Programme 39 (19-November-77)

Is it just me, or are the SuperCovers quickly becoming the best part of this comic? Not their stories of course, which invariably disappoint, but the covers themselves are just wonderful.

Although I’ve got to ask – just what is that Alien looking at?

Thrill 1 – Judge Dredd (Wagner/McMahon/Jacob)

It’s kind of a big deal when Judge Dredd is moved up to first story status, and on the very first page of this story I can already tell that the placement is entirely justified.

I’m going to present three separate images from the first page that conspire to make it my favorite Dredd story to date:

Dredd has an office. With a glass window and a stencilled name. And a secretary who tells mugs that they can’t go in to see him when he’s busy.

None of those things can possibly be true, and yet there they are.

It’s a story about genetically-engineered gangster monkeys. For the first time I’m really going to question the primacy of Supercovers, because damn, did these guys need to be on the front of the comic.

And, why, may you ask, are they visiting Dredd? Because they want to him to stop a rival gang (of not-apes) from muscling in on their territory. How does Dredd respond to the threat?

He called them Hyper-Hoods. Because he knows that they’re all living in the future, and must be differentiated from the common ‘hoods’ that people a hundred and twenty-two years earlier are more familiar with.

God, this is a great comic.

Now it’s time for a little background. It seems that the ‘Great Holocaust’, which I assume is the nuclear war that wiped out most of America, wiped out all normal animals, leaving only those who were confined to zoos alive. Some years later humans developed the technology to super-evolve animal brains, making them capable of speaking and wearing clothes. This new condition made leaving them in captivity seem barbaric, so all the apes were moved into simian slums, where, naturally, they formed criminal gangs.

You know, I’m suddenly uncomfortable with the fact that this issue seems to be drawing a straight line of comparison between apes and Italians.

Anyhoo, the gang wars naturally followed the formation of gangs-

Yeah, there’s nothing that’s not wonderful about this story. Other than the racism. Which gets worse in the next scene, when Dredd visits Uggie’s mother, hoping to get her to testify against him:

Dredd gets the information somehow, and when the ape gang stages their next raid on the east-side mob, Dredd and a whole passel of Judges are ready and waiting to stop them:

Things don’t go well for the apes, what with them being a gang of simians up against the best-trained law-enforcement officers in the history of the world. Once the gang has been subdued Uggie makes the most insane claim I’ve ever read-

Really? This is a police state. Making a new law is no more complicated then typing a few lines into a computer. We’re expected to believe that the judges would make Apes citizens with all the rights and privileges that entails, but not bother to include them in the legal system? It may be a little stupid, but at least the stupidity is in service of a twist ending:

Yup, the survivng ape criminals are thrown back in the zoo. Ah, irony. We love you so.

Judge Dredd Kill Count (42)+0=42 (Yeah, he killed a few criminals this time, but they were apes, but I’m not counting them, as I won’t kill aliens when Dredd gets around to killing some. I will, however, count Mutants when they appear).

Thrill 2 – Invasion (Finley-Day/Pino/Nuttall)

Bill, Silk, and Prince John are still on the lam, desperately trying to make it out of the country before the Volgs catch them and gain a vital propaganda coup. Ducking through the streets of Dundee they come across a boarding house – at first the old ladies that run the place refuse to let them in, but after noticing the Prince they change their tune.

No sooner have the boys gotten settled into the inn then a group of Volgs turn up, demanding billets for the night. They start pushing around the ‘civillians’ who are already staying there, and the old ladies can’t contain themselves at the sight of their soverign being insulted. A fracas quickly begins, but Silk and Savage manage to dispatch the Volgs quietly, but not before their leader gets a call off to headquarters.

The boys hie to the rooftops, and see the old ladies packed into a van because HQ heard that ‘women’ were somehow involved in the Prince’s escape. Bill decides to make good on the old women’s sacrifice – they dress up in drag and walk up to a checkpoint at the edge of the city, then gun down all the Volgs operating it, then flee into the countryside.

Wait, what about the old women? Ah, well it seems that Bill has thought of that – he assumes that when the Volgs hear that they blew apart the checkpoint in drag, they’ll figure that’s what the ‘women’ comment was related to, and let the old gals go.

