2000 AD in Stages

Meg: Vol. 2.6 (Wilderlands)

Megs 2.63-2.72: 1994-1995

The obvious big event here is the Wilderlands crossover, although the mash-up had been building up through a back and forth set of linked stories (the latest of which had been Conspiracy of Silence in the prog leading directly into The Tenth Planet in the meg). Whilst that's the most obvious cross-pollination, there's also the less manifest (and probably less fondly remembered) move for Red Razors from meg to prog.

The festive prog 920 is a page count landmark and, at 52 pages, the largest prog so far (against the standard 36pp). The Megazine joins in the seasonal page count extravaganza, giving us 68pp in meg 2.70 against the standard 52pp of the time. This idea of extra pages during the non-denominational winter gift-giving period will surely never catch on.

Meg 2.63 is a jump-on and offers an exciting ... scratch card. Oh well. The next issue is more interesting (and of its time), with perhaps the first floppy ever: the Femmes Fatale Supplement. This 16-pager deliberately sexualizes six female characters whilst also providing each with a full-page bio. The six are Cassandra Anderson (in yin yang panties), Becky Steel (in silver bikini, with pet lion), Psi-Judge Karyn (in lingerie as a pulp fiction femme fatale), Bolland's Brit-Cit Babes (no bio), Aiko Inaba (red bikini, reclining on her Judge bike), Harmony Krieg (pouty and reclining but the least overt) and Treasure Steel (in a Union Jack sex outfit).

Ironically, two of these characters at least (Becky and Inaba) have as part of their stories the objectification of women, and their struggles with sexism within their careers. The back cover of the supplement shows that the same treatment will never get meted out to the men: it's In Bed With Dredd by Frank Quitely. Dredd is cuddling his teddy and has a cute little nightcap over his helmet. His Judge helmet: behave! It's great art, but there's an obvious juxtaposition here with how the genders are treated.

The last meg in this sequence starts to throw up stills from the forthcoming Stallone Dredd movie (foreshadowing some design changes to come).

Judge Dredd
With this era's meg running fortnightly, Wilderlands' seventeen episodes run two in the prog then one in the meg throughout the extra-planetary epic. Ezquerra (with what seems to be some experimental computer-assisted art) is supported by Mick Austin on art duty in the prog sections, with Hairsine in the meg. This provides a graphically disjointed tale that doubles down on the Death Planet vibe introduced in The Tenth Planet.

The wider arc story beat is that McGruder comes to realize her judgement is flawed and stands down as Chief Judge.

Following Wilderlands there's a sequence of weaker one-offs in Farewell To The Chief, Crash Diner, the very atmospheric Fall Of The House Of Esher, the last Creep-outing of A Very Creepy Christmas, Addiction and the (then) current affairs commentary of The Strange Case Of Bill Clinton.

In a surprise twist, Dredd returns in the next stage...

Missionary Man: Treasure Of The Sierra Murder
Occult supervillain The Undertaker battles Preacher Cain in a stylish tomb raider style treasure hunt. There's that problem here that the enemy gets to be reused ad infinitum because they're possessed of otherwordly regenerative powers.
Yer next fixin' o' grit ain't due till meg 2.81...

Mean Machine: Son of Mean
This one's an oddity, as the first two parts (12pp) were already told in the Judge Dredd Yearbook ('95), with art by Chris Halls (but it looks like Simon Bisley). Those are then redrawn here in the meg, mostly panel for panel, by Carl Critchlow. Then we get another 48 pages to complete the series. Mean is broken out of a psychiatric institution by his very young, kind-hearted son (partly explained by the story The Mean Machine Gets Married from the 1983 Judge Dredd Annual) and there ensues a highly comedic battle of wills as each tries to mould the other in their respective image.
More solo dial-up action of the butt variety swings menacingly your way in meg 2.82...

Calhab Justice: Family Snapshot & False Dawn
The hero (MacBrayne) is sidelined as the focus switches to the evil super-empath Schiehallion, who is becoming unpredictably violent. Brit-Cit Brute cameos. Uhm ... I think maybe Schiehallion becomes Galactus at the end, or something.
This marks the end of Calhab Justice. Lang may yer lum reek!

Armitage: City of the Dead
A weird body horror action thriller, in which Armitage goes up against an army of bio-demons.
You must wait a mere five years for Armitage's return in meg 3.64...

Karyn, Psi: Concrete Sky
Karyn's up against a vampiric Psi-Judge which leads her to an Undercity coven. The denouement leaves some of the coven free to roam the Cursed Earth. Time for a sequel?
Karyn senses her own return in meg 3.08...

Wynter: Cold Justice
Judge Wynter of Mega-City One has been sent to the Antarctic Territories as part of a judicial punishment and must rescue an influenza vaccine that's been stolen by bandits. Great black and white art from Kevin Walker and a tight action thriller vibe from Morrison make this stand out from the crowd.
Criminally, I thought, tis a one and done. It might be limiting to have a hero named after their biome, though.

Shimura: Fearful Symmetry
Two rich bitches kidnap Shimura to spice up their lives, only to regret their hubris. There's a sense here of the themes that strongly influence and inhabit the later Nikolai Dante, with the bio-weapons and the lone wolf characterization of the lead. Duke Mighten's art isn't a million miles from the style of Simon Fraser, either.
Shimura's singular adventures continue in the very next meg...