Programme 48 (21-January-78)

Another impossible-to-comment-on cover. Thanks, 2000AD. I appreciate the extra story page, but what I’d appreciate even more is a cover featuring Judge Dredd punching Dracula in the mouth while saying ‘Fangs off, creep!’
Although that will probably never happen.

Thrill 1 – Dan Dare (Finley-Day/Gibbons/Gibbons)
As we learned on the cover, Dan’s plan is to use the captured Dark Lord of the Starslayers as a bargaining chip to free the rest of the slave planets. Which seriously overestimates the value of the Dark Lord to his people. At this point we’ve had no suggestion that the entire Empire is a cult of personality that was founded and run by a single man. He’s got to have a second-in-command out there somewhere, doesn’t he?
If you held the president of the United States hostage do you think there’s a chance that they’d shut down the entire government to save his life? Or would the vice-president just take over?
It seems that the Starslayer empire is incredibly poorly managed, however, and the threat of their leaders’ death is enough to forcde them to recall their entire fleet and free their slave worlds. There was at least a single competant member of the mpire, though – their leader. The moment Dan sends him off to a cell he unleashes his secret weapon:
Yup – he has a literal slay-star on his forehead. Gotta say this about the denizens of the planet StarSlay – they’ve got the worst named planet in history, but at least they went all-out with the theme.
With all of the Dark Lord’s captors lying dead on the ground, their slashed throats spurting blood out across the deck, he flees into the engine room and jams the door shut from the inside. Dan and company can’t break it down, which leaves the Dark Lord free to signal his fleet – time for an all-out attack on Dan’s flying fortress!
It’s a scary situation to be sure – except that the Dark Lord’s plan seems to be predicated on the empire’s ships being willing to fire on the spaceship that he’s currently aboard. Maybe he doesn’t have a gun to his head any more, but his situation hasn’t actually improved all that much. The StarSlayers would have to board in order to rescue him, and so long as Dan can hit the self-destruct switch, it seems like they’re in essentially the same bind.

