No. 210 – Spirit of St. Louis

Interstellar Queen image ©The Quarto Group

Van Hertz Line freighter Spirit of St. Louis from Moon Runners [or Moonrunners] (progs 591607 (1988)), written by Steve Parkhouse and Alan McKenzie and drawn by Massimo Belardinelli (1938–2007) v Interstellar Queen (1978) by Angus McKie from Spacecraft 2000 to 2100 AD (Chartwell Books, 1978) by Stewart Cowley from his Terran Trade Authority illustrated science fiction book series*

Heavy Metal (1981)

If you’ve ever picked up a sci-fi novel from the ’70s or ’80s, chances are its cover was painted by influential science fiction illustrator Angus McKie, known for his highly detailed spacecraft, futuristic constructions and vivid colours. McKie was also writer, designer and background artist on the Heavy Metal (Columbia Pictures, 1981) segment So Beautiful and So Dangerous, adapted from his story of the same name (1979) in US sci-fi/fantasy comics magazine Heavy Metal – not to mention being a long-time colourist attached to 2000 AD**, thereby delivering this particular homage comfortably within the “borrowed with permission” bracket.

The Moon Runners‘ spacecraft, Spirit of St. Louis, is named after Charles Lindbergh’s (1902–1974) custom built, single engine monoplane† in which he flew on the world’s first non-stop, solo transatlantic flight from New York to Paris in 1927.

Angus McKie also features in HoH No. 191 – The Valley of Gwangi

*Spacecraft 2000 to 2100 AD of the Terran Trade Authority series was followed by Great Space Battles [with Charles Herridge] (Chartwell Books, 1979), Spacewreck: Ghostships [sic] and Derelicts of Space (The Hamlyn Group, 1979), and Starliners: Commercial Spacetravel [sic] in 2200 AD (The Hamlyn Group, 1980)
**Along with – at least for a brief stint – contempory sci-fi illustrator Chris Foss (covers: progs 953955, and prog 953’s Judge Dredd story Jigsaw)
†Not the Pennsylvania Railroad passenger train, which was named after the plane in the same year

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No. 209 – The Hanging Prisons of Sin-Sin

Right panel, top: artist’s impression of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon (photo: Alamy); right panel, bottom: Sing Sing Correctional Facility, New York (photo: Brett Weinstein)

Prog 165’s (1980) one-off futuregraph The 7 Wonders of the Galaxy* No. 4: The Hanging Prisons of Sin-Sin by Kevin O’Neill v the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, and Sing Sing Correctional Facility, New York

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are traditionally thought to have been created in the city of Babylon in Mesopotamia (near Hillah in present-day Iraq) by Neo-Babylonian** King Nebuchadnezzar II (c. 605 BC–c. 562 BC), and have been described as a spectacular, ascending series of lush, tiered gardens constructed for his wife, Amuhia (or Amytis of Media, c. 630–565 BC), to assuage her homesickness for native Medea (present-day Iran). Some scholars place the actual site of the Hanging Gardens at Ninevah in northern Iraq, which would have, at the time, made them the property of the Babylonians’ neighbours and foes the Assyrians, and as such the brainchild of King Sennacherib (reigning 704–681 BC); the two sites having perhaps been confused in the mists of legend.

Sing Sing in 1857

Sing Sing maximum security prison, however, is very much under the purview of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, and very certainly located in village of Ossining†, about 48 km (30 miles) north of New York City on the east bank of the Hudson River. The prison has been in operation under one name or another since 1828, houses 2,000 inmates, and despite a brutal history is considered to be a model prison, due in part to its progressive educational and sports programs, and by whose standard other US correctional facilities are measured.

*Referring to the Seven Wonders of the Classical World: the Great Pyramid at Giza (Egypt), the Hanging Gardens of Babylon (Mesopotamia, modern Iraq), the Statue of Zeus at Olympia (Greece), the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus (Ancient Greek, located in modern Turkey), the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (Ancient Greek, located in modern Turkey), the Colossus of Rhodes (Rhodes, Greece) and the Lighthouse of Alexandria (Egypt)
**”Neo-” referring to the Second Babylonian Empire (626 BC–539 BC), as distinct from the First Babylonian Empire (or “Dynasty”, 1895 BC–539 BC) founded by King Hammurabi (c. 1810 BC–c. 1750 BC)
†Both the village and the name of the prison are derived from the name of the Native American “Sinck Sinck” or “Sint Sinck” (Eastern Algonquian, lit. “stone upon stone”), a Wappinger tribe from New York and Connecticut, from whom the land was purchased in 1685

No. 208 – Rats

Prog 524’s (1987) Brendan McCarthy cover* for the Judge Dredd story Pit Rat** (progs 523–524), written by John Wagner and Alan Grant and drawn by Brett Ewins (1955–2015) v The Rats† (New English Library, 1974) by James Herbert OBE (1943–2013)

The first of a tetralogy of horror stories charting the spread of carnivorous, mutant rats that attack and devour humans in groups, The Rats was followed by Lair (New English Library) in 1979, Domain (Hodder & Stoughton) in 1984, and the graphic novel The City (Macmillan), illustrated by Ian Miller, in 1994.