Two problems with that logic – A: They killed everyone at the checkpoint, so who’s going to report on how they were dressed, and 2: Since when did the Nazis need an excuse to kill Brits?

But I’m guessing we’re not supposed to be thinking about any of that…


Have I ever told you the story of Rocket Robin Hood? He stole from the Cosmic rich, to give to the Astral poor.

Don’t know what made me think of that just now.

Thrill 3 – Dan Dare (Finley-Day/Gibbons)

It’s step one of Dan’s undercover trip to the heart of the Starslayer empire: Pretend to be slaves, and hope the fact that one of you has a gun for a hand doesn’t tip off your captors that something’s awry. They witness a mining accident, and rush to help out, then see there was no point, when the SS enacts their policy of executing wounded slaves!

They bide their time and wait for night, then Hitman subtly shoots out the floodlights, and they go searching around the compound. Dan is spotted by a guard and attacked, but Dan manages to use science to short-circuit his electro-whip, killing him. Apparently he was the only guard at the entire site, and they’re able to put together all the parts they need to repair their ship.

In addition, the example they set by killing the guard has inspired the Minian miners to join the resistance! Which is news that doesn’t sit to well with the Not-Vader who sits upon his throne on the planet Starslay.

Hold on a minute… the planet StarSlay? That can’t be right, can it?

Thrill 4 – MACH 1 (Hebden/Lozano/Potter)

Mach Man and Mach Woman have arrived at the lab of the Eastern scientists who are perverting the MACH process. They’ve also come across the scientist’s latest creation – MACH Children of the Damned! The Hyper-kids easily take down the two MACH agents, and the scientist begins his gloating.

While the scientist explains his scheme to dissect Tanya in hopes of figuring out why she turned traitor to the cause, one of the MACH-tots loosens his grip on Probe, giving him a chance to get free!

MACH 1 races to the room where Tanya is being held and breaks her chains, then sends her down to the record room to destroy all of the scientist’s research. Meanwhile Probe has to buy her some time… by killing dozens of Hyper-children with a titanium chain!

When Tanya gets back from destroying the tapes she sees that Probe is just moments from being overrun. There’s only one way to save him – by using all her strength to shove a defunct tank into the scientist’s lab, destroying all the machinery that allows him to control the MACHKids!

All of the kids instantly go blank, and MACH Man is saved, but Tanya isn’t so lucky. The force rquired to move the tank burnt her out compeltely and she tragically dies after bidding Probe a tearful farewell.

This pisses off Probe something fierce, and he races back to Sharpe’s office, demanding an explanation for how Sharpe seems to know so much about the enemy’s MACH program… Sharpe refuses to answer, leaving Probe angry, and determined to uncover his secrets, but it will have to wait until next week…

Thrill 5 – Inferno (Tully/Belardinelli/Nuttall)

With half the team tripping on LSD and one of the bikers burned alive, the remaining Wolves (or as we know them, the Harlem Heroes) have their work cut out for them. ‘Moody’ Bloo, the team’s ‘cave-man’ can’t even see the ball to block a shot on goal, and collapses into the cinders a moment later. ‘Junk’, the team leader, who still hasn’t fallen victim to the drugs, calls a time out and has his fallen players replaced.

That doesn’t do much good, though, as the rest of the team continues to fall victim to their poisoning – which allows the Heroes to figure out the common factor. Everyone chewed the gum provided by the manager other than them!

But that’s not the end of Charlie Vance’s (because that’s his name, apparently) plan. No, he proceeds to plant cash into the Heroes’ lockers so it looks like they sabotaged their own team for the cash!

Given their reputations, I don’t see this going well for ‘ol Charlie.

Final Thoughts

Best Story: Judge Dredd – Yeah, this wasn’t merely the best story this week, it might be the best Dredd story ever. If there’s two things I love it’s monkey stories and hilariously over-the-top racism, and this combined the two into a delicious stew of insulting craziness. I wonder how long it’s going to take before they top this one? I’m guessing not until Brian Bolland starts drawing Dredd.

Worst Story: Everything other than Dredd. The apes owned this week. I can barely remember anything else that happened, and I’ve just finished reading the stories.

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