Although I’m sure he’ll figure a way out of this that’s far more action-packed.
You know what might have helped this situation? A living axe.
Thrill 2 – Visible Man (Mills/Trigo/Potter)
Now suffering from the crippling condition that is transparent skin, Frank Hart has a terrible future in front of him: Being an invaluable tool of medical science! Yes, the doctors want to use him as a guinea pig so that they can see how various conditions affect the human body in real time!
Despite being given the option to help cure an untold number of diseases, Frank decides he’d rather go on the run as a freak-in-hiding, using the old ‘pretend to be weak from illness until they come into the cell to check on you’ gambit.
Can’t say that’s the way I’d have gone, but it’s best not to judge until you’ve walked in a man’s shoes.
Frank gets a hold of a guard’s gun and threatens to kill himself unless they let him flee. Realizing that he’s far too valuable to risk killing, the doctors let him flee into the night in a stolen jeep. His internal monologue announces that he’s determined to noodle a way out of this bind, but I’ve got to say I’m a little skeptical.
Really, it feels like he could be handling this whole situation a lot better. Perhaps the chemicals affected his brain as well?
Thrill 3 – Future Shock (Flynn/Georgi/Knight)
The year? 1987! The place? The moon! A group of Apollo astronauts (that’s right, in this dystopian future the Apollo program never ended!) are surveying the moon on their moon-boards-
Which, as I understand it, were invented primarily because they were easier to draw than moon buggies.
The lead astronaut, Jack Keller, surfs out to the edge of sensor range when he sees a mysterious glowing figure in the distance, one that disappears when he gets close, then appears further into the distance. Instead of telling the rest of the astronauts about this turn of events (you know, with the radio that’s part of his helmet. And is always on.) he chases the glowing figure off into the wilds of the barren moon. Finally he catches up with the alien-
And winds up getting choked for his trouble. This is why they should be bringing spear guns to the moon. They work perfectly fine in zero-g, as I’m sure you know.
Keller wakes up on a table, stripped out of his suit. It seems the moon men have made a habit of knocking out astronauts, taking on their appearances, then flying back to earth in their place so as to infiltrate human society and study it! The alien isn’t a complete dick, however – the moon-men shelter has elife support facilities necessary to keep him alive indefinitely – but he can never leave, because the alien wore his space suit back to the ship! Also unable to leave? This twist ending!
Uh… what? Not the ‘Neil Armstrong’ thing, that’s a totally logical twist. No, I’m wondering why Neil’s wearing his spacesuit. How did the alien get back to Buzz and the other guy? Why can’t he leave the shelter?
Did the writer or artist seriously think that the audience wouldn’t understand who Neil Armstrong was if he wasn’t depicted in the Space Suit?
Thrill 4 – BONJO (O’Neill/Jacob)
More wacky Kevin O’Neill art, this time a wacky story about the MACH Aardvark infiltrating the godzillesque Bonjo’s body, hoping to kill him by stealing the monster’s brain!
Since this is a one-page gag strip, it’s a little hard to synopsize. So let’s all just enjoy O’Neill’s fantastically off-putting art!
Ick. But in a good way.
Thrill 5 – Judge Dredd (Howard/Gibson/Jacob)
Okay, I just want to put it out there that while I have no problem of any kind with Ian Gibson’s art, anybody following Brian Bolland is going to look weak by comparison. So let’s just hope for the best.
The teaser image shows Dredd suffocating in the Oxygen desert, then flashes back to earlier in the day, when Dredd was adjudicating cases, perhaps the most boring duty we’ve yet seen him perform. Thankfully he quickly goes back to busting heads, and then throwing the perps that those heads are attached to into the ‘Sin Bin’.
They need to get some of those in Mega-City 1. Those hitching posts just can’t compare. After calming things down a little in Luna City Dredd gets a message – a road crew is being attacked by a group of badlands bandits!
I’m not clear exactly what the bandits were hoping to accomplish – the judges call it a ‘Wages Snatch’, but do workers generally get paid while they’re on the job? Also note that, even more than a hundred years in the future, moonboards are the transportation mode of choice.
With most of the bandits rounded up Dredd chases their leader, Wild Bill Carmody, out into the confusingly-named ‘Oxygen Desert’. What does that mean, exactly? I guess the idea is that they’re trying to say that it’s like a desert, but instead of lacking water, it lacks Oxygen. Of course, for that to make sense you’d have to define a desert by its absences as opposed to what’s there. Wouldn’t ‘Vacuum desert’ have been more appropriate, since there the noun, ‘Desert’ is being qualified by an attribute that this specific kind of desert possesses?
Speaking of which, they’re acting like the ‘Vacuum Desert’ is an isolated location – but apart from the domed Luna City, isn’t the entirety of the moon a ‘Vacuum Desert’?
Oh, right, the story – Butch gets the drop on Dredd, wounding him and leaving him to die out in the desert, slowly running out of air. How will he save himself? Find out next week!
Judge Dredd Kill Count (42)+0=42
Speaking of which, he’d damn well better kill somebody next week.
Thrill 6 – Invasion (Finley-Day/Clough/Knight)
With a neutral boat waiting to take them to Canada, all that’s left for Bill is to find a way to get Prince John onto the boat. Standing in his way? Colonel Rosa, her undercover spy (and most Russian-looking man ever) Georgi, and the fact that it can’t be comfortable sticking a shotgun under your belt.
They attempt to sneak by a Volgan patrol boat-
Which is somehow able to remain up on its hydrofoils despite the fact that it’s not moving. They get a little help from Nessie, who’s able to sneak onto the patrol craft and snap the necks of all the gunners aboard. Then it’s just a matter of driving their boat up to the side of the cargo ship, and they’re off to Canada! Which is all somehow part of Volga’s plan, which will likely snap shut any day now…
And what happened to Nessie? She returned to the Cavern club, where everyone (including, presumably, the three non-Ringo Beatles) has been murdered by Rosa’s goons!
Is this the end for Nessie? Well, she’s not killed on the frame, so there’s still a chance of a last-minute rescue! Although, speaking logically, she’s totally done for.
Thrill 7 - Inferno (Tully/Belardinelli/Frame)
The day after the ‘Inferno’ at the Crystal Maze, the Hellcats are sanguine despite the fact that they have absolutely no leads on the gambling syndicate that, so far, hasn’t really bothered them except for that incident where they successfully fixed a game, getting the exact outcome they wanted, and escaped without leaving much of a trace. Why are they so optimistic about their chances of tracking the gamblers down? Simple – they’re sure that those selfsame gamblers will attempt to kill them again, despite the fact that, again, the gamblers have gotten everything they want. Except for the burning of the Crystal Maze – but they had to have insurance on that, right?
The gamblers do want satisfaction, however, so they send an agent in to audition for the ‘Hellkittens’, the cheerleaders who dance in a protected bubble at the side of the pitch. She’s hired to be on the team, and immediately uses a concealed weapon to make Giant’s jetpack malfunction!
Please note, despite the fact that a squiggly line was drawn going into Giant’s pack, the beam was supposed to be invisible. What wasn’t invisible, however, was the fact that the agent walked out of the protected bubble and pointed her concealed weapon at Giant as he was flying by.
Seems like the gamblers could have come up with a slightly better plan. Like, oh, I don’t know, just putting a bomb in Giant’s car or something.
Final Thoughts
Best Story: Invasion – The beatles got murdered by Nazis this week. Yikes. That’s just… ugh. Seriously never thought I’d see that. Maybe not the best thing of the week, but certainly the most unique thing I’ve seen in a long time.
Worst Story: Inferno – I can’t stress enough how unmotivated the villains are in this strip. Why can’t they see that they’re putting their entire syndicate in jeapordy by continually trying to kill people who are no threat to them?