Programme 22 (23-July-77)


It’s the fourth supercover, which is, once again, not drawn by God-Among-Artists Brian Bolland. This time I’m actually going to guess what the story is, based solely on the cover. It’s probably about a peaceful alien who comes to earth and then gets misunderstood and hunted because he looks ugly, allowing them to have a ‘message’ in their hundred-word story.

Thrill 1 – Invasion!

Bill Savage and his Mad Dogs have made their way to Sommerset, which I assume is the same rural area of England featured in ‘Mid-Somer Murders’, that show I used to watch on TVO.

It seems that the Resistance is feeding themselves by herding cattle in and out of caves to keep them hidden while fattened up, and Savage has dropped by to check on the outfit. This raises an interesting question – just how long has this invasion been going on? It doesn’t seem like more than a few months at this point, so are things really so bad, nutritionally speaking, that the resistance has had to resort to the incredibly time, land, and resource-consuming practice of raising cattle?

Or do they just really love their steak, to the extent that they’re willing to risk capture to get it?

I hope that steak was delicious, because Savage isn’t in the pasture for more than a minute before Volg armored cars roll in. They prove no match for Bill and the Mad Dogs, but unfortunately the cattle are all killed in the crossfire.

Desperate for a new food source, Bill grabs a Volg prisoner and sticks a shotgun in his face… turning to cannibalism a little quickly there, aren’t you, Bill? You want to check if they have some leftover rations first, maybe?

Oh, wait, it’s not a Donner party thing. Sorry. Bill interrogates the prisoner and executes him, then announces that they have to stop a nearby train. The cattle herders are confused about how blowing up an equipment train might solve their food crisis, but one train robbery later, they have their answer-

You know the story is so clearly about World War 2 that every now and then I forget that it’s actually set 22 years in the future (the far-off 1999!). Also, why didn’t Savage tell them what they were trying to steal in all the time they were waiting for the train? I’m reminded of that Simpsons joke – “I said there was no time to explain, and I stand by that!”

There’s one last surprise in the story, though-

You’re turning down a hard-earned meal, Bill? But wait, just two pages ago you said-

Maybe I was a little too quick in dismissing that whole cannibalism thing…

Thrill 2 - Shako

We pick up with a pair of hunters, out searching for Shako, hoping to pick up the sweet reward that’s been offered for the Great White… um… bear. Shako’s too clever for them, though, and after edging a block of snow and ice to within a few meters, he lunges at the hunters, making quick work of them.

Over at the nearby base, Jake finally breaks down and explains to Buck just what they’re looking for. The capsule contains a nerfarious virus, one that has horrible effects on bunnies!

Dear lord, if they don’t get it back, the world’s hosentheffer supply could be in jeopardy! It’s possible that this virus affects other animals, of course, but until I find out for sure, I’m going to assume this is a quest to save all the world’s rabbits.

Also, now that I know what it is, Jake’s secrecy makes a whole lot more sense. After all, isn’t building killer viruses unbelievably illegal? It’s not like they’re claiming that this is a virus that the CIA stole from the Russians in order to develop a countermeasure. This is a full-on CIA project, which makes Jake the bad guy in this story, attemping to recover his ‘deadliest weapon’. Somehow, I don’t see him making it to the end of this strip, and that’s not my fuzzy memories talking.

The two men heads out to look for the bear, along with two snowmobile drivers. They quickly stumble upon Shako’s feeding grounds. Hey, Would you look at that? It seems Shako didn’t make quick work of both of the hunters, after all! When Buck arrives on the scene, one of the hunters is still being batted around painfully. You know, unless he survives, we may just have a qualifying death here…

Jake opens fire, but misses his target, giving Shako the chance to dive through the ice and then burst out under the snowmobiles, in a manner that in no way resembles a certain movie about a certain shark-

While everyone scrambles around Shako unleashes some of his trademark violence-

Ouch, right? Next he turns his attention to Buck, who knows a trick that just might save his life. A trick that, depending on if you believe the narrator or Buck, comes either from racial memory or just normal memory.

This leads to the most intense staring contest I’ve ever seen in a comic book, which is not meant as an attempt to damn it with faint praise. Check it out:

Shako grows bored with the lack of stimuli, and lets his attention wander just long enough for Buck to grab his rifle and shoot Shako in the chest. This would be a bit of an anti-climactic ending for the strip, except for the fact that Buck was using a Tranq rifle, and Shako’s just fallen asleep. Falmuth grabs his own (much deadlier) rifle and plans to finish the job, but Buck rushes to intervene.

