2000 AD in Stages

Stage 09 - On Golden Prog

Progs 335-386: 1983-1984

Prog 335 is the first all-new-thrills issue since 86, which was 249 issues ago, back in '78. Boasting a powerful starting line-up of established tales we have (in order of age): Judge Dredd, Strontium Dog, Nemesis the Warlock, Rogue Trooper and Slaine (being the newest barbarian on the block).

The cover (obscured by a taped on Dredd poster) rightly celebrates the return of two well-missed thrills as Nemesis (taking over the colour center) and Johnny Alpha crash back into the prog after significant absences.

Replacing Nemesis as we move through this year's worth of progs are now classic works from the Moore-meister in the forms of D.R. & Quinch and The Ballad of Halo Jones. As Slaine takes a hiatus there's the suprise return of Ace Trucking Co. taking us into the next phase.

Judge Dredd
Dredd launches with the 7-part The Graveyard Shift and there then follows a sequence of confident slices of Mega-City life. The high points are probably Citizen Snork, The Haunting of Sector House 9, Portrait of a Politican, the rookie Decker set (Superbowl & Bingo) and The Wreckers. Dredd Angel is an oddity but important for later clone-continuity.
In the next stage, Dredd has doubts...

The early Slaine tales are amongst the most well regarded in the history of the strip and include Warrior's Dawn, The Beltain Giant, The Bride of Crom, The Creeping Death, The Bull Dance, Heroes' Blood, The Shoggey Beast, Sky Chariots and Dragonheist. By this stage, editorial really have their act together in terms of commisioning the art and each segment belongs to a particular artist (switching out between Massimo Belardinelli and Mike McMahon).
Slaine doesn't return to the prog until 411's Time Killer, but the 1985 2000 AD Annual (running at about the same time as prog 376) includes The Battle of Clontarf, with full color art by Belardinelli (who is also interviewed about his career), a Slaine cover by McMahon and an Ask Ukko article.

Nemesis the Warlock: Book III
Back after a 78-prog absence, this is Book III (aka The World of Nemesis). In the interim, the '83 annual had The Secret Life of the Blitzspear and the '84 annual A Day in the Life of Torquemada. Boasting the colour center pages, and making great use of them, this book features a planetary battle between the Terminators and the alien Basilisks. The key plot development is the birth of Nemesis's son Thoth, but it's rather overshadowed by the giant robots (including one who has the brain of Mek-Quake from Ro-Busters).
Book IV starts in prog 387...

Strontium Dog
Back after a 102-prog absence with the tragic The Moses Incident. (As with other absent tales, we got a taster of what we were missing in the '83 annual's Incident at the Back O' Beyond.) A really strong phase for Strontium Dog, we also get The Killing (a much lighter tale) before what's really a sequel to Portrait of a Mutant in the 23-prog Outlaw.
Strontium Dog returns in prog 416...

Rogue Trooper
The Rogue residency continues unabated, having turned up in 94% of the progs since it launched in 228. While there are some very strong stories still present, the main plot stalls somewhat. We get introduced to Venus Bluegenes in From Hell to Eternity, Colonel Kovert shows up for the first time and Gunnar gets re-gened.
Rogue continues in the next stage, but key changes are afoot...

Tharg's Time Twisters
Usually one-off tales with a twist.
This format started strong and plentiful but played itself out to some extent. The next non-reprint one is in prog 599...

Tharg's Future Shocks
Usually one-off tales with a twist.
More in the next stage...

D.R. & Quinch *NEW THRILL*
Mad magazine meets Happy Days. For a strip that only lasted 15 progs, Waldo D.R. Dobbs and Ernost Errol Quinch made a thermonuclear impact on the readership. S'right. If you haven't already, stop reading this and go find a collected edition as the demented duo Go Straight, Go Girl Crazy, Get Drafted and Go To Hollywood.
Returns in the '85 Sci-Fi Special where the boys Get Back to Nature, but that's the last that Moore wrote. There's also the un-Moored Agony Pages starting in prog 525.

The Great Infinity Inc. Foul-Up
A sequel to the Time Twister Kismet in prog 333: "about a time-travel tourism company". (Direct quote from Touched by the Hand of Tharg.)
It's over and done with.

Tharg the Mighty
Alien editor deals with various assaults on thrill power.
The next Tharg tale is in prog 435...

The Amazing Maze Dumoir
The Gauntlet meets Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
A cool short story with a compelling lead character - this sadly never got picked up for a longer series (unless you count Halo Jones). There's still time, Tharg! You commisioned more Ulysses Sweet, so really it's like you owe us.

The Ballad of Halo Jones *NEW THRILL*
An amazing portrait of a young woman's life on a fantastic but ultimately banal future Earth: it's utterly captivating to watch as Halo Jones is pushed and pushed to escape and try to capture a dream, rather than allow her life to become a repetetive struggle. Owing something to A Clockwork Orange, this seems otherwise very much Moore and Gibson's wonderfully imaginative collaboration.
We are treated to a second series starting in prog 405.

Ace Trucking Co.: On The Dangle
This marks the beginning of diminishing returns for Ace & Co. (after a 155-prog hiatus). It never really reaches the highs of the first major run, but still has a long way to trundle.
Returns in the next stage...


Special Mentions:

The A.B.C. Warriors
We last saw the Warriors in '79's prog 139, but in the 1985 2000 AD Annual (released circa prog 376) we get Red Planet Blues: a beautiful one-off by Alan Moore (with full colour art by Steve Dillon & John Higgins) that really shows us what can happen when great writers get to borrow from each other.
The Warriors first start to show up again in Nemesis the Warlock's Book IV (The Gothic Empire), which eventually triggers their own returning series in 1988.