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 108: The doctor will examine you now… Say ah… Aaaaah!

Dr Feeley Good appears on the cover, terrorising a pair of humes in their living room, cover courtesy of Mike McMahon.

In the Nerve Centre, Tharg takes recent industrial action as an excuse to push subscriptions. Tharg also blames industrial disputes on the changing of Belardinelli to Carlos Pino towards the end of Flesh (I’m still convinced it’s because he got moved over to The Angry Planet).

The Day the Law Died! reaches its climax as the de-programmed judges reclaim the streets from the Kleggs. Meanwhile, Dredd uses a roadliner (much like the one that crashed through to the Undercity) to break in to the Statue of Judgement. Fergee finally gets his opportunity to get heavy as the de-programmed judges weren’t as de-programmed as it had at first appeared – at least not in the presence of Cal himself. Pinned down, only Fergee has the strength to pick Cal up and carry him to his death (along with four brainwashed judges who tried, and failed to stop him). So dies Fergee (and Cal). Kleggs attempting to escape don’t get much further than the atmosphere, while statues to Fergee are erected citywide. Not for the last time, there are calls for Dredd to become the next Chief Judge, though his place is on the streets. Instead, Griffin is appointed Chief Judge, with Pepper as his Deputy. After the trials of his trip to the moon, his trip across the Cursed Earth and his trip to the Undercity, Joe needs a rest so will be back in two progs time.

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2000AD and Starlord Prog 106: Blow Their Circuits Out, Kidd! What do you Think this is – a Baby’s Rattle?

Prog 106 has an Ian Gibson cover of Slade and company getting stuck in to the war on the robot planet, with speech balloons.

In the Nerve Centre, Tharg makes an attempt to increase readership, concentrating specifically on getting more girls to read the Galaxy’s Greatest. Meanwhile there’s mention of “a Starlord complete story” over the next few months – I don’t recall this ever occurring, apart from the story commemorating 40 years since the launch of the sister comic. In other news, a suggestion from a reader to use cornflake boxes to store progs (good) and decorate it by cutting out your favourite picture from the comic (bad).

In The Day the Law Died!, Cal gazes out over Mega-City One, Grampus by his side, the city encircled by the one-mile high wall. Liking the worldbuilding, as I do, here’s the following… It’s not quite a ‘named block’ but Labour Block K19 (note British English spelling) contains slaves working to maintain the wall. The city trains last ran on time 170 years earlier – were the 1920s particularly good for railway punctuality in New York? Fergee’s address is 18 City Bottom Row, District 437 (WJ2) 17/8 673(9). No mention of sectors. Meanwhile in the story, strip-searches mean strip-searches in the Mega-City – and all done publically (though I’m not sure this is just something under Chief Judge Cal). The resistance consists of Dredd, Giant, Griffin, Pepper and Kelso, who between them prove that the briefing tapes contain subliminal messages brainwashing the judges to “obey Cal”. A the same time, Chief Judge Cal is suffering worsening visions of the old Chief Judges, taunting him (the old Chief Judges at this time would be Fargo, Solomon and Goodman). Walter falls into old habits and so is the first to find that Cal has a plan as he brings the CJ his breakfast one morning. The plan is to execute the entire city the following day, including all citizens and all judges.

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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 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 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 94: Citizens of Mega-City One, I sentence you to… Death! Can no-one stop the insane Judge Cal?

Chief Judge Cal glares out while pronouncing his death sentence on Mega-City One in this eye-catching cover by Mike McMahon. Possibly the first colour depiction of a Chief Judge, the gloves and shoulder pads are all red, rather than green or yellow…

The Nerve Centre is jammed full of letters this week, half on Ro-Jaws and Hammerstein the others on a variety of topics, including one who wants to see Dredd’s face in Prog 100 on the grounds that “Never, but NEVER have you shown us JUDGE DREDD’S face!” – I’d let that slide but they were very insistent. Dredd’s youthful face was shown in profile in The Return of Rico, alongside his brother on the shooting range. You can’t see much, but it does disprove both ‘Never’ and ‘NEVER’.

