Programme 36 (29-October-77)


Are the supercovers just not trying any more? This is just the story of a spaceman fighting tentacle monsters. Where’s the fun in that? I mean, other than the obvious. What happened to the giant pigeon-eating robot that crushed London?

Thrill 1 – Inferno (Tully/Belardinelli/Nuttall)

You’re probably noticing that Invasion, for the first time ever, isn’t leading off this issue. It’s weird, but bear with me. Also the comic finally has proper credits in front of the stories! Yaaay! So from now on I’ll be listing the credits for each story in the order given, generally “Writer/Artist/Letterer”.

So what exactly is ‘Inferno’? Good question, since the title isn’t exactly clear. It seems that ‘Inferno’ is, like Aeroball, a dangerous Futuresport, although this one is based less on basketball, and more on the movie Rollerball. The premise is simple enough – actually, no, it’s ridiculously complicated, but please, bear with me.

Each team has two types of players – jetpack guys, and motorcycle guys. The goal of the game is to throw a ball into a ‘cave’, which each team has situated at either end of the field. The twist? You can only score if you land inside a ‘key’ that surrounds the cave. Also in that key is a ‘cave man’, a giant hulking guy with a club who’s allowed to hit anyone that strays inside the key.

I know what you’re thinking – then what are the motorcycles for? Excellent question. In addition to carrying the ball around the field, each biker has a wrist-mounted grappling hook gun that they’re allowed to fire at opposing jet-packers, creating this game’s equivalent of a ‘tackle’.

Oh, and when they score, it’s called a ‘Cave-in’. Because the ball went in the cave.

Yeah, I know.

As ridiculous and stupid as this sport is, you’d think I’d be a little more interested in seeing where it was going. I would, if it wasn’t for a single fact that I’d held back until now – this ‘Inferno’ story is the sequel to ‘Harlem Heroes’. That’s right, we’re introduced to the game when Giant, Slim, and Zack are in the stands, watching the display. It seems that since we last saw the Heroes their sport has fallen on hard times. Yes, despite the fact that it was a hugely popular sport with millions of dedicated fans and ridiculous themed teams, in just a few months Aeroball has completely disappeared as the world’s fandom has turned to more violent and confusing sports, like Inferno.

You know, the way everyone stopped watching Football and the NFL collapsed the year after the WWF was established. Oh, wait. That didn’t happen, did it? But I guess the people of this future world have a thirst for blood that overpowers all other concerns.

So, wait – Ulysses Cord was right about everything? That’s a twist.

On their way out of the game the Heroes are approached by the manager of the ‘Washington Wolves’, offering them the chance to sub in and fly for the team in their next game. The heroes are famous jet-packers after all, and there seems to be a lot of crossover between the two games’ required skill set.

Still, it’s the first issue of a new story, so the Heroes are going to have to be humiliated a little in order for them to have something to build up to. The humiliation that starts their game is entirely their own fault, though, since they didn’t bother to learn the rules of inferno that well.

First Zack is nailed by the launching ball, because he forgot that it could be coming from any one of a dozen ports around the arena, then Giant wanders into his own team’s key, having forgotten that the only way a biker can score is if he rebounds the ball off of one of the opposing team’s flyers, while that flyer is inside the key.

Wait, really? That’s a rule. Man, this game sure is iconoclastically dangerous, folks.

Yup, the Heroes are going to have their work cut out for them if they want to survive the crazy game of Inferno! Yet somehow I think they’ll manage. Who knows, they may even win the world championship in their first season of even trying the game!

Thrill 2 – Invasion (Lowder/Kennedy/Frame)

Now that Bill Savage has been bumped from the front of the mag, he’s really going to have to step things up if he wants to keep his suddenly precarious position. Who knows, in a couple of weeks he could be trailing behind the Mach Man!

Jumping off on his best foot, this issue has Bill Savage (finally) leaving Scotland in order to take on his biggest job yet – sabotaging the newly completed Channel Tunnel. This is a little weird - I know that in the first issue of the comic referred to all of western Europe being conquered by the Volgs, but it's been nearly 40 issues, and this has got to be the first time anyone but the Brits have been mentioned.

Well, setting the sudden escalation in premise aside, Bill has one goal – to further British isolationism by keeping it from being attached to those filthy frogs! And, of course, the Volgans who’d want to use the tunnel to ship goods.

Bill takes an old fishing boat across the channel to meet up with the French resistance in hopes of coordinating their efforts. They have a brilliant plan – kill a Volgan officer, have Frenchie dress up in his uniform, then pretend to capture Savage and Silk just as the first arms convoy goes through the tunnel, knowing the the Volgs will put all three of them in a jeep, with the prisoners not secured in any meaningful way.

The plan goes off without a hitch, despite Frenchy having single frenchest moustache ever that he doesn’t even bother shaving for the operation-

Naturally Frenchy is killed in the fight, he’s a themed character, and they never last, but Silk and Savage also manage to destroy the tunnel in the most preposterous manner possible. They hop into a VTOL jet and fire missiles into the roof, then hit the eject button while flying under the rushing water.

I’m not sure that’s how reality works, but what the hell. The tunnel’s closed once more, and Bill’s triumph is complete!

Except for the fact that all they did was smash a single hole in the roof of the otherwise intact super-tunnel. A hole that, since the Volgs have the ability to perform underwater construction (the chunnel was flown in segments, then welded in the ocean) it shouldn’t be too much of a chore to patch the hole. Is pumping all the water out going to be a bitch? Sure. But how long is it going to take, really?

Bill’s got bigger things to worry about, though. He’s decided to head back to Scotland?

What? Damn.

