Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Chopper: Song Of The Surfer (2000AD #654-665)

"Sorry Charlene... so sorry" - Chopper

We return to Dreddworld now with a haunting tale of death and destiny as Marlon "Chopper" Shakespeare, a once youthful and rebellious Sky Surfer, returns to compete in "Super Surf 11" which is taking place in Megacity 2.  Sky Surfing is exactly as described, surfers travel through the air on flying surfboards and Super Surf takes place around the globe each year to find the best of them.  On the run from the Justice System he escaped in Megacity One, Chopper has been living the the Australian "radback" where he had ended up after escaping Dredd at the end of Supersurf 10 and making friends with and re-racing Jug who he lost to in Supersurf 10 (he wins the rematch and gets a new love interest called Charlene too).  He stays in the radback, and when circumstances combine to encourage him to take part in the event, it turns out this Super Surf will be a little different from the others.  Bankrolled by a blind bilionaire called Stig, there will be bullets, snipers, spikes, rockets and lasers all pointing at the competitors.  Signing up will mean almost certain death, but the reward for winning is a huge amount of cash and glory.  Will Chopper embrace his destiny in taking part?  Or will he bow out like his friend and the current world champion Jug?  On writing duties is John Wagner and Colin McNeil is on art chores with a less painterly look than his later works at least at the start, it gets more painted as it goes on.  This story ran in 1989 round about the time Necropolis was being teased with the likes of The Deadman, as well as the third book of Zenith in which whole parallel worlds were being destroyed left, right and centre, giving the comic at the time quite a doom laden feel.

Out in the radback, Chopper broods on his surfboard.  A newpaper advertising Supersurf 11 has made it out to him.  His friend, an disabled aborigine called Smokie grumbles at him at the food he's caught for them, saying a city boy like him is no help.

Later while the eat, Smokie spies the newspaper and asks if he plans on going.  Chopper answers in the negative but Smokie says he should:

Smokie: "You have the wind dreaming.  You too dumb to know.  But I know.  You follow your songline.  Song bring you.  Song take you away".

Chopper reiterates he's not interested and wants to stay and look after Smokie, who says he's dying soon.  And next day Chopper indeed finds him dead.  Sadly Chopper buries him, says a few words, then leaves to join the other Oz surfers going to the Supersurf.
Chopper reunites with Charlene.
Chopper has an emotional reunion with Charlene as well as Jug and his girlfriend.  Charlene insists Chopper has a bath and treats him for the insects he's got living under his skin.  Jug tells Chopper the prize is one million creds from the new backer and Megacity Two ought to be safe for Chopper.

Washed and dressed, Chopper meets up with the rest of the Oz surfer continginent who are all very cheerful and friendly.  They tell him there's a boy from Brit-Cit who is a real contender.  Charlene notes that Chopper seems distant from the rest.  Chopper says he's just "following the songlines."

As they travel with the other surfers to Megacity Two, Chopper tells Charlene that he doesn't really understand it but Smokie says each person is descended from an ancestor which gives them their dreaming.  Smokie's was a wombat, but Chopper's is the wind. So he's a "child of the wind" says Charlene.  Chopper agrees and says he has nothing better to do so why not follow the songline?  And they snog.
Megacity 2.
Once they are at Megacity Two all the surfers take part in a flypast, then someone sets off a firework display which catches the skysurfers unawares.   It results in one dead and three seriously injured.  Afterwards Chopper darkly says he doesn't think it was an accident the fireworks went off and this has resulted in more publicity for Stig, the man behind this Supersurf.

Chopper: "It's all a circus... once it was just a race... no money, just man against man and that was enough.  Now everybody's out to screw what they can."

He's speaking to Dora, Jug's girlfriend who admits Jug's "off the boil".  He drinks and barely practices.  He's trying to pretend it isn't over.

Chopper muses that he didn't race the real Jug MacKenzie then and Dora says she guesses not.  Chopper was in the cubes during Jug's top form in Supersurf 8 and 9.  Then a Judge comes in to their room asking for Chopper.  He says Megacity One won't press for Chopper's arrest as long as Chopper doesn't try to go back to Megacity One.  "Fat chance" says Chopper.
A message from MC1
Elsewhere there is a large gun enplacement being set up. We discover that Stig's assistant has bribed the Megacity Two judges to make this Supersurf more lethal than the others and to look aside from the setting off of fireworks during the flypast which was completely intentional.  She has also paid off the injured surfers though one is proving a little more intransigent than the others.  Stig's assistant has taken responsibility to give Stig deniability and when he asks if it's time, she tells him it is.

The surfers all gather in a giant hall.  The Brit-Cit kid "Sonny Williams" is pointed out to Chopper.  He keeps to himself, Charlene thinks he looks lonely.  Then Stig gives a bizarre speech to them.  He tells them that the public want blood, that together they'll "paint a masterwork of carnage across the sky".

Stig: "And when it is over, one of you will be a hero - a true hero. Forged in the heat of battle!  Be the most famous person on this Earth!  Is that not worth making sacrifices for?"

Stig's assistant takes over and confirms that there will be snipers and guns along the route.  The surfers are angry and ask about the fireworks and she says the matter has been investigated by the Judges to their satisfaction.

The form to sign up will absolve Stig Inc. from death and injury caused before and during Supersurf 11.  Jug rips it up saying he'll have no part in this.  For a moment it looks like all the other surfers will join him, then Sonny signs his, and after a long pause and to Charlene's horror, so does Chopper.
The race is on.
Later, while in bed together, Chopper reiterates his intent to take part to Charlene albeit unenthusiastically.  She accuses him of wanting to commit suicide, he says he's just "following the songlines."  She says they can't be telling him to die.  But she can't talk him out of it.

