Category: Forgotten Thrills


Originally published in Progs 918 – 923

Cover date: 16th December, 1994 – 20th January, 1995

I imagine if you didn’t know the cover dates for The Corps then you could probably manage to guess that it first saw publication during the 1990s. The 90’s were seemingly awash with Dredd world spin off’s, every country seemingly getting its own justice department strip. This was of course the decade which saw the beginning of the Judge Dredd Megazine, which at the time was exclusivly for Dredd world strips, so the quantity of spin offs must come as no great suprise. The Corps however is something of an oddity. Rather than being included in the Megazine, it instead saw its one and only six part run printed in the Prog. It was also different from the other spin off’s, rather than showing another cities judges we got to see Mega City One’s space corps in action instead. The Corps is not well remembered by fans, but maybe, just maybe, it laid the foundations for the much later, and more successful, Judges in space strip Insurrection.

The story premise behind The Corps is actually a pretty intriguing one. Mega City One is engaged in a full on space war with the Kleggs, with thousands being slaughtered on both sides. In order to turn the tide of the fighting the Judges decide to send in a Commando style attack on one of the Kleggs major fortifications. The problem with this idea is that the Klegg base is shared with Sino-Cit Judges, and so any attack on the base would mean war between the two Mega Cities. Thus a covert plan is hatched, in which The Corps must take out the base, whilst making it look like the Sino’s and the Klegg’s had fought each other, forcing the two of them into a war against each other. Perhaps not suprisingly things don’t exactly go to plan, and soon its down to the members of The Corps to try and avoid a major international incident. So the story is certainly an interesting one, and one which I think deserves a read from any 2000AD fan. One of the most effective ideas behind the story is the plot device which see’s the action constantly shifting from the battle in space, too the high ranking Mega City One Judges back on Earth pulling the strings. Its a nice tough of almost political drama, added to a full on Sci Fi space war.

While I thought it was an enjoyable read, I can see why others wouldn’t as it is a very flawed story. Firstly I’m not sure we’ve ever seen or heard mention of a war between Mega City One and the Kleggs before. Certainly the Kleggs have made plenty of appearances in Dredd over the years, but I don’t remember there ever being a war. I could be wrong on this though, so if I am please feel free to correct me in the comments box. Sticking with the Kleggs, they look very strange in this story. Usually they have been depicted as crocodillian in appearance but throughout The Corps they take on much more of a Lizard like look. This made it a bit harder for me to accept that they were the same race we had seen previously in the Prog. Judging by the story it seems like The Corps was always intended to be a one off rather than an ongoing series, unfortunatly this is actually one of the major problems at the heart of the strip. As you’d imagine The Corps is intended to be an ensemble piece, telling the tale of a group of soldiers involved in a terrible war. But at just six parts in length we don’t really get to know any of them, so by the end of the story when all but two are dead, the reader has been left untouched by any of the characters death’s. Also of course this is a 90’s strip so we get the obligatory tough guy character who seems to enjoy nothing more than a good fire fight.

I mentioned in the first paragraph that The Corps perhaps paved the way for the later success of Insurrection. Now the two strips are pretty distant in terms of quality, but the foundations were certainly layed here. Think about it, Judges in space fighting a war on some distant world, but one which could have dire consequences for the inhabitants of Mega City One. The uniforms even have a similar chunky appearance to the ones seen in Insurrection. So if you enjoyed Insurrection why not take a look back at The Corps? You might be suprised at just how familiar some of it feels.

Originally published in Progs 52 – 61

Cover date: 18th February, 1978 – 22nd April, 1978

Colony Earth is a geniunely old school slice of 2000AD, yet one which also deals with a modern day global issue. The strip itself at times both looks and feels more like something from that other great bastion of British comics, Commando. This is no bad thing however, as a child I read Commando rather than 2000AD and so the military style of the story coupled with the black and white art felt somewhat familiar upon reading.

The story itself is actually a fairly interesting one. A fishing boat and their crew come across a deactivated robot whilst out at sea, and not suprisingly this robot turns out to be extra terrestrial in origin. The military soon get involved, eventually reactivating the robot which quickly begins killing everything in sight. The killer robot is just the start of their problems however, as the robots creators soon arrive in force to attempt to take control of the Earth. Whilst in many respects Colony Earth is a bit of pulp fiction, there are several interesting ideas in the background. Firstly the invading aliens (who for some reason look like garden gnomes) have previously occupied the planet back in the ice age. This harkens back to the ancient astronaut theory which has been previously used to (somewhat more subtle) effect by the likes of H.P. Lovecraft. Also of interest is the aliens plan to re take the Earth via climate change. Back in the 70’s when Colony Earth was first published, we were only just becoming aware of the effect man kind is having on the planet, so in that respect Colony Earth really was ahead of its time.

