2000 AD in Stages

Stage 33 - Wilderlands

Progs 904-927: 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.

It's possible that Tharg goes through a shedding towards the end of the Wilderlands run, changing his earthly sobriquet from Alan McKenzie to John Tomlinson.

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.

The prog of this era, rather than being famous for launching new brands, is instead cleaning house with the final instalments of several series which in the longer term are not generally well thought of: we say farewell here to Big Gave, Pseudo-Hunter, Red Razors, Skizz-lite, Bix Barton, Timehouse and Soul Gun [Noun]. Surely this is a good sign of things 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.

The fall out from Wilderlands (The Candidates & Voting Day) sees both Dredd and Hershey run for the position of Chief Judge, but it goes to Hadrian Volt. The Big Sleet sees Odin do battle with Hela in a Mega-City museum, and the 9-part The Exterminator has Dredd playing The Terminator as he travels back in time to stop something from the past destroying his future.

Wagner shelves himself and Millar, Morrison & Ennis return to Dredd duties in the next stage...

Big Dave: Wotta Lotta Balls
It really is just a lot of bollocks. Soccer features, and Nelson Mandela raises zombies. That's poorly researched, as the idea of voodoo and zombies is West African in origin rather than South African. But what was I expecting?
Gone, but not forgotten: this is the end of Big Dave's infamous performance in the prog. In an odd example of life imitating art, a posh version of him was recently voted in as the new prime minister of Great Britain.

A.B.C. Warriors: Hellbringer
The ABC Warriors are brought back together to fight a new threat to the galaxy: the First Order has risen from the ashes of ... sorry, the Hellbringer battle station must be stopped! These first episodes are really just a comedy extravaganza, with the real mission yet to come. You get to enjoy Kevin Walker's lush full colour art and Mills on top form with his bickering bots schtick.
Returns for the second half in prog 964...

Robo-Hunter(*) [*REBOOT]
A robot kidnaps Manhatten by attaching an enormous pair of legs to it. Truth.
This marks the final series of the rebooted Robo-Hunter, but there's a one-off in prog 1023...

Button Man II: The Confessions Of Harry Exton
Button Man in the USA! Harry still wants out of the game, but just when he thinks he's out, he gets pulled back in.
It's a long wait, but Harry and his penchant for collecting other people's fingers returns in late December 2000 for a third series...

Red Razors: The Hunt For Red Razors
Razors does an Alex (from A Clockwork Orange) and stops being nice (he wasn't), reverting back to his criminal psycophathy (but there's no difference). The gimmick here is that a defrosted Judge Dredd (recall this is set way in Dredd's future) is brought in to tackle RR. Add in a giant, unstoppable, murderous cyborg and you've got a three-way, multi-prog, city-spanning battle that ignores the laws of physics - at the end of which, someone (anyone, really) wins.
As with the rekindled Robo-Hunter, this almost marks the end, but there's a pop-up one-off in prog 971 still to go...

Skizz III: The Gunlords Of Omega Ceti *NOT BY ALAN*
Bazzer and Roxie are somehow eternally youthful, Skizz has a kid, Cornelius is dying and a couple of teddy boy Gunlords (like evil Skizzers) are up to no good on earth driving a submersible VW Beetle with a pop-up Brummie killbot. And then it gets confusing, for ninety-eight pages. The core concept of the first book (that Skizz is from an enlightened race) is not apparent here. The Dredd/Chopper crossover is ill-advised: another sign that this is rambling way out of its comfort zone.
This marks the final adventure for Skizz.

Bix Barton: Nigel - The Napoleon Of East Finchley
A horrible man must be stopped ... by Bix cross-dressing. (Michael Cane dies, and is buried in a small coffin.)
Almost the end, but there's one more helping of Marmite to be had in the 1994 Winter Special's Violent Night, Holy Night...

The Corps *NEW THRILL*
Space Judges vs. a Sino-Klegg alliance! The deeper story is one of dealing with brutalized squad members who feel free to murder out of hand.
Tis a one and done, although the idea gets rekindled in Maelstrom (starting in meg 2.73) and can be seen as an early inspiration for the modern classic Insurrection.

Timehouse: Century Duty
A farce in which various times are visited and paradoxes encountered but for the life of me I can't find a plot: it just meanders from scene to scene entirely reliant on the value of its premise. I'd forgotten that at one point Tharg and Burt show up and there's a swipe at Revolver.
This is it for the eternal mansion dwellers.

Soul Gun Assassin
A sequel to Soul Gun Warrior, this sees a sentient moon that recruits a spectral assassin in order to take out a warmongering space bastard who's attempting to profit (in human souls) from an engineered middle eastern war.
The soul gun nouns are here put to rest.

Finn: The Origin
Telling the story of how Finn became an eco-terrorist, this was originally slated for publication in Crisis. Basically, he started a sexual relationship with a woman he met in the woods, who persuaded him to drown his boss in a pool of chemicals for the crimes of sexual assault and wanton pollution. Then he joins a gang that kidnaps and tortures some chicken battery farmers. Beautiful art: childish morals.
Back next stage with Interventions...