2000AD Annual 1978 (?-?-78)


So that’s not a great cover, is it? I’m not sure exactly where I’m supposed to put this review – it’s the ‘1978 Annual’, but the publication date is in 1977. In addition to this a glance at the table of contents reveals that it contains a ‘Harlem Heroes’ story, as opposed to an ‘Inferno’ one. Still, I’m going to slot it here, at the beginning of 1978, and hope that next time we hit a ‘special’ or ‘annual’ there’s a more acurate date somewhere on the thing.

Thrill 1 – Dan Dare

I’m not sure exactly when this story is set – the art suggests Belardinelli, though-

-so I’m going to guess this is after he defeated the Biogs. Which means there might well be a flashback to his beloved living axe, including more than a few tears.

Dan, currently the captain of the patrol ship ‘Orion’ is dispatched to intercept the ‘Andromeda’, which is speeding out of control on a collision course with Earth! After a daring mid-space transfer (which it seems like wouldn’t work at near-light speeds) Dan climbs into the runaway ship and discovers the crew is entirely ‘dead as a Dwarf Star’! Which is a misleading term, since Dwarf Stars are dying, and not actually dead.

Dan diverts the shape away from Earth’s atmosphere Dan discovers he’s got an even bigger problem to deal with: not only are there globs of living slime attacking Dan, but the ship’s clocks are running backwards, which somehow leads to this:

Dan quickly surmises that the ship has been pulled through a wormhole, and the Andromeda quickly sets down in a city next to a volcano. There Dan finds that Mytax, the galaxy’s most evil slave trader, has survived his execution through the timely intervention of Solan, a green space-demon.

For reasons that go unexplained this all-powerful space monster who can generate wormholes with his mind has decided to team up with Mytax, and the two of them send Dan to be sacrificed to the Scar-Ag, a giant spider monster. Dan quickly dispatches it, then confronts Solan, revealing that he’s figured out the source of the green monster’s power.

Logical deduction convinces Dan that Solan and Mytax couldn’t possibly have built an entire city next to a volcano in the six months since Mytax was rescued from his execution, even with an army of slave labour, which they had access to. Confronted with this truth, everyone realizes that Solan was just hypnotizing them, and the city disappears!

Okay, now I’m confused – the planet is real, Mytax is real, the primitive people are real, and even the spider-monster is real… it’s only the city that was fake? How could Dan possibly know this? After all, Solan actually did have the power to move ships across the cosmos, he also lives in a star and flies through space on green wings… but building a city in six months is a stretch?

So how can Dan resolve this situation? By using the same Deus Ex Machina that was featured in the Star Trek episode that story was ripped off of. That’s right, Solan’s dad shows up.

Solan and his Dad fly away into space after teleporting Dan and his ship back to Earth. And Mytax? Dan tosses him to another one of the Scar-Ags, to be horribly devoured by the monster.

The end.

Wait, hold on a second there – how did the slime get onto the Andromeda? Why did Solan grab that particular ship? Why did he team up with an evil slaver?

Man, this was a confusing rip off of a story. But hey, a hell of a lot happened in ten pages, so that’s something.

Thrill 2 – Invasion

This week’s story is called ‘Tank Trap’ and, unsurprisingly, involves Silk and Savage capturing a tank. Some oppressed Britons are protesting the lack of Volgan rations, and a few tanks roll into Wembley to quash the uprising. The Mad Dogs wait for a Nazi tank to get close to a window and jump down into it, then use the captured tank to kill one of the Volgan-operated ones!

A third tank opens fire on Savage, though, forcing him and Silk into the sewers to escape. The fate of the protesters at the hands of the now-angered Volgs goes un-commented-on. The Mad Dogs head back to the Isle of Dogs to meet with the Brigadier, a location and character that we haven’t seen in months and months.

Which is kind of a pity, since the Brig has a plan that might actually harm the Volgan war machine, as opposed to just a few of their soldiers. He suggests that the Mad Dogs make a frogman attack on the supertanker that the Volgs are using to ship refined fuel around the country – this will somehow also destroy the refinery that they’re using to run their British War Machine!

It’s unclear how the two things are connected, but sure enough, after Bill has killed some divers and planted the limpet mines successfully-

The refinery is in flames behind him. For no reason.

Hey, remember when Bill used to talk about his dead family? Seems so long ago now, doesn’t it?