Judge Dredd in The Day the Law Died (Behold the Hordes of Klegg!) starts with one of those flash-forwards I dislike so much, and perfectly shows why they’re a bad idea. The splash-forward page shows Kleggs raining from the sky and shooting rifles. In the actual story, art duties are shared by Bolland and Leach and start with Dredd and his army of tutors and citizens driving Cal’s judges back to the Hall of Justice with Joe giving Cal an ultimatum. Cal responds cooly, telling Slocum that Dredd will get his answer in five minutes. If we hadn’t had that splash-forward page already we’d have no idea what Cal’s secret weapon would be, as it is we’ve seen it and it’s been given two names (Hordes of Klegg and the Curse of Cal). That aside, we get five page of rebellion, alien mercenaries and a finale showing Cal outlining how his earlier sentencing of the entire city to death will be carried out.

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2000AD and Star Lord Prog 88: Hammer-stein and a Cast of Thousands in… Yesterday’s Hero He was a robot in a man’s war!!!

The cover by Kevin O’Neill (and trailed last prog) shows Hammerstein starring in a war film with ‘screenplay’ by Pat Mills, ‘produced’ by Steve McManus and Roy Preston and ‘directed’ by Kelvin O’Gosnell.

The Nerve Centre features a few reader’s models of space craft, and the Eagle scout craft made from cardboard is pretty impressive! The bottom of the page lets us know that Future Shocks are back this issue (note, it says ‘issue’ not ‘prog’).

Judge Dredd: Bring Me the Head of Judge Dredd! is the third part of the narrative now known collectively as The Day the Law Died or Judge Caligula, and has Brendan McCarthy and Brett Ewins as the third and forth art droids on the case. Off the top of my head we’re going to get two more, one of which will be the Dredd debut – if not 2000AD debut – of Ron Smith. Sometimes a constantly changing roster of artists can damage an ongoing story, but (maybe because this was my first Titan collected edition) I think it works on this story. On with the episode itself – starts with a flash-forward (which I hate) then on to the manhunt for Dredd – the biggest in Mega-City One’s history. Having mentioned Max Normal last prog (due ot the presence of an evil pencil-moustached character) here’s the real deal to give some info on skilled cyberneticists to Dredd. Too late, the person who built the robo-Dredd has been killed by his creation. With the aid of a magnet, Dredd defeats the imposter and takes it to the Chief Judge. Cal still looks like Pat Mills. I thinkhe gets a makeover next issue, following complaints from Uncle Pat.

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2000AD Prog 83: Stomm! Now the DEAD are rising to challenge the law! Dredd vs- the Legion of the Damned!

Mike McMahon introduces us to The Legion of the Damned in a cover that could almost be a panel from the story inside. The Legion are long-dormant robots rising from the ground to attack Dredd. They’re not the only thing rising, as the price of the prog has gone up from 9p to 10p this week.

In the Nerve Centre, Tharg points out the price rise by printing a now out-of-date letter from a reader complaining about other things rising in cost. The rest of the letters and nerve centre are attacks on Tharg (and the droids) for stealing ideas from the book Damnation Alley for Cursed Earth and the film Them for Ant Wars. As with the comic itself being inspired by forthcoming film Star Wars and starting story MACH 1 having been strongly influenced by The Six Million Dollar Man, the stories were more likely to have been commissioned to tie in to films that would soon be on release – Damnation Alley was on release in the USA while the adaptation of Empire of the Ants (from the book by H.G. Wells) was reviewed in the Sci-Fi Special.

A wonderful opening splash page for Robo-Hunter (maybe I’m baised after those two annuals this week) with Sam, Cutie and Boots on a hill overlooking Process Plant 8883. The next page also has a splash, this time with loads of faulty robots waiting to go in for processing (recycling). As you’d expect from Ian Gibson, these robot designs are fantastic, showing character and proving we’re not in pre-2000AD blocky robot territory. Another page, another splash – this time a full-page panel showing the innards of the robot factory, with a conveyor belt of destruction. Classes of robots have been mentioned a few times – basically the higher the class number the more intelligent (and less easy to fool) a robot is. This was in a different series as well, but I didn’t make a note and can’t remember which one it was – presumably Judge Dredd, but may have been something else. We find out here that robots can be fooled by simple disguises – class 1s and 2s by something as basic as a name and serial number. Not sure if Boots is a 2 or 3, but they get fooled by what is essentially a fork-lift harness. What is sure is that Class 1s, in the form of dust bugs, are very easily formed and Slade shows a sadistic side in ordering them to report for recycling, despite their plaintive protestations. At the end of the episode, the trio get a sight of SJ1.

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