Next day Chopper is out practicing, he is having difficulty adjusting back to city surfing after being in the country so long. He has a chat with one of the other surfers who says seventeen have signed up now.  Then he finds Sonny Williams and rides his slipstream for a while looking for a weakness, but Sonny doesn't show him one.

The competitors gather and check out where the various guns are going to be.  Stig has one of his own despite being blind, "he reckons he's going to feel us out" says one.  Chopper thinks to himself that he isn't sure why he's doing this.  Maybe because Stig called them cowards, maybe because he didn't beat Jug at his best, "that need to be number one.  An unquenchable fire still gnawing away inside him". 
Chopper starts practicing.
He realises that Stig had thrown down the gauntlet and the need to push life to the edge, "that was the song of the surfer."  The competitors then line up in front of Stig and all moon him.  His assistant tells Stig, they're "just showing you the target" when he asks what's happening.

The action jumps forward to four days before the event and now twenty-nine surfers have signed up. During practice a watching woman drops her baby off one of the sky scrapers.  Chopper and Sonny both dive to rescue it and Sonny gets there first. Then it's two days before.  Another surfer has died in "Porcupine Alley" the tunnel of spikes and Stig has offered a one million cred donation to charity for every surfer killed.
Charlene tries to walk out on Chopper.
Chopper and Charlene are fighting, she's packed up and is leaving. She tells him she loves him and begs him to give up.  He says he can't.  She says nothing matters to him but the race and has she thought what it's going to be like for her watching him die.  She walks out and slams the door behind her.  There is a pause, then she opens it and comes back inside.  She hugs him and says:

Charlene: "All right Chopper... you win. I won't run out on you.  I'll be here.  I'll stay with you, and I'll love you, and I'll pray for you. And then I'll bury you."

Race day and a drunken Jug has decided he wants to compete saying he's been called a coward. Chopper gently shows him into the cupboard and locks him in it.  He then leaves to prepare and Charlene says "got a spare cupboard Dora?"

The surfers all line up ready.  Chopper has a flashback to just before the race.  He saw that Sonny Williams was actually terrified so he provoked him to rile him up and get him ready for the race.   The starter's gun goes off and away they fly.  Two surfers decide at the last moment not to compete and another two are immediately chewed up by gunfire, four down and the race has barely begun.

The surfers fly into another barrage of gunfire and a big name "Dallas Williams" is killed, her head blown apart.  Blood rains down on the spectators. Two more are taken out and Chopper picks up an injury that takes out his left arm, most likely shrapnel from Dalla's shattered head.
Badly injured right at the start.
He uses his belt to tie down his dead arm and flies through the next barrage to the first obstacle, the windmills.  The blades are razor sharp and one surfer has the engine of his board shorn off but manages to land safely, if no one else makes it he might be crowned the champion by default.

Another surfer is killed and falls knocking Sonny off his board.  But he is attached to it via a cord and is able to pull himself up and get back in the game.  Chopper flies over and kicks the sniper who had targeted Williams, knocking him out.  Chopper is now in the lead by quite some margin even with that detour.

Then it's through "Death Canyon" and another surfer is vaporised leaving only his feet behind.  There is chaos of napalm and death and another four surfers are gone. Jug, Charlene and Dora are watching on TV in utter horror.  This is "flamin' murder" says Jug.
Several surfers wipe out together.
Chopper is still in the lead, twisting his board to avoid sniper fire. In the following group Sonny Williams manouvres himself between the sniper and another surfer so that surfer gets killed and he takes third place. Chopper is starting to feel the loss of blood from his arm and Porcupine Alley is the next obstacle up.

Chopper enters the alley as the back end of the surfer group is wiped out by the napalm.  He carefully negociates the spikes, although he gets gashed by one he makes it through... only to be struck multiple times by bullets on the other side.  Charlene lets out a cry and runs out to go to the stricken Chopper.  He's down but still on his board.
Surprise! Ouch.
Then Anderson and Sonny Williams the joint second placers collide with each other at the entrance to Porcupine Alley.   Both land on spikes, run through by them. There's another collision at the entrance by the next batch of surfers, blocking access.  One of the last place surfers, Negri gets back on his board and could be the last one left in the race as he flies through.

But he's blasted to bits by the same guns that got Chopper.  One of the machine gunners has a live grenade for an earring as the race commentators admiringly comment on.   Sonny Williams has managed to pull himself off the spike he's impaled on and lying on his board flies it out of the tunnel. Before the machine guns can get him, Chopper surprises one of them and uses his gun to kill the other one but not before Sonny is mortally wounded.
Chopper takes out two gunners.
Chopper apologises to his body, the other surfers left have decided to opt out of the race.  They fly down to where Chopper is, who guiltily says he thought he did Sonny a favour getting him psyched for the race.  Then Chopper gets back on his board.  He's the only one left now and he plans to go to the finish.  "You crazy nong! Noooo!" shouts Charlenne.

The toll the race has taken is incredible.  The commentator reports thirty-one dead, three alive but seriously injured and four withdrawn.  The commentator declares Chopper the "greatest Sky Surfer who has ever lived!".  But there is one obstacle left.  He falls from the board, but painfully climbs back on and lies on it for a while.
Chopper exacts explosive revenge.
He thinks back to Smokie and him telling him about following his songline.  He stands back up and slowly flies towards Stig and his gun.  Stig doesn't open fire.  Chopper tells Stig he made a promise to some of the guys and reaches into his suit and brings out the live grenade he took from the machine gunner he surprised.  He tosses at Stig and it kills both him and his assistant.

Then Chopper turns and heads for the finish line.  He feels numb now, and running through is head are the words of Charlene calling him selfish and he realises he was dumb now.  He collapses to his knees as the finish line comes into view.

