Dan Dare Annual 1979 – Destroy that starcarrier or the whole galaxy will be enslaved!

Like the 2000AD Annual 1979, Kevin O’Neill paints the cover for Dan Dare’s first annual (well, the first one since ‘Eagle Dan Dare’s Space Annual 1963’, anyway). It’s a good cover that stands on its own – please don’t have this cover have a text story in the annual!

A Dave Gibbon’s be-space-suited Dare greets us on the contents page, looking across at a painting of the space shuttle. I’ve not been a fan of the real space exploration articles in the annuals, but the blurb on this picture talks about how the shuttle will launch the following year. That’s pretty major news, so I’ll give it a pass.

Remember that reprint of the Eagle Scout craft that appeared in the 2000AD annual? This one has a full-colour reprint of the Space Fortress. Page 3 of the annual and already a reprint – this does not bode well. I suspect I’ll be seeing some Rick Random before the end!

The first Dan Dare story – as with the 2000AD annual, there are no credits given, but this drawn in the distinctive style of Ian Kennedy. Good news – the cover doesn’t have a text short story, it has an actual comic story – but is it any good? It’s alright, the plot involves aliens that looks like a cross between frogs and Treens (from original 1950s Dare) attacking a different alien planet with an ending involving blowing up a gigantic space station with small fighters (this was a year after Star Wars was released and with lead times for preparing stories for annuals – more like six months) – the main strength it has is the complement of fighters on board an asteroid space station. With Kennedy on the artwork, these could only have been included to play to his strengths – in the same way that he doesn’t draw many Dredd stories but the most memorable of the ones he does do has German fighter planes travelling through a time warp to Mega-City One. The ally-of-the-week reminds me of the Aztec priest from Star Lord’s TimeQuake – though this may just be a coincidence of haircuts.

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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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Star Lord No 13: Let Me at him, Billy! Quit jawing, jack-ass! He won’t escape the laser lash!

Our first view of Billy Joe is on the cover. His most distinctive feature is that he has two heads – I can’t help but feel that this is going to be a big reveal in the story within, except it’s already been revealed, right on the cover… Ezquerra provides the honours and it’s a great cover, apart from my reservation.

Mind Wars has a confusing start – Doctor Varn and others on Earth appear to be watching a live transmission from the ship that Ardeni stole from Varn, yet the dialogue tells us they have no idea what’s going on inside the ship. Anyway… Klee-Fang is still wearing the cap and Ardeni is still being driven mad. Deciding to end it all she propels the Vegan Belle towards the sun – obviously Tillman isn’t happy about this and slaps her out of it. Ardeni uses the power of the sun to burn down Na-Rutha’s palace and promises that he will be next. Immediately afterwards she gives up and resigns herself to dying in the heart of the sun – erm… Tillman convinces her to do something to save their lives and she accelerates faster into the heart of the sun. As far as Earth is concerned, “Ardeni Lakam is dead!” and if you believe that then you haven’t been paying much attention to pop culture…

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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 9: Beware the war droid in Kill-Frenzy! You have the fire power of a cruiser, Hammer-Stein! – use it – destroy your comrade Ro-Jaws!

This issue has a pretty good painted rendition of Hammerstein in kill-frenzy (as trailed in the next prog box last week) – though the war-droid’s legs are a bit dodgy – there’s a word balloon that could have been placed over them to cover them up. Spoiler, the scene in question won’t appear until right at the end of this week’s episode – that ‘next prog’ caption from last week would have been just as appropriate this week.

Mind Wars sees the Jugla war fleet reach Earth and the first place they attack? Miami! I’m pretty sure Redondo drew a MACH One story that started off in Miami, though could be wrong. Eventually they get around to attacking the Federal Capital – the largest city in the galaxy, though there’s no clue where on Earth it’s located – hint – somewhere bordered by mountains on one side, and not London or Berlin. The fighting largely takes place off-panel as the only reason for the ‘invasion’ is to allow Ardeni and Arlen to sneek in on the Solar Saint.

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Star Lord No 7: Into forbidden worlds… beyond the limits of man’s imagination! Battle for survival on Planet of the Damned

This cover is basically a rehash of the end of last week’s episode of Planet of the Damned, with Flint about to do battle with a black knight on the back of a mammoth in front of a fortress. This very red painting could have graced any Conan-esque fantasy novel of the last fifty years. Flint also looks a little like He-Man, though I think this is a few years before whichever toy company it was came up with that idea.

Starlord doesn’t have enough space this issue for a full Star Fax so has a narrow strip at the top of this week’s Mind Wars to tell us about the Hell Planet boardgame (and how he hasn’t finished writing the rules yet). If the last episode was inspired by Star Wars (with our protagonists approaching Mos Eisley to organise transport off world in a cantina) then the similarities continue, after a brief case of misinterpreted greetings. Tip – if an alien race looks like an apex predator then their greetings will probably look like an assault. The Solar Saint (Millenium Falcon) leaves Yu-Jubum just before it gets destroyed (Alderaan, anyone?) and is immediately pursued by Federal strike ships (Star Destroyers). Even some of the dialogue has parallels (even if the meaning is opposite). Compare and contrast: “The old Solar Saint was built to outrun local planetary space police forces, not a Federal battle fleet!”; “I’ve outrun Imperial starships. Not the local bulk cruisers mind you, I’m talking about the big Corellian ships now.” Anyway, the battle fleet attacks and the Lakam twins use their powers to hold out for a while, but in the end they have to be rescued by a Jugla suicide attack, just before they head off into trans-light drive (hyperspace).

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Star Lord No 4: Inside! Part One of a mind-stretching sci-fi game! It stars Strontium Dog… it’s called Hell Planet… it’s not for cowards!

Published on the same day as 2000AD Prog 67, this issue of Star Lord drops the numbering on the cover altogether and features Johnny Alpha shooting an alien, the two of them on something that looks very much like a chessboard.

In Mind Wars the twins face greater danger from their home planet than from the Jugla, though they can defend themselves until a weaponship from Earth can arrive. Tilman stops Ardeni from killing those in the pursuing ships and his internal monologue reveals that he hopes their powers can be turned to Earth’s advantage (as otherwise they’ll have to die). I can’t help feel that, being sent by Dr Varn, he wouldn’t have any hesitation in killing those who might affect the success of his mission. It seems his pacificistic tendencies managed to slip through training and his rising through the ranks.

Ro-Busters – Pat Mills and Carlos Pino bring us the second part of what I shall call The Red Mist in the Florida Swamp story – just about the time that 2000AD is finally giving all the stories titles, Star Lord is not differentiating stories in any way. It could be argued that Pat Mills is saving all his titles for 2000AD – compared to Ro-Busters (series title), running in the same week in the prog is Judge Dredd – The Cursed Earth, Chapter Seven – Night of the Vampire (series title – story title, chapter number – chapter title) – which one makes it easier to write about individual episodes? The best part of Ro-Busters is always the interaction of Ro-Jaws, Hammerstein and (sometimes) other characters – in this case it’s the children, Marvin and Mek-Quake who act as foils. Not for the first or last time, the robotic duo are on the verge of being destroyed by Mek-Quake before being rescued at the last moment by orders from above.

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Prog 67: MACH Zero in… Darts of Death!

Brian Bolland shows early signs that he’s cut out to be a cover artist (well, he started off with 2000AD as a cover artist, but this is a good one). Certainly better use of his talents than putting him on Walter…

Speaking of which – in the Nerve Centre, Tharg tells us that Walter has returned, on pages 15 and 32 of this prog… Better news is that Ant Wars is going to start next prog – can’t beat a good giant ant story! Paul Butler writes in to complain that the phrase “No Way” was used four times in prog 53, and that this phrase is obsolete. I’m sure that will never be used after the 1970s.

Dan Dare visits the Garden of Eden. In a start very much like the beginning of Star Slayer, the Space Fortress impinges on an alien race’s territory, who respond by shooting first, then giving Dare a chance to turn back. Dare, not respecting boundaries, carries on regardless. Making planetfall they land on a pastroal planet and are greeted by someone dressed like a puritan who emigrated to the Americas. By the way – an unnecessary in media res opening followed by a flashback. The flashback consisted of two small panels and didn’t add a whole lot.

Next page is an advert for Star Wars Palitoy figures – the classic Star Wars figures.

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Star Lord No. 3: Fight your own Star Battles

After No 1 and Issue 2 we’ve got No 3 – you know where you are with progs – none of these ‘numbers’ and ‘issues’. Kevin O’Neill paints a full-colour star battle in honour of whatever this week’s free gift was – looks like some kind of laminated cardboard battleships clone. I’m not the biggest fan of early O’Neill, though there are the odd flashes of his later creative genius, such as in this cover.

Inside the “Hail, Star-troopers!” seems to the title of the ‘nerve centre’ – doesn’t roll off the tongue quite so easily.

In Planet of the Damned the passengers are being attacked by ab-humans riding fell beasts. The only things that can stop them are Captain Roker’s pistol (wonder how many bullets he has?) and tycoon Lew Kerr’s whisky (definitely going to be a limited supply of that). This is broken up by Charlie Hagen (one of those Bermuda Triangle missing alluded to on the first page of the first episode). The fickle passengers forsake the British sailor from a previous century for the US airman (who no doubt was smuggling something when he went missing in 1942). Despite Flint having saved their lives a number of times, the passengers are perfectly happy to see him captured and tied up by the new arrivals.

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Star Lord Issue 2: You’ll never be the same after reading it!

After Star Lord No 1 comes Star Lord Issue 2 (nothing like consistency in a new comic). This issue had a free gift, a Space Calculator. I’ve never seen one of these, but it looks like it was a piece of cardboard with windows cut out and another card which slid up to reveal facts about various planets (and possibly the moon). Other than that, this issue features what looks like a Brian Bolland Time Quake cover.

Over the page is the first episode of Mind Wars. Confession time – I’ve cheated on this one, as I read the whole of Mind Wars last week, from the two floppies that were given away with the Judge Dredd Megazine this month and last month (plus I dug out the Star Lord annual which had a derivative sequel set one year later). But this time I’ll try to forget all that and take one episode at a time. This story is set in 3000 A.D. and takes place in the midst of a war between the alien Jugla Empire and the human Stellar Federation. The Jugla use Primary Neural Irradiation to both grant supernatural powers and gain (partial) control of two humans on a remote colonised world. We’re introduced to the story’s female lead while she’s skinny-dipping. Pretty soon Ardeni (and her brother Arlen) have seen their parents die, been primary neural irradiated by the Jugla, almost got crushed by a falling escape pod, brought the pilot back to life, been accused of treason, turned a gun into white hot metal (assuming guns in the year 3000 are made from metal), been tranqulised and are to be put before a planetary inquisition. Alan Hebden and Jesus Redondo don’t waste time!

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