Prog 21 – The Solar Sniper

Dredd BadgeStory: The Solar Sniper
Appears: 2000AD Prog 21
Issues: 1
Writers: John Wagner
Art: Ron Turner
Dated: 16 July 1977

Plot: A hitman kills Judges with a solar powered gun. Dredd orders weather control to make it cloudy.

Verdict: Another case of a criminal coming to a sticky end. Another case of a criminal with a silly name – Gorilla. And another visit to weather control.

It seems that the citizens of Mega City One get to vote on what the day’s weather will be. They like hot and sunny.

This is a good story and you are wondering why a monkey appears halfway through but all is cleverly revealed. Ron Turner does some great art too.

The Law Rod we have seen before finally gets named but we still have a Grand Judge – who actually attends a crime scene.

Disconcertingly the clock on the front of Weather Control says the year is 2090 so we have lost nine years somewhere. So much for continuity.

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.

Prog 9 – Robots

Prog 09Story: Robots
Appears: 2000AD Prog 9
Issues: 1
Writers: John Wagner
Art: Ron Turner
Dated: 23 April 1977

Plot: Dredd muses on the humanity of robots while capturing an extortionist who released a deadly gas.

Verdict: This is Dredd co-creator John Wagner’s first story. Whilst there is a rich philosophical idea about the sentience and consciousness of robots it has some vast plot holes. A criminal in a bulletproof bubble somehow drops a large blanket. Maguffin ahoy.

It is interesting that someone in a wheelchair is called a cripple in 2099 just as they would have been in the 1970’s. A word that is all but banned today.

This is Ron Turner’s first outing and although his panels are the most structured we have seen to date he has great composition and really good angles. He also works very well with black and white.

Shockingly the story ends before the space does leaving a blank quarter page. Maybe there was a compulsory advert here or maybe Wagner was still new to scripting.

We see the helmet respirator for the first time.