Robo Hunter – A Potted History
The last time I did a potted history of a revived character, its series ended unexpectedly. Sorry IDW, sorry Rogue, for what it’s worth –that was the best version of the GI for years. Hopefully, this won’t have the same effect, I could get a reputation.
The re-appearance of Sam Slade in the previously thought extinct Sci Fi special is worthy of milking an article for the blog’, and to demonstrate that articles like this aren’t the kiss of death for otherwise promising series (that’s the plan anyway).
Sam is one of the oldest characters in 2000ad. Created by John Wagner, the early episodes had art duties divided between Jose Ferrer (known for some “Starblazers”), but along the way there have been a number of “misguided” (if I am being polite) revivals, and varied creative teams.
Robohunters are one of the few occupations left remaining for humans in a world where even armchairs have artificial intelligence. At the beginning of the run, Sam is old, very bitter and very cynical. Coming to the end of his career, he’s waiting for the day when he’ll be just that little too slow and a robot to be just that little too quick.
Sam is approached by Rogers and Chan, two representatives from the International Space Commission to solve a little problem they have on a planet settled and developed by robots in preparation for human settlers. A planet called Verdus.
With obnoxious, arrogant and all round conceited arse, pilot Jim Kidd and Sam’s loyal (and loveable) robometer Cutie, Sam travels to Verdus. A shield “accident” sees both Sam and Kidd age regress by 30 years, making Sam fit, young and capable (theoretically) of facing the travails ahead of him, Kidd on the other hand has reverted to a baby, admittedly an obnoxious, arrogant and all round conceited arse of a baby.
Sam, Kidd and Cutie find that things have gone badly wrong on the planet. The robots have succeeded in terraforming the planet but they have become so advanced that they don’t believe that Sam and Kidd are humans at all, but simulated humans. From here on in, it all goes a bit wrong. Sam escapes, finds the one robot who can confirm he is a human and presents his case to the robot parliament (where Wagner gives government a good shoeing) the robots can’t agree on whether Sam is human or not, so they deal with it the only way they know how – by starting a civil war and Cutie dies saving Sam from execution.
The run is interrupted during the merger with Tornado between prog 82 to prog 100. Despite everything, robots and editorial dictat included, Sam completes his mission, though perhaps not in the way the intergalactic crime commission expected, or hoped.
Verdus sets the tone for the rest of what is the “classic run”. Robo Hunter takes its inspiration from the great gumshoe detective characters, like Sam Spade (duh) in the internal monologue, but the humour is almost Python-esque, particularly in the opening storyline. The humour is more sophisticated than its contemporaries. Wagner had seen the potential for satire and black humour in the still relatively young comic, which was still finding its feet.
Sam then took a break, and reappeared in “The Day Of The Droids”. Politicians are being replaced by androids, Sam is charged with finding out why. Framed, Sam is imprisoned with the rest of the city’s robo hunters, he finds out there is a conspiracy to take over the city by the “God Droid”. The “Day of The Droids” continues the tone set by “Verdus”. Wagner has a ball, Sam meets the AAU (Amalgamated Androids Union) run by the drinks droid Brother Molotov, meets 3 robot Slades, appears in a mek version of “Flesh” and most significantly meets his new assistants, Hoagy the dumbest robot in the world, and his loyal cigar, Carlos Sanchez Robostogie. Sam again wins the day, but it is a pyrrhic victory, the price of AAU assistance in defeating the robot mafia led coup is to ban Robohunters. Sam is unemployed and unemployable, and sets off to Brit Cit to start again.
The Brit Cit is characterised by far shorter stories, starting with “The Beast of Blackheart Manor“, it also sees the arrival of Alan Grant as co scripter and occasional sole scripter (at least according to the credits). The stories become wackier and sillier, the harder edge has dulled, but the quality doesn’t drop. Highlights are the “Killing of Kidd” seeing the return of Sam’s infant pilot from the Verdus mission; “The Filby Case” with the world’s first telepathic robot; “Play It Again, Sam” where a very familiar robotic female Prime Minister announces national song year, a good portion of the script is in song (a favourite Wagner/Grant trope)and finally, a personal favourite – “Football Crazy” which features quite possibly the largest collection of racial stereotypes in a single comic strip, ever. “Blakee Pentax” became an in-joke between my brother and I for years.
Wagner, Grant and Gibson started to wind the strip up. Sam was killed, brought back into a previously unknown clone body and in the process of tracking down his killer, caught a thief who had stolen priceless treasures and historical artefacts. Sam received a hefty reward and was set for life, he hung up his robo hunting duds and retired.
Of course, idiot assistants weren’t happy with this. They hatched a plot to get Sam back in the saddle. A fat, grumpy Sam was seen disappearing beneath the waves on a submersible health farm run by Dr. Droid.
A now lean, but elderly, Sam, returned to find all his money and assets had gone. With the dregs of his cash reserves he sets off to track down Hoagy and Stogie. Sam catches up with his idiot assistants at his office where Rogers and Chan had given Sam the Verdus mission. Penniless but pensionable, Sam has no option but to pick up where he left off, and restart his robo hunting career.
And that’s where Wagner, Grant & Gibson leave him.
What came next was controversial, to put it mildly.
2000ad Prog 1887
Review By Seth
Review written by Eamonn Clarke
To read more of Eamonn’s reviews go check out his Thank you for your Attention blog
Review written by John Burdis
What an opener to this new and original series about Dredd’s clone brother, Rico!