Um… why? Hopefully we’ll discover next issue.

Okay, weird week for scoring… Shako killed one of the hunters and one of the drivers, both very quickly, but the other hunter’s fate is still unknown. If he dies, then Shako certainly did kill him ‘real slow’, but if he doesn’t, then we’re still at zero. So here’s what we’re going to do- If there’s any reference to that hunter dying next issue, we’re giving it to Shako, but if he’s proven alive, or even naver mentioned again, we’re going to assume that Buck, Jake, and the other driver dragged him to wherever they went and got him some medical aid.

So for now, the count is 0 out of 10 (0%) of Shako’s victims have ‘died real slow’.

Thrill 3 – Harlem Heroes (?/Gibbons)

The Heroes land in Tokyo to the boos of the surrounding crowd, and a confusing text bubble:

Maybe the exact year hasn’t been forthcoming, but there’s no way this is set in the year 2000. Not just from a technological standpoint, either. I mean, the world they’re living in isn’t set that far from Judge Dredd, and that takes place in 2099. Not that these stories are set in the same world (although ‘Judge Giant’ from much later would suggest that they are, and Giant gives up Aeroball somewhere down the line), but the comic has been relatively consistent about what kind of technology exists at what time, and this isn’t Invasion-level tech.

Also, the trans-atlantic tunnel from issue 6 wasn’t completed until 2040. So there’s that. (Note - I just checked the post about the first issue - this is set in 2050)

Anyhoo, when they get off the jet the team finds Ulysses ‘the secret villain’ Kord waiting for them. Amazingly, this happens just after Giant wonders to himself about the identity of the secret villain who employed Gruber. This is what’s known as ‘foreshadowing’. Awkward, poorly written foreshadowing. Still trying to seem like he’s not evil, Ulysses offers the ream some new gear-

Does this game have a governing body of any kind? Many issues ago I started compiling an Aeroball rulebook, but that seems to have been a fool’s errand.

Ref: Hey, Giant, what’s going on with your gloves there?
Giant: Oh, those are just daggers. We figured that, starting today, we’d wear them on our gloves and use them to stab the other players.
Ref: (strokes his chin) Cool. Just watch it with the sandwich tackles. (slaps Giant on the shoulder)
Giant: (remembers he’s a 70’s blacksploitation stereotype) Right on, brutha.

If you think I’m exaggerating, here’s Giant’s response to the offer-

Then it’s on to the game against foes so dedicated to winning that, like Kamikazi pilots of old, they’re willing to sacrifice their lives for a game. Which is idiotic. It’s a game of Aeroball, people.

Right at the first ball launch, I check out from the ‘sport’ part of the comic strip. Here’s why.

I don’t care what the announcer says. There are no rules in Aeroball, there is no sense in Aeroball, there is no point to Aeroball. From here on out I’m not going to be reviewing the sports parts of this strip at all. If something absolutely nuts happens, I’ll cover it, but from now on, we’re just looking at the drama and mystery. Which there is no more of in this installment. So see you next time.

Okay, one more thing. It seems the Japs even have their own goals, which, instead of a five-sided post, is just a single hole in a flat wall. So yes, there isn’t even a standardized goal design in this frigging game.

And don’t talk about different ballparks having different distances to the rear wall. Find me a baseball field where the run to first base is five times as long as the run from third to home and you’ll have a believable comparison.


Here’s the supercover story in full, as usual.

Couple things to note – instead of being from space, he’s from the Lovecraftian concept of ‘Outer Time’. Also, they announce that it was earth’s atmosphere that turned him into a squat mutant, but I don’t know, that suit still seems to fit just fine.

There some actual letters this week, both are pieces of fan mail from people announcing that if anything bad happens to Walter the Wobot, they will never read the comic again. Ah, to care that much about a ficitonal character. I wish I could say I didn’t still know what that was like, but I totally stopped watching CSI Miami when they killed off Rory Cochrane, only returning when they promised they’d be shooting Horatio.

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

When last we saw Dan and Rok they had stormed the Two’s ship as it took off. This story begins with the Two tearing said ship apart, all in the hopes of keeping Dan from revealing ‘the secret of our hollow world’. Yeah, um, guys? You know Dan already escaped the hollow world, right? And that he was just on Earth, where he presumably told, oh, I don’t know, everyone about it?

The Two’s rampage is stopped abruptly when Dan shows himself, offering peace and a team-up in the hopes that they can kill the Mekon without self-destructing. Although I’m not sure why that’s so important to Dan. Why not just let the council’s plan go ahead? Hopefully we’ll get a reason at some point.

