Programme 23 (30-July-77)


Brian Bolland’s done it again. I find this cover especially wonderful, for reasons that won’t be apparent for quite a while. Let’s just say that, in some very key ways, this image is kind of a dry run for one of Bolland’s all-time great covers.

Also, having men grow out of you is not a great kind of plague to have.

Thrill 1 – Invasion!

Huh? Is it not 1999? Give me just a second here…

Yes, the comic, up until this issue, was set in 1999. Is this a deliberate change, or a mistake? If it’s not just an error, why are they making the change – does it have anything to do with the crazy mistake in last issue, which placed the Harlem Heroes in the years 2000?

Hopefully we’ll discover the answers to these questions together, soon enough.

Anyhow, on to the story. Savage is in Newcastle this week - not bringing coal, I hope! (God, I hate myself sometimes.)

Using the mining equipment at hand, the mad dogs cut the power to a tunnel and then approach wearing head lamps. I’m not sure how this gives them a huge advange – yes, they can see with the headlamps and it blinds the Volgs a little, but doesn’t putting a flashlight on your head in a dark tunnel mostly serve to let people know exactly where your head is, and conversely that your body must be right below? How hard would it be to shoot them full of holes?

Bill Savage and the Geordies bust up the convoy and rescue a mining chief, then escape in a coal truck, keeping the theme going. On the outskirts of town the mining chief reveals the story’s twist – he’s actually a Volgan agent, and the whole prison transport was a trap for Bill! A very poorly-concieved one. If the plan was centered on sacrificing everyone in the transport, why bother with an agent? Why not just use a really big bomb?

In the end, the agent makes the mistake of calling for backup rather than just shooting Bill, giving our hero a chance to decapitate the man with a shovel.

Then Bill hops into one of those steel ore carries and heads out to sea, reminding everyone of the ending of Get Carter.

Thrill 2 - Harlem Heroes (?/Gibbons)

For some reason they’ve moved the inferior Harlem Heroes up into Shako’s slot in the magazine. And since I’ve stopped covering the ‘sport’ section of this story, I’m even more disappointed.

There is one crazy element to the story, though, when 2000AD’s vaguely racist Asian stereotyping rears its ugly head once again. Check out what happens when one of the Bushido Blades fails to prevent a point from being scored-

Yeah, he just killed himself. Over a single missed point. You know, the aztec guys didn’t cut their captain’s head off when they lost. Just saying.

When they get to halftime Ulysesses ‘the villain’ Cord is waiting at the sidelines, suggesting that they amp up the violence, maybe even commit a little suicide the way the Japs do. You know, to get the audience interested.

Once again, I’d like to point out that this sport has no rules or governing body.

Naturally the Heroes are having none of this. Taking special exception to the plan is Louis, who flies in using his hoverjar and announces that his time as a disembodied brain has allowed him to develop amazing psychic powers. He immediately uses them on Cord.

I have no idea what’s happening here, although I’m sure next issue whatever Louis is up to will lead to Cord confessing. I wonder how long the strip can last once that cat is out of the bag?

Thrill 3 – Shako

Buck Dollar has just saved Shako’s life, kind of inexplicably. I mean, I know Jake is the bad guy in this story, but I really can’t see a reason to leave Shako alive in this situation. Sure, he’s an amazingly large bear, but Jake is right – this is the mid 80s, and at this point in history there’s still a lot of ‘bruins’ out there. Also, I’m not sure why the characters keep calling the bear a ‘bruin’. Apparently it’s a synonym for bear, but outside of the hockey team, it’s not one that I’ve ever heard used.

Shako is dragged back to base and placed on an operating table, because apparently it’s easier to lift a 1-ton animal onto a platform than have the surgeons crouch a little. Naturally this plan doesn’t work out, as the surgical team forgets to re-sedate the bear until it’s far too late.

You know, if you’re going to rip off Jaws you could at least be creative about it.

With the rest of the team cowering in fear after one of their member is gutted, Jake comes up with a plan.

Yeah, he’s going to go after the ten-foot-tall bear with a broken bottle. Did no one think to bring a gun, just in case? Jake’s weapon utter fails to cow the Yogi, who bites the chief’s arm off, then saunters away in a surprisingly casual manner.

Shako wanders off into the snowy night, munching away on Jake’s arm. Jake, in the meantime, counts his lucky stars that he had his arm torn off in the best possible location, an operating theatre. Not that it cheers him up all that much-

Okay, two things – A: That’s a profoundly ugly man. Great job, artist. And B: He’s never sworn once, in all his appearances. If you’re writing a children’s comic, don’t base an entire character around a trait that you can’t demonstrate in the story.

When it comes to kills this week, Shako just murdered the one person, tearing him apart with monster bear claws. Yeah, he also tore Jake’s arm off, but since he’s certainly surviving, it can’t count as killing anyone ‘real slow’. Now that’s 0 of 11 kills, for a total ‘real slow’ kill count of 0%.