Thrill 3 – Tharg’s Future Shocks! (Gosnell/O’Neill/Knight)

Yay! Kevin O’Neil’s finally doing a full story! ‘With it’ readers will recognize him as the artist on League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. And even though that job is two decades into his future, it’s the best thing ever, and retroactively improves everything he’d ever worked on in the past.

Of course, if some of that turns out to be truly awful, I’m probably going to feel very betrayed and start attacking him.

Ah, the fickleness of being a jerk.

This episode deals with a group of miners searching for minerals on the moon in the year 2200. After digging down a few hundred feet, they make a horrible discovery – the moon has a steel layer under all the rock. Bombing around the planet reveals that this steel extends all the way around the moon – it has a machined solid steel core!

Okay, so are you ready for the twist? Because I guarantee you’re not going to see this one coming. Lock those guesses in, and then look for the reveal right now!

Yup. The moon is a pool ball in a game of intergalactic billiards.


Well, the story managed to improve on the cover, which wasn’t a challenge, but at least it was an interesting premise, right?

Thrill 4 – Dan Dare (?/Gibbons)

Time for more adventures among the lost planets? This time, deep within an asteroid field, they find a giant satellite! Whose similarity to the death star is not legally actionable!

Seriously. Fox can’t sue over that?

After sensors reveal that it’s manned, Dan takes two landing craft on a scouting mission, only to have one of them blown to pieces! Dan’s ship is hit soon after, and the crew has to flee in their spacesuits! This leads to a surprisingly brutal shot of the men getting blasted to pieces in their escape-

Note that, in addition to the brutality, the man getting shot through the chest is named ‘Skinn’, no doubt a reference to Dez Skinn, a name that I know to associate with 2000AD, but am not sure how. He was probably the editor or something.

Yes, Wikipedia could help here, but that’s not what this project is about, man. I could also find out who wrote this episode of Dan Dare, but for some reason they put a credit card on every story but this one.

Once Dan is back on his ship they receive a message from a crazed alien in a dark helmet who announces that they’ve fallen victim to the might of the ‘Starslayers’ Empire’! Yikes. He gives them an ultimatum – flee, or be destroyed!

Dan finds a third option, naturally. He decides to pretend to flee, then have all his men paint their spacesuits black and start floating towards the satellite in secrecy. Actually, that’s not a bad plan. We’ll see how it turns out next week!

Thrill 5 – MACH 1 (Hebden/Lozan&Canos/Potter)

There’s an important moral lesson to be learned in the beginning of this week’s Mach 1. A masked man is stealing something from a guarded country estate, but rather than shooting him the guards choose to satisfy their lust for cruelty and sic the dogs on him. The dogs do manage to kill him, but not quickly enough to prevent him from tossing his loot over an electrified fence to a waiting motorcycle.

Luckily Probe is headed towards the house at that exact moment, sets to chasing the motorcyclists up a mountain path. He’s able to kill one of the riders with a branch he grabs from a tree, but the other one escapes on a stashed hang-glider! Probe drives off a cliff and swims after the thief, but can’t make it in time to keep the waiting submarine from the hanglider landed on from getting away!

What was stolen? The information on how to create hyperpowered Mach Men! Wow, they really should have shot that guy, huh?

A few days later Probe is almost killed by a piece of falling stone while walking down the street. He runs up to the roof, but doesn’t catch the person who threw it at him. Why doesn’t he catch the culprit? Because he’s a ridiculous sexist. You see, on the way up the stairs, he bumps into this woman on the way down.

Yup. They gave her a line. Which means she’s the world’s first-ever Mach Woman. And presumably a Russian spy.

His sexism only lasts a little while, when after a quick car chase he sees the same woman try to push a truck over on to him with her bare hands. Finally Probe figures it out, and chases after her into the crowd.

Thrill 6 – Judge Dredd (Wagner/Gibson/Jacob)

Oh, John Wagner – it’s nice finally seeing your name on a thing. Also I’m a little proud of myself for being able to identify Ian Gibson’s art in the last few issues. And what’s he getting to draw this week? Crazy monsters!

They’re called the Troggies, and they live under Mega-City 1, surfacing only to kidnap regular humans! Dredd follows their tracks down into the crumbling remnants of an old subway system, presumably New York’s. Does Boston have a subway?

The second he gets underground Dredd is waylaid by a horde of the Troggies! He puts up a good fight, but there’s simply too many of them, and they manage to capture him! Dredd is brought befor their leader, one ‘Slick Willy’.

He explains their nefarious scheme – the Troggies have placed bombs under the foundations of the city, and tomorrow they’re going to detonate them, causing the entire metropolis to crumble!

Hold on a second – I don’t care how many trogs there are, Mega-City 1 stretches from Georgia to Montreal. It’s tens of thousands of square miles. I don’t doubt that they could do something like drop a sector, but the entire city? Come on.

Of course, we haven’t reached a point where they’ve invented the Sector divisions yet, so I guess everyone’s still a little confused about how big Mega-City 1 is.

Although, what with John Wagner being the co-creator of Dredd, you’d think he… You know what? I’m letting it go. Dredd will fix things next week, and this won’t be an issue. I do hope there’s a more coherent vision of Mega-City 1 in the future.

When ambushed, Dredd only managed to kill one Troggie, but I'm still counting it, as they're technically human, despite their mutations.

Judge Dredd Kill Count (38)+1=39

Final Thoughts

Ooh, check it out! From the back page, here’s a diagram of Dan Dare’s ‘Space Fort’!

Best Story: Judge Dredd – Don’t care about the bad geography, I’m just really happy there was a mutant with a pompadour who said ‘Daddy-O’. You win, Dredd.

Worst Story: Invasion – Just too stupid. Oh my god was it stupid. Ejecting through water, flooding the Chunnel, the pointlessness of the sabotage. Just too much stupidity.

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