Narration: "Darkness closes in again.  Enfolding him.  The windsong rises and falls in his ears... calling him back to the ancestors."
He slumps forwards saying he's coming Smokie and just inches from the finish line his board comes to a halt.  Charlene stands underneath it and can only look up in despair as blood trickles down his arm and lands on her tear streaked face.  The camera pans out.  The race and the story is at an end.
Powerful stuff.  And it's such a fitting end for Chopper that it was understandable when he returned in a story in the Megazine people protested.  Especially as said story was written by Garth Ennis who admitted later it wasn't a great story and really Chopper's story should have ended here.  After that he featured in a couple more stories but in Judge Dredd Megazine #302's "Twenty Years to Midnight", set in 2132, Chopper makes a background appearance on a talkshow. The teenagers in this story are unaware of who he is, and view the show as being for adults; the POV character believes Chopper looks tired and lost, looking at footage of "when he used to matter".  Which is in someways even sadder than having him die at the end of this story where he could have at least gone out as the Greatest Sky Surfer on the Planet fulfulling a destiny following the songlines of his life to the bitter end.  Despite the horrific nature of the race it is actually exciting to follow and the build up is suitably thrilling as well.  Also giving Chopper a girlfriend who decides to support him the whole way rather than have her walk out and leave in a somewhat cliched way was a great idea and of course leaves us with her showing the full emotional cost of the race on the final page.  Great writing, great art, this is collected in the Chopper: Surf's Up trade paperback along with several other of his best stories.


  1. Ah yes I remember this. Great story. As you say, this was a time when 2000AD was having a bit of a renaissance abeit in a gloomy way. What with the Dead Man et al. But it was also a time when the world of Dredd was expanding and we were getting a bit of nuance.

    The first super surf story was good enough, but fairly typical of Dredd stories (not a bad thing of course). And chopper was an interesting character. I did like it when the stories showed us a bit more of the lives of the Big Meg citizens. What's it like when there's 95% unemployment etc?

    So it was perhaps a logical progression for Choper to go from daring graffiti artist to sky surfer. Boredom must have been a big factor for citizens. We saw that a few times with the 'everyone needs a hobby' batgligder and related stuff. I liked the whacky diversions like overeating or grown the biggest schnozz, but Chopper was always a bit more grounded. He was just a 21st century equivalent of 80s alienated youth. I bet a lot of kids identified with him.

    I loved the expansion of the dredd universe. We never got to see a lot outside the city for a long time so it was interesting to see Meg 2 and Oz and the different. takes on the prevalent judge system.

    But Choper himself was a compelling character. There was a real sense of pathos to this tale. But it all made sense.

    (Oops, just gotta shoot out)

    So I'll just say, flavours of Rollerball. Ennui and angst. Possible death wish? But overall that real sense that some lives in the big meg just weren't worth a lot and the most poignant thing was the even the people who's lives were at stake believed that too. That was really summed up in the lines about glory living forever with a suitably spectacular death.

    More at 11

  2. While I didn't identify with Chopper, I had sympathies for anyone who did what they could to combat a boring, stifling existence. The fact the Megacity jails were called "Cubes" held great horror for me, I couldn't think of anything worse than being confined in the spartan conditions that description implied. So I admired him for risking it and even escaping, notable that he went to live in the exact opposite of a Cube and MC1, the outback.

    I always liked to see what was happening in other places too. Always got excited whenever a visit to Brit-Cit was shown. It's interesting that Devlin Waugh, who will be the subject of my next post, is also part of the same universe. The magical threats he faces and the existence of the Vatican and "God" rather than "Grud" makes for an odd fit. I'm guessing it was because Waugh was meant to be a one off, and when he proved popular John Smith just shrugged and told what stories he wanted to while paying lip service to the shared universe.

    Chopper really should have died at the end. He only got one long story again which was said poor-quality Ennis tale then he just fell into obscurity. Which in someways could be worth pulling him out of retirement to examine what that could do to him, the fickle nature of fame n'all that.

  3. I remember a very early 2000AD where 'Drokk' etc were described as "certain justice department approved epithets for stress relief". So I wonder if Grud fits into that category, or maybe it's just a minced oath, like 'by gum'

    So maybe god does exist in the Dredd universe but the name's gone out of fashion, like Starburst or H&M?

    The devil exists. But he's locked up in iso-cube 666. "Sheesh" (you get that reference?)

    Iso-cube is even more sinister than plain cube. I like Juve-cube though. I tried to popularise that for Feltham YOI, but people just looked at me funny (I get that a lot though). Of course in the early days Dredd prison was referred to as 'the time stretcher'. There was one story that implied they artificially aged perps so they serve their sentence without the population problems, but that never seems to have been followed up on. But yeah, the thought of incarceration in a tiny cell is pretty horrific. The US supermax facilities pretty much are cubes. Quite literally. They're prefabricated units that bolt together. I've been in quite a few prisons and they are scuzzy places. Holloway was the worst. At the risk of getting gender essentialist it's just different (There are actual reasons for that to do with the smaller female prison population therefore no categorisation of prisons and prisoners, everyone is just lumped in together unlike male prisons which specialise). Possibly because, whilst a lot of people generally in prisons have mental health issues, in Holloway it's like a quarter or third of the population. I'm not sure how much is cause and effect, but going into Guardian reader mode, lots of people just shouldn't be in prison. It does no one any good, not them not society. Pankhurst is surprisingly nice though, but long term prisons tend to be.

