2000 AD in Stages

Stage 23 - Khronic Ills of Tooth

Progs 750-779: 1991-1992

If the first seven hundred progs were the early, turbulent, exciting stages of the River of Thrills, then we've now traveled downstream to the meandering plains. Mind you, this was the year that gave us Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch featuring Loleatta Holloway with Good Vibrations, so the cultural bar is set fairly low.

Towards the end of the stage, there's a heavy ad sequence for prog 780, which is being touted as the Megablast! Meanwhile, the Judge Dredd Megazine nears the ends of its first volume.

Judge Dredd
After an extended period of Comedy Dredd (from Ennis), Wagner returns to carry on the democracy storyline (which had recently helped launch the Megazine with the seminal America). The Devil You Know has Dredd pushing forward with a citizens' vote on whether to form a democratic government or stick with rule by the Judges. A splinter group of Judges plan a coup to stop what they consider an insane mistake. The follow-up, Twilight's Last Gleaming finds that voter turnout is weak and (against expectations) the Judge's win the vote by a comfortable margin.

Leigh S says:

My memory of "Twilight's Last Gleaming" ending is that the apathy and fear of the Mega Citizens is sold by Ennis as some kind of endorsement of their system? At the very least, the Dems just shrug their shoulders and give up rather than realise that the real war is only just begun?

Justice One is a great space-set whodunnit from Ennis as the mission is threatened by a murderous Judge.

Judge Dredd::Dennis the Menace crossover Judgement Day, next stage...

Robo-Hunter(*): Escape From Bisleyland [*HARSH REBOOT]
Oh god ... this is a cross between Aliens and Escape from New York [see title], also stealing liberally from several childhood movies. For some reason, the president is a Graceland-era Elvis Presley. Tonally, this is all over the place. Journalists are publicly executed by secret service agents, Pseudo-Sam has a mum now, he's in love with Cutie (but, because he's a shitheel, he hates her body) and they're planning on getting married, she's got magic powers, Hoagy's there (but is summarily executed without comment) but Stogie's not. And none of that is central to the plot of trying to rescue Elvis from a theme park that's been taken over by cute robots. The original Robo-Hunter had a lightness to it that's entirely missing here: now blood splatters the camera as Pseudo-Sam is beaten by brass-knuckle wielding agents, and a young girl (the Newt from Aliens stand-in) is brutally murdered to fuel a cheesy pay-off line. It's like a psychopath's toy shop (or, more accurately, an infant playing with someone else's toys).
Psuedo-Hunter returns first in the 1992 Sci-Fi Special and also in the next stage...

Strontium Dogs: Monsters *SPIN-OFF*
An atmospheric continuation of the storyline of The Final Solution, this follows Feral as he battles norm troops who are subjugating the mutie population of Britain. It's a dark tale where every victory is tainted with loss.
Returns in 1993...

Universal Soldier: The Indestructible Man
The cover of prog 751's headline says "Universal Solider is back! Any objections?" Well ... the key one would be my level of confusion. Is Kelly the same guy that was in the first two series? Or is the new guy with the scar the one from those? Or have I got those mixed up? Anyway: a company is bankrupting itself trying to destroy Kelly, but he's indestructible because he has a magic gem embedded in his chest. All he wants is to be left alone, so it would be cheaper for them to just leave him to it. Anyway, they hire scar-face to chase him down, which he does: but then him and Kelly become Tai Chi friends and teleport around the galaxy. There's a woeful parody of Slaine towards the end, but you need to be good in the first place to pull that off.
This is the last outing for the Universal Soldier, although the character-free Kelly turns up in the one-off 2000 AD Action Special, I think...

The A.B.C. Warriors: Khronicles Of Khaos, Book One
Lord of the Rings meets Warhammer 40K as hobbits and space marines inhabit this stupendously rendered tale of pagan wish-fulfilment. Even though Ro-Jaws is hangin' out, it's clear he's not a warrior, so Hammerstein, Blackblood, Joe Pineapples, Deadlock, Mongrel and Mek-Quake are joined by new recruit Morrigun (the first female warrior) as they begin their ritualistic murder mission to collect seven heads for Hekate. Oh, and it's a comedy: "Nobody honks on an ABC Warrior and lives!"
Returns for the second book in the next stage...

