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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Prog 35: All Earthmen must die! Take no prisoners!

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The cover shows three spaceships of an old-fashioned flying saucer design shooting at some floating space wreckage with said Earthman clutching on.  It doesn’t grab me, and could have appeared on any sci-fi comic for about thirty years previously.

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Prog 34:The Day the Earth Burned!

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A Trev Goring cover showing a London where the Old Bailey is pretty close to the Houses of Parliament.  Interestingly the two main figures on the cover are black – we’ve had a team of black characters right from the beginning, though the only Harlem Heroes cover I can think of featured Artie Gruber in a more prominent position than Giant…

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Prog 30: Time-Travellers from Titan!

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Now we’re talking – I’ve read somewhere (and probably mentioned in one of the earlier blog posts) that the Supercover Saga’s were started to give work to Brian Bolland while waiting for him to be free to draw actual comic strips.  Two aliens, seemingly joy-riding and about to hit a (human) policeman and a woman.  Possibly a risky strategy at the time, as part of the reason Action was banned / severely censored was due to the perception that a policeman was being attacked on the cover.  We’ll have to wait to find out what’s going on though, as we launch into Invasion!

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