Review written by Eamonn Clarke
To read more of Eamonn’s reviews go check out his Thank you for your Attention blog
The Chief Judge’s Man by John Wagner, Will Simpson, Colin MacNeil and John Burns. Originally published in three instalments in 2001 and 2003. A deadly assassin is picking off pro-democracy figures and appears to be getting his instructions from Chief Judge Hershey herself, but as ever with a Wagner script there is more to this than meets the eye. There is some nice police procedural stuff that means that Dredd almost gets his man only to take yet another beating from a super soldier who appears to be better at hand to hand combat than he is.
This is Hershey in her first stint as Chief Judge and it’s interesting how her character has grown and changed since Wagner first introduced her in the Judge Child saga all the way back in 1980. It seems that just about all of Mega-City One’s Chief Judges have been flawed in some way and the two who have probably been best at the job have both been women, although McGruder went completely bonkers in the end. Meanwhile as all the disasters have come and gone Barbara Hershey has managed to maintain her integrity and keep plugging away as an honest Judge. In recent years we have seen how she wrestles with the dilemmas of managing a huge city state, and in particular how she accepts that that the buck stops with her. It’s fascinating that Hershey was once subservient to Dredd but is now his boss, and that she has the guts to tell the city’s number one lawman the harsh truth about himself, particularly how he has always dodged the Chief Judge role for himself.
However all that is still to come and here we have Chief Judge Hershey going about her day to day business while Dredd hunts the killer and tries to set up a rematch, as he has done several times in the past with a variety of martial artists who have put him in the sick bay. And it’s not giving too much away to note that there is another corrupt Judge high up in the Justice department who is responsible for sending the killer to knock off prominent critics of the Judges. It ticks away nicely as it builds to the inevitable climax.
Three top 2000AD artists deliver the different chapters and are all great but, as ever, MacNeil rules the roost with his stylish and noir inflected depiction of the seamy side of the Mega-City. It’s still a little too colourful for me as the garish painted 1990s look starts to move into the darker and more suitable artwork of the 2000s.
Review written by Eamonn Clarke
To read more of Eamonn’s reviews go check out his Thank you for your Attention blog
Hopefully not stepping on the Whittle’s toes with Everything starts with 2000AD as here from the first year 1977 is a slightly battered but still lovely Prog 32. The cover image is by Trevor Goring and has nothing to do with any of the strips inside. Still a fab image though.
Invasion by Gerry Finley-Day, Mike Dorey and Bill Nuttall.
A new Invasion story starts with Bill Savage in the Scottish highlands trying to get rid of the dread Volgan Colonel Volgaska only to end up a prisoner himself. I have no familiarity with Dorey’s work but his thick blacks and detailed faces are pretty good, although Savage does seem to be leering quite a lot. And there are two whole Whittle circular panels in the first five pages.
Judge Dredd by Robert Flynn, Mike McMahon and Tony Jacob.
Dredd attends the opening of Komputel, Mega-City One’s first completely automated hotel, and is typically suspicious of computers and robots. He is, of course, proved right when halfway down the second page Komputel starts killing residents and Dredd has to break in and do what he does best. Again the writer Robert Flynn is a new one on me but it’s interesting how even in these early stories Dredd demonstrates his distrust of machines taking over the functions of men and women. It’s curious that these themes would come back many years later in stories like Mechansismo and ManDroid. No circular panels here but some lovely giant McMahon boots.
Shako by John Wagner, César López Vera and Jack Potter.
The giant Polar bear that led the CIA such a merry dance as they tried to retrieve the capsule of a deadly virus that it had swallowed. Just four pages of lovely black and white art by López Vera as Shako discovers some of those nasty men clubbing Seal pups and restores the balance of nature in bloody fashion.
Dan Dare by Gerry Finely-Day and Dave Gibbons
Thirty two progs in and Dan Dare is still thought to be the main event and gets the colour centre spread. Dare’s men are lured into a celebration dinner with some Roman emperor style aliens who turn out to be Vampires. Fortunately Dare has kept his wits about him and leads the escape back to their ship the Eagle, and how lovely to see the logo of the Eagle comic on the fuselage. A quick space battle and all that remains is for Dare to sign off by musing that the Vampires bit off more than they could chew. Boom boom!
MACH 1 by Pat Mills, Carlos Freixas and John Aldrich.
John Probe is in backwoods America to investigate a UFO landing where it turns out that aliens are forcing “white stuff” down human throats to take over their brains and lead the invasion. So nothing suggestive going on there, at least not until Alien’s oral rape two year’s later in 1979. Meanwhile the flying saucers use flame death rays to mop up the uninfected and Probe is caught in a cliffhanger which looks set to give him a close encounter of the final kind. A bit of 1970s paranoid alien invasion mixed with the bionic man and all fairly gruesome too.
Tharg’s Future Shocks: Excursion by Peter Harris, Horacio Lalia and Jack Potter
The first two pages of a Future Shock with some loathsome thrill seekers time travelling to witness great catastrophes. Next week they head for the Salem witch hunts and you can almost write how this will finish yourself.
