Tornado No 5: Panic on the Pan-Martian Highway!

Looks like Ian Kennedy providing an Angry Planet cover, featuring the ship that Markham used to travel to Earth and back making a landing on a Martian highway. If I’m right on my guess, they really do get Kennedy to draw anything involving a flying vehicle!

The Big Editorial carries on the office politics photostory from previous weeks. I guess it marks the editorial pages as different when compared to 2000AD and Starlord…

Black Hawk is still trying to get together one hundred men to serve under him. What happens is that he ends up at the colosseum, the hawk tricks the emperor into sparing both of the best gladiators, blackhawk subsequently tricks them into not killing and robbing him, he recruits them, then the hawk leads the three up to a hill of execution. Crassus intervenes to spare the criminals due to be executed, allowing Black Hawk to recruit them. Despite their attempting to murder him less than an hour earlier, Stronus and Batus (the gladiators) are concerned that the criminals will do exactly the same as they had planned… My initial thought was that the only character who acts with agency is the hawk, though (the human) Black Hawk did trick Stronus and Batus into attacking his uniform while he watched from the shadows, then fought them. The emphasis of the comic on ‘heroes’ means I’m always going to be looking at how heroic those appearing actually are… Footnote – in checking the spelling for the colosseum, I found out two things: 1) it was originally called the Flavian Ampitheatre and 2) it was built in 70CE, twenty years after the setting of Black Hawk (to be fair, it isn’t called the colosseum in the strip, but it does look exactly like it).

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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.

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2000AD and Star Lord Prog 89: Don’t die *sob* dear Judge Dwedd – please don’t die! Murder in Mega-City One!

Mike McMahon leads us to believe that Dredd is dead with Walter crying over his body (again – McMahon already showed us Dredd’s funeral once, about a year earlier – Walter was there as well).

In the Nerve Centre we get told the Future Shock will be archaeological in nature, that the Preying Mantis cutaway begins this prog and that there’s a futuregraph of the Lawmaster.

Judge Dredd: The Day the Law Died! begins, letting us know that Clarence Goodman has been Chief Judge for 43 years and that he has monthly rejuvenation treatments, just before he gets stabbed to death. Judge Cal’s SJS try to block Dredd from seeing the Chief Judge in the moments before he dies, getting a clue pressed into his hand in Goodman’s last moments. Away from Judge Cal’s SJS (they’re always referred to in this way – I wonder if the SJS was actually set up by Cal?) and Dredd sees the clue is an SJS button, ripped off in the struggle. Before he can do anything about it, he’s shot through the head by Judge Quincy. Quincy reports the success to Cal (not knowing Dredd wasn’t killed in the assassination attempt) but Cal spots the button missing and orders Quincy to undress, performing all his duties from that point onward in his underwear. Cal got a new haircut, so doesn’t look like Pat Mills any more.

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2000AD Annual 1979

Kevin O’Neill provides the cover featuring two green aliens one threatening a woman in a skin-tight spacesuit and another being shot by some kind of cyborg. Thankfully the image stands on its own – i.e. there’s no Supercover Saga copy inside the annual to detail what’s going on.

On the contents page is what might be another commissioned cover featuring a manually-controlled giant robot scooping up cavemen.

The first story is The Biggest Game of All! written by an unknown writer and drawn by Marzal Canos, according to Barney. Ray Bradbury wrote A Sound of Thunder in 1952 (and popularised the concept ‘butterfly effect’ though that term isn’t introduced until the following decade). The set-up is similar and has been used in many short stories and even Future-Shocks down the years. A big game hunter travels to the past in order to bag a dinosaur. The narrative points out that in some universes (such as the ours, where Trans-Time go back to farm dinosaurs) you can mess about in pre-history as much as you wish without any ill-effect in the present, but in other universes any change will have repurcussions down the ages. The dinosaur the big game hunter has gone to kill has been seen in the time-viewer to fall off of a cliff and die in ten minutes time, so what happens to it before will have minimal effects. The big game hunter Kirst quickly shows that he doesn’t want to kill a brontosaurus that was going to die anyway, but instead kill a tyrannosaur – more than that, he attacks the Time Safaris guide and kills a tree lizard, just to make a point. In the best tradition of Flesh he quickly gets killed by a tyrannosaur while the others on the safari manage to escape back to their time machine. They don’t manage to escape successfully though, as the slaughtered tree lizard was the ancestor of apes and thus the human race. I first read this story when I was about eleven or twelve (managed to get the annual from a car boot sale with my dad on a summer’s day).

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Prog 78: War Declared on Humanity!

This is a particularly famous early cover – the first 2000AD newspaper-style offering, with a ‘photo’ provided by Kevin O’Neill of a giant ant over a prone man.

In the Nerve Centre a reader asks for models of Walter and the Quasar bike (Lawmaster). It only took about five more years for the Lawmaster to get a figure made of it (though I’m thinking of the 35mm scale RPG figures from Citadel Miniatures). Fast forward three or so decades and larger, more detailed models have been released. Another reader has submitted a Lego model of Dare’s Space Fort – not the last time Lego versions of 2000AD vehicles or characters will be printed in the Nerve Centre!