Anderson, Psi-Division: Engram
After a 40-prog break, we get a single page "previously on", which wouldn't be a bad idea in modern Tooth for those long-break thrills. Cass is in a padded cell because her hallucinations are causing her to attack colleagues. She delves deep within her own mind, breaking through blocks placed there by Justice Department to close off a dark memory from her past. In a fascinating tale of patriarchal control, her own experience (of being molested by her father, who she then accidentally kills via her nascent psychic powers) is denied her for questionable reasons. Decades after this she's usually being drawn as a much younger version of herself: often sexualized. Still, as this tale has it, there's always hope.
Next shows up in the 1992 Judge Dredd Mega-Special...

I loved Silent Running as a kid, but I re-watched it recently and one of the central plot strands is that Freeman Lowell, a botanist, doesn't understand photosynthesis. That only worked for kid-me because I was ignorant of how nonsensical that is. Anyway: imagine Greta Thunberg was Dirty Harry, and you're someway to the tone of this aggro-Green tale of totalitarian environmentalism. Central Park is taken over by an enormous sentient plant which can only be defeated through the power of long conversations. The enemy is the unreasonably unreasonable man in charge. The hero is a Green Bobby who punches his way out of all problems but is so inconsequential that he's not even in the final scene.
Tis a one an done.

Bix Barton: The Bloated Case of the Fatted Keef
"A Tale of Ameobas and Cannibalism in Catford". Yup. (Also, there's an enormous god-like urinal filled with sloshing ... marmite?) Say it in a booming voiceover voice: "TOILETS ... IN ... SPACE!"
Bix returns in the 1993 Yearbook...

Durham Red: Island Of The Damned *SPIN-OFF*
Durham Red (still disturbingly draining the blood of her enemies) is imprisoned by the insane Gothlord, where the sweat of suffering prisoners is harvested as a psychedelic drug.
Red returns in the 1993 Yearbook...

Brigand Doom: Voodoo Child
Starring John Houseman, who played Mr. Bartholomew from Rollerball (1975), as ... Mr. Bartholomew from Rollerball. Brigand is reanimated under the control of a posh weirdo who's collecting zombies. Embarrassed by his own smell, he enlists the help of the investigator who killed him. Tellingly, this ends with pretty much the exact scene that ended the first series.
Doom next pops the nitrate capsules in the 1992 Sci-Fi Special...

Skizz II: Alien Cultures *NOT BY ALAN*
Skizz has been quarantined on a barren planet whilst Cornelius is carrying around the computer brain of Skizz's ship on Earth. A wayward tale brings together the Earthly protagonists from the first series, and Skizz variously tries to kill himself then save Earth from extinction. Borrowing the idea of Earth's destruction used in Hitchiker's Guide, this is difficult to swallow because Skizz's race seemed powerful but fair in the original: and yet here they're unthinking and cruel.
A third book looms in 1994...

From Third World War in the pages of Crisis, comes contemporary Slaine-a-like Finn: an eco-terrorist with a mullet, battling evil alien gods in the guise of ... *tremble* ... accountants.
Book II starts in prog 807...

Tales From Beyond Science *NEW THRILL*
Tis like Tales of the Unexpected meets The Twilight Zone, so it is.
We get a final one of these in the 1994 Sci-Fi Special...

The Clown *NEW THRILL*
The Clown and his pony, Toby are best of friends, with a great working relationship. When thieves murder Toby, The Clown goes bananas and sets out for (operatic) revenge.
An intro to a second series crops up in 1993's prog 841...

[The] Harlem Heroes featuring Silver: Grey Ghost Overflight
A prequel in which Silver (an arms dealer) fights back when the trade show she's at is taken over by unlikely mercenaries seeking to hijack a stealth fighter. This wouldn't have been out of place in Hotspur.
Accounts Div brings this version of the Heroes back in 1995...