Programme 24 (6-Aug-77)


The second Kevin O’Neill feature here in the pages of 2000AD. It’s still just a single page, but it’s an impressive enough one that I’m not going to complain about it. As for the story, I’m at something of a loss. Perhaps a chariots of the gods thing, with ancient astronauts inspiring cave paintings?

Thrill 1 – Invasion!

Bill Savage has found his way to the Scottish border, where Volgan missile trucks immolate anyone dares approach the chain-link fence seperating the two countries. I’d imagine these missiles would also make short work of the chain-link fence itself, necessitating constant repairs. Of course, thinking that way might be what’s keeping me from becoming a power-mad dictator.

Speaking of which, since these ‘Volgan’ troops are clearly analogous to the Nazis, where’s the Hitler figure? Who’s in charge of all these troops? Hell, we haven’t even seen Vichy prime minister Creepton in how long? 20 issues?

Amazingly Bill Savage thinks it’s too dangerous to attack the missile launchers, which leads to a fist-fight with one of the local resistance troopers. Seems a little hasty on the northern bloke’s part – doesn’t he know that Bill always comes up with a preposterous plan to deal with the problem? Why, in just a few pages he’ll probably be suggesting they use a fake parade with flame-throwing bagpipes or something.

Okay, I just checked. It’s crazier than I thought. Bill Savage lets the local troopers attack the camp on their own, and they’re immediately slaughtered as Bill and Silk watch from the hills. But Savage has a plan – it seems that the hill they’re camped out on in Hadrian’s wall! So, with the attachment of a couple of ropes to some nearby trees…

Yup. They build makeshift catapults. Startlingly, this works, killing the crew of the nearest missile launcher without damaging the machinery. This allows Silk to grab the controls and blast the rest of the Volgs to pieces with their own weaponry. With another victory under his belt, Savage heads off to free the rest of the country. First he takes a moment to grafitto-tag Hadrian’s wall, though:

I’m not sure what kind of a scoring system Bill’s using here. I mean, the Volgs did destroy like 90% of England’s army and detonated a nuke, didn’t they? And on his side, hasn’t he had twenty-four issues worth of victories at this point, rather than just one?

Of course, there’s always the chance Bill’s just not great at math…

Thrill 2 – Harlem Heroes (?/Gibbons)

Yup, it was Artie that Ulysses Cord was having hallucinations of. He immediately faints, and Louis explains that he was just testing out a theory. The rest of the team forgets that Cord’s last line in the previous issue was that the apparition was his ‘friend’, so that they can push back the villain reveal to later in the story.

I find it a little odd that the image Louis sent was of Gruber with both his normal face and Gargoyle uniform. Seems like a strange combination.

The game then resumes, but since I’m not covering that any more, I’ll give only the broadest strokes. The heroes trick the Blades into suiciding enough of their plays out of the game that they’ll be completely overmatched. The heroes win, allowing them to move into the finals, and we go yet another issue without Ulysses Cord being revealed as the villain

Thrill 3 – MACH 1

I’m not sure why the order of stories is being juggled so madly – did Probe do really well on a survey or something? Not that I’m bothered by the move – it’s quite a striking opening image this week-

No, they haven’t gone to the set of a Hammer film, that’s the torture chamber of one King Karat, a crazed Arab who lives off the coast of Dubai, where he hoards stolen gold so that he can destabilize the world’s precious metals market! Naturally Probe has been dispatched to murder him.

The plan involves beating up a black market boat captain who works for Karat, and convince him to smuggle John onto the island in a coffin. How does he do this? By threatening to crush his head, which leads the captain to make the following colourful statement:

Also, have they switched artists? Based on these faces it looks like Belardinelli has moved over from Dan Dare to MACH 1, although the continuing lack of credits forces me to depend on my questionable ability to judge artists by their work.

The plan is simple – load Probe into a coffin and ship it to Karat’s island – you see, Karat needs a constant supply of corpses because he moves his gold around the world by pouring molten gold into them and shipping them to customers. I’m going to go ahead and assume that he tells the customs people that he’s moving morbidly obese bodies, because a gold-filled corpse would have to weigh somewhere in the neighbourhood of a ton.

The ruse is quickly discovered and Probe is brought to the torture chamber for execution. Much like all the other characters who have tried this up until now, it goes badly for him. Probe quickly beats up all the guards and throws Karat into the vat of molten gold, so that he can die like he lived. By murdering people with molten gold.

Rather hilariously, Probe refers to this as ‘drowning in molten gold’. Yeah, I know Gold doesn’t have the highest melting point, but that guy was long dead before the gold got to his lungs.

Thrill 4 – Tharg And the Intruder

You know, I was sort of hoping that the loss of Dan Dare would mean that Judge Dredd, or possibly Shako, would have been moved to the center spot. But hey, a Tharg story – that’s no small consolation.

This story concerns one ‘Alife’, a fan of the competing ‘Wonder Comics’ (presumably a stand-in for other lad's mags of the day), who’s broken into the 2000AD building to confront Tharg about the overall terribleness of his magazine. Now, normally Tharg would just vaporize the child, but he’s feeling forgiving today, so instead he elects to take Archie on a tour of the facilities.

Oh, Kevin O’Neill. Is there anything your art can’t improve? After taking Archie through the main museum, Tharg points out a vault that absolutely must not be opened. Naturally the moronic kid (who but a moron would prefer anything else to 2000AD, after all?) opens it immediately and finds himself bitten by… THE LIVING AXE!

Okay, please give me a second to wipe the tears from my eyes. I honestly thought I’d never see him again. This couldn’t make me any happier. Well, I guess I’d be happier if the axe had killed Archie, but other than that, I’m good.