Giant rampaging mutant rats is a modern twist on an age-old musophobic theme dating at least as far back as The Black Death (1347–1353), when the spread of the bacterium Yersinia pestis in an Oriental rat flea infestation of black rats originating in Central Asia resulted in the most devastating pandemic in human history, killing an estimated 200 million people.

Employed in part by Herbert as a metaphor for the degeneration of London’s suburbs‡, mutant rats have long been a staple of Judge Dredd stories and are employed in a similar vein, as harbingers of destruction and embodiments of pestilence, intelligent and malign; whether adapting to soar on Cursed Earth thermals and swoop en masse upon quarry, or cast as the venomous accomplice of the skeletal Fink Angel, for whom crippling poison was the prefered means to homicide.

Rats are indeed fairly intelligent animals – although not quite as intelligent as many believe – posessing basic problem solving abilities, and displaying a high degree of social intelligence such as food sharing and even freeing other rats from traps. They do make good pets, and have done so since at least the 19th century, presenting no more of a health risk than cats or dogs, and capable of learning tricks.

*The tagline “Like a Rat out of Hell!” may be a nod to Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell (Cleveland International/Epic, 1977), or then again, it’s also just an expression and maybe we’ve been at this too long
**Rentakill, the prizefighting rat in Pit Rat, is named after British pest control company Rentokil (now Rentokil Initial)
†Giant mutant rats in horror fiction are certainly not to be attributed to Herbert alone: Stephen King also deserves a mention for having a memorable go at the subject in his popular short story Graveyard Shift (Cavalier, 1970), collected in Night Shift (Doubleday, 1978) and released as Graveyard Shift (Paramount Pictures) in 1990
‡Much sophistication has been generously attributed to Herbert’s work in kindly hindsight, but basically a James Herbert novel was about as low as a schoolboy could go in the ’80s without having it confiscated, being deemed as it was, perilously close to pornography

No. 207 – Mr. Brass & Mr. Bland

Mr. Morris “Morrie” Brass (left panel, right) and Mr. Bland (left panel, left) in their first appearance in prog 265’s (1982) Rogue Trooper story The Body Looters, written by Gerry Finley-Day and drawn by Cam Kennedy v Mr. Wint (right panel, left; played by Bruce Glover) and Mr. Kidd (right panel, right; played by jazz musician Putter Smith in a rare acting role) from the James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever* (1971)

In Ian Fleming’s novel of the same name** (Jonathan Cape, 1956), Wint and Kidd are members of The Spangled Mob, an American Mafia family based in Las Vegas. In the film, however, they appear to be henchmen for the villain, Ernst Stavro Blofeld (played by Charles Grey (1928–2000)), head of international criminal organisation SPECTRE (SPecial Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion).

Mr. Brass and Mr. Bland prepare for a performance

Although Mr. Brass and Mr. Bland are Nu-Earth hackers, scavengers and looters without scruple or allegiance, who’d rather avoid confrontation let alone indulge in outright assassination; their manner, comportment and banter can’t help but put us in mind of these eccentric Bond villains.

*The seventh official James Bond film and Sean Connery’s sixth appearance as Bond
**The fourth Bond book

No. 206 – Valley of the Gods

Valley of the Kings image ©National Geographic

Prog 163’s (1980) one-off futuregraph The 7 Wonders of the Galaxy* No. 2: Valley of the Gods by Kevin O’Neill v Valley of the Kings, Egypt**

Map of the East Valley

In the heart of the Theban Necropolis and standing on the west bank of the Nile River, this valley was for a period of nearly 500 years the resting place for the Pharaohs and powerful nobles of the Egyptian New Kingdom†. Almost all of the tombs – ranging in size from a simple pit to a complex tomb with over 120 chambers – have long since plundered, but what remains still provides an idea of the opulence and power of the Pharaohs. New tombs are still being discovered and excavated, including one in 2005 and another in 2008.

Abu Simbel

O’Neill has taken some physical characteristics of the East Valley – where the tombs are located, but which contains little in the way of giant statues – and incorporated features of other Ancient Egyptian landmarks such as the temples of Abu Simbel, located farther south near the border with present-day Sudan.

There is a Valley of the Queens, where the wives of the Pharaohs were buried, located nearby, close to what archeologists believe is a sacred grotto dedicated to Hathor, Ancient Egyptian goddess epitomising joy, music, feminine love and motherhood.