Jose Ferrer still has some art appearing in Robo-Hunter – though I think this might be the least episode with some panels redrawn by Gibson – if I remember correctly, from here on in it will be purely Ian Gibson’s artwork. One of the robots that tries to arrest Slade is ‘Police 5’ – named for the Crimewatch / Crimestoppers precursor. After the not-so-successful attempts at humour strips (I’m looking at Walter and Bonjo here) it’s good to have Slade’s noir-inspired voiceover injecting sardonic commentary. Slade and Kidd get taken prisoner as ‘Sims’ and taken to the Experimentation Complex. We get our first view of the streets of Verdus and taken into the prison (sorry, experimentation) complex. Ferrer was an artist with his strengths, but depicting vast future cities and dystopian isn’t one of them. He’s much more suited to more contemporary stories – which were more prevalent (and successful) in stablemates such as the 1980s Eagle – except that hasn’t been re-launched yet, it still being 1978.

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Prog 70: Screee The Hell-bird is coming in for the kill! Time is running out for the survivors on the… Death Planet!

This prog’s cover could have come from the original run of Flesh! What do I mean, original run? There’s only been one book of Flesh! Must have had a premonition or something. The art looks like European art agency work and if the woman in futuristic spacey clothing was replaced by something more cowboy (or cowgirl) it could pass as a cover from the first 20 progs.

The Nerve Centre highlights that this comic was published in the 1970s and aimed squarely at boys. James Bejer from Southampton like how Death Planet portrays Lorna Varn as a ruthless woman, though ‘anonymous’ of County Cork says “I do not mind females READING your comic, but to actually have a female commander APPEARING in the pages of 2000 A.D. is going too far!” I wonder how these two readers would have reacted to the female antagonist who’s appeared in recent weeks (due to lead times at the time, almost certainly after they sent their letters)?

Inferno sees a wonderful opening with the Philadelphia destraught that Gruber had been smuggled in to their squad and used to attack the Hellcats (no mention made of the first casualty – the real Dimples Devine). The thing that makes this wonderful is Belardinelli’s depiction of the Freaks over-reacting – literal waterfalls of tears from one, windscreen wipers emerging from a brain hatch of another to wipe tears from the eyes of the caveman. From there the story goes downhill. One Hellcat wishes that Cindy Lamont and Hale Eegle could see the Hellcats cleared after police identify the now dead Torso and Chubb. So Cindy seems to have been killed off – she was in intensive care last time we saw or heard from her! Moody Bloo has lost his appetite (no explanation of why – it seems like it should have a pay-off, but no sign this episode) and Giant has constructed a replica of Gruber, to keep him on his guard. As Giant sleeps that night, the replica activates and goes to Giant’s room, in a creepy-stalker-y kind of way. Presumably this is part of Giant’s plan to keep on his guard – in the same way that Cato randomly attacks Inspector Clouseau

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Prog 64: Watch the Sky! UFO – reader’s report –

I’m writing this episode in the garden because it’s a nice summer’s day and I’ve lit the barbecue. As such it’s being written in notepad and I don’t have internet access. I’m assuming the cover to this prog is be Brian Bolland, but could be wrong. It’s the most distinctive cover 2000AD has had since the first one (and that had a Space Spinner covering up the whirlwind around Tharg’s face) with the letters UFO written large, completely dominating the entire cover. Once you’ve added the standard 2000AD logo there’s barely a sixth of the cover left for a picture of a spaceship, a man, a woman and a car.

The nerve centre is taken up by reader’s reports of UFOs which leads into the final episode of Probe’s latest and last alien encounter.

The Final Encounter Finale! closes the file on MACH One in an extended 8-page episode. We prevously said goodbye to Silk, a long-running character, but this was the first lead character to die in the pages of 2000AD, and one who had been in the majority of progs since launch. I think the willingness to kill major characters and later on the adherence to continuity (without endless rebooting and constantly ending every story with everything in the same state as at the beginning) is one of the things that has set 2000AD apart from other comics, particularly those from the USA. Anyway, on to the actual story – Pat Mills presents the death of Sharpe, then the self-sacrifice of Probe to protect Fred. The official enquiry concludes that Sharpe exceeded orders and endangered Earth, and so Probe’s name is cleared. And that’s it for M.A.C.H.1 (though there is still the MACH 2 robot, though I don’t recall ever seeing that again).

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Prog 63: Beware of… RATS..! The Devil’s Lapdogs

Dredd has been given his mission. Dredd has assembled his team (much like Dare on his Legion of the Lost Worlds, he refuses suggestions and goes to find somebody from the criminal element). Now he’s actually going in to the Cursed Earth, and McMahon’s cover reveals that the first thing he’ll find there will be rats, henceforth to be known as the Devil’s Lapdogs!

Dan Dare finishes his Nightmare Planet excursion by realising that everything is an illusion and convincing his crew (well, the landing party) not to believe anything they see. Turns out that beings of light created the planet using mind-energy. This story has been one illusion after another, no peril at all (the defence of light-mind-energy beings is to scare off would-be intruders) and finishes by ‘and everybody wakes up’. Can you tell how unimpressed I am? It does have its good points though…

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Prog 39: Get it through your thick skull, Earthman… we don’t have pointed ears!

Looks like Ewins and McCarthy again with a fairly eye-catching cover, probably their best yet. Off the top of my head it’ll be a few years until they become truly excellent artists, so I’ll shut up about it for the time being.

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