    Anyway moving on to happier topics, I also enjoyed when Dredd showed the wider world. Weird though, I always thought Dredd wad better at satirising American society than other countries. Oftentimes they were as clichéd as a "The Simpsons are going to... " episode. If course in the case of the Emerald Isle stories that wad deliberate in-story. I was going to suggest those stories were better because they had Irish writers, so like father ted, the satire was superficially crude but actually quite deep. But Brit Cit was written by British writers and that just fell back on few obvious tropes. Still funny though, and I liked the Lions on the uniforms. The best thing about the Irish episodes was tjat it gave us the brilliant name 'Blamtex' for the explosive. I still use that.

    And yes Chopper should have stayed dead. I can see the attraction of examining the later life of a previous celebrity but if we're going to do that I'm curious as to whatever happened to Otto Sump.

  4. I'm afraid my experience with prisons starts and ends with the show Oz which we've previously discussed. It might have been a high security prison but they still let them out to mingle.

    I had heard that about Holloway, that women with mental health problems are more likely to be locked up than men. Very sad, and infuriating. I can see how that makes for a particularly awful place.

    I think I'm missing a couple of wads of 2000ADs (I have them stuffed in bags ten at a time) because I clearly remember buying and reading an issue which had the Irish Judge on the front cover but can't find it anywhere. But it nearly killed me retrieving what I have from behind The Pile Of Doom so maybe it'll have to stay there lol.

    The satire of US society was definitely sharper I agree. I think they wanted to have a little fun with stereotypes with the other cities, though it was pretty funny to think in the future every country will have become a parody of itself. I wonder if 2000AD will address whats been going on in the US with the Russians/Sov Block helping Trump get elected? Could be ripe for parody...

  5. I think I know exactly the prog you're thinking of. This one perhaps?


    It's funny how, out of all the covers over the years, some do stick in the mind.

    You've got me thinking now (you do that a lot) about the potential for stereotyping on 2000AD. I seem to recall the there was a story (possibly in an annual or one of the sci fi specials) where some inhabitants of Cal-Hab complain about how they're stereotyped in the Big Meg; but it all turns into a big fight cause they're a bunch of pugnacious drunks. I'm quite a big fan of self deprecating stereotyping though. Note that the funniest stuff tends to come from winters from the particular locale in question. So the Scots, Irish and Brits take a bit of stick in the comic. I wonder if the writers of the Oz stories where Australian themselves. They do seem to fall back on that 'ocker' cliche a bit. Lager driving shrimp throwing on the barbie etc. although I like the Oz judge adverts where they make a big thing about there being no celibacy. Japanese society depictions I the comic tended to fall back on the cliches of the time. Basically it's just Akira. All hi tech and honourable stoicism. And the Latin America imagery is just banana republics. But then again Dredd was always meant to be a bit of an exaggeration of trends and tendencies rather than reality. Which brings us nicely to your Sov-Blok points.

    I stopped reading around the real 2000AD as you know, bit it's interesting how depictions of the USSR reflected the real world at the time. So it all stats of to with a Cold War vibe and the big war after Orlok poisoned the water supply. And there'd been cold war paranoia throughout the comic. Even cap'n skank was, I belive a soc blok agent. But the tone changed post glasnost and perestroika and things became more nuanced with the depiction that there were moderate and edge roost elements within the sov blok itself.

    So yeah, would be ripe for a reflection of current events in the strip. Although having said that, so eotmes 2000Ad did direct satire pretty badly. BLAIR 1 and all that. Maybe they need a bit of distance to get the pitch right?

    And of course the comic covered the idea of an orange haired outsider being elected years ago. The difference being Dave the Orangutang was really nice.

  6. That's EXACTLY the cover I was thinking of. I can even remember buying it, I was in Bolton visiting my dad. I hope it's still about, I'd be annoyed if a bunch of my comics got lost in one of my many moves.

    Actually you're right about direct satire often being dire in 2000AD. I got Zenith Phase 4 for my birthday and it contains a one off strip for the year 2000 issue that has Grant Morrison doing some satire of Blair and it's well, it's very poor. Embarrassingly so.

    I definitely think the self deprecation in the Dredd stories of the British and Irish comes from affection. I don't think there was much affection for the USA, well maybe Garth Ennis had some which might explain why his Dredd run isn't held in very high esteem.

    Dave the Orangutang, lol :D

  7. You know, one thing about 2000AD in its early days was just how right wing it was; especially in regard to the Russians. Remember the Volgans and Bill Savage? Taking on the red menace one plate of pie and mash at a time.

    And I remember how the comic would have little factual articles about technology. One was about cruise missiles. At the time of Greenham Common and CND marches it was positlvley glowing about them. The last line was something like "One things for sure, once these babies arrive the Russians won't dare try anything on!"

    I suppose it was the general Cold War zeitgeist. It's funny now though.

    Heh, one of my mates mums was a Greenham protestor. I committed a bit of a faux pas (my speciality) when I met her.

    "Of course the irony is the missiles weren't even kept there"



  8. I didn't actually know that about 2000AD early days, I'm pretty fuzzy on what happened in the comic pre-me starting to read it in 1986 with a couple of years worth prior to that inherited from a friend.

    My mum tried to drag us all to Greenham Common when we were staying with her brother back in the 80's. I declined to come and spent a nice day alone watching the Monty Python films. I'll tell her about the missiles not being there now, and have a bit of a lol at her reaction >:D

    I'm hopeless anyway, I pretty much ran around squeeing at everything when I spent a couple of days staying with my American then GF at RAF Lakenheath. It was very exciting!

  9. Lakenheath was actually one of the places they kept then. The UK stockpile of nuclear gravity bombs (ie the ones you drop from aeroplanes used to live there too). The bulk of cruise missiles though were kept at Bentwaters and Molesworth. Bentwaters is the place with that cool internal runway so planes could take off without making a noise. I love tech like that. I'd very much have been joining you in the squeeing.

