Programme 15 (4-June-77)

Cover: Dear lord – Mach Man is being attacked by Yetis! This had better not turn out to be some kind of a trick or men in suits…

Thrill 1 – Invasion!

It seems that, despite Bill’s protestations, and all the bloody holes that buckshot tore in the uniforms, Silk and the Brigadier went through with the disguise plan anyhow. It goes wrong, though – despite the Brigadier’s knowledge of the Volgan language, one of the guards is suspicious. Personally, I’d be suspicious not of their posture or accents, but of the fact that one of them has a moustache and wears glasses:

Hasn’t he ever heard of a grooming code? The Volg soldier yells ‘Attention’ and, being ramrod-straight military men, Silk and the Brig immediately stand at attention, revealing themselves as Brits!

Bill and the Mad Dogs rush out of the bushes, shooting all of the guards along the fence. After jumping that fence, Savage hijacks an acid tanker (it says ACID right on the side, just in case we were confused) and backs it through the wall of the nuclear research building.

If I can find I picture of a cat on a windshield I’m so using this.

Luckily for Bill, the tanker wasn’t carrying acetic acid, and the scientists inside, along with a few guards, are melted to death. Also melted are the reactor cooling pipes, causing the plant to enter into mini-meltdown mode. Bill gets clear just in time by jumping into the sea.

There’s a few tense hours when the Mad Dogs wonder if Bill got out alive, before he shows up at their hideout under a pub. After blasting a cask of wine to wash ‘the stink of Volgan uniforms’ off of them. Lest we get the wrong mood by them ending on a joke, Bill points out that the stink of Volgans is still all over the country, and needs to be washed away as violently as possible.

Thrill 2 - Flesh

It’s the DAY OF THE DINOSAUR’S REVENGE! The story opens with three pages of uninterrupted carnage as dinosaurs sweep over the base. Old One-Eye and the raptors go after humans, the other big meat-eaters attack the captive plan-eaters, and the Pteranodons kind of swoop around outside, sadly unable to get inside the base.

Inside the Flesh Controller’s office, the FC finally calls the other members of the trans-time board and demands more help to defend their base. Interestingly, all of the other trans-time executives also have ridiculously large heads:

Just then a group of spiders burst through the doors into the office, and the other door smashes open, revealing tyrannosaurs! Convinced that the situation is hopeless, the other executives decline to help, deciding that it just doesn’t make economic sense to risk any more people. While the tyrannosaurs struggle to get through one door, Eaqrl, Claw, and Joe struggle to fight their way through another. It doesn’t go well.

Yeah, um, remember those nightmare I mentioned? They're back.

The narration actually points out that Joe was the only human who thought dinosaur genocide might have been a bad idea – which I suppose makes his death more tragic? Earl, Claw and the FC make it out of the room – Earl sends the other two off to help with the evacuation, while he goes off to settle some personal business: He’s going to kill One-Eye. How he thinks this is going to help, I’m not sure.

Thrill 3 – Harlem Heroes (?/Gibbons)

It’s time for the one-on-one sudden death game to decide which team will win the game! How do they decide which player on each team will take part? Every player reaches into a bucket full of action figures – one of the action figures has a skull head, and if you pick it, you’re up. The rules are simple – the game is over when one goal is scored, or when one of the players ‘begs for mercy!’

After the ball launch Red MacArdle beats up Zack and heads for the score post, but is tackled from behind before he can score. The two men beat each other up for a few moments, and the struggle ends with Red pushing Zack close to the electrified score post. Just as Zack is about to be knocked unconscious, he gives up!

Then, when Red lets him go, assuming that the game is over, Zack headbutts him and keeps playing!

Wait- What? I know the rules of this game don’t make the most sense, but this is crazy. Two hard and fast rules were established about how sudden death ends: You score, or your opponent surrenders. We can all see that panel up there. Zack surrendered. You can’t ‘take back’ a surrender. Imagine a guy in UFC being held in some kind of a arm bar tapping out, then when his opponent lets go, saying ‘just kidding’ and attacking his opponent again. You can’t do that. The game’s over.

So anyway, the Heroes’ cheating is rewarded with a ‘win’, and the match ends with Red congratulating the Heroes on cheating him out of a win. It’s a little confusing.

As the Heroes leave in their super-liner the story’s mysterious villain (who can only be Ulysses Cord – seriously, could you please introduce at least one other character so there’s the slightest hat tipped in the direction of surprise?) watches from a helicopter. He’s disappointed that the match didn’t turn into the ‘bloodbath’ he’d hoped, but he’s got a plan to get the result he wants anyways. The villain looks over to his passenger… Artie Gruber(!) and tells him that he’s going to get another shot at the heroes!

So, just to be clear, the villain announced at the end of issue 11 that what he had planned next would make Artie look like ‘a boy scout’. Now it’s revealed that his next plan was to… send Artie to try and kill them again.

Oy. This is what happens when you don't plan your comics ahead of time, people.

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

When we left Dan, his spaceship, the… ugh… Titan I.C. was about to crash land on a planet inside a sun. It survives the crash just fine, and after Rok uses his (no really it’s not a) light saber to cut Dan and the captain free, they stumble outside into the super-heated planet wearing their environment suits. There’s no sign of the captain’s pet Amoeba, so until it shows up to save the day, I’m going to assume it was killed in the crash.

