Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length

Author Topic: The Mystery of Prog 723  (Read 1245 times)

The Corinthian

  • Member
  • Sentient Tea Bot
  • **
  • Posts: 350
  • Gaze into the Fist of Pob!
    • View Profile
The Mystery of Prog 723
« on: 08 September, 2010, 11:44:23 PM »
I have too much time on my hands and so I've been pondering the question of whether or not Prog 723 is or is not the Worst Relaunch Issue Ever. Being a youngish Squaxx at the time I was not offended too much but must admit to a sense of deflation when I read it. I'd missed a few years of Tooth but jumped back on board in late 1990 when I learned that Robo-Hunter was coming back. Yes, that worked out well, didn't it?

That it's the debut of Millar's Robo-Hunter probably means Prog 723 will go down in infamy but the whole of the line-up is actually quite underwhelming. Sometimes Tooth goes through bad patches but there is usually at least one strip that gives it some sense of spine or definition. Possibly Tharg thought that New Robo-Hunter would do the job, but you think he'd have a fall-back. Instead we have: the rather pointless and inconsequential 'Nemesis and Deadlock', also the first fully fledged sighting of murky brown painted; the amusing but not earth-shattering 'Bix Barton', popping up as if there's a six-week gap needing filling (as will be the case with the next two BBs in the same year); 'Tao de Moto', which would make a nice appetiser in a stronger prog, but looks worryingly like the Least Worst strip on offer; and the final part of the Fleishertastic 'The Golden Fox Rebellion', which next Prog will give up its slot to another 7 weeks of 'Junker' (oh, joy); and 'Judge Dredd'...

'Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home' puzzles me on two counts. First, for a big relaunch issue, why is it so obviously plucked from Wagner's slushpile? It's tedious and ugly, with a potentially interesting set-up thrown away by its tiresomely dumb 'villains' (the pay-off is Dredd realising this after 4 episodes, btw). Tharg had told us the plot in advance to spare us even a flicker of interest.

Second, why isn't Ennis writing this?

Seriously, he gets stick for his later Dredd strips but at this early stage he's at the height of his powers: 'Death Aid', 'Emerald Isle' and 'Return of the King' are probably his highlights on the strip. So why, after his arrival was heralded with such a fanfare, does he not get this prime gig in the first all-colour issue? In fact I recall a contemporary review stating as fact the idea that 'Emerald Isle' was supposed to be in Prog 723 but had been delayed. Steve Dillon's cover for Prog 727 would have made a much more striking image than the montage of sampled interior art that must have commended Prog 723 to no new readers whatsoever.

Now the story goes that 723 wasn't supposed to be the first all-colour issue/relaunch prog at all, but was foisted on Tooth by the imminence of 'Toxic!' The story further goes that there was a rush to get colour material available in time. Which does look like a good explanation, but there's a snag: most of Tooth was in colour by this stage. It seems unlikely to me that Tooth didn't have a fair amount of colour material stockpiled. In fact there's no black and white serial in the weekly again until the second half of 'Engram' resumes at the end of the year. (And Tharg, in the guise of Richard Burton, was spotted telling Comics International that Tooth would still run black-and-white strips, promising that Zenith Phase IV wouldn't be in colour.) Colouring 'Emerald Isle' is unlikely to have caused delays to the art, because Dredd is all-colour anyway by this stage.

Is it possible that Fleetway were going to make the shift to full-colour without making a huge song and dance about it. Unlikely, even without 'Toxic!' breathing down their necks. My hunch is that there would have been a relaunch sometime midwayish between Progs 700 and 750 but that 723 wasn't supposed to be it.

There's that weird hangover episode of 'Rogue Trooper' to account for, and if 'Junker' and 'Engram' hadn't been curtailed both would have ended in Prog 723. So Prog 724 looks promising as a possible relaunch. Then again, strips like 'Carry On Barton' and 'The Enigmass Variations' feel like they should be filling the weeks before a big relaunch. With the exception of 'Robo-Hunter' and 'Tao de Moto', everything that starts/resumes in Prog 723/724 is done by Prog 730.

So maybe Prog 730 was supposed to be it, until 'Toxic!' came along. The gap left by 'Junker' would be taken up by some b&w Future Shocks and other filler up to Prog 729. Then the relaunch begins with 'Emerald Isle', the long-awaited new 'Robo-Hunter' and 'Mean Machine' strips, plus a couple of other long-running strips that show up in the same period - 'Below Zero' or 'The Saharan Ice-Belt War' possibly, but replace the latter with 'Killing Time' and suddenly you'd have a much stronger line-up than the real Prog 723 could muster.

It's all speculative of course, but it might (in passing) explain why 'Danzig's Inferno' peters out just as soon as it's begun...


  • Member
  • Posting Machine
  • ***
  • Posts: 1960
    • View Profile
    • Futureshock'd: At least the pictures are nice.
Re: The Mystery of Prog 723
« Reply #1 on: 08 September, 2010, 11:58:30 PM »
The one with a 24 page Jason Brashill Dredd. That was the worst.
If I'd known it was harmless I would have killed it myself.




  • Member
  • Page Numbering Droid
  • **
  • Posts: 234
    • View Profile
Re: The Mystery of Prog 723
« Reply #2 on: 09 September, 2010, 01:36:35 AM »
Did they ever explain why Dredd doesn't have a fucking huge eagle burnt into his chest after that one-off?

Grant Goggans

  • Member
  • Battle Hardened War Robot
  • ****
  • Posts: 3391
  • About that Revolution Robotique, Mr Tharg...
    • View Profile
Re: The Mystery of Prog 723
« Reply #3 on: 09 September, 2010, 03:08:13 AM »
This is exactly the sort of fun speculation that I enjoy most.  I think you might be right, especially with that bizarre twelfth episode of Rogue Trooper hanging out in a relaunch prog.


  • Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 27641
  • Droning on and on relentlessly since the 70s
    • View Profile
Re: The Mystery of Prog 723
« Reply #4 on: 09 September, 2010, 09:18:09 AM »
Interesting idea, and probably correct about Toxic.  Given that I hate 'The Golden Fox Rebellion' almost as much as Bovril on toast, and Millar Robohunter more than Ugg boots, this Prog is certainly a strong contender for me.  

'Bill Bailey' isn't too bad a strip, but it does seem totally lost in time, although a break of any sort from Ennis was wlecome for me (although as Corinthian notes 'Emerald Isle' and 'Return of the King' were highlights of his run).  Nemesis & Deadlock and Bix Barton did precisely nothing for me, and Tao de Moto should have been fresh and fun, but never quite got  there.

It does make me wonder why I was still buying the Prog at that point.