Again Michael Carroll shows his detailed knowledge of the Judge System of Mega-City One, with just a snippet thrown in about all the other Mega-Cities, as he shows us the downfall of Rico Eustace Dredd.
What really made the tale for me was the empathy that we feel for Rico throughout the story. We all know he’s a corrupt Judge but at first he just wanted to help the citizens of the city with a kinder approach and not just jail them, for such minor crimes like littering. Sadly for him, things spiral beyond his control, as one minor infraction leads to another and another, until they become major crimes and he himself comes under investigation from Judge Kenner. Things can only get worse and they do!
The way he’s finally caught is played out well, as Joe’s been investigating his brother but the final nails fall into place by accident and not by Rico’s hand!
When he’s sent to Titan another twist in his sentence is revealed, as all the time spent waiting on Earth for the shuttle and the sixty-two day journey itself do not count towards time served. Once on Titan he soon realises that there is a pecking order and the story unfolds rather cleverly, as we find out why it’s only certain prisoners that have the ‘treatment’ (the look we have all come to associate with Rico). These prisoners include fellow Mega-City judges and civillians from around the globe.
The work on Titan is relentless and monotonous, as the prisoners mine the iridium, which Mega-City One needs to sustain itself. After the new batch of prisoners settle in and get the feel of what is ahead, a team are required to mine further away from the actual prison. This is to check a certain area and that is when the meat of this story really kicks in but that’s for you to enjoy!
Can we as readers feel sorry for Rico! Well, the way his character has been written in this opener, if you don’t feel anything for him then you are a harder man than me!
This is 5 out of 5 for me and I can’t wait to read part two. Michael Carroll once again shows us how Justice Department works and this time how it deals with it’s own gone wrong!
Judge Dredd Megazine 349
Review by Seth
Decks are cleared for the big anniversary 350 next month. New to Dredd (? I’m pretty sure anyway) Canadian Cameron (“Sea Guy” “Manhattan Guardian”) Stewart supplies a natty cover with a solid but ever so slightly cartoony line, he’s got both Dredd and Anderson sorted, next step : 2000ad strip work (pretty please?).
“Judge Dredd: Rad to The Bone” concludes and it all kicks off. Vibrant and kinetic Boo Cook’s art might be, but it doesn’t do it for me for some reason, beautifully coloured though. He does seem to acknowledge that as much as Joe is getting on a bit – so is Hershey; she has a few more lines on her face here. Eglington wraps up a fun if unessential strip, with a guest appearance by the absurd Judge Smiley. Most importantly Eglington understands the most fundamental part about Dredd’s character is that he’s an arsehole and a ruthless one at that, admirably demonstrated more than once in this episode.
Next, we have a long overdue “Interrogation” with “Slaine” and “Dan Dare” artist David Pugh. He’s had a bit of a life hasn’t he? Missed by me certainly, and sadly overshadowed by the awesome Glenn Fabry in “Time Killer” and “Tomb of Terror”, Pugh dropped out of site after leaving Dare and “last planet” never got past issue 2, since then he has been busy outside of the field of comics. Definitely worth a read.
Two Ton Tony Tubbs makes a reappearance in “Tales of Mega City One”. Financially, Tony is on his not insubstantial arse. Worse, that arse (and belly and jowl etc) is getting smaller. The source of his fame and fortune is wasting away, he needs money fast and grassing to the judges might be a way back. David Bailie spins a great follow up tale coupled with great art by Eoin Coveny wearing his Baikie and Kennedy influences on his sleeve. More from him please.
Gordon Rennie and Kev Hopgood’s “The Man from the Ministry” moves into episode 2. The occupant of the mysterious spacecraft is interrogated and confirmed to be the same pilot who left Earth in 1953, but has not aged a bit. Coming across as a bit like Warren Ellis and Chris Weston’s “Ministry Of Space” meets the “X-Files” or more accurately Gerry Anderson’s “UFO”. It has the feel of a strip from “Lion” or “Valiant” or is that just me? Hopgood’s style has changed considerably since I last saw him in the prog’ drawing “Night Zero” or one of its sequels. Always a good artist, nice clean lines with a touch of Peter Gross about them (or vice versa?)
Entertaining “Interrogations” with “Slaine” and “Judge Dredd” art droid Nick Percival and “A History of Violence”, “Sandman”, “Judge Dredd” and “Tharg’s Thrillers” artist Vince Locke follow. It’s amazing to think that it’s over 20 years since Nick Percival first worked for the House of Tharg. A cheaper alternative to strip they might be, but it’s rare that these interviews are ever less than interesting, little bits of gossip and background to the creation of your favourite (and not so favourite) strips.
Finally, “Anderson: PSI Division” wraps up her pursuit of Algol Rey. Alan Grant’s story uses the fallout from Chaos Day as a backdrop for Anderson’s battle with an old enemy, with a little help from Old Stoney Face. I can’t help but feel that Anderson has run her course (despite the shock half way into this run), but it seems there maybe another change in direction in the offing. Grant is a class act; hopefully this will lead to a revitalisation (but still better than Karyn or Janus any day). Dowling’s art is beautiful, chunky and craggy with a touch of Peter Doherty about his line work and colouring, check out his series “Death Sentence” from Titan.