*Referring to the Seven Wonders of the Classical World: the Great Pyramid at Giza (Egypt), the Hanging Gardens of Babylon (Mesopotamia, modern Iraq), the Statue of Zeus at Olympia (Greece), the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus (Ancient Greek, located in modern Turkey), the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (Ancient Greek, located in modern Turkey), the Colossus of Rhodes (Rhodes, Greece) and the Lighthouse of Alexandria (Egypt)
**Not to be confused with the Valley of the Gods, Utah, US – well, in terms of O’Neill’s scale, maybe a little bit
†In conventional Egyptian chronology: Old Kingdom: c. 2686–2181 BC (so-called “Age of the Pyramids”), Middle Kingdom: c. 2050–1710 BC, New Kingdom: c. 1570–1069 BC

No. 205 – The Platinum Horde

Left: prog 217 cover art by Mike McMahon; right: Yuan dynasty (14th century) Genghis Khan portrait (artificially coloured) courtesy National Palace Museum, Taipei, Taiwan

His Supreme Bloodthirstyness [sic] King Gargantua the Diminutive of the Karbongian Empire and his Platinum Horde from prog 217’s (1981) Tharg’s Future Shocks: The Last Rumble of the Platinum Horde, written by Alan Moore and drawn by John Higgins v Genghis Khan [Mongolian: “Universal Leader”; pronounced “jengis h’aan”], born Temüjin [Mongolian: “iron”] Borjigin (c. 1162–1227), founder and first Great Khan of the Mongol Empire, the largest – if somewhat short-lived – empire in history until the British Empire*

The Platinum Horde is a reference to The Golden Horde**, a vast Mongolian khanate (chiefdom or principality) established by Genghis’ grandson Batu (c. 1207–1255) in the 13th century, originating as the northwestern sector of the Mongol Empire and at its height encompassing most of Eastern Europe from the Urals to the Danube River, extending east deep into Siberia, and in the south bordering the Black Sea and the Caucasus Mountains.

Timur

If a “last rumble” could be historically attributed to anyone’s horde, however, it really deserves to go to that at the head of which sat mighty Amir† Timur (1336–1405) – the lesser-known [these days, at any rate] but nonetheless extraordinary last of the great Mongol conquerors – also known as Tamerlane‡ (more pointedly referred to in Europe as “Tamerlane the Great” or “Tamerlane the Destroyer”), a Turco-Mongol warlord proclaiming himself heir to the Mongol Empire (though only tenuously related to the Borjigin line), and carving out his own empire comprising modern-day Iran, the Caucasus, Mesopotamia, Afghanistan, much of Central Asia, as well as parts of contemporary India (where he founded the Mughal – a Persian/Arabic corruption of the word “Mongol” – Dynasty (1526–1540, 1555–1857)), Pakistan, Syria and Turkey.

Temüjin

*Mongol Empire: 24 million km² (9.27 million mi²), ruling 110 million people; British Empire: 35.5 million km² (13.71 million mi²), ruling 533 million people
**Not to be confused with the celebrated Irish band of the same name (1982–1994), as well one might
†Amir (or “emir”) meaning “commander”, “general”, or “king” – aristocratic, noble and military title used in Arab countries and Afghanistan
‡A composite of “Timur”, his given name, Uzbek Chaghatay also meaning “iron”, and the Persian  “-i-leng”, meaning “the lame”, combined to form “Timur-i-leng”, or “Timur the Lame”, anglicised as “Tamerlane”; referring to the result of a battlefield arrow wound

 

No. 204 – The Colossus of Rodium

Colossus of Rhodes image courtesy Patrimonios del Mundo

Prog 162’s (1980) one-off furturegraph The Wonders 7 of the Galaxy* [No. 1]: The Colossus of Rodium by Kevin O’Neill v the Colossus of Rhodes [Ancient Greek: ὁ Κολοσσὸς Ῥόδιος]

Idealised but highly inaccurate 19th century engraving

Considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and certainly the tallest statue of the antiquity at 33 metres (108 feet) high – approximately the height of the Statue of Liberty – the Colossus of Rhodes, a statue of the Greek sun-god Helios**, was constructed by sculptor Chares of Lindos in 280 BC in the city of Rhodes on the island of the same name, to celebrate Rhodes’ victory over Antigonus I Monophthalmus (382–301 BC), the ruler of Cyprus whose son, Demetrius I (aka “Poliorcetes”, 337–283 BC), unsuccessfully besieged Rhodes in 305 BC. The statue collapsed during an earthquake in 226 or 227 BC, and although parts of it remained it was never rebuilt†, and the actual location of the original remains in dispute.

Popular depictions of the statue standing astride Rhodes harbour, gleaming in bronze and holding a torch are flights of medieval fancy as the size, weight and composition imagined would have certainly caused the structure to collapse under its own weight; not to mention the fact that Rhodes harbour would have had to be closed to business for several years during construction. The most accurate depictions of how it may have looked are those along the lines of that pictured at the top of this entry.

O’Neill has also incorporated another wonder of the ancient world, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, or Pharos of Alexandria [Ancient Greek: ὁ Φάρος τῆς Ἀλεξανδρείας], built in Egypt during the reign Ptolemy II Philadelphus (280–247 BC).

*Referring to the Seven Wonders of the Classical World: the Great Pyramid at Giza (Egypt), the Hanging Gardens of Babylon (Mesopotamia, modern Iraq), the Statue of Zeus at Olympia (Greece), the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus (Ancient Greek, located in modern Turkey), the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (Ancient Greek, located in modern Turkey), the Colossus of Rhodes (Rhodes, Greece) and the Lighthouse of Alexandria (Egypt)
**Deity and personification of the Sun in Greek mythology
†Following the earthquake, the statue lay in place for nearly eight centuries before being sold off by invaders. Modern plans to rebuild the statue, proposed by a group of European architects in 2015, appear to have been abandoned