Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Retro review - Prog 211

One more of these retro reviews, Prog 211 from May 1981 with a beautiful and iconic Dredd cover by Ron Smith. This is the copy I got signed by Ron at last year's Free comic book day event at Forbidden Planet London.

The cover is obviously influenced by Jim Steranko's pop art covers for the Nick Fury comics from the 60s and 70s, but I think Smith outdoes Steranko here. It's a fantastic image and would certainly be in my top five 2000AD covers of all time. I love the colours and the lighting on Dredd's uniform who was the two gun kid back in the day. And we get some classic Smith punks in the various crimes scenes on the block walls. Probably my favourite version of the logo as well and completely unobscured, there's no doubting what this comic is called. What a piece of art for a mere 15p earth money.

Strontium Dog by Alan Grant, Carlos Ezquerra and Steve Potter
Part nine of the Portrait of a Mutant story with young Johnny Alpha taking part in the battle of Upminster alongside Middenface McNulty. Six pages of King Carlos art that again really stands out on the newsprint. Several familiar mutant faces and more of 2000AD's classic anti-authoritarian story telling.

Return to Armageddon by Malcolm Shaw, Jesus Redondo and Bill Nuttall
Here's one that I don't remember at all but it's due to be released in a trade paperback this year which I have pre-ordered so will do a full review then. Meanwhile someone called Amtrak, who isn't a train company in America, is leading a sword wielding babe and a robot sidekick into battle to release some human  prisoners from an alien prison. Some comic artists take some time to grow on you. I'm sure my eye would have raced over these images back in 1981 but now I just marvel at Redondo's line work and background shading. Smashing panels lay outs as well.

In the Nerve Centre Tharg promises the readers a Buck Rogers sticker album while also dealing with questions about Judge Pepper's bionic leg, and a campaign to wipe out thrill-suckers. £3 for a published letter back then.

Judge Dredd: The Mega-Rackets by John Wagner, Alan Grant, Ron Smith and Tom Frame
Dredd gets the colour centre spread again as a simple bit of littering sets old stony face on the trail of Slik Ike Kolorado. It's a quick trip to the face changing machine and then Dredd is undercover on a spaceship heading off-world to some alien slavers. Ron Smith's alarm clock drawing methods are well known but the amount of madcap detail he packed in within those time constraints is remarkable. Wagner, Grant, Smith and Frame are the perfect package from the golden age of the Prog.

Tharg's Future shocks by Gary Rice, Mike White and Pete Knight
A government scientist uses some sort of time machine to look back at the man who invented civilisation and then work out his living descendent is so they can execute him. No, it doesn't make any sense to me either. Looks and feels like filler.

Meltdown Man by Alan Hebden, Massimo Belardinelli and Jack Potter
Never really got into Meltdown Man although there is a trade of this as well. Belardinelli does draw some crazy animal headed humanoids though. For some reason they always reminded me of Rupert the Bear and his chums, or what Alan Moore did to them in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Not my favourite story here by a long way but fun to look at.

The back cover has a Meltdown Man pin-up by Dave Gibbons.

Pick of the prog is the Ron Smith cover which is far and away the best thing here, and the Whittle circular panel count is a mere 1.

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