Programme 6 (02-April-77)

Cover: I know that I was impressed by last week’s cover, but obviously I was underestimating the heights to which this comic would climb. The combination of nazi gold, a submarine discharging nazi zombies, and Mach Man referring to himself in the third person all combine to make this the the GREATEST COVER IN THE HISTORY OF COMIC BOOKS.

Thrill 1 - INVASION!

Things are girm in Old Blightey, as all signs of non-compliance or resistance are dealt with by a universal punishment: Firing Squad! It seems that Victory Stadium (formerly Wembley Stadium) has been converted into an execution site, where people are publicly shot for interfering with the Volgan Provisional Authority. These televised atrocities chap the hide of one Bill Savage, who watches them along with the rest of his team of Mad Dogs! There’s also another appearance of new Prime Minister Creepton, who again raises the question of why the Volgans couldn’t find a traitor with a better last name to front Vichy Britain.

Bill’s got a plan to deal with the sitution, and it involves a little shopping in the west end. That night, a group of Volgan guards see a broken window, and rush to stop the looters. Lest we think that the Volgans are better at occupying a country than the Americans are, the text of the scene, and a crudely-drawn-in-afterwards sign, makes explicit that High Street shops are only usable by Volgan soldiers these days.

I still can’t get over the fact that the Volgans are clearly wearing Nazi uniforms. At first it seemed like this was going to be an anti-Russian screed, but more and more it seems like a survivalist fantasy about what tough Brits would have done had operation Sealion actually succeeded.

The Volgans find the window of a gentleman’s clothing store shattered, and just as they’re about to fire indescriminately into the display the mannequins start to move! It turns out it was the Mad Dogs in disguise! They gun the Volgs down and disappear into the night.

The next day the Volgs are scouring the west end, looking for anyone to execute in reprisal for the previous night’s murders. They pick five old men at random and throw them into the back of a truck. At the same time, a tactical error is made.

Also, a huge plot hole is spackled over.

Over at Victory stadium, the men are lined up and the Volgs prepare to shoot. But it was all a trap! The old men were secretly the Mad Dogs, hiding guns under their baggy clothing! With the cameras still transmitting live, they make short work of the guards and the newsreader who’d been performing colour commentary for the executions.

With another triumph under their belt, the Mad Dogs drive away into the narrow back-alleys as the rest of London cheers!

Thrill 2 – Flesh

With Carver City still under seige, Earl Reagan and Claw Carver are set to burn the place to the ground in the hopes of scaring off the dinos, giving them a chance to escape with their lives. Heading into the general store to find some kerosene, Earl and Claw find the place infested with raptors. It’s now that we finally get a bit of Claw’s backstory. It seems that after a raptor bit off his hand, he killed it, harvested its claw, and had it implanted on his wrist! You know, it seems like he’s from far enough in the future that he could have just had a mechanical hand put on, which suggests that this man really is dedicated to giving himself a theme.

With his own terrible claw, Carver manages to make short work of the raptors while Earl grabs some cans of fuel. Heading back to the doctor’s ‘surgery’ Earl finds Joe all healed up, and ready to help them get this fire started!

Back outside, Old One-Eye is desperate to eat one of the last remaining humans in town, who’s hiding atop a building, pretty proud of himself for finding such a great hiding place. O f course, hubris is one of those things that gets punished almost immediately in fiction, so before he can start a happy braggy dance a Pteranadon swoops down and knocks him into One-Eye’s mouth.

Things would be going really well for the old girl until a rival Tyrannosaur sees the delicous morsel and tries to steal it by biting her in the neck. This seriously ticks off One-Eye, who wheels around:

Note that the man in her mouth is still screaming. Nice touch.

Yeah, she’s pretty bad-ass. I can’t deny that. So monstrous, in fact, that she’s the only dinosaur that doesn’t run away from the sudden inferno you can see in the background of that panel. That’s right, the first was set of-panel while we were watching One-Eye kill her child.

Why doesn’t she run off? Because that’s just how much she hates Earl Reagan. Figuring out what the score is, Carver decides that the only chance he’s got is to give the old hag what she wants. Carver grabs Reagan and tosses him out of the ring of fire. Things aren’t looking great for our main character:

How’s he going to get out of this one? More importantly, how an a Tyrannosaur kill someone slowly? Step on him? Dead. Bite him? Dead. Is she going to gently nudge him with her foot until he falls into the fire?

Thrill 3 – Harlem Heroes (?/Gibbons)

Still no writer/artist credits, but based on this panel, it’s pretty clear that Dave Gibbons is drawing this thing. Also, doesn’t that tunnel look great? According to the text at the bottom, the tunnel was started in 2010 and completed in 2050. Ah, if only.