Archie remains unimpressed, so Tharg pulls out the big guns, and escorts the youth into the deepest room of the vault, where the undiluted Future Shocks are stored!

Now that Archie’s mind has been destroyed he’s ready to return home and become a good 2000AD reader. He’s escorted there by Walter, the instantaneously popular sidekick character who’s already escaped Dredd strips to make cameos elsewhere. Tharg then addresses the audience directly, announcing that, starting next issue, we’ll have Future Shocks as a continuing feature!

I’m more than a little excited about this, since Future shocks are a key element of my love of this title, as well as well as where Alan Moore’s work is going to start showing up first, if I recall correctly.

Also, it’s what they should have been doing instead of those damn supercovers all along. Just saying.

Thrill 5 – Shako

Uh oh. Once against we’re opening the story focused on Shako, which serves as a reminder that he’s the only main character a story like this needs. This wouldn’t be so bad, if the first panel didn’t also introduce Shako’s wife and children, as they frolic happily in the ice, learning to hunt seals.

This is like a cop’s partner talking about his retirement. There’s literally no way this can end other than Shako’s mate and cubs being brutally murdered, and Shako swearing animal-revenge on the human killers. Now begins the march towards that inexorable fate for the adorable kids-

Those poor little guys. They’ve got no idea what’s coming. And I’m not talking about global warming, either. I’m talking about bullets.

Wow. It happens two pages later. Seriously. Hunters are out looking for Shako on Falmuth’s orders, and they happen across the happy family, minus Shako, of course. I’m not clipping an image because I found all the shots to mom getting shot in the head and the family of corpses oddly upsetting.

Also unsettling is the fact that I have no memory of this happening in the reprints I read as a child. I know exactly how the story’s going to end, but this middle stuff is oddly new to me. So either I’ve forgotten it completely, I was missing a couple of issues, or they didn’t reprint certain parts of the story. Now I’m going to have to find out which is the case. Somehow…

Shako returns to his homestead to discover his murdered family. Events proceed in a predictable pattern-

I’ll admit it. They’ve got me. I’m totally on the bear’s side at this point. He even kills the other guy real slow! That’s right, it finally happened. After biting that first guy’s head off Shako chases the second one down and tears at him, gradually stripping the man’s clothes off until he’s nearly naked in the arctic. Then Shako gives him a playful swipe across the stomach and buries him in the snow. Shako wanders off, leaving him to freeze to death, so that the meat will still be fresh later.

You go for it, bear.

We finally got a real slow death, which brings the total to 1 out of 13 kills, or roughly 8% of his victims have, in fact, died real slow.


Wow, you’d think at least one of these supercovers would have some kind of a twist. Well, at least this one isn’t as sarcastic as the last few.

In addition to the supercover there are a couple of letters – one from a kid announcing his belief that evolution is a lie and humans were brought to earth from another planet. How humans developed on that planet is left unaddressed. The second letter is far more interesting – it’s from a kid whose dad worked on Star Wars, and he wrote to mention how happy he was to see the movie promoted in 2000AD. The IMDB, and the kid’s name have allowed me to determine that, in all likelihood, this child’s father is one Burnell Tucker, who played Del Goren in the movie.

I have no idea who that is.

Thrill 6 – Judge Dredd

There’s a panic in Mega City 1 – the Wreath Killer has struck again! Their nefarious MO: they rob and murder a person, and then leave a wreath at the scene of the crime! Which seems like an odd choice, given that it lets the Judges know that these are related events, and not just among the thousands of random crimes that occur every hour across the big meg.

Stumped for clues, Dredd swings by Justice Central to ask MAC, the justice department’s Macro Analysis Computer, for details of the wreath murders. For some reason he has to go to the computer to do this, rather than just calling it in over the radio. The future is strange in many ways.

MAC reveals a key clue – in an amazing coincidence, every single corpse has been carted away by the same ambulance! Which is incredibly suspicious because, contrary to popular belief, ambulances do not move corpses. That’s done by morgue vehicles. Also there’s the whole ‘same ambulance’ coincidence. Or is it a coincidence at all…?

It’s not, as the next scene lets us know. The medics show up at an apartment and menace the resident, leading to the first panel where I’ve been really impressed with the artwork in a Dredd strip.

See? That’s just great framing and perspective.

Dredd shows up just in time, presumably because the ambulance has some kind of a tracking device in it, it’s never adressed. Dredd is tackled by one, but he manages to throw the killer clear, which sends his murder weapon (a cleaver!) sinking into the head of his partner.

The surviving killer snatches Dredd’s gun off the floor (it fell in the fracas) and points it at the Judge. Dredd isn’t afraid, though, because he knows that lawgivers are programmed to only fire using a single Judge’s handprint*. Anyone else pulling the trigger will quickly have their arm blown apart by a self-destruct mechanism. Which is exactly what happens.

With the killers dead and the victim saved, Dredd closes things out by tossing the final wreath atop the corpses. Startlingly, this action is not accompanied by a pun of some kind. Weird, right?

Judge Dredd Kill Count (29)+2=31

Final Thoughts

Best Story: I’m going with MACH 1 – I know Shako was fun this week, but a man got thrown into a vat of molten gold. What’s not to like?

Worst Story: Harlem Heroes – I’m done with the ridiculous sport, the mystery that’s not, the nonexistent characters… Seriously, has King been given a line in the past month? One that wasn’t just generic sporting cries? This thing can’t be over fast enough.

* Yeah, I know Dredd as well as all the other Judges wear gloves. I’m sure they’ll explain this at some point. I mean, I never read an explanation, but it has to have happened. It just has to.

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