    I like the bunkers they have on military bases because they look like long barrows. I have a little fantasy that that's what some of them really are and they're just hiding them in plain site because one of them contains King Arthur. As you probably know, legend says he'll return it ever Britain is in mortal peril. I like the idea that locked away with the nuclear codes is the horn that would need to be blown to awaken him. So I refuse to accept that those bunkers nowadays mainly contain fuel. Notwithstanding the fact I used to lecture on how to ensure they comply with all the environmental protection legislation. That's clearly just part of the masquerade.

    Oh early 2000AD was amazing. Possibly because it was so novel but also I think because it was objectively good.

  10. You know I have the first big fat Strontium DOg collection, with all the pre-2000AD strips in it too and it's great so maybe next year is my year to start on the Dredd collections. I know I'll be missing all the titibits that made up the full comic, but it'll be cool to finally read all the stories like the war with Sov block and Judge Child etc.

    King Arthur being summoned like that feels like a comic strip plot waiting to be illustrated. The reality is too mundane, I shall join you in believing it so.

  11. I'd forgotten Strontium Dog started off in Starlord. Some decent strips in that. I think Ro-Busters debuted there too. Ro-Jaws is one of my favourite characters. A true working class hero. Hammerstein was a lot more interesting too when he was the slightly stuffy ex service person trying to cope with less disciplined civvy life (he was a very accurate depiction of people like that).

    Strontium Dog started off a lot darker than its rather whimsical bent it later developmed. It was an allegory on prejudice but also (and as a consequence) the protagonists were very much anti heroes. We all loved the Gronk though ("Oh my poor heartses")

    The judge child Saga was great. Makes me feel a bit old as hershey was just a rookie and now she's chief judge I believe. As you may recall that was the start of the long running back plot that MC1 would succumb to a great disaster in 20 years time. That was eventually avoided, but I liked tjat when 'real time' caught up with that predicted event there was like an 'echo' of it within the stories. The city just went a bit weirder than even normal, like it knew something had been meant to happen.

    Orlok the assassin was a good character as he was essentially the Sov version of Dredd and it's that thing that stories are always better with a competent antagonist.

    "We're at war. We should inform the citizens"

    "What makes you think they'd be interested?"

    Hmm, yes it might make a story. I do like the idea that there's like an occult side to our military. We actually had an occult branch during the war. But it was set up to take on the German annenherbe rather than summon up demons. During the first gulf war saddam was launching scud missiles that appeared not to have warheads. In reality they didn't have enough warheads for them so they just ballasted them with concrete, but there was a rumour that they in fact contained djinn bottles (the demons tjat genies are based on). I was happy to go along with that too.

  12. Have you read the more recent Strontium Dog strips, The Life and Death of Johnny Alpha and so on. There was some kerfuffle as to how the kicked all the non- John Wagner penned stories into Canon Discontinuity but generally the standard of them is high and with Carlos back on top form too. I'll probably start covering them in my UK comic's months next as I am running short of CRISIS material worth talking about.

    Gonna be interesting exploring the life and times of Megacity One. One of the best recent 2000AD's Dreddworld stories I have covered is "Trifecta" which I did round about this time last year and was three stories starring Dredd, Dirty Frank and Jack Point that covered the same plot from three different viewpoints before bringing them together for the finale. Really awesome stuff.

    Interestingly Paul Cornell when he was writing Doctor Who EU material has UNIT explicitly involved in mythological shenanigans and The Brigadier ended up settling down for a while in Avalon which was a sort of Arthurian pocket dimension in the Whoniverse Earth. I love the idea of mystic missiles, though probably not if they were targeted at me.

  13. Haven't read those. Heard about them. Did Hmmm? a bit. One thing I liked about 2000AD was that dead meant dead. And whilst I'm not that fussed about a sense of 'ownership' in fictional characters or franchises, it did feel like devaluing all the original tales. Still, so long as they're good stories who cares. Glad it got back to its roots after all that Feral stuff. I look forward to seeing what you have to say about them.

    Ill have to check out your trifecta review. I'm unfamiliar with the other characters but I like the sound of them tying together. I remember the thrill when the dead man reveal happened. So be nice if it can replicate that.

    I wish UNIT were real. I'd sign up tomorrow. One of my few regrets in life is not signing up with the Inns of Court Regiment when I was asked. They'd be a good candidate for taking care of all the mystery stuff. I'm a member of Middle Temple though so I suppose that's a bit esoteric.

  14. Oh man Dirty Frank is part of the Megacity Undercover series and is hands down one of the greatest 2000AD creations of all time. Check out my look at Megacity Undercover 2 (MCU's compilation wasn't all that good so I jumped right to the Dirty Frank goodness of the second volume) as well if you want to know more about him. Jack Point is the "Simping Detective" who is also a fun character, but the collection of his strips is out of print right now and a tad pricey online now sadly, I should have snapped it up when I saw it in Forbidden Planet... a lesson I should have learned with the Bendis/Maleev Daredevil Omnibuses, although waiting patiently for six months paid off in the end.

    I always enjoy seeing how different fictional fantasy universes have agencies for dealing with the the superhero/alien/magical stuff. Been watching the first season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D and it amuses me that they have pretty much spent the whole series spying on themselves. DC has a few government agencies as well, but not as well know. A.R.G.U.S is probably the main one, but lacks a Nick Fury to give it credibilty in the wider DC movieverse.