As the Heroes’ super-liner carries them across the ocean floor, the team does a little training in their fully-equipped gym, and then discusses their upcoming game against the Siberian Wolves. This scene is a little puzzling because Giant announces that they know absolutely nothing about the Siberian wolves – in fact, Russia only applied for membership in the Aeroball world league five years ago!

So they’ve been playing Aeroball for five years, but there exists absolutely no footage of them playing? How is it possible that they could have no idea what the team plays like? As a result, the team’s planning session can’t be very instructive, and we quickly move on to a conversation with Louis, the team’s brain in a jar, who remains convinced that the accident that killed the team… wasn’t one! Of course, he doesn’t have any new information, so this scene doesn’t come to much either.

The Heroes are welcomed with open arms by the Russians, who are apparently very fond of the game of Aeroball, fond enough to build a giant stadium for it! The rules of Aeroball grow confusing once again, as you’ll note that the Russian’s home bullpen is like five times the size of the visitor’s bullpen.

The next panel will reveal that yes, in addition to the six men on the field, the Russians have nearly 30 substitutes. Seriously, what are the rules of this game? There’s no limit to the amount of substitute players you’re allowed to have waiting to run onto the field? Given that there was drama created a few issues back about whether the Heroes would be able to field enough players, why don’t they just have twenty Heroes on the bench at all times? Even if they’re no good, it’s better than a disqualification.

It turns out that the huge number of backups on the Russian team has led to them playing a little more recklessly than you’d imagine, leading to an incident when one of the players tries to ram into Giant full-speed – he misses, though, and winds up slamming into the recoil surface, knocking him out of the game. These suicidal moves give Giant pause – are they trying to win the game, or injure the Heroes so badly that they’ll be knocked out of the World Championship?!

The Aeroball Rulebook:

16: Only a Squad Leader can call time out, and only if two or more players are sidelined by injury.
28 – Don't touch the score posts.
? - Don't kick (or punch?) people in the back of the head.
? - No sandwich tackles (?)
? – There is no limit to the number of backup players a team may hold in reserve.

No lines for Chico or Sammy again this week, so with just two issues left, the count is still at 1 line of dialogue.

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

On the ship orbiting Jupiter the X-O is desperately trying to reclaim the ship from the Solarbeast, who has claimed it his masters, the BIOGS! He’s quickly foiled by the ship’s own defense mechanisms, as the piloting bubble is energized, killing the guards who were trying to penetrate it with lasers.

Down on the planet, Dan and Monday arrive at the Biogs’ home base, where they’re confronted by more SolarBeasts. Luckily, the solarbeast feels like monologing instead of killing, so he’s happy to tell them the backstory of what’s going on. It seems that the SolarBeasts are called Shepherds – they’re the leaders of a race of aliens who live only to march into the mouth of the Biog queen, where they’re devoured and turned into the energy that the Biogs use to build their magnificent flesh cities. It’s the Shepherds’ job to ensure that everyone marches into the maw in an orderly fashion.

Sadly, the Biogs weren’t too concerned about sustainability, and have over-farmed the Shepherds’ race. So they’ve got a new plan: move onto Jupiter, and use the population of earth as their new fuel source! Dan and Monday don’t find this plan compelling, and decide to fight back aginst the aliens the only way they know how… with their fists!

Surprisingly, this goes well, as they’re able to grab bone spears from the guards and start stabbing them fatally. They also announce that there’s no way the Biogs will ever manage to conquer the earth. This announcement seriously annoys the lead shepherd, which causes the greatest thing ever to happen:

Yeah, that’s a living axe he’s using. Need I say more? Right before he can kill Dan, the Shepherd stops under the orders of a Biog. Apparently flesh isn’t useful for energy unless the creature is alive when it’s devoured. The chief shepherd announces that it’s time for Dan to surrender to his fate, but mid-sentence he’s stabbed to death by Monday!

Dan thanks Monday for saving his life, and announces that it’s time for them to deal with the Biogs, the only way he knows how. By using their own living axes against them!

I’m not kidding. This is wonderful.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre

This week Tharg announces that starting soon, the comic will be publishing letters from fans, and paying ten-pound rewards for the best letter each week. This is promising.

Thrill 5 – MACH 1

In Munich, Germany John Probe has arrived at a safehouse to meet his contact. Inside he discovers that Karl, the sympathetic agent, is being beaten by neo-nazis. Probe beats them up and then gets to hear the story behind his mision. It seems that at the end of the war, Karl had infiltrated the ‘Werewolves’, the end of the war Nazi group who attempted to prolong the war by using guerilla tactics against the allied troops.

