Progs 10 to 17 – Robot War

Prog 10-17Story: Robot War
Appears: 2000AD Progs 10-17
Issues: 8
Writers: John Wagner
Art: Carlos Ezquerra, Ron Turner, Mike McMahon,
Dated: 30 April to 18 June 1977

Plot: Robots ill-treated by humans stage a murderous revolt.

Verdict: This is where Dredd takes a giant leap forward. Having your protagonist written by the man that created him, and who doesn’t seem to be a bad writer, makes a real difference. As does time to tell a decent story. This is the first multi-part tale and as such it introduces something very valuable – tension. With cliff-hangers you can add danger and suspense. With more pages you can pace a story rather than condense it all into a breakneck tirade.

As well as a dramatic story with lots of action there are also plenty of messages you can take away, although how many of them were actually planted at the time who can say. Wagner is clearly well read quoting Asimov’s laws of robotics and Hitler’s speeches. Robot slavery can easily be replaced by human slavery and this story was written barely a decade after the American civil rights movement and at a time when Britain was struggling with racism. Unfortunately it is deemed the robots are better off as slaves, so take from that what you will.

Dredd speaks and behaves like a hero from Commando or Battle comics which is a step forward although his internal monologue is occasionally verbose. Like all great cops he turns in his badge when he disagrees with his superior only to come to the rescue when all seems darkest. It also appears that a Judge’s first course of action is to set gun to High Explosive.

The judges are still separate from the police and America is still a more important national identity than Mega City One. The Lawgiver is named for the first time and we meet Walter the Robot who quickly becomes Walter the Wobot. There is good continuity between episodes and earlier stories although the Statue of Judgement is depicted as the same size as the Statue of Liberty. There is a nice cameo from T.V Presenter Shaw Taylor, complete with “keep ‘em peeled” catchphrase, who fronted the crimewatch style program Police 5.

The art was done by three separate artists which was the hazard of a weekly comic back in the day and although there is consistency there is a noticeable difference between Progs. There are some android office workers that look very like Clark Kent too. Creepy.

We have also sadly lapped Dredd history as the weather computer tells us Mega City One was around in 2012. Ah well.

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