Pretending that Dan has been capatured, the Two contact the Mekon and plot their retun to the land of the hollow sun. The more violent of the Two doesn’t want to go along with the plan, but he’s kept in his place with an ingenious scheme:

There’s nothing that’s not great about that plan. The rest of the plan is a little fuzzier – basically they just land and open fire, ordering the gun-headed Skash to help out.

Not quite sure why the Mekon didn’t just blast them out of the sky. Even if he didn’t think they’d betrayed him, he’s still inviting a guy with a malfunctioning bomb in his chest into the inner sanctum. Can’t imagine how that could go wrong…

Thrill 5 – MACH 1

Probe is back in the wild this week, once again helping British mineral interests suppress the locals. This time it seems that natives are angry because the oil drilling teams have disturbed a natural flame phenomenon, and taken to pinning them to machinery with spears as reciprocation.

Probe drives out to see the locals, who tell him that a local Sheik Firouz had let them know about the crime against the holy fires. Probe is suspicious of the Sheik’s motives, and with his computer’s help, intuits that it’s actually a plan by the nobleman to run the English out of the country so he can resell the oil rights.

During a meeting with the corpulant ruler Probe sees the Sheik order a female slave to be flogged for not peeling a grape. Apparently he didn’t know that’s where all the nutrients were. Huh. John’s not about to put up with anyone mistreating a woman, so he jumps into the fray and murders the captain of the Sheik’s guards with a punch to the neck.

The locals, being a cowardly and superstitious lot, are impressed by Probe’s strength, but Firouz points out that the English are the ones responsible for their inadequate flames. Soon Probe is being buried alive, and it’s only his heretofore unestablished mole-like digging ability that saves him.

Firouz happens to be waiting where Probe comes out, backed up by a couple of cheetahs, who he immediatley sics on the Hyperman. Probe is too fast for them, and in his attempt to slow their prey down Firouz accidentally wings one of the Cheetahs. This turns the animals’ favor against him in the most vicious way possible:

With Firouz dead the natives are quick to accept Probe’s claims that the Sheik was responsible for their ignition difficulties, despite offering no proof to back it up. With their primitive beliefs catered to, the natives are more than happy to allow Probe’s BP friends to continue despoiling their land.

Yeah! Go John Bull!

Thrill 6 – Judge Dredd

You know, I’m not sure what a ‘murder gang’ is, but I’m with Dredd. They need to die.

Just one of the perps survives the onslaught, and he tries to bargain for a reduced sentence by giving up his boss’ location. Dredd thanks him for the information, and takes a single day off his 40-year stretch. Which seems like an odd play. I mean, outright mocking people who try to co-operated, no matter what’s motivating them, doesn’t seem very conducive to taking down criminal networks.

When Dredd arrives at the run-down hotel it’s surrounded by Judge, who are waiting for his order to enter the building and search for the criminal, Mr. Buzzz. Dredd has a better idea, though. He sets the building on fire, forcing Buzz to jump out a window to avoid being roasted alive.

Well, that’s a little odd… Yes, it seems that there are mutants in Mega-City 1. According to Dredd mutants were banned from Mega-City 1 because they hate humans due to their own deformities. That seems like a thin excuse – are all mutants violently antisocial, or is that just a cover the Judges use for their purges?

We won’t find out, because this isn’t a social commentary episode, it’s an action story. Dredd chases mr. Buzzz into a building, and it quickly befuddled by the utter blackness he finds inside. This doesn’t hamper Buzzz, who gets around by echo location.

Actually, that seems a little odd – not the echo-location, he’s got mighty big ears. No, I’m confused about Dredd – there’s no low-light equipment in that visor of his?

The suspiciously under-equipped Dredd figures out an alternate plan – he fires off a hew high-explosive rounds, brightening the hall while deafening Buzzz with the sound. One punch later and Buzzz is down for the count, ready for Dredd to drag him outside and lead him away in cuffs.

Actually, maybe I was a little wrong about the social commentary thing. I feel a little sorry for the freak, surrounded a the bloodthirsty mob. Kind of hard to feel like Buzzz is the David in this story.

Judge Dredd Kill Count (25)+2=27

Final Thoughts

Best Story: I’m going with Shako again. That strip is just so consistently competent that it’s hard to dislike it.

Worst Story: Harlem Heroes – Even though John Probe, heroic imperialist, may have disgusted me, I’m still more annoyed with the flat-out nonsense being presented as the ‘sport’ Aeroball.

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