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

The fight is on! Dan and the Two open fire on the Mekon, who skitters away on his hoversled like a coward. It’s nice when enemies can team up to battle a common foe, isn’t it?

They corner the Mekon in a pod bay, giving him just enough time to jump into an escape bubble. Dan’s been foiled – the Mekon’s flame gun is too deadly to allow pursuit, but the Two throw caution to the wind and jump into the capsule along with the big-headed monster! Inside they find a mexican stand-off. If the Two kill the Mekon, his dork-sled will explode, destroying the capsule. If the Mekon kills either, or both, of the Two, their fusion bomb detonates!

Meanwhile, back inside the hollow sun, Dan and Chewbacca blast their way back to the Two’s ship and fly away just as the entire base self-destructs.

In a manner totally dissimilar to the Death Star, FYI.

While Dan and Rok head back to Earth in their ship the Mekon and the Two are trapped together in the escape pod. Mekon swears that he’ll kill the Two one day, even if it takes a hundred years to get to a planet. The Two have much more practical concerns, however, just wondering where they’re going to get food for their little trip.

And that’s it for the story, folks. Yup, according to a window at the bottom of the page Dan is taking a break for the immediate future so that a new story can fill in. I wonder what it’ll be? Is it too early for Rogue Trooper? Probably… but maybe Strontium Dog… no, that’s still in Tornado at this point.

I’m almost literally giddy with anticipation!


It’s another supercover, folks, written in the same style as the last one. By that I mean wildly sarcastic, as if the writer felt they were too good to be cranking out hundred words preces about broad sci-fi concepts. Take a look-

Spoiler Alert – the story that this cover reminded me so much of is far, far better than this one while being uncannily similar.

You know, given the overall bored tone of these last two stories, somehow I don’t see this whole ‘supercover’ thing lasting much longer.

Thrill 5 – MACH 1

Probe is in a super-sonic jet flying low over the treetops of ‘Dog Forest’, which may or may not be a real place, looking for a secret agent with classified documents about a radar camera! His orders are to extract the agent if possible, or kill him and take the documents if not.

Before he can find the agent he’s spotted by a commie tank which damages his ride, a futuristic hover-jet. Using his hyperpower Probe is able to escape the commies and reach the secret agent. After quickly dispatching the wolves that were about to feast on his target, Probe is disturbed to discover that agent Peel has gone mad with pain, and is convinced that Probe is there to kill him. Which, come to think of it, was not that unreasonable thing to suspect.

Probe backs away and turns his energy towards killing the rest of the approaching commies. First with an avalanche, and then by dropping a tree on the few remaining soldiers, who helpfully form a line no more than five feet wide to assist Probe in their murder.

Now that’s a considerate group of guys.

Having just risked life and limb to save the pain-addled agent, Peel finally agrees to be rescued, and the two G-Men escape in Probe’s plane, which was apparently not as badly damaged as previous stories suggested.

Thrill 6 – Judge Dredd

It’s time for a little social commentary in the pages of Judge Dredd – this week’s story opens with an announcement that in the future, smoking in public is completely illegal. Which is the first future prediction that 2000AD had gotten dead on. I’d say it was a little late – the comic is set nearly a hundred years in the future, and my own town is basically a hair’s breadth away from outlawing public smoking altogether – but the story doesn’t make it clear how old this particular law is.

Proving what a softie he is Dredd lets a couple of teens off with a warning because he’s able to stop them before they actually light their cigarettes. Then he rushes across town after a report comes in about a vicious bank robber!

That’s right – he’s so evil that he actually uses his smoking as a weapon. The bastard! That cigar stub proves to be a valuable clue, though, as it leads Dredd to the man’s Tabacconist, a store so old-fashioned it even has a wooden indian! The robbers show up just a few minutes later, given Dredd a chance to punch one out and blow another away. The leader of the gang flees, and Dredd rides in hot pursuit.

The robber speeds down an alley, ditches his car, and runs into the first building he sees. In an amazingly unlucky coincidence, this turns out to be the city smokatorium! The one place in the Big Meg where it’s legal to light up. Unforunately the place is so full of smoke that it’s customers have to wear oxygen helmets to keep from choking to death. Of course, the robber does have one, so just seconds after heading in he comes stumbling out, eyes stinging, breath ragged, only to find Dredd waiting, rifle in hand. The robber doesn’t surrender, so Dredd blows him away, and follows it up with another classic, if entirely predictable, quip.

Oh, Dredd, you card, you.

Judge Dredd Kill Count (27) + 2 = 29

Final Thoughts

Best Story: Shako - I know it’s getting tiresome, but man, am I loving that yogi. Is it just because I love Jaws so much? Probably.

Worst Story: Harlem Heroes – I might have given it to Dan Dare, but at least that’s over. Harlem Heroes can’t wind up soon enough at this point. Not that I’m complaining about Dave Gibbons’ art – but if I want to look at that I can always go read Watchmen again. Ah, who am I kidding, that’s how I was going to spend the night in any event.

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