  15. That's tomorrow's reading sorted out then (got a 6:45 meeting first, ugh). Undercover judges was something barely touched on when I was reading. The 'wally squad' was very much frowned upon I remember. Judges preferring to be a visible deterrent. But obviously such judges would be necessary. I quite liked it when we got a look at how the justice system worked beyond Dredd shooting people (or punching through their faces). Ironically, baring in mind the premise, the legal system didn't feature much. I know within MC1 there's theoretically a court system for appeals but of course the premise is on the spot justice.

    That's actually a legal theory called, perhaps appropriately enough, 'American Realism' (technically it's the idea that 'law' is defined by what happens in practice rather than what is stated the law is meant to be)

    At law school I was one of three people who did the 'jurisprudence' electives. Jurisprudence is the philosophy of law. I wrote my coursework essay on American realism. It actually started "When Judge Dredd yells 'I am the law' he us of course demonstrating the principle foundation of American Realism..."

    (as someone who wrote about Jerry Springer you can probably see where I was coming from)

    I like the BPDR in the Hellboy films. They're great films generally but one aspect that's very credible is the work environment. You really believe these are all people who sort of work in the same office. There's a real dynamic that you completely accept them as real people who just happen to have that job and have to muck along together. It's one of the few fictional work environments where you could have them doing a 'secret santa' and it would seem totally plausible.

  16. The Wally Squad is an excellent selection of misfit Judges, they really are fun to read about, and yeah the fact they have a somewhat awkward place in the Judge system is fully explored. His main artist, D'Israeli, is definitely one of the best UK artists around today too.

    What's the point of a Higher education if you can't find ways to write about your interests. I managed to do an essay and seminar presentation on Hellraiser for my Women In Literature module, mainly I got away with that one because I was comparing it with the novella the film was based on - The Hellbound Heart. Some interesting things to say about women's sexuality coming from a gay man with an interest in BDSM.

    I love the two Hellboy films, especially the second which Del Toro cites as one of his favourites that he's worked on in his usual inciteful commentary. There was a B.P.R.D spin-off comic which has been collected in a couple of thick volumes, but I feel I should get some Hellboy comics first.

  17. I think I've mentioned/plugged my mate's book about his time as an undercover policeman. The psychological profile of people who are good at that is interesting. They have to be capable of empathising with the people they're infiltrating. But that's a fine line. Steve crossed it and went native. So I look forward to reading about how that's dealt with in fiction.

    Surely Garth Marhengi covered all their is to sat about sexuality.

    "They did it in all the positions. Normal, her on top and doggy. Then a hell beast ate them."

    My fave character in the second film is the German ectoplasm chap. He's wunderbar. But they're all so sweet. The fantasy and action elements are great, but I could quite happily just watch a film about their personal lives. It's all so real and vulnerable.

    You really care about them and want to give them a big hug.

  18. I'm just sad we won't get a third Hellboy film which he had set up in the second. But you're right they are all sweet, though I still have a hard time wrapping my head round the fact the elf prince was played by one of Bros (who also appeared in another Del Toro film, Blade 2) and is actually really good. Also Hellboy has many cats, this of course makes him even more awesome :D

  19. He's in a few of my guilty pleasures (like the new Death Race films) and he is very good. Guess we now know when he will, when he'll be famous (sort of).

    You like weapons so you probably know that in Blade 3 the lass was just told to aim the arrow in the general direction of the camera and she actually managed to hit it (which was quite an expensive but impressive effort)

    On a similar note, when they tested the first Barnes Wallis Tallboy bomb (as seen in the last Rambo film) they wanted to film it from the ground. The cameraman placed the camera right on the bullseye on the theory that would be the safest place. They hit that too.

  20. Sorry for the delayed response, stayed over at mum's after seeing Vic & Bob Live last night. It was brilliant. Got to shout "what's on the end of the stick, Vic?", took a trip to Novelty Island, attended the twisted court of Judge Nutmeg, heard the beautiful songs of Mulligan and O'Hare, summoned the Dove From Above and best of all, Grahame Lister called Vic a "workshy fop". :D And much more silliness both old and new, and we had great seats near the front of the stalls too.

    I had heard about that incident with Jessica Beale destroying the camera, the commentary with her, Ryan Reynolds and David Goya on the special edition dvd is hilarious, and apparently it was a very expensive camera too.

  21. Oh wow, that does sound brilliant. Glad you had a great time. "Uvavu"; "Iranu"!

    Presumably now you're back to a sulky moggie giving you the evil eye for having the audacity to abandon him. You know how some things just make you giggle thinking about them? That image of you trying to poke him down from a tree always does that to me. I think it's because it's such an easy scene to imagine.

    I do like the blade films. Wesley Snipes is so perfectly badass in them. Although I think that's why 3 is so good became of the way Ryan punctures his pomposity. You seen Passenger 57? That's the one with "Always bet on black" *dramatic zoom*. I do say that a lot myself, even if we're just playing ludo.

    Oh, and I've got some academia going on, so I might have to pick your brains even further about an essay and citing references if you don't mind. It's so long since I've done anything like that (you do cite cases and things in stuff written for court but it's a compelelty different format)

  22. Yeah it was brilliant fun, the theatre was rammed with people all joining in. Even though it was their 25th (and a bit) year of being a duo, all their stuff is remarkably timeless. I think it's toppled Harry Hill of his perch and is now my favourite comedy show I've been to.

    Actually Biff is pretty chill with me leaving him for one night as long as his food and water bowl's are full now he's an old man. He's not great at holding a grudge and sulking, too laid back for that really, unlike his predecessor who could be just like a moody teenager sometimes. Next week he'll be coming with me as I'll be staying a few nights, he won't mind he's very fond of my mum. But mum's cats won't be happy, Biff exudes "alphaness" as it were and just wanders in and takes over wherever I take him to.

