2000AD and Starlord Prog 117: I’ve already got you for Theft, Kidnap and Assault, Lawbreaker! Don’t add Murder to the List!

This week’s cover is a dynamic (and very yellow) image from Ron Smith, of Dredd jumping from one ambulance to another.

The Nerve Centre trails a Starlord spaceship feature later in the same prog.

Judge Dredd: Cityblock 1. Ron Smith’s splash page shows, in order, a portrait of Judge Dredd, a view of the outside of Charlton Heston Block and a view of a mall inside the block. This is the first named cityblock to be shown, and so one of the most iconic features of Mega-City One is in place. In the foreground is Dredd chasing a citizen through the mall, a park (including beach), hospital and the streets of Mega-City One. In the background are a myriad of nice touches: Fergee, The True Story at the cinema; an Approved Bookshop; robo-ducks in the park (residents only)… The story is perfectly matched with the art, with the final page listing the citizen’s crimes, most of which are an escalation of the original offence which prompted Dredd to call out to him (punchline) – dropping a candy wrapper. Next prog: Cityblock 2. I’ve read it, but can’t remember any details – maybe a scene with a robot careers advisor which gets destroyed with the vandal taking on the role (until they get arrested). I may be mixing it up with a later story though…

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2000AD and Starlord Prog 115: Race for the Crystal of Life!

Dave Gibbon’s providing a very yellow cover for Dan Dare and the Mekon, looking pretty superheroic (Dare, not the Mekon).

The Nerve Centre gives Tharg a chance to plug the latest Sci-Fi Special and you know what that means – it’s going to be a few days until my next prog, as I’ll have not only a Tornado to read, but also the special. The £10 winner for an art submission is Kevin Hopgood – later to become an art droid! (his picture is of Johnny and Wulf). Tharg reassures a reader that characters in 2000AD will never bow to commercialisation. I must have imaged those Judge Dredd candy cigarettes and Sugar Puffs then! He also shows great modesty by proclaiming that Thargians are superior to almost every other race in the universe. The Nerve Centre ends with a Thargflash! The ABC Warriors are coming! (and Ro-Busters hasn’t even ended yet).

Judge Dredd The DNA Man comes to a conclusion, with Walter coming to Dredd’s aid, through judicious use of hot beverages. The professor and Dennis make for the Northways Bridge, leading out of Dredd’s jurisdiction (presumably to Canada, though what lies beyond Mega-City One’s northern border isn’t specified). A pretty vending woman (ice cream/cigarette vending-style, with magician’s assistant get-up) attracts Dennis’ attention, leading to a classic horror image of Dennis holding the prone woman, Frankenstein and even a full moon partially obcured by clouds in the background. The scientist makes it over the border but Dennis doesn’t, though when vendor comes around her cries of ‘Ugly’ stir Dennis to cast off the judges holding him and pull his creator to his death. Next prog: Kidnap! Which doesn’t narrow it down, as Exo-Men had a kidnapping, and so did the DNA Man.

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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 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 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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2000AD and Star Lord Prog 90: Galaxy-crunching atom-splitting Sci-Fi!

The fledgling merged comic gets its second ensemble cover, with cut and pasted images cobbled from Strontium Dog, Flesh and Ro-Busters. This is common with jumping-on progs but is out of place when all stories are mid-run (also, where’s Dredd?)

The Nerve Centre has letters provoking Tharg to offer Galactic Groats for readers to write in with 250-word stories. Can’t say I recall this bearing fruit but maybe it will. Another reader ‘casts’ a perfect prog, along with art droids (but completely ignores the script robots) while another complains that the Earth price of the prog has risen even though other planets in the solar system haven’t.

The Tyrant’s Grip! takes hold over Mega-City One. A newsreader informs the public about the raft of new measures that Cal is bringing in, and as it customary in such circumstances, gets arrested by enforcers in the studio while live broadcasting. Citizens are pilloried in mobile wagons, a curfew is brought in, most new laws seemingly punishable by death. Meanwhile, the robodocs have finished operating on Dredd, removing the bullet and regenerating damaged brain tissue. Before he can undergo further treatments, judges break into the recovery room and snatch Dredd (against robodoc’s orders). That place where the judges are based gets called both Justice Central and the Great Hall of Justice – not quite the Grand Hall, but getting there! As Cal is now Chief Judge, he now appoints a successor in the role he previously filled, infamously installing Deputy Chief Judge Fish (in a panel which Mike McMahon hates – though the fish is well drawn). Cal says that Fish has been a faithful friend for many years. As goldfish have a reputation for a short lifespan I looked into it – apparently most goldfish in captivity just aren’t cared for very well – if looked after they should last ten years. I also found out they have better memories than folk wisdom would suggest – also my ten-minute research suggests that Deputy Chief Judge Fish is a lionhead goldfish. Or, y’know, some new breed that arises in the next seventy-something years. Dredd is brought before the new Chief Judge and his initial outburst gives Cal an excuse to execute Dredd, personally. Judge Giant pipes up that shooting Dredd at such close range would spatter blood over his uniform and requests to deal with Dredd personally as revenge for his rookie days. While on their way down to the holding cells, Giant takes care of their accompanying guard and starts an escape attempt.

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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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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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