26.7.16

Programme 21 (16-July-77)

Cover:

Way to drop the ball there, Supercovers. You weren’t a great idea in the first place, but at least the questionable concept was propped up by the brilliant renditions wrought by the greatest comic book artist to have ever lived, Brian Bolland. So what do you go and do? You got someone else to draw the cover.

Oy.

20.7.16

Programme 20 (9-July-77)

Cover: It’s number 2 in our series of supercovers, but I’m not going to complain this time. Oh, sure, it’s doing nothing more than plugging an interesting premise that the comic is going to do absolutely nothing with, but I don’t care. Why? Because I recognized the way those people’s clothes were drawn. Only Brian Bolland draws clothes like that. A quick scouring of the image uncovered this in the bottom-right corner:

I looked over last week’s cover and sure enough, it was also a Bolland. Guess I’m just not familiar enough with his robots and dogs.

So even if the whole concept of the Supercover is a little weak, I’m impressed that the editor of the magazine (Tharg, I suppose) was smart enough to choose the best possible artist to draw them. I’m not going to go too in-depth into Bolland here, though – I’ll save my worshiping of the man’s work until he actually starts drawing actual stories in the comic.

14.7.16

Programme 19 (2-July-77)

Cover: Is there any way this issue can possibly top the cover? That’s a warbot who’s dropped his gun so that he can better protect an adorable dog! The only way this could be better is if that robot went on a kill-mad frenzy to protect the dog, like Christian Bale and his puppy in Equilibrium. I can't remember, did Christian Bale cry like the robot or not?

Thrill 1 – Invasion!

Things have gone very badly for Bill Savage and his Mad Dogs. Their numbers depleted and their home base destroyed, they’ve been forced to look for refuge with the pompous Brigadier General and his remnants of the British Army. This safe haven comes with a price, though, as the Brig forces the Mad Dogs into basic training, in the hopes of turning them into ‘real soldiers’.

Look, I know the point of this part of the strip is to remind everyone how useless the establishment is compared to a reg’lar bloke like Savage, but come on – do you really expect me to believe that the secret resistance in an occupied country goes on ten mile formation marches in matching uniforms?

It seems like you’d get a better storyline if you showed the advantages of the army’s approach as well as Bill’s, so that it might seem like there was a little bit of hope for the British resistance as a whole. Not that Bill Savage and his pal Silk aren’t great and all, it’s just that I’m skeptical about the chances for Britain’s future if they’re the only two people in the country who aren’t morons.

Quickly rankling under the yoke of authority, Savage steals a military vehicle and drives off, looking for trouble. Which he quickly finds, in the form of of a Volgan road crew about to execute their slave laborers.

Savage is having none of that, of course. He flips on the pavement layer and runs over the Volgans, then quickly recruits the would-be victims to his cause. He’s not exactly treated as a conquering hero when he gets back at base, though. The Brig wants him brought up on charges for striking his sergeant and stealing the jeep, but Bill merely laughs at him and leaves, taking Silk and the slave labourers with him. So they’re off to more adventures around the country, killing fake Nazis! Who knows where they’ll go next? Liberate the coal miners of Newcastle? Kill the Volgans occupying the midlands? Visit whatever topical thing happens in Ireland? The possibilities are endless!

Thrill 2 - Flesh

Logically the strip should have ended last week, with Regan escaping to the future and the trans-time base destroyed. There’s one big loose end left to pull, though – just what happened to Old One-Eye?

She died. It was 65 million years ago. And she was already over a hundred years old. Of course she died.

In fact, the majority of this issue acts as a requiem for the old hag, telling the story of how, knowing that her life was coming to an end, she journeyed to the Tyrannosaur’s graveyard join all of her ancestors. Fighting off scavengers and defeating heart attacks through sheer force of will, she makes it to the top of a mountain, her triumph complete.

Amazingly, even though the next three panels depict her having a final heart attack, falling off a cliff to her death, then becoming fossilized in sandstone, that’s not the end of the story!

We pick up the tale in the near future (to publishing date, of course) of 1983, where we reveal the big twist – all the amazing trans-time adventures 65 million years in the past… were taking place in England! Maybe not the most accurate paleontology, but we’re not looking to these stories for their educational value.

We abruptly move to a fancy dinner party, where the head of a museum is entertaining a group of scientists… inside Old One Eye’s ribcage! Wait, just how big is she? Because she never seemed this big:

Over drinks, the scientists discuss the strangest thing about Old One-Eye – inside her skeletal ribcage was the complete skeleton of a man! The lead scientist dismisses this as a carbon-dating error, since humans lived at such completely different times. This, despite another scientist’s persuasive argument that his son used to read 2000AD, which featured a story about men in the future using Time Travel to kill dinosaurs! A, self-referentialism, ever since Don Quixote went to hell and met that unauthorized sequel you’ve been a key source of comedy.

