No. 226 – The Pioneer

Prog 302’s (1983) one-off story The Pioneer written by Alan Hebden and drawn by Jesús Redondo [Román] v The Twilight Zone (CBS, 1959–1964) episode A Hundred Yards Over the Rim (season two, episode 23; aired 7 April, 1961)

“Pen-ee-cil-in?”

While for the most part identical, the stories mentioned above differ insofar as Christian Horn (played by Cliff Robertson, 1923–2011) in Over the Rim absently bequeaths to his benefactors an antique (in their time) rifle[1], whereas in the 2000 AD story Horn’s counterpart, Josiah Barnes, insists on paying for the penicillin he is given for his sick son with an 1847 silver dollar. Only 140,750 “Seated Liberty” silver dollars were struck at the Philadelphia Mint in 1847, and are valued today between £236 ($300) in a grade of Very Good-8, and upwards of £2,130 ($2,700) in uncirculated grades; proofs[2] are scarce and are worth £20,480 ($26,000) or more.

Famously created, narrated and largely written[3] by Rodman Edward Serling (1924–1975), the predominantly science-fiction and highly influential anthology television series was ranked in 2013 by the Writers Guild of America the third best-written TV series ever, and in 2016 by Rolling Stone No. 7 in its list of the 100 greatest shows of all time.

Notes:

  1. Although A Hundred Yards Over the Rim is initially set in 1847, the Springfield 45-70 Trapdoor Rifle Horn carries was first manufactured in 1884 – thank you, IMDb goofs
  2. The finest quality of coin produced by the United States Mint. The