For all the interesting ideas on show however, it is very clearly a product of the early days of 2000AD. Characters talk to themselves for no particular reason other than to inform the reader of what is meant to be happening. There are also some real Deus Ex Machina’s on display, particular the robot itself, which when used by the Humans against the Aliens seems to single handedly destroy their entire invasion force. However when reading anything from 2000AD’s early days, you really have to ignore these plot contrivances as the comic was very much aimed at children back then, and I imagine as a child I would have found this story pretty exciting. So if you ever feel like dusting off the back issues and enjoying a classic 2000AD strip, you could do a lot worse than taking a look at Colony Earth.

Originally published in Progs 20 – 35

Cover date: 9th July, 1977 – 22nd October, 1977

If I told you that there was a 16 part strip co-written by Pat Mills and John Wagner, the Godfathers of 2000AD, then the chances are you’d be expecting something pretty special. It’s unlikely then, that you would expect it to be about the C.I.A. trying to hunt down a polar bear. But that’s exactly what Shako is about, and it’s a pretty unusual slice of 2000AD history.

The basic premise for the story is a pretty flimsy one. Shako is a polar bear who one day happens to eat a metal cylinder; unfortunately said cylinder contains a deadly virus created by the C.I.A, who are desperate to get it back. Over the next 16 parts both C.I.A and Soviet agents attempt to kill Shako and retrieve the cylinder. You’d perhaps be surprised that that premise ended up being 16 parts long, and having read it I’m still not sure how it managed to last so long. Very little happens throughout the story, with pretty much every part being the same. Agents attempt to capture or kill Shako, but instead Shako kills them, and then next week the exact same happens again. In the end every character dies, and the reader is left wondering what the hell the point of any of that was.

In spite of this Shako seems to have received something of a cult following, gaining a reprint and a cover piece in an extreme edition, with even a t-shirt being available to buy right now from the 2000AD shop. If I can pick one positive from the whole thing, then it is the eponymous Shako. Throughout the strip our sympathies lie firmly with the Polar Bear, as opposed to the men who are chasing him. Other than that there is very little to recommend giving Shako a read, with the whole thing being best summed up by the ridiculously memorable (or memorably ridiculous) tag line:

“The Polar Bear who brought the Cold War to flash point.”

 

Forgotten Thrills – Wynter

Originally published in JUDGE DREDD MEGAZINE 2.70.

 

Cover Date: 6th January, 1995.

 

The 1990s was something of a boom for Dredd World spin offs. Some bright spark in the nerve centre had hit upon the idea that if there were other cities aside from Mega City One, then they would all be likely to have their own system of Judges. Thus we saw strips featuring judges from Britain, Japan, Africa, and in this unique case the somewhat less obvious choice of Antarctica.

 

Scripted by Robbie Morrison, Wynter is the tale of a judge who has been exiled from Mega City One, due to being too violent in his treatment of perps. Finding himself sent to the isolated Antarctic City, the eponymous Judge Wynter has to deal with an influenza outbreak amongst the children of the city, who have no immunity against the disease.  When a supply ship carrying an Influenza vaccine from Mega City One crashes out in the snowy wastes of Antarctica, it is down to Judge Wynter to fight off the looters who are attempting to steal it for themselves. Needless to say Wynter takes no prisoners and guns down every last one of the looters, whilst managing to save the vaccine in the process.

 

At just nine pages long there is a surprising amount of story crammed in. In the space of these nine pages Morrison succeeds in giving us some of Judge Wynter’s background, a look at the hardships faced by the people of this frontier city, whilst also managing to tell a decent story. Its testament to the writer that in this single story we manage to get a pretty good feel for both the setting and the main character. Kevin Walker’s somewhat scratchy black and white art serves as a perfect foil for Morrison’s strip, nicely evoking the harshness of the Antarctic climate. Despite having only this single story published, Wynter was actually reprinted twice. Firstly in 2000 in the Best of 2000AD special edition, then again in 2006 in an Extreme Edition. Despite being considered good enough to be included in the best of special, no further Wynter stories would materialise.

 

After reading the single instalment of Wynter then, I have to say that it’s a crying shame that it wasn’t picked up for a full series, especially when vastly inferior Dredd World spin offs such as Shimura were given a chance. With a potentially great main character, and a genuinely intriguing setting (and a part of Dredd’s world that has remained pretty much untapped, with the exception of this story) Wynter has to go down as a missed opportunity.

 

Next week will see the publication of the 35th anniversary edition of 2000AD, and so to coincide with that I will begin a new series of posts looking at some strips from 2000AD’s past. Rather than looking at well known strips however I will be looking at some of the less well remembered thrills to have appeared in the pages of the Galaxy’s Greatest, as well as those that have appeared within the Judge Dredd Megazine. You can expect to see some strips which appeared for just one installment and then promptly vanished, as well as some cult classic serials that had just a single run. Hopefully some of the strips will be new to you, and if not then hopefully this series will encourage you to dust out your back issues and give them another chance. Expect the first Forgotten Thrill to be posted within the week.

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