2000 AD - issue 99
This is issue 99 of a comic book from a long time ago. It was originally published 10 February 1979, and I read it as soon as it appeared on the rack at the general store round the corner from my house. I enjoyed reading this comic book back then and I’m enjoying reading it again now.
The year 1979 was a world-changing year. The Soviets began invading Afghanistan, while in the UK we went all in on neoconservative economics under Margaret Thatcher. Deng Xiaoping set China on a new economic course, and the Iranians overthrew the shah and proclaimed an Islamic Republic. It was a year of huge changes and, forty years on, we are still being swept along by the historic waves set in motion in 1979.
The cover is great this issue. It is well composed, well drawn, and most importantly it is a giant robot eating a car, which still has the people in it. We’ll have to read the story inside to see if they are rescued before being atomized in the robot’s belly. Seeing this cover really makes my heart beat faster because it means the Terra-Meks story line running in the Ro-Busters strip inside just switched up a gear. The evil giant robots have arrived and they are going to stomp the town of North Port, all in the name of urban renewal.
Before we get to Ro-Busters though, first comes Judge Dredd, which is drawn by Mike McMahon and features lots of time with the mad tyrant ruler of Mega-City One. I’ve mentioned this before, but with with his crazy hair and wrinkly skin, to me he looks a lot like Trump. You know Trump would hire crocodile-headed alien mercenaries and sick them on his own people, the way Cal does in this strip, if he could.
In this issue Cal thinks he has killed Judge Dredd (as if….) and he is so pleased that he orders a day when any citizen can break the law and avoid punishment, Purge style. But the citizens are so sad about the loss of Dredd that they aren’t in the mood to go on a crime rampage, and stay home. Then comes a very telling series of panels that I think says a lot about Cal and also Trump. He just opens the window and starts yelling at the whole city.
The second strip in the comic book is the story called Angel, which is stupid but fun again this week. Angel is having problems with a sabotaged spaceship, and the only way out of his predicament is to come down from orbit without it. He has a jet pack, but that soon burns up, so he basically just glides from the upper atmosphere by flapping his arms. Don’t try this at home, kids. He ends up with his clothes burnt off, apart from half his pants. He is also stuck out in the woods, far from the nearest settlement.
Luckily there is a police patrol nearby, and the futuristic car they are driving is a Lagonda series 2. It was a luxury car that sold for the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of dollars in today’s money, so is quite an unlikely choice for a police car. Angel wires himself up to the Lagonda and uses his shoulder computer to drive it. The story is bat-shit crazy but there is something entertaining on every page.
With that craziness out of the way, we come to the main event, the arrival of the Terra-Meks in a quite lovely double-page spread, in color. The Terra-Meks are Tyranno-Mek, the size of a tower block with backhoes for fists, Fantas-Tek, a freight train with a giant mouth cum grinder at the front, and King Konka, a big metal Donkey Kong with wrecking balls for fists. Trundling in front of these monsters as they approach town are Mek-Quake, who has up until now been the biggest meanest robot introduced in the Ro-Busters strip, though here he looks puny, and there is also a lovely gag where a robot escort is holding a sign saying Danger: Abnormal Robots. Instead of the Caution: Abnormal Load sign we are used to seeing on the highways and byways.
The local people try to stop the robots, to save their town from demolition. They assume that, because robots are not allowed to hurt human beings, they can act as shields. With the people of the town standing between the robots and the town, the thinking is, the giant robots will not be able to approach and stomp their houses. Unfortunately the huge demolition robots don’t see things that way. We see the Terra-Meks destroying some lovely semi-detached houses with spiked wheels and laser cannons, while the people run screaming.
It seems nothing can save the town, except… perhaps… a gentle and kind giant robot named Charlie that works at the docks. This is the robot we were introduced to last week, and everyone is hoping he is going to step up and fight for his town. Unfortunately, before Charlie can intervene, he will have to break his programming.
Luckily, Charlie overcomes his programming and comes to the aid of the city. We will have to wait till next week to see him take on the invading giant robots. In that last panel we are promised more mayhem to come, and I noticed that King Konka was wearing a smiley badge, maybe the first appearance of the smiley badge in Gibbons’ art, though of course it will go on to become hugely significant in the Watchmen art he does later in his career.
There are other strips in this issue, but it is worth reading for Judge Dredd and Ro-Busters alone. This is a classic issue of 2000 AD and I enjoyed it a lot, easily as much as the first time I read it, during the world-shaking year of 1979. I can’t wait for next week, to see Charlie take on the Terra-Meks.
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