    I'm quite happy for what's left of my brain to be picked, always happy to help when I can :)

  23. "But I've eaten the bit in the middle of the bowl; so now there's none left!"

    Heh, alpha cats. When I visited a friend with a particularly bossy cat (great, now got 'top cat' theme in my head) of I had Sas with me they'd just stare at each other from opposite sides of the room. Thing is, nothing could disturb them from that. You literally had to step over them. It was like they were in a first one to bank contest.

    V&B are timeless. It's just inherently funny. Daft will never go out of style. I'm very envious cos it's ages since I saw anything live like that. I did embarrass myself at a ballet by asking 'does anyone ever talk in these things?'. Hey, it was some avant gard post modern version of'1984' so they might have. Anyway, how am I supposed to know how ballet works? (It actually really grew on me as it went on)

    Cool, I'd be very grateful. Especially if brain pick = write it for you :-)

  24. That's exactly what he's like. He's totally neurotic about ever seeing the bottom of his bowl, so I have to keep topping it up all day while he snacks daintily from the top of it. He was actually quite a runty little thing when I got him, so I wonder if he he's remembering back to not having enough time on the "nip" as it were. Of course now he's a massive, saggy old cloth cat so really you never can tell when you get them as kittens. I've seen amusing Youtube clips of alpha cats and dogs locked in silent battles of wills, of course I am totally subservient to Biff, I accept my lower role in the flat's hierarchy under the benevolent tyrrany of the feline overlord.

    I used to see A LOT of theatre when I worked in Buxton Opera House as freebie tickets were one of the nice little extras you got. But in the last decade or so I've only been to live comedy shows. I've only ever seen one band live, Chumbawamba (of course) at a free festival in Plymouth. But I find crowds somewhat trying and like to sitdown, heh.

  25. Ooh Chumbawumba, now there's a tale. Back in the old days they used to picket New Model Army gigs because the army had signed to EMI (and a related company provided electronics for military equipment). They even had a t-shirt 'Only stupid bastards sign to EMI'. Heh, so you can imagine our amusement when Chumbawumba jumped at the chance when EMI offered them a deal.

    I like that lager drink song though.

    As for sitting down, have you seen a comedian called Micky Flanagan? He does a thing in his act about you know you're getting older when your chief concern about trendy nightclubs is if you'll be able to get a seat. Nothing worse than watching a comedian and realising his act is just stuff you say yourself :-)

    I still fool myself that I'm down with the kids though notwithstanding that once I went with some mates to a dodgy rave in Essex. The security on the door was really thorough so when it got to my turn I assumed the position ready to be searched. They just waved me through.

    "You're right mate. It's just these young uns you've got to keep an eye on"

    Great. Pass me a copy of the Daily Telegraph and my slippers.

  26. Ah well I was into pre-Tubthumping Chumbawamba, I was a bit annoyed when people said they were a one-hit wonder and many people got subjected to humourless lectures on their history :D "Shhh" is a brilliant album still on regular rotation on my Zen player now to this day.

    I have heard of the comedian in question, he's been on The News Quiz a couple of times. But yeah, I don't think I could even tolerate a nightclub with somewhere to sit nowadays, and I used to be a big clubber back in the day, unafraid to strut my funky stuff completely sober. I had a best mate in the sixth form who ran the local dodgy raves, though I never went because they were being held in the countryside around Buxton and well, we've discussed how damn cold that place is before!

  27. Oh yeah, they're one of those bands who've been around for donkeys years. It's interesting to compare them to NMA. They were both 'political' but it's almost (but not quite) that hippy vs punk thing. Like Chumbawumba are the kids hanging round the student union bar handing out flyers and NMA are the yobboes getting into fights with the national front. Ah the 80s; happy times. Probably an article to be written there.

    I'm surprised more people didn't die of hypothermia at raves. Especially as MDMA makes you feel quite warm. I felt sorry for the girls. Hardly any clothes and sweating for 8 hours straight. At least we got to wear baggy jumpers and long trousers :-)

    Now I've got the urge to bang on some Prodigy and do that silly shuffle dance.

    *Big fish, little fish, cardboard box*

  28. Hah, yes I remember Big Fish, Little Fish. That said my favourite times out were to Cruz 101, Manchester's biggest club catering to mainly gay men. On a mondays it was 70's night on the main dancefloor and 80's night down in the basement. DJ's took requests, all music was chart stuff. So you could dance to ABBA upstairs and Erasure downstairs. Things I learned was that when dancing to seventies music, everyone turns into John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever and that it's surprisingly hard to dance to "Love Shak". Happy day. Also the bar in there served mugs of tea and chips too. How northern.

    "Music For The Jilted Generation" is my favourite Prodigy album, still infused with a carefree spirit, but with a hint of darkness and threat on the horizon too.

  29. Heh, I initially read that as 'manly' gay men and thought only in the north would that be an issue. The most northern gay thing I ever heardthough was a bloke announce 'Of course I'm gay; shagging birds is for poofs"

    Can't remember how I first heard the Prodigy but at the time I was house sharing with a girl who worked for HMV and she very kindly blagged me a pre-release copy of 'Charly'. Which I then proceeded to play repeatedly for the next few days until she came into my room and snapped it. Love that band though. Seen them a few times and if you've ever seen the video for out of space there's some clips where I got to do the lights briefly at a rave at bray stadium (just while their regular guy had a wee)

    Did you know the voice of Charly the Cat was Kenny Everett?

  30. Well there were some pretty manly gay men there, though generally dressed as women. I have a hard time wrapping my head around the transphobia Americans seem to have of transwomen invading women's toilets and oooh how terrible that would be. When I was clubbing in early-to-mid 90's gay pubs and clubs the ladies loos were always full of drag queens and transwomen refreshing their hair and make-up, never felt at all threatening to me!

