2000ad Sci Fi Special – 1983
With Rebellion announcing the return of the Sci Fi Special this summer, it seems an opportune time to revisit past examples of what was once a holiday tradition.
It can’t be said that these were ever essential. Like the annuals, they were a mix of original content (some of it more than just filler), text articles, editorial (tours of the nerve centre, interviews with creator droids) and some reprint. A bit like the Meg’ really (only joking).
Behind a lovely Ron Smith cover, “Judge Dredd” kicks off proceedings. Using the “TB Grover” pseudonym, Wagner and Grant spin a wee tale of an inter block game show. So far,so not particularly original (though to be fair, this is 31 years ago). The Tale itself is fun enough, rival blocks take part in a game show which is a mongrel spawn of the “Adventure Game” (ask your parents) and “Gladiators” to settle their differences. What is most significant about this is that it is drawn by American (though born in England) X Men / FF / Wonder Woman / Star Trek writer artist and all round big head John Byrne. I’m not a huge fan of his work, but he draws a good Dredd, lots of quirky characters, good action shots and Joe looks suitably “Dreddy”; on the downside some of the panels seem to be set in a photographer’s cornerless room, as there is little in the way of background going on, and not sure that the superhero pose at the end is really in keeping with the character. Good stuff though.
MACH1 takes a trip to the middle east, to protect the bitumen supplies of a company under threat from an Arab emir using superstition and religion to control the local population. John Cooper is a great action artist, but the script from “N Allen” gives MACH 1 lots of different powers including the ability to tunnel like a mole, plus lots of illogical plot developments, the Emir waiting for Probe as he leaves the tunnel etc. John Probe – protecting Britain’s corporations exploitation of third world nations.
The customary TMO strip is drawn by the great Mike Western. Topically (for the early 80s) Tharg has to intercede as the cold war escalates with the theft of nuclear arms, spacecraft and famous monuments from around the world. It becomes a family affair as Tharg has to take his nephew in hand. These are never classic, but they help give the comic an identity.
“The Von Ballin Tape” is a text story written by Jack Hamilton Teed with spot illustrations by Robin Smith. A cross dimensional tale of doppelgangers and gangsters with non PC stereotypical racial dialogue and strong links to a short lived strip from a title merged into 2000ad. My lack of familiarity with the originating strip doesn’t mean that this isn’t filler.
7 pages of Wagner/Grant / Smith Daily Star Judge Dredd strip follow. These are always great, they were always a fantastic taster for the weekly adventures of Dredd, though these days the tone of weekly has changed somewhat, far more light hearted than what we see now.
“Rogue Trooper : The Droidinators” by Gerry Finley Day and Boluda. This is one of GFDs many flights into plain silliness. The Norts use walking bombs disguised as Souther troops to infiltrate the enemy. Nice idea, and more topical now. They look almost perfect, but they have one thing that gives them away; when they take off their hats, they have heads that look like the tips of bombs. Although you could use the excuse that this was written 30 years ago, GFD is definitely having an off day here. Our hero becomes a target for these walking bombs and falls for a trap set for him. Boluda has got a nice line, similar to Belardinelli, a little too cartoony for a war story, doesn’t have the grit of Kennedy or design sense of Gibbons, Wilson or Ewins.
“Invasion” by Gerry Finley Day and Mike Dorey. Savage and Silk hit the north. They visit “Novatown” in the North East, cleared by the Volgs by chemical attack during the invasion. The one survivor is an old guy who has the run of a luxury hotel. As you can imagine, there’s lots of shotgun action, evil Volgs and it all ends with the help of a nerve gas canister that is just lying about. Typical early Savage but lots of fun. Mike Dorey is underrated, he didn’t quite get the sci fi element of things like “Ro Busters”, or even “Rogue Trooper”, but he’s perfect for strips like this, dark, moody, with lots of blacks.
The package is rounded off with a nice little two page spread of shots from the big film release that year – “Return of the Jedi”, an article on gaming – but this being 1983 it’s on turn based role playing games and some science fiction book reviews.
Like I said pretty much unessential, but it’s fun to see how far 2000ad has come over the last 30 years, I can’t see this year’s being only 55p though.