The crash which was, as predicted, on the Mekon’s secret planet. The Mekon’s sensors pick up the crashing ship, and he sends troops to investigate. After a brief skirmish Dan realizes that escape is impossible, and he has them surrender to the Mekon’s troops.

The Mekon has them brought in so he can discover if anyone else knows about the planet. He doesn’t recognize Dan, but then the idiotic captain goes and mentions Dan’s full name while blaming him for crashing on the planet. This leads to the following entertaining image, as the Mekon remembers Dan as looking like someone drawn in a completely different art style:

Confused by this surprising turn of events, the Mekon orders Dan, Rok, and the Captain to be tortured for information, and then killed after they tell all they know. Which leaves them without much of a motive to talk, I should think.

You know, this is all so unbelievably contrived that I want to take a moment to lay out the series of events that got us here.

1 – Dan fights the Biogs, who are from somewhere on ‘the galactic Rim’
2 – Dan figures that someone who knows the location of earth must have told the Biogs where to go.
3 – Dan hitches a ride on a ship going out to the galactic rim, which, seing as it counts all of the star systems along the outer edge of the galaxy, is a pretty damn big place.
4 – While on the way to the rim there’s an error with the jump drive that takes the ship into the heart of a random sun.
5 – Which just happens to be the secret base of the Mekon, the one person in the entire galaxy who knows Dan Dare personally, and is probably the guy who sent the Biogs to earth.

Wow, is that terrible writing – you know, if Harlem Heroes hadn’t insulted my intelligence even worse than this story did, Dan Dare easily would have been the worst thing about his comic.

Thrill 5 – MACH 1

There’s a mystery afoot this week, as somewhere in Asia a group of holidayers were waylaid by an invisible beast during a blizzard! It’s up to Probe to get to the bottom of it! Their only clue? The president of Bepal (which is an entirely different place than Nepal, why do you ask?) personally asked the holidayers to smuggle ‘opium’ back to England, and when they refused, they were all killed!

Seriously, the ruler of the country asked them himself. You know, I consider myself pretty far from being a traitor, but had I been backpacking through Russia in the 80s and had Mikael Gorbachev personally ask me to bring some secret files to a sleeper agent somewhere in America, I probably would have done it. It’s just so flattering!

Of course, when Probe arrives in Bepal the Lama denies any involvement in smuggling. The armed guards keeping people from wandering around the palace at night raise Probe’s suspicions, though. Because that’s a totally unreasonable thing to go. If a foreign intelligence agent was asked to spend the night at Buckingham Palace, he would totally be allowed to just wander wherever he wanted to go, right?

Anyway, Probe sneaks into the garage area and discovers how they’re getting the opium out of the country – they’re building trucks whose fiberglass side panels are actually made of compressed opium! Brilliant! Of course, Probe is so distracted by the brilliance of the scheme that he forgets to not stand out in the open, staring at the trucks.

Making a quick getaway under a hail of fire, Probe leaps over a 7-meter wall, in a stunt that apparently warrants the inclusion of a ‘don’t try this at home’ disclaimer. On the other side of the wall Probe finds himself in the Yeti pen!

That’s right, it actually was yetis who killed the holidayers at the beginning! Yay! The lama tells his guards not to shoot – it will be more entertaining to watch Probe be killed by the abominable snowmen. Somehow seeing Probe easily leap 25 feet into the air didn’t tip off the Lama that there might be something wrong with that plan.

Probe quickly snaps the neck of one yeti, then breaks down the gate, allowing the other to rush out and tear the Lama to pieces. Having arranged a suitably ironic fate for his opponent, Probe takes his leave, confident that the whole drug problem has been taken care of.

Thrill 6 – Judge Dredd

Still trapped in Call-Me-Kenneth’s factory, Dredd is introduced to the other robots that Walter has brought in on his scheme. A security robot, a cleaning robot, and a maintenance robot. Dredd is skeptical, but then they reveal that they’ve got something precious – a copy of the old obedience laws on disk! All Dredd will have to do is make it to the robot control tower, and the original programming can be beamed into the heads of all new robot’s coming off the line! So he does that.

Speaking personally, I can’t really see either of those statements as being particularly comforting. With all the new robots coming off the line ready to obey Dredd, he and his followers are quickly able to regain control of the production facilities. His problems aren’t over yet, though – it seems that Ken is nowhere to be found!

Just then a call comes through for Dredd. Ken and the Heavy Metal Kids are attacking the Hall of Justice! Continuing the confusion over just what titles to use, when the robot announces that there’s a call for Dredd, he says it’s from the Grand Judge, but when Ken says he’s going to squeeze the juices out of that same man, he’s referred to as the Chief Judge. Arrgh.

In any event, it looks like it’s time for one last showdown between man and machine! Next week!

Final Thoughts

Best Story: MACH 1 – Much as I’m loving the robot uprising story in Dredd, the appearance of Yetis just made me too happy to give the title to anyone else.

Worst Story: Harlem Heroes – By the rules set out in the world of the comic, they lost the game. So now I’m supposed to be rooting for cheaters to win. No thanks.

And now, because I couldn't resist:

(Photo credit goes to whoever it was that posted this picture of their cat on Flickr.

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