Programme 10 (30-April-77)

Cover: Yeah, that robot’s hitting Judge Dredd with a chainsword. Also, the robot’s name is Kenneth. I don’t feel I have to explain what makes that the perfect comic book cover. It may not beat the time Judge Dredd attacked King Kong, but it’s a close second. Also, despite the fact that Star Wars didn’t come out in the UK until December ’77, it seems that people were already well aware of it. And what’s going on with that W? I’m pretty sure they don’t have tails.

Thrill 1 – Invasion!

It seems that things have turned foul at Dartmoor prison. It’s being used as an internment camp for people the Volgans aren’t fond of, which leads to more fairly icky holocaust imagery, as we see a line of men with shaved heads and thin-striped uniforms.

It seems that no one escapes from the Dartmoor – if they try, corpses show up the next day, stripped of all their flesh! It’s going to be a challenge for Silk and Savage to break in to rescue Frost, a famous aeronautical engineer that the Volgs have locked away!

The inmates of the prison are marched to a quarry every day to perform slave labour, so Silk and Savage hide under piles of rock to ambush the Volgan guards. After massacring the guards, the Mad Dogs announce that while they’re only there to rescue the professor, the other fifty inmates are free to come as well. The other inmates are too frightened of the Moor monsters to even consider it.

Laughing at the inmates’ timidity, Silk and Savage drag the professor back to their car. They begin to take the ‘monster’ stories a little more seriously when they find that the car has been destroyed! Who could have done this?

Turns out it’s not a who, but a what – a huge pack of wild dogs! Whose appearance leaves us with our first real cliffhanger of the series! I’ve got to say, between this multipart story and the way Judge Dredd set up this week’s story last time, it seems like it’s not just Dan Dare and Harlem Heroes any more – the entire comic is embracing the idea of serial, as opposed to episodic, storytelling.

Oh, and in a fun final thing, there’s another secret decoder message to be broken by you, the members of the resistance reading along at home! Here’s the codewheel:

Or, if you want to solve it the old-fashioned way, the first word is ‘THESE’. As usual, I’ll be putting the solution in the Final Thoughts section at the bottom of this post.


Thrill 2 – Flesh

The story opens with a bit of a surprise – last week they thought the image of Orville the spoiled child – OF THE FUTURE! – being clenched in Old One-Eye’s jaws was too horrific to be shown, but this week the first two panels of the story feature that selfsame contemptible brat being hurled up into the air and then caught by the ancient beast.

Can’t say I’ll miss you, Orv’

The Tyrannosaurs press their attack, even as Claw and Joe blast away at them from the mounted guns on the roof of the train. Reagan knows the only way they’ll survive the encounter is by escaping, and despite the protestations of the engineer, he starts the train back up and pushes it through the rockslide.

The Rexes are thrown off, and the train takes a beating, but it manages to make a getaway. This frustrates One-Eye to no end. In fact, the whole thing has been so stressful that she suffers a minor heart attack, as depicted in the following sequence:

Man, I love the idea of a dinosaur operating on such base instinct that it tries to bite away a heart attack.

Reagan’s train arrives back at the trans-time station, and everything seems to be better. Except for the part where hundreds of dinosaurs now know to follow the rail line to their prey. Only Reagan seems to realize this, leaving him a kind of prehistoric cowboy Cassandra as the episode ends.

Thrill 3 (?/Gibbons)

So anyway, he missed. That’s how Giant got out of the cliffhanger. Artie missed, just grazing his helmet. No one notices the rifle fire, though, because the shot that missed Giant winds up hitting the Aztec captain, blowing up his backback. He spirals into the crowd and explodes. Naturally, a time-out is called.

In the medical area Giant’s face is quickly patched up, and the assumption is made that he was grazed by a chunk of flying backpack metal.

Because Aeroball is a fairly ruthless game things start right back up again, with the Heroes quickly scoring a point with some fancy foot and helmet-work. This really gets under Artie’s skin, so as the Heroes are doing their formation-gloating-swoop, he throws off his disguise and starts blasting away at them. The rushing crowd around him causes him to miss, though, and Giant is on it immediately! He dives down out of the sky, spins around, and kicks Artie in the face.

Artie makes a run for the Aztec’s pit area, with the Heroes all hot on his trail. I’m not sure why stadium security isn’t doing something about this, but maybe that will come up next time around.

Didn’t this strip used to have a floating head in a jar?

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

When we last saw Dan Dare the Biogs had just warped their fleet into Jupiterian orbit. Between that panel and this one earth’s defense fleet has arrived as well, and the battle is already on! The biogs don’t have guns on their ships, but they can spit acid that dissolves huge holes in hulls!