The last two pages have an advert for a 4T Spacefone communicator which looks like a crap joke book scam, then there is a text piece explaining the cover image before some more adverts for Tiger comic and the Valiant annual, and that’s it. Dan Dare deserves its centre spread for Gibbons art which is clearly well above even McMahon at this stage, and thus easily wins pick of the Prog. Meanwhile I’m left wondering why there were so many great Spanish artists in British kids’ comics at this time. I wonder if the upcoming Future Shock documentary will tell us any more about the Spanish invasion.
The Whittle panel count is four but there are some very funky shaped panel lay outs in Dan Dare as well.
Sam Slade : Robo Hunter
A Potted History
Part 1 can be found here :
Sometimes, something’s should really be left to rest. Perhaps Sam is one.
Sam was resurrected for prog 723 2000ad’s first all colour prog’. Wagner, Grant and Gibson had been replaced by upcoming Scottish firebrand (and now international comic superstar) Mark Millar, art was supplied by Jose Casanovas. Millar’s Sam was young, rejuvenated (literally) and back in the city, previous continuity was “overlooked”. 2000ad was rebooting a few of its classic characters and strips around this period, notably “Strontium Dogs”. Largely, these reboots didn’t work and Robo Hunter was no exception.
Both Millar and his one time mentor Grant Morrison (now famed for their enmity) didn’t “get” the classic 200ad characters. Their interpretation of Dredd, Millar’s solo (?) “Robo Hunter” and “Rogue Trooper” are characterised by cliched 80’s action flick dialogue, extreme violence, hackneyed villains and plots that define the term “simplistic”. A bit of a shame really, I really like their other stuff. Interviewed for “Thrillpower Overload”, John Wagner said that after he saw the strip in the comic he requested editorial not publish any new stories, but to no avail, whilst Alan Grant offers this assessment:
“My objection arose when I saw the abomination produced. It was early in Mark’s career, so I guess he should get the benefit of the doubt – but that doesn’t stop it being a pile of crap”.
Millar led Sam on an extended arc that ended back on Verdus. He brought Cutie back, made her Mrs. Slade and turned her into a murderess. The strip wasn’t a success. A new writer will always bring their spin on a character, but this was throwing the baby out with the bath water. Millar replaces the wit and verve of the Grant, Wagner and Gibson stories with crude jokes, clumsy nods to contemporary culture (which has become his stock in trade) and poor attempts at parody. The strip lost it’s elements of farce and all of its subtlety. The only salve for the third degree burns that Millar’s run inflicted on the strip is by some rather spiffy art from Casanovas (and Jnr) and the underrated Anthony Williams.
After the end of “Return to Verdus” arc, Ron Smith and Simon Jacob (who was born to draw robots) took over for a few strips, Millar moved onto other things and Sam was put out to pasture again.
Next to pull Sam out of retirement were script droid and former editorial droid Peter Hogan with design ‘bot Rian Hughes who brought his distinctive retro style to the art. Hogan and Hughes’s was a bit more like the classic Wagner/Grant / Gibson run, but heavy on the twee and bland. Hogan’s characterisation of Sam dispensed with the world weary cynicism, satire and became gentler. Hughes’s retro pastel coloured art lends itself to quirky or dialogue heavy strips (“Dare” is brilliant and I recommend his “Yesterday’s Tomorrow’s collection”), but not to action. In the new creative teams debut on the strip Sam was drawn with an inane grin and wearing his cap sideways like some chav hanging around the local offie on a summer evening . The humour became less barbed, the strip more akin to a strip for under 12s rather than a sophisticated science fiction/fantasy comic.
Hughes tightened up on his interpretation of Sam, but to no avail. Simon Jacob steps in for a few strips, but Sam was put back on the shelf.
A few years later Alan Grant and Ian Gibson returned to the strip and dust off Sam, or rather his head did. The next Robo Hunter run starred Samantha Slade, Sam’s granddaughter was trying her way in the family business, guided by the preserved head of Grandpa. Samantha was sassy, sexy and even occasionally funny (helped out by some fantastic art from Gibson). Hoagy and Stogie returned to help out Grandpa’s girl, but Sam was relegated to supporting character.
Fun though it was, this was pretty lightweight and clearly didn’t set the world alight. Gibson left before the strip ended didn’t finish the last strip, leaving perennial pinchhitter penciller Anthony Williams to complete it.
The latest resurrection was slipped in with little fanfare in the Sci Fi Special. Alec Worley has got a better grip on the character and the humour better than Hogan or Millar, the wacky humour and satire are present in equal measures. Marc Simmons provides a clutch of easter eggs and references to past creators and runs and most importantly he draws great robots, pretty important in a strip that revolves around them echoing but not slavishly copying Gibson.
Not a classic, but a good start for any revival, it’s certainly better than the last few revivals.
It’s been a long time since any of Sam’s adventures have been essential. As much as I love reading Sam, perhaps he should retire permanently. I’ve ranted about this before:
Perhaps Worley and Simmons can do what other teams haven’t been able to do and return Sam to greatness. I’d be happy to be proved wrong.
Recommended Reading :
“Verdus” (Found in the Robo Hunter Droid Files volume 1)
“Day of The Droids” (Found in the Robo Hunter Droid Files volume 1)
“The Filby Case” (Found in the Robo Hunter Droid Files volume 1)
“Football Crazy” (Found in the Robo Hunter Droid Files volume 2)
“The Killing of Kidd” (Found in the Robo Hunter Droid Files volume 2)