Thrill 3 – Hunted

The third feature in the Annual is a quick shock about an adorable biped alien who wakes in a strange forest full of bizarre creatures – and quickly realizes that, as the title would suggest, he’s being ‘hunted’ by people with rifles! The story is notable primarily for having been drawn by Kevin O’Neill-

He gets caught in a leg trap and menaced by a spider the likes of which he’s never seen, all the while dodging rifle shots! Then he runs over a hill and discovers-




A glass wall looking out into space! And then he gets shot to death! That’s right, the animal was kidnapped from his own world and brought onto a space station for a caged hunt, the fiends!

Just in case you missed the message of the story the last panel is of Tharg looking crossly at the audience, announcing that if humans want to avoid this terrifying future, they’d better start taking care of the animals on their own planet!

Ah, heavy-handed moralizing. That’s what we go to sci-fi for.

Thrill 4 – MACH 1

Probe’s headed out to Salisbury plain, where, according to fiction I’ve seen, is where the British Military does its military testing. Unfortunately the Brits aren’t the only ones doing testing today, as a couple of sinister figures train a sci-fi cannon at Probe as he plummets from the sky!

Wait, plummets? Why is Probe skydiving to get to the testing range? Oh, right, so that he can get hit with a knockout ray! The villains didn’t count on Probe being able to survive a low-opening drop, though, and the men on the ground don’t see their highest-tech agent malfunctioning just as he arrives at the site of their top-secret weapons test as something worth investigating, so they merely bring Probe over to look at the new missile they’ve invented.

Which is just what the villains were planning on, since their ray isn’t designed just to knock Probe out, but rather control him! The suddenly-brainwashed Probe grabs the missile and runs over to the evil van, which is parked surprisingly close by. After being delivered the missile they try to use their laser to short-circuit Probe permanently – but that proves a poor substitute for a bullet, since the pain the laser causes leads the MACH Man to smash the very computer that was controlling it!

Suddenly free to kill his enemies, Probe proceeds to do the most bad-ass thing I’ve seen the guy do in a year’s worth of stories. When the villains fire the high-tech missile at some pursuing tanks Probe snatches the Missile out of the air, spins it around-

And cooks the baddies with its exhaust! Yeah!

There are two wrapup panels, but after that image, who really cares?

Thrill 5 – Harlem Heroes

So yeah, it’s about Aeroball, the least interesting futuresport to have ever had a comic written about it! And in keeping with my continued disinterest in the story and sport, I’m going to make this my briefest review ever (unless something interesting… yeah, as if).

The Heroes are in Berlin, playing an exhibition game against the ‘Blitzkriegs’, because in the future people aren’t so sensitive about that whole ‘Nazi’ thing any more. So it’s a question of whether the Heroes’ fancy flying can defeat the Blitzkriegers’ brute force… it can.

The End.

Seriously, there were no twists, no robots, no magic, nothing unexpected. Just the Heroes using some unclear tactics to win a forgone conclusion in a game with no stakes.

Thanks, 2000AD.

Thrill 6 – End of Voyage

Are you ready for another twist-shock? I hope so, because that’s what’s happening right now. Wyatt is a successful yachtsman on a charter from Auckland to Tahiti when he draws too close to an Atoll being used as a nuclear test site! He’s the sole survivor of his boat, but unfortunately exposure to radiation has caused him to lose all the hair on his body.

Seriously. That’s the only medical effect he suffers.

Anyhoo, a year later he’s the favorite to win a trans-atlantic boat race – it seems he’s so terrified of being near another nuclear blast that he spends as much time at sea as possible. Which proves to be a good choice, since, during the race, he hears news on the short-wave that World War 3 is about to break out! He angrily tosses the radio overboard and immediately regrets the decision, since now he won’t know if the world has been destroyed before he reaches New York.

Wyatt’s fears are allayed when he finally arrives at his destination and finds that the Statue of Liberty is intact. But then…




New York is destroyed by a nuclear bomb just after he arrives! Oh, Wyatt, you just can’t win, can you?

Thrill 7 – The Dream Machine

It seems the science has invented a machine that can read dreams, and invited one ‘Mike Clayton’, the smartest man in the UK to be hooked up to it.

Then the most confusing story in the history of comics happens. I’ll try to explain.