More interestingly, and incredibly confusingly, they’re able to grab 20-mile-across moons and hurl them at groups of ships. I’m not really sure how that works, I mean, in outer space, where’s his leverage coming from? Wouldn’t grabbing hold of a moon and moving your tentacles just swing you around it?

Also, they refer to the stone as being ‘twenty miles across and weighing ten million tons’.

Wow. I mean, I don’t expect the science in these things to be dead on, but that’s just crazy. Sure, ‘ton’ is a measurement of weight, as opposed to mass, so it doesn’t really have any meaning in outer space, but the fact that they’re using the term suggests they want it to be read as ‘what it would weigh on earth’. Which is the incredibly ludicrous part.

Ten million tons… The empire state building weighs 1/3 of a million tons. So thirty empire state buildings = ten million tons.

The thing they’re talking about is a MOON. If a moon 20 miles in diameter were made entirely out of marshmallow, it would still weigh more than 10 million tons. Of course, a moon made of marshmallow could probably still have wiped out the ships, so who knows? Maybe the figure was right.

On the bridge of the ship Dan and Monday are still alive, but apparently most of the crew has been killed in an acid attack! Wait? Have they killed Ziggy Rodan, action space doctor!? NOOOOOOO! First the living axe, and now this? Damn you, Dan Dare, for toying with my heart! Wait – it’s not like we’ve seen a body. Despite the fact that she’s usually on the bridge, and that’s where the acid strike hit, there’s a chance she’s not dead yet – let’s see what happens next issue.

Anyhow, Dan takes a torpedo boat out and manages to use a Tachyon torpedo to accelerate the Biog Ship’s atoms beyond the speed of light, causing them to warp into another dimension. I’m going to assume that’s essentially the same thing as ‘blowing it up’, only with more science fiction added.

Of course, that was just one ship, and Dan’s out of torpedoes. Monday has a plan, though – he’s going to go out in a blaze of glory, taking all the biogs with him! The details are sketchy, although we’re promised an explanation of what the ‘sun trip’ means next week when we all bear witness to:

Thrill 5 – MACH 1

You know, after that signature last issue, I was all set to start putting an artist credit on this story, and now this issue’s art is so completely different that I only assume they’ve switched out the artist. Guess I’m back looking for signatures.

John Probe is parachuting down to the Armenian mountains, on a mission to capture an ‘Eastern’ spy master. Amazingly he doesn’t have to do much looking to find this master sky-killer. The place Probe drops out of the sky just happens to be twenty feet behind his target, who is apparently just walking around the mountains with no escort of any kind.

After a show of brute strength, the spymaster is willing to be escorted down the mountain by Probe, but he explains that his leg is injured, and he has to go slowly. Of course it turns out that he was just playing for time – he was supposed to meet a helicopter for pickup. When it arrives, the commandoes on board immediately head after Probe, but are quickly dispatched by hyperpower kicks to the head.

The helicopter then moves in for the kill, but they’ve forgotten that Probe isn’t unarmed – he’s still got a climbing axe! Which he then throws through the windshield, killing the pilot and causing a crash.

It just occurred to me that Probe doesn’t carry a gun. Why not? I mean, I get that he likes to show off with the Hyperpowers and everything, but at times like this a gun would really come in handy. And it’s not like he has to worry about customs – he parachuted into the country.

During the man vs. helicopter battle Probe’s quarry has escaped, and the only way he’ll make up the time is by salvaging skis from a nearby hut! Of course, the spymaster has thought of this, and much like paper covers rock, he knows that avalanche trumps skier.

Much to the dismay of the Mythbusters, the spymaster fires a few bullets into the mountain, causing the snow to start sliding. It doesn’t help the spymaster, though, since Probe is capable of skiing atop an avalanche! Desperate to avoid being captured, the spymaster takes the only route left available to him. He pulls the pin on a grenade, and holds it up to his jaw, while making a fantastic speech:

Yup, Probe saves the day by tossing the grenade aside. Then it’s off to jail for the spymaster, and back home for Probe. This leads to a rare appearance of Probe’s boss Sharpe, who talks about Probe with his assistant, Moxan. Apparently Probe isn’t able to stop moving for more than a few seconds – there’s so much hyperpower locked away in him that if he wasn’t constantly expending it he risks burning out! Moxan wonders about the morality of turning a man into a killing machine, but Sharpe is just happy to have a killing machine on his team.

Thrill 6 – Judge Dredd

It starts this good, and only gets better. I’m going to be posting an unusual number of panels this time because everything is just that wonderful.

Just as Judge Dredd predicted last week, robots have turned to crime! Well, one robot, anyhow. And, despite what you’d think based on his chestplate, his name is not Kenneth, but rather ‘Call-Me-Kenneth’. I’m not sure why, after all, Dredd’s robot has ‘I’m Walter Try Me’ written on his chest, but he’s just called Walter. Walter the Wobot. God how I love that little lisping fellow.