The mystery goes unsolved by any of the scientists, despite their access to futuristic mid-80s technology. Before the episode ends, we’re treated to one more kill, as the lead scientist is so sure of his superiority to dinosaurs that he’s comfortable climbing into the skeleton’s mouth. Unfortunately, in doing so, he knocks away one of the bars that is ‘keep the jaws apart’. Now, I’m not a paleontologist, but I’m pretty sure that when they put fossils (or plaster fossil replicas) together there’s nothing elastic trying to pull the jaws together. If you knocked a rod away, wouldn’t the jaw just fall off?

As opposed to, you know, snapping shut and rearing up triumphantly?

Anyhow, that’s the end of Flesh, making this the first serialized 2000AD story to reach an endpoint. Who’s going to be next? Harlem Heroes, Invasion, MACH 1? Obviously not Judge Dredd, but it’s got to be someone, right?

I’m going to lay money on Harlem Heroes – of the remaining stories it’s the one that’s the least episodic, meaning that now that the finals have started, we’re probably only ten or fifteen issues before things wrap up, and the villain (Ulysses Cord) is revealed in the shocking twist ending.

Tune in next time for the start of a brand new story: SHAKO! Which, if my fuzzy memories of colour 2000AD reprints are to be trusted, is about a killer Polar Bear on the loose in the Arctic circle! I can’t wait!

Thrill 3 – Harlem Heroes (?/Gibbons)

When we left the Harlem Heroes, Artie Gruber, cyborg assassin, was throwing a ball to Giant, hoping that the booby-trap in it would kill his foe. But Giant has other thoughts on the matter – despite the fact that he didn’t know he was being thrown a bomb, he elects to let the pass go right by him into the hands of Dale Parker, a random player who has never had a line.

Oh, Dale – you never got a line, but you do get a profoundly ironic thought bubble:

Just before exploding:

For the record, ‘What the-‘ is the correct thing to say when someone explodes next to you.

Once again proving that Aeroball has the worst referees in sports, the fact that a metal ball full of helium just exploded with enough force to blast a man to pieces isn’t enough to convince anyone that there’s anything fishy going on. The Heroes agree to continue playing, and decide to use their hatred and frustration to their advantage.

The game turns vicious as the Heroes forget about points and focus entirely on crippling their opposition. Giant calls a time out and tries to talk away his players’ tempers. Hairy, who’d nearly decapitated a Gargoyle with a ‘missed’ shot, points out, rather persuasively, that since the opposing team is made up entirely of robots, it doesn’t matter how badly they’re taken apart.

The episode ends with the Heroes’ fight being broadcast all over the world, much to the pleasure of the still-unidentified Ulysses Cord, who announces that his plan will be a success in any event – if Artie kills the Heroes, he wins, and if they turn into violence-mad killing machines, he also wins! But what can that possibly mean?

Here’s something a little odd – instead of the normal line of text at the bottom of the story, plugging the next installment, there’s another ad for SHAKO!

They’re really pushing this thing, aren’t they? Good for them. Also, he's a polar bear with monstrous strength and giant claws. Somehow I doubt all of his victims 'die real slow'. But I guess we'll have to wait and see. Actually, you know what? That's the new thing I'm tracking - the percentage of Shako's victims that 'die real slow'. Look for that next week!

THARG’S NERVE CENTRE:

Oh, what the hell. Remember that cover? That amazing robot-and-his-dog cover? It’s not a story in this issue. It’s actually just a ‘Supercover’! What’s a ‘supercover’? Good question. It seems that instead of coming up with an interesting cover based on one of the stories inside, they’ve just put a random cover on the thing and justified it with a two hundred word short story in the Nerve Center.

Because reviewing it would probably wind up using more words than the story itself, I’m just going to present it here for your enjoyment. Or enjoyment-ish, because, well, yeah…

Thrill 4 – Dan Dare: Space Hyper-Hero (?/Belardinelli)

Dan Dare, flying the Two’s stolen spacecraft, is in the process of escaping from their centre-of-a-sun hideout along with his light-saber-wielding certainly-not-a-wookie pal, Rok, the space-dog. Once they’re out of the range of the guns, Dan takes a moment to rifle through the onboard computer files. In there they discover a terrifying secret about the Two…

You know, I’m usually pretty snarky about Dan Dare, but this is just a great idea. Between this revelation and the amoeba whose crime was so alien that human words didn’t exist to describe it, I’m really liking the specific sci-fi ideas being presented in these stories, of not the execution.

Oh, and also the living axe. The poor, dearly departed living axe. I love that guy.