Mike dreams that he’s a spaceman who goes back in time and teaches the Neanderthals about fire and science. In detail, over five pages. Here’s where things get confusing. It’s a dream machine he’s hooked up to. The screen is showing things that his mind is creating, and yet-

That’s right. They’re acting like Mike is actually back in time, they’re seeing what life was really like, and that his decisions will effect the world. Hell, one of the scientist thinks the idea of neanderthals worshipping Mike as a god is so blasphemous that he tries to destroy the machine!

Again, pal, it’s just a dream he’s having.

So after the mishegoss has died down they hook Mike up to the machine again, and this time he dreams about taking a spaceship out past the edge of the universe, to discover what’s ‘outside space’. The scientists are incredibly excited about discovering what’s out there despite the fact that, again, this is just what the smartest man in the UK thinks is out there.

Although I really did like the dialogue in this one panel.

Somehow having a dream about the edge of the universe causes Mike to dematerialize, which makes the screen show something horrifying for just long enough for the realization of it to kill the head scientist before the whole thing explodes.

Despite the fact that I liked the last moment going all Lovecrafty, I can’t forgive this story’s basic lack of understanding of what a dream is.

Thrill 8 – Judge Dredd

God, finally. Let’s see what Joe’s up to, huh?

Apparently he’s at a meeting of judges when one of them goes nuts and shoots up the place before Dredd can blast the hell out of him. It seems that Judge ‘Steele’ received a vid-phone call earlier that day which contained a hypnotic message driving him to kill!

Until they can figure out who’s sending the messages Judges are under strict orders not to answer their phones, so Dredd heads back to his apartment, which is apparently #43021 in ‘Complex Omega’ – a fun piece of trivia, but one that I’m sure will be revised really, really soon.

Not one to just sit around doing nothing, Dredd calls the vid-line operator and sets up a really obvious trap. He taps the phone line and sets up a hologram to stand in front of it. So while the hologram acts like its mind is being controlled, Dredd drives over to the source of the call, where the killer, an eyepatch wheelchair guy, proves to be ready to defend himself.

Which, due to a printing error, is apparently in 3D. Dredd uses a loose wire to eletrocute the killer, and the day is saved! Oh, and for people who care about motives, Salty McWheels was killing judges because a judge crippled him.

Judge Dredd Kill Count (42)+2=44

Thrill 9 – MACH 1: Operation Hercules

It’s time for a story about that most ‘70s of crimes: The airline hijacking! Golan sepratists have kidnapped a French airliner and are demanding the release of terrorist prisoners in exchange for their release! There’s only one man who can save them: John Probe!

Probe skydives for the second time this annual, then quickly infiltrates the airport where the prisoners are conveniently being held. I say conveniently because that means the French can land their ‘Hercules’ (Hey, that’s the title!) military transports within fifty yards of the people they need to rescue. That’s going to save some time.

After gunning down the guards Probe escorts the hostages to the waiting transport, then finally has to use his powers in an interesting way for the first time in the story. How does he do it? When one of the hostages is shot in the foot Probe has to hoist the man onto his shoulders and then run after the departing plane, jumping up into it at the last possible minute!

Is it clinging to a pontoon while a guy shoots at you from the cockpit? No, but it’s pretty good action all the same. Not bad, MACH Man.

Thrill 10 – The Buffalo Hunt

Now here’s how you surprise people with a story: The title in no way gives out the story’s biggest surprise. At first glance it just seems to be about American Natives in the year 1820, hunting buffalo for their dinner. The twist happens quickly when, just after a Brave downs a buffalo, he marvels at the sight of it disappearing into the ether!

What happened to the buffalo? It was sucked into the future by the trans-time corporation! That’s right, this is a ‘Flesh’ story! Wow, and I thought we’d seen the end of that particular story, but here it comes again – and better yet, it’s a prequel that lets us get a glimpse at just why Earl Reagan has such a problem with Claw Carver!

It seems that the TTC has a brilliant plan for selling some truly high-end meat to the discerning consumer – steal buffalos from the (comparitively) recent past and jack the price up into the stratosphere! Earl sees a couple of problems with the plan – after all, the whole dinosaur thing happened so long ago that the likelihood of it butterfly-effecting anyone was pretty long (unless you take the word of the short story ‘The Butterfly Effect’, which was actually titled ‘A Sound of Thunder’), going back to the time when humans were walking around and writing down instances in which they saw future humans kidnapping buffalo might well lead to unfortunate paradoxes. Ensuring that things can’t possibly go badly on the mission, Earl is instructed to bring Claw Carver along with him – this is Claw after getting the talon on his hand, but before quitting to start his own trading post.

Making a surprisingly abrupt 180 in his principles, the moment that Earl gets back in time he decides to investigate a nearby campfire, bascially ensuring that he’ll immediately run into the very people he’s supposed to be avoiding.

Yup, tossing aside the concept of non-interference, Earl beats up some cowboys, helps them fight off some indians, then uses ray guns to kill a few people while the ancient people look on. Obviously the Indians are none too happy about this.

White eyes? Seriously?

Earl and company lay down a transmission field around their kills, abandoning the cowboys to be slaughtered by the injuns now that they’ve gotten what they came for. Back in the future the Controller (the future one, not the big-brain guy who fell into the machine that time) is happy with the results of their mission, and reveals how he knew they were going to be successful-

That’s right, they live in a predestined universe, where this has all already happened, and the illusion of free will has been forever pierced.

Sadly, because they’re all just bit players in a drama written by the hand of god some billennia ago, they don’t react to this new information the way they ought to – immediate suicide in the face of the meaninglessness of their life’s endeavours.

The most disappointing thing about this story? We still don’t know why Earl hates Claw so much. At the outset he was already pissed to have been teamed up with him.

Maybe we’ll get another flashback?

Thrill 11 – The Monsters

Yup, it’s future shock time again! In this one a farmer and his young son in a weird future world see news on the television that aliens are landing! Then one of the aliens knocks on the door of their house, so they immediately shoot it for no reason! They’re disgusted by the sight of weird fluids leaking out of the corpse, then shocked when a second alien arrives, kind of pissed off that these farmers just murdered his pal for no reason, he shoots the dad, but catches a bullet at the same moment, revealing the big twist…




The ‘aliens’ are humans, and the farmers are robots on a bizarre alien planet where they speak English for no reason! And also build child robots for absolutely no reason!

Thrill 12 – White Fury

Are you ready to glimpse a return into the world of Shako? Because I sure am. Here’s the best part: It’s an origin story!

Yup, that adorable little cub sitting timidly on an ice block while his mother swims nearby will one day grow up to be Shako, nature’s most efficient killing machine!

But how did he become a Shako? Well I’ll tell you for how: While his mother was teaching him to swim an ice breaker happened by, and one of those contemptible humans shot Mama for no no reason but sheer boredom! Which leads to this heartbreaking scene-

This is just like Bambi, if Bambi had sought immediate and brutal revenge on the hunter that killed his mom. The hunters close to finish off Shako and skin Mama, but the little guy’s having none of that – he sinks his teeth into one of the hunters’ legs, causing him to fall and accidentally shoot his buddy!

In the fracas Shako escapes, but now he’s just one bear cub, all alone against the world! How shall he survive? By hunting seal, of course. His first foray into hunting goes about as badly as it possibly could, though-

Miraculously Shako manages to turn the fight around, tricking the Orca into beaching itself on the ice, then slashing it until it bleeds to death. So the first thing he ever killed was a killer whale. That’s actually pretty hardcore, Shako.

I’ve missed you.

But Shako can’t enjoy the meal for long, as he’s been found by the second hunter and his eskimo guide. The hunter’s rifle jams at an inopportune moment though, giving Shako a chance to claw the eyes out of his head. Things get even more brutal when he bites out the eskimo’s throat, and then-

Yikes. Remind me to never, ever go near a polar bear. Shako’s not done with the humans yet, though – he waits by the bodies for their friends to arrive, then follows the party as they carry the bodies back to the icrbreaker. Which is considerably more planning than I’d expect from a polar bear, but hey, it’s Shako.

While the humans are busy preparing to set sail Shako sneaks below decks and slaughters the two men in the engine room, ensuring that the ship would never be able to free itself from the ice. In point of fact the ice murders the ship a moment later, freezing so fast that it crushes holes into the hull! Shako escapes through one of these as the ship sinks into the freezing arctic sea, taking all hands with it.

So that’s the origin of Shako. I’ve got to say, I wasn’t disappointed. This wasn’t something I ever expected to read, and while it had a little of the sloppy ‘No, here’s an even earlier awesome thing that character did’ writing that plagues these stories, attempting to give Shako more of a motive for hating humans than he needed, I enjoyed the hell of the strip’s writer’s continued insistence on not really anthropomorphizing that big lug at all.

Thrill 13 – Judge Dredd

Speaking of returns I never thought we’d see, this second Dredd story has something to do with ‘Whitey’, the Judge-Killer from the very first Dredd story!

Dredd is headed out to investigate some UFOs, and finds a series of hoverpods that can use disrupters to crumble whatever it is those Mega-City 1 skyways are made of! After narrowly avoiding a fatal plummet Dredd hears the hoverbots’ request – they want Whitey sprung from prison and four million credits! In order to prove they’re serious they make something… unfortunate happen.

So… yeah. We all saw that. Let’s move on.

Faced with total destruction of the city if they refuse the Judges have no choice but to deliver Whitey into the hands of his elder brother, a particle physicist. Who I’m guessing was the white sheep of the family until just now.

Sadly for the Whitey brothers this reunion is just what Dredd had in mind. Big Whitey thought that his impenetrable armored silicone shell would protect him, but he didn’t count on Dredd using his own disruptor ray against him! With Big Whitey disintegrated to death all that’s left to do is drop Whitey back off on Devil’s Island, to await his inevitable next escape.

Judge Dredd Kill Count (44)+1=45

Thrill 14 – The Symbiote

Yes, we’re back to the future shocks – but this one seems more promising than the last few, so give it a chance, huh? Marko and Cora are space-theives, introduced killing crew members as they steal a space-ship! They blast off, but are quickly caputred by the space-cops when their Symbiote pilot informs on them!

Quick note – I wrote symbiote because that’s the title of the story and the term they use, even though what they’re talking about – a dude’s brain being hooked up to a computer body – is actually a cyborg. Which is the term we’ll be using from now on.

Speaking of cyborgs, after being quickly tried both Cora and Marko are sentenced to become cyborgs! Ironic, huh? But that’s not your twist ending. No, we witness Marko being hooked into a space-cop patrol ship, and learning to pilot it under threat of having the pain centres of his brain activated by remote control.

Then, on his very first mission out Marko is dispatched to stop a smuggler attempting to flee sector 43. He fires a shot into the cockpit, killing the pilot-


Turns out to be his girlfriend Cory!

Oh, tragedy, thy name is Future Shocks.

Thrill 15 – Death Bug

Last story folks – kudos to those of you who made it to the end! This one concerns a group of ‘death bugs’ that attack Salvation City, California. Although with a name like that, they were just asking for this kind of thing.

Yup, that’s them. They’re introduced when they kill a picnicing family’s dog, and we next see them in the lab of doctor Huxley, who announces that they’re likely mutant bed bugs that the government engineered to attack the Viet Cong in their tunnel systems!

It isn’t long before the death bugs are besieging the town, held back only by a wall of fire that the doctor creates with the help of a conveniently-located gasoline truck. It seems the bugs aren’t smart or skilled enough to simply fly over the wall of fire, and with the careful application of a flaming tanker into their midst, doctor Huxley is able to save the day!

The End.

Yeah, I know that’s a really glossed-over review, but what do you want? Bugs show up, they get set on fire. It’s not exactly Cyrano. Sure, there’s a subplot about a criminal being transported through town who has to be rescued when his car crashes in a bug attack, but after the rescue the character is never seen again, and the plot doesn’t come to anything, so what’s the point? You know, you could have used those pages to let us know where the bugs came from (the vietnam thing was just a guess by the characters).

Just saying.

Final Thoughts

Best Story: Shako – I didn’t realize how much I missed the little guy until I had him back. And now I’m probably never going to see him again. Please excuse me while I tear up a little.

(Although this story kind of played with continuity - in the first Shako story, he didn't know if people were edible because he'd never eaten one before. Ahem. Who knows, maybe he'd forgotten?)

Worst Story: Death Bug – I’m only calling it the worst story because the other bad stories were so forgettable that they’ve already slipped from my mind. Oh, except for the Harlem Heroes. Maybe that’s the worst one? No, I’m sticking with Death Bug, the most perfunctory killer animal story I’ve ever encountered.

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