It turns out that in addition to sabotaging railroads, they had another priority – hiding gold to fund a hypothetical ‘Fourth Reich’ at some indeterminate point in the future. Fortunately for right-thinking people everywhere, the boat carrying that gold was blown up by an Allied plane, and has sunk to the bottom of a German lake. Problem solved, right?

Wrong! It seems that the head of the werewolves, an SS colonel, was not executed at the end of the war, but rather jailed. And now he’s out, and using his reconstituted Neo-Nazi army to track down the gold! Apparently they wanted to kill Karl because he was the only man other than the Colonel who knew where the gold was, and they wanted to keep him from telling MI6.

Which raises the question… why didn’t he tell MI6? He’s known about the gold’s location and the threat the Colonel poses for 30 years, and he’s just mentioning it now, when the Colonel is out of jail and posing a threat? Wouldn’t bringing it up at any point during those interim 384 months have been a safer move? Unless, of course, he planned to kepe the gold all for himself…

Probe never considers this possibility, and heads straight for the lake, which, unless the cover is lying (which it certainly is), will contain gold-loving Nazi zombies being carried by a submarine. Being able to hold his breath indefintely aids Probe well here, as he’s able to dive right into the lake wearing his leisure suit. Just as it seems that he’s managed to obtain the gold, the unthinkable happens:

Yes, he’s being attacked by the skeletons! This is too good to be true! Oh, they’d better not ruin this when I turn the p-


Surrounded by frogmen, Probe does the only logical thing – he beats them to death with thrown gold bars, then surfaces. It turns out that the cover was lying again, and the frogmen came not from a submarine, but instead a hydrofoil, which, to be fair, is almost as good.

Probe quickly climbs aboard the hydrofoil, kills the Colonel’s guards, and demands all the information he has about the Werewolves. Amazingly, the Colonel keeps a detailed dossier about his entire organisation in a conveniently-portable briefcase that he’s able to hand over easily. The Hydrofoil, which hasn’t had a pilot for a few minutes now, then takes a turn towards the rocks. Probe leaps off at the last minute, consigning the Colonel to a firey, crashy, end.

I’m not sure what happened ot the gold. It doesn’t come up.

Thrill 6 – Judge Dredd

It’s time for another look into the wold of FUTURECRIME, those wonderful new crimes that will exist when technology catches up with the dark imaginations of sinners. This week it’s organ harvesting, being performed by an evil scientist who calls himself… Frankenstein 2! According to his hired goon, he makes the original Frankenstein look like ‘a jelly baby’. Which is British for ‘gummy bear’.

The hilarious idea behind this particular future crime is that in Mega City 1 transplant surgery has been perfected, allowing people to live indefinitely with replacement organs, but it has been banned for some reason, leaving transplants in the wheelhouse of criminals, and no one else.

Really? So no transplants are allowed at all? Like if you have a heart condition, and somone with a perfectly good heart gets shot to death, they won’t give it to you? Doesn’t that seem a little odd? I wonder if this will continue as a thing, or be forgotten quickly.

While a henchman drives away with an ambulance, the nurse who was thrown out the side observes that Dredd was already on the scene, not interfering. He’s thinking strategically here – why capture a henchman when you can follow him back to his boss?

Mega-City 1’s omnipresent surveillance capabilities prove effective once more, as Justice Central tracks the fleeing ban heading into a tunnel, but not coming out the other side! Dredd employs his pistol to shoot a hole in the wall, then rides in through it, bike cannons blazing! After five henchmen are blown to pieces, Dredd wanders through the human cold storage area, eventually arriving at the room where Frankenstein 2 transplants organs into the millionaires who can afford them.

He offers to cut Dredd in on the deal, not udnerstanding just how uncorruptible our favorite Judge is, and when he’s refused, he attacks Dredd with a scalpel! Amazingly, Dredd manages to incapacitate Frank 2 without killing him, and graciously accepts the man’s surrender. Then it’s simply a matter of arresting his patient, once again giving Dredd the opportunity to break out some killer quips, while giving off a real class-warfare vibe.

Judge Dredd Kill Count: (12) + 5 this week = 17

Final Thoughts

Best Story: Dan Dare – For the first time Dan Dare gets top honors, for one reason and one reason only. The living axe. Expect Dan to take top honors again next week and for as long as that axe keeps showing up. Any other story will have to really pull out the stops to beat Double-D as long as he’s carrying that axe.

Worst Story: Mach 1 – Everything was pretty good this week, but the drop in quality between the promise of the cover and the delivery of the story forces me to single out MACH 1 as the worst this issue had to offer.

Best Panel: It’s another back-page diagram, this time of the Heroes new ultra-liner!

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