The police show up to stop the robbery, flying in a hovercar, brandishing weapons. Yeah, not Judges, police:

No helmets, no shoulder pads, just police officers – apparently in the original conception of the strip the judges were an elite force within the police department, as opposed to a monastic order of crime fighters who rule the city with an iron fist, as I remember them. I wonder when that changed?

The police bullets bounce right off of Ken, giving robot a chance to hurl a nearby girder at the hovership, killing its occupants. The question of what Ken was stealing is resolved immediately afterwards:
How is oil related to freedom, and how will it enable him to rule Mega City 1? Hopefully we’ll discover soon.

Over at justice central, a group of judges is finishing a meal provided to them by a vending machine robot: Walter! Who apparently was not Dredd’s robot at this time. The judges get a report of a certain carpentry robot going nuts in sector 9, and Dredd is immediately on the move.

Yeah, apparently Ken has a problem with cops. To the point that he’s killing one by shoving him down into a garbage grinder. Yikes. Also, that sign says ‘keep America clean’. There’s still an America, and Mega City 1 is part of it? Wow, are these early issues an eye-opener. Dredd shows up and asks Ken to surrender, even offering to ‘go easy’ on him.

What exactly is Dredd offering here? How do you ‘go easy’ on a robot? I’m pretty sure that the only possible ways to deal with a killer robot are reprogramming or scrapping, either of which would seem like death to Ken. So what incentive could Dredd give him? Is there an island of rogue robots he could be sent to?

It’s no matter, of course, because Ken isn’t interested in being reasoned with. He’s sick of being pushed around by humans, and he’s not going to take it any more!

So did he not have oil before? Is oil like blood? Did he need a better quality of oil before he could kill cops? There’s a lot unclear in Ken’s comments here. I do like that his threats highlight the firmness of robots as opposed to the realtive pliability of human flesh, though. Also, he’s talking through a hole in his chest. Like a genius.

Dredd realizes there’s no point in trying to shoot Ken, because bullets couldn’t possibly stop such a hulking monster. This raises a good question, actually – why is a carpentry robot such a giant, unkillable monstrosity? If it was a lumberjack robot, who had to deal with the possibility of a tree falling on it, I’d understand the design choice… but why does a robot that’s going to be nailing some things together and sanding other things down need to be so tough?

Facing an impossible situation, Dredd makes a desperate, but logical, choice – switch to high explosive rounds and blow Ken’s head clean off! Again, like a genius, Ken’s control circuits aren’t in his head at all, and that part was just built to make humans more confortable with an anthropomorphic shape. After gloating about his superior construction, Ken opens fire:

His fingers shoot nails. I love this robot.

With Dredd pinned to the wall with nails and struggling to get free, Ken announces that he’s got something special for Dredd. He reaches into his leg and pulls out… a chainsword! Just like on the cover! He lifts the sword – can Dredd escape in time?!

(Call-Me-Kenneth reaveals that, although superior to humans in many ways, robots can’t pun worth a damn.)

It turns out that Ken’s primary sensors were in his head, so he’s unable to detect that Dredd wasn’t bisected by the sword. But he was still able to pin Dredd to the wall with nails. Hmm.

Anyhow, his senors are working well enough that Ken is able to locate some innocent bystanders, and he heads straight for them. Dredd is in hot pursuit, and he notices that Ken has put himself in a vulnerable position as he attempts to kill a baby. That’s right, a baby:

Dredd shoots the cable, which falls into Ken’s open neck, hyper-charging him with electricity. Ken can’t handle all the power, and he starts swinging his sword around wildly, which ends up slicing open his own armored gullet.

The threat of Call-Me-Kenneth is over, but Dredd isn’t satisfied. Being a pessimisitc sort, he sees this as little more than the first shot in a coming all-out war with the Robots!

Given 2000AD' s growing flirtation with continuity in all its stories, I'm thinking we can expect to see that all-out robot war in 10-20 issues.

Judge Dredd Kill Count - holding at 19, because he only killed a robot this week.

Final Thoughts

Best Story: Judge Dredd – He fought a killer robot chainsword-swinging carpenter. Two weeks in a row, this is how you write comic books, people!

Worst Story: Dan Dare – After a brief respite from blandness, Dan’s back at the bottom. First he abandons the living axe to die in space, and now Ziggy Rodan was (presumably) melted? Weak man, just weak.

And, as promised, here’s the solution to your puzzle-






You’ll notice that it says ‘Volgam’ and ‘Fceld’. This seems to be a mistake made by the original writer or letterer – at least in context it’s clear that they meant Volgan and Field.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I also had a problem with "EHPEHWP UTPQ GWDPTJM WMR" which gave me "RETREAT WITH CABTION AND".

It makes the puzzle much more difficult when you assume words are spelt correctly.