy was a huge mistake, Slocum has been keeping an eye on Walter, so is there to catch the robot red-handed when he attempts to steal a briefing tape. Too late though, Cal has him paralysed, molds his face into a smile and pickles him in vinegar before he can reveal Walter’s secret. Apparently this episode would have been half a page longer, but the image of Slocum pickled was censored in case children copied it. Copied getting a specimen jar large enough to put a human being in and enough vinegar to fill said jar. Censorship can be weird sometimes!

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2000AD and Starlord Prog 104: Death on the Mutant Express!

Strontium Dog is back, and hopefully with some of the equipment that makes the story distinctive! The cover is by King Carlos and shows Johnny fighting Fly’s-Eyes Wagner atop a train (or what passes for a train in the future on an alien planet).

In the Nerve Centre we find out that 2000AD (10p in the UK) costs 60c in the USA, with the exchange rate that’s roughly 30p. Exchange rates have changed – it’s closer to 60c/50p nowadays.

Never mind all that though – something major has happened in Judge Dredd: The Day the Law Died! It’s a shame to say goodbye to Gary Leach on art duties, but this week’s art droid is Ron Smith, making his 2000AD debut! He gets off to a great start, firstly with Dredd and Fergee dispatching the Kleggs, then with Walter doing double-takes when he sees Fergee’s flies, and takes matters into his own hands. Claws. Pincers. Whatever you call the things on the end of Walter’s arms. While this is going on, Dredd carries out a recce to make sure reinforcements aren’t going to investigate the sounds of gunfire. After a chase through the streets of MC-1 (to make sure that the judges see his face), Dredd escapes to the Undercity with Fergee while Walter goes to the Hall of Justice to face Cal.

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2000AD and Starlord Prog 103: Turn up the heat! The robo knackers yard is— Hell on earth!

Kevin O’Neill brings us a very red cover, with melting droids screaming in the furnace while humans look on.

In the Nerve Centre we get instructions on how to put the four parts of the poster together (cardboard, painted black to stop print showing from the other side, stick on to cardboard) plus a warning from Tharg for Earthlets not to copy art from other comics. He also says something about how his robots would be punished by a visit to Mek-Quake if they copied…

John Howard continues on Judge Dredd: The Day the Law Died! with Gary Leach returning, alone this time (if you remember, he was working with Bolland on an earlier episode). It’s a Klegg-heavy episode, and Leach is great at drawing Kleggs – starting from their first appearance and continuing to a post-Cal tale (which I think is going to be called Night of the Blood-beast, but I might be mixing up stories). Dredd and Fergee pay a visit to his old rooms and Walter, who is forced to serve the Kleggs billetted in the rooms. A few great moments, most of which revolve around Fergee being slow on the uptake and overreacting when he understands a joke.

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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 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 96: We’re gonna hit him! That guy’s dead… unless he’s – Superman! Eject into hell with – Angel!

Aircraft on the cover means that Ian Kennedy is drafted in to bring an Angel illustration.

The Nerve Centre has a warning of a ‘special shock issue’ – no idea what this is a reference to.

The Day the Law Died! sees Grampus, leader of the Kleggs, appointed Deputy Chief Judge, replacing Fish, and a plethora of draconian laws brought in, designed solely to make the mega-citizens suffer. This leads to a second page splashpage, showing a column of evacuees appearing to leave through a gate in a wall (not that there’s supposed to be city walls at this point), with little touches like ‘Booth is a bowb’ graffiti on a ruined wall in the Cursed Earth / Mutant Land. Cal is not happy (but when is he?) and gives the new Deputy Chief Judge absolute power to stop those attempting to leave. With Grampus on the case, the exodus is stemmed by late afternoon. Cal orders that wall built, one mile high with gun emplacements and searchlights. In the course of a single episode we see a guerilla attack by Dredd to disrupt the construction, but to no avail as the wall goes up within three weeks. Cal still isn’t happy that ‘Dreddists’ continue to resist his rule. Grampus isn’t just along for the ride – he gets involved, and brings in the Hounds of Klegg – in his words “creates nothing can hide from”. The hunt is on!

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2000AD and Starlord Prog 95: Burn them – burn the robot rebels!

Mike Dorey provides his first cover for Ro-Busters (apparently he also did the uncredited cover for Prog 6 – John Probe against Nazi skeletons underwater).

The Nerve Centre has letters about the 2000AD and Starlord merge – from those who like 2000AD and not Starlord, those who like Starlord and not 2000AD and those who like 2000AD and Starlord. Andrew Saunders is awarded the £10 prize for a picture of Starlord wearing the rosette of sirius and Tharg’s jumpsuit. Or possibly Tharg wearing Starlord’s boufant, robe and carrying his gun. Is this the first ‘Tharg the…’ reader’s picture?

John Howard, Brian Bolland and Gary Leach are back on The Day the Law Died, with lettering by ‘Thomas’ – Tom Frame has previously been ‘Tomas Frame’ so he seems to like playing with his name when crediting himself! The executions begin but Dredd has a plan. ‘Recruiting’ Slocum, Cal is told that Deputy Chief Judge Fish died at the time of the first execution. The death sentence is suspended and following an unattended funeral parade, Cal promises to make the city suffer like never before. There’s not much I can say about this episode, except how pitch-perfect it is – I’m not sure how the art duties were divided up (I’m guessing Bolland did pencils while Leach the inks) but they perfectly capture John Wagner’s script. Plus Tom Frame puts in a irregularly shaped speech bubble to surround the over-sized final word of the episode – “SUFFER!”.

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2000AD and Starlord Prog 93: No! Please let me drown before the giant scorpions get to me!

In case there’s any doubt, this Flesh cover shows off Belardinelli’s skill at depicting monstrous beasts as a giant scorpion emerges from the waters to attack hapless humans in the Triassic.

The Nerve Centre highlights that there was an industrial dispute which kept the prog from the shelves for the best part of a month. I can sympathise – something similar happened in my first year as a squaxx. The droids antics in the Laugh-In have been brought to Tharg’s attention and they’re on a warning not to refer to him as ‘green bonce’ or ‘mush face’ again…

Brett Ewins continues the revolt with Judge Dredd in The Day the Law Died! ably assisted by Brendan McCarthy. As Dredd and company take over Broadcast Control, Judge Schmaltz lives up to his name, sobbing with emotion. Mega-citiznes heed Dredd’s call and take to the streets. Cal’s bath is interrupted and sentences the entire city to death. Meanwhile Dredd is unhappy at the casualty rate and leads a small convoy to Justice Dept Armoury East so that weapons can be distributed out ot the people. It’s a great episode (even fitting in a “the people are revolting” gag, but even so the highlight is the next prog tag. “The Kleggs are coming!”

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2000AD and Starlord Prog 92: I, Tharg, have journeyed from the depths of space… Do you dare to share my travels?

This prog has a Tharg cover by Colin Wyatt, apparently the only work he ever did for the Galaxy’s Greatest. It’s a pointillist pic, seemingly traced over a photo of an editorial droid wearing the Tharg rubber mask and boiler suit.

The Nerve Centre features a reader who has created a composite picture of a model spaceship on a cosmic background (and explains the process – to think, before the digital age people would have to cut out all those pictures). Letters call for the return of Robo-Hunter (yay!) and Dan Dare (erm…) and Tharg recounts some of the thrills from 2000AD and Starlord and whether they should return (Mind Wars – will return in an annual, Timequake – will return in a year or two, but not for long, Holocaust – nope, MACH-1 – nope, MACH-Zero – yep! Inferno – nope).

Judge Dredd: The Day the Law Died! introduces Mayor Jim Grubb. So, the Brotherhood of Darkness story featured an un-named Mayor’s son – that annual story had Mayor Amalfi (“wind resistance”) and this story has Mayor Grubb (first name isn’t actually mentioned in this episode). Either Mayor Amalfi had a son who wasn’t mentioned in his appearance or he had taken office recently. Similarly Mayor Grubb can only have been mayor for less than a year (based on what has been presented so far). Grubb’s robes of office are not unlike those of the chief judge, complete with cloak, chains, eagle and skin tight jumpsuit. I don’t remember seeing another other mayors wearing a uniform – though I could have just forgotten. Maybe… Brett Ewins shows us the first revolt against Chief Judge Cal and its suppression (and has to use an arrow to guide us around the panels, a pet hate which I’ve written about before). Dredd has recouperated enough to lead the squad of Academy tutors. It seems strange to see Dredd ordering Griffin around, as I mainly knew him as Chief Judge (hope that spoiler doesn’t ruin anything for you!) The squad are on their way to rouse a revolt in a full-page splash cliffhanger ending.

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