    I was 16 in 1990 so pretty much rave and Madchester were the soundtrack to my latter teen years. I tended to prefer heavier stuff by the likes of Hardfloor. Or more tuneful stuff like Orbital's first three albums. Sabres Of Paradise were my favourite obscure industrial dance band though.

    I did know Mr. Everett was behind Charly The Cat, man why don't we get cool PIF's anymore? I always liked it when I was at my Junior school when they'd wheel a TV into the room and play us a selection of soul scarring warning movies.

    Now, in the new year my mum is buying me a laptop and paying to get the audio on my PC fixed, so remind me and I'll check out the video for Out Of Space, so I can admire your lights :)

  31. Ah that's cool about the computers. Be great when you have sound again. And yes even though my lights are only in it for about 6 frames I'm sure you'll agree it's what makes the video.

    Yeah, loo rules are anyone who needs to fiddle with hair or makeup uses ladies, women who can't wait to queue use gents and people who need to snort charlie or change out of street clothes use disabled toilets. Thought everyone knew that.

    I think we don't get PIFs because there's already a traumatised generation terrified of water and farm machinery. There is an amazing new short film aimed at teenagers called 'only stupid cows..' that's meant to put them off texting whilst driving. But I watched it and it just put me off driving generally. It's horrific. They weren't even allowed to show it in the states.

    Remember the Madchester shirt 'if you have to dial 061 you're a wanker'? I do like a bit of pounding pounding techno music. There's a thing called Russian Hardstyle now and that's bringing back a few memories. Love Orbital though (you probably know they're named after the M25 from the days when that was where all the rave quests started). Ooh, now I'm going to listen to their version of Dr Who.

  32. You'll be pleased to know after our Blakes 7 discussion I have nicknamed my desktop PC "Orac" due to the clear plastic box and lights inside. Have to think of something more modern for my hopefully sexy new laptop.

    Actually the most traumatic PIF I ever saw was one about dangers at the beach where a couple of kids dig a tunnel into the side of a sand dune and crawl inside only for it to collapse ontop of them and suffocate them, brrrrrr.

    I don't remember that particular T-shirt but did at one point own a "on the sixth day god created manchester" one bought from Affleck's Palace.

    I love that Orbital version of the Doctor Who theme. I've got a live version of it from prior to NuWho starting up and it's lovely hearing the audience warmly cheering when they realise what the tune is.

  33. Dang dang. Dang dang, dang dang.

    Yup, get goosebumps when I hear those notes.

    I'm soooo glad you now have your own Orac. That's so cool. I wonder if there's a text to speech programme with his voice. I'd definitely use that. Might be hard to replicate the perfect amount of condescension though. John Leeson is a magistrate now. Wonder what it feels like being sent to prison by K-9?

    Never went to Afflecks Palace but my Hulme mate Julia whom I hope you get to meet used to go on about it a lot.

    That dark and lonely water is the one that sticks with me. It's practically a horror movie in its own right. Luckily I'm a sensible children so the spirit had no power over me.

    I'll have a think about laptop names. All my electronic devices are named after war goddesses, but I'll try to think of something cooler for you.

  34. I have had this desktop PC for 8 years now, and I can't believe I didn't notice its resemblance to Orac sooner, d'oh. It's getting about as temperamental as well so I'm looking forward to getting a laptop and I'll most likely use this one for storage and back-ups and transfer my blog work and internetting to the laptop. Also I can use a laptop in bed, which will be better for my back too.

    Affleck's Palace does actually still exist, it's pretty respectable now though, not like back in the day when it kept getting set on fire because of people smoking weed in the stairwells. It mainly plays host to upmarket thrift stores, tattooist/piercing places and small boutiques.

    Funnily enough, despite terrifying us with things like the Spirit of Dark Water (fun fact: The is an absolutely stomach knottingly creepy J-Horror film called "Dark Water") and so on, it didn't actually stop us from generally behaving is rather risky ways. I have a vivid memory of a time when I was about ten going to a mate's and standing on the ice which had formed over Buxton reservoir and dropping rocks onto it to see who could get their crack to go the deepest down. I honestly wonder how my generation and those before it didn't end up mostly dying out through sheer bloody-minded stupidity :D

  35. Sounds a bit like Kensington High Street market. I used to hang around in Camden Market quite a bit. Some friends have a ridiculously trendy hairdressers there. (If you've seen Lock Stock... it's where the cool guy who says "I'm not the pussy to drink it" lives). Come to think of it, there was a bit of illicit activity in back spaces there. Managed not to burn the place down though. Well actually it did burn down, not our fault though.

    I just use an iPad now. It's weird. Despite the fact I spend a lot of time yelling at the touchscreen when I have to use a real keyboard I can't type anymore. Seems wrong that the keys move. Don't feel the same attachment though like I did to my old computers. They had personalities.

    Those old PIFs definitely had an effect on me. Still get a tingling in certain circumstances like dark water or being near combine harvesters. Thing is, it's quite enjoyable so I sort of force myself. Like at school we'd stick our hands in the guillotine and see how long before we yanked them back out. Must be something slightly addictive about the feeling. So I fully support and understand your ice breaking challenge. My friends are of the opinion that my last words will be "watch this".

  36. I did contemplate a tablet but I like the tactile feedback of keys, easier to touch type with.

    Sadly most of Manchester Bohemian elements have disappeared over the years, town centre is pretty boring now. I just go to browse in CEX and the two comic shops and that's it.

    Children think they are indestructable don't thay? My sis doesn't want to ever let her son, my dear nephew, out of the house unaccompanied until he's about 21, more a "Smother" than a mother as I tease her.

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