They uncover another secret: The Mekon has planted a miniature nuclear bomb in the Two’s chest as part of a clever scheme. How clever? He’s hypnotized the Two so that they’ll screw up a pirate attack on a well-guarded space liner, knowing that they’ll surrender and be brought right into the central chambers of the galactic council, where the bomb will destroy all galactic government!

Wait… what? Is that what they normally do with criminals? Bring them into the galactic council chambers? I can’t remember the last time an arrested bank robber was brought before congress as part of their court case.

Also, do they not have suicide bombers in the future? You’d think with all the high-tech weaponry that everyone has on them that full body scans would be a standard part of every arrest.

Once again, Dan’s going to have to save the world, because the world is far too stupid to save itself.

Also, it seems that next week we’re going to find out why SHAKO is the ‘world’s most wanted monster’. You know, this story is going to have to be pretty great to justify the ads.

Thrill 5 – MACH 1

There’s an intriguing splash half-page this week, introducing us to the newest problem that Probe will be sorting out:

It seems that the British Mining Company have recently purchased this pacific island, and, to quote the narrator, are quickly turning it from a ‘paradise into a hell on earth’! Wow… is John Probe going to be fighting an evil corporation for environmental reasons? That’s great! Sure, the foreman there is a bit of an over-the-top lout, but at least the story is finally covering a contemporary issue, as opposed to just random espionage-themed super-heroics.

Or is it? Right after that opening panel which introduces the people I’d assumed were the villains the story takes a turn. Out of the jungle walks a Japanese soldier, one that still thinks the second world war is going on! Wow. That’s the second really crazy thing to happen this issue. Third if you count the story about the robot with the dog who’s going to die really soon. So this is a story about John Probe fighting a sixty-five-year-old man? Remember, MACH 1 takes place in the late 80s, so at the time of the story WWII has been over for more than forty years.

At least the old man has traps on his side. Probe doesn’t get more than a few feet into the jungle before he’s fired on by remote-controlled tanks, whose 40-year-old shells work just fine, thank you very much. He easily dodges the tanks, but then winds up running headfirst into a barbed-wire noose that snatches him into the air.

The soldier comes out to check on Probe, and then quickly loses to him in a fight. It’s only after seeing Probes hyperpower in action that Tanaka (the last soldier) understands that the war is over, and he quickly commits seppuku to avoid the disgrace of having to surrender.

Probe then walks away, angry that a man had to die all for a few tons of phosphate-enriched soil that the British arms industry needs.

Um, John, if you’re not on the ball with the exploitation of this island for the good of the military-industrial complex, why don’t you do something about it? Have you forgotten that you have superpowers? Because right now it makes you look like someone who’s perfectly fine being an accomplice to the destruction of the environment so long as he gets to bitch about it.

Typed the man working with a computer chock full of toxic chemicals that will seep into the water table for the next hundred years. Then again, I don’t have superpowers.

Thrill 6 – Judge Dredd (?/Cooper)

First things first – there’s an artist listed this week! Yay! I’m not sure who this ‘John Cooper’ is, but I’m extremely happy he signed his work.

Anyhoo, on to the story.

Judge Dredd is driving through the city on a bright, moonlight night, which Dredd refers to as a ‘mugger’s moon’. Not sure exactly what that’s supposed to mean. Sure, a bright moon would let muggers see their prey more easily, but wouldn’t their prey also be able to see the muggers, and avoid them? More to the point, does it ever really get dark in Mega City 1? Shouldn’t it be one of those future dystopias so lit with artificial sun that shadows can’t exist – therefore making the shadows in men’s hearts all the darker?

Or maybe he’s just referring to Full Moon Mania, and they call it something different in the future.

Proving Dredd’s prediction almost psychically prescient, there is, in fact, a mugging going on just nearby. A hapless citizen is running from a group of thugs when he sees a classic 20th-century automobile approach. The driver doesn’t bother to stop, despite the man’s pleas, and the victim is so desperate in his attempts to escape that he even grabs onto the car’s exhaust pipe, hoping it will drag him to safety. It doesn’t, though, leaving him at the gang’s mercy.

Dredd rolls in on his bike moments later, though, and quickly dispatches all three muggers with a single heat-seeking bullet, which pierces each of their hearts in turn.

I’ve never been exactly clear on how the heat-seeking bullet is supposed to work. Beyond ‘seeking body heat’, that is. How does it know to track the muggers, and not kill the muggee as well? And how does it know to stop after hitting the third guy? Hopefully there will be a technical diagram sometime in the near future that lays all of this out for me.

With the muggee rescued, there’s one bit of business left to take care of – track down the driver who abandoned him in his time of need!

Dredd quickly catches up with the classic auto and pulls it over. The driver protests that fleeing from a crime scene without calling the cops or offering assistance isn’t a crime, so he can’t be charged with anything. This is kind of a surprise to me – isn’t dropping litter on the street a serious crime in Mega-City 1? You’d think not reporting a crime would be equally bad. Either that or watching cartoons while driving.

Dredd agrees that the man can’t be charged with a crime, but points out that his classic car is putting out dangerous levels of pollution. It seems that when the muggee grabbed his exhaust pipe a clean-air regulator broke off, and now the car isn’t street legal! Dredd does the only sensible thing and blows the car up, then drives off with one of his trademark quips-

Early Dredd really was a softie, wasn’t he? I mean, the Dredd I know and love would have blown up the guy’s car then cited him for littering and blocking a road with the wreck.

That ends the comic, with one final ad, this one promising that Shako makes ‘King Kong look like a pet chimp!’ Which actually seems like a weak analogy, given how many stories you hear about pet chimps viciously attacking people.

Judge Dredd Kill Count (20)+3=23!

Final Thoughts

Best Story: FLESH! - I don’t care if the final sting was cheesy, I like the classy wrap-up of FLESH. I’m not saying that I ever empathized with Old One-Eye, but it was certainly satisfying watching her last day on earth.

Worst Story: MACH 1 – Huge disappointment this week, as a comic that looked like it was going to cover something interesting just wound up being pro-arms manufacturers destroying nature. Dan Dare - you're just lucky your lazy plotting was overshadowed by MACH 1's general terribleness.

Oh, wait - am I allowed to pick that totally mislead cover? Because if so, I want to pick that.

13.7.16

The Two Hundred Fifty-Ninth Greatest Panel in the History of Comics



This is a perfect example of nostalgia gone mad. If I see current comic book characters referencing popular fiction, I'm as likely to groan as anything else. Yet if I see people in the 40s doing the exact same thing, I'm deeply charmed.

12.7.16

Programme 18 (25-June-77)

Cover: This is one of the most intriguing covers I’ve come across in a long while. What on earth could this story possibly be about? All I can think of here is Hotel Hell. Although I did get another entry for my dictionary of future slang!

9.7.16

Programme 14 (28-May-77)

Cover: Yeah, I’m pretty sure Pteranodons are also Dinosaurs. Also, I pray the spiders in the story aren’t actually that large.

6.7.16

Programme 13 (21-May-77)

Cover: Wow, nothing says ‘Quality’ like colourizing old images from the first couple of issues of the comic. And what does it say about Tharg that the ‘future’ spilling out of his head consists entirely of things we’ve already seen in the comic? Weak work, Betelgeuesian.

The Two Hundred Fifty-Eighth Greatest Panel in the History of Comics



Oh, colourists, you've always made mistakes like this, haven't you? Or is the Human Bomb's hand the same colour as his suit because he's been out of the sun too long?

4.7.16

Programme 12 (14-May-77)

Cover: Yeah, so apparently this Mekon guy from the last Dan Dare is somehow important. Important enough that Mike Western came in to do a drawing of him.

Or his real name is Mike Western.

Or that’s a tag which identifies the owner of that hoverplatform as Mike Western, meaning that the Mekon was smart enough to steal it from someone with the same first initial as himself.

Seriously, though, since this bills the story as ‘The Return of the Mekon’, he’s obviously someone I’m supposed to have heard of. Hopefully that will be covered in the issue, saving me from doing any research.

29.6.16

The Two Hundred Fifty-Seventh Greatest Panel in the History of Comics



I just had to go back to the shrunken head story. Because obviously.

27.6.16

So, who is Greg?

In my popular Criminal Minds reviews, I often refer to one of the lead characters as 'Greg'. I do this as a way of testing the age of the people who read the reviews.

Now, some years later, I've elected to put the answer to that question in an easy-to-find location. Just below this line of text.

You're welcome?

26.6.16

Game of Thrones Avoidance - Week Seven!

We're almost out, folks! Just one more episode left, and I'm clear of Winds of Winter spoilers for (hopefully) another ten months!

Here's a video report on the aftermath of episode nine!

See you next week for finale fallout!

24.6.16

The Game of Thrones Spoiler Avoidance Project! Week 6!

Another week, another video! This one's a little weird, since everyone stopped talking about Game of Thrones. A complete dearth of information on the internet I normally browse. Strange. So I wind up rambling on about something else entirely! Check out the video to discover the thrilling topic!

Didn't see that coming, did you?

23.6.16

Programme 52 (18-February-78)

Cover:

So we’re not done with the story covers yet, huh? Guess I can accept that. But the sooner we get a ‘Fangs off, Creep’ cover, the happier I’ll be.

Programme 51 (11-February-78)

Cover:

Way to cheat that cliffhanger, Dan! Not only did you have time to turn on your lightsaber, you had time to move it up the path of the star before it could close a six inch gap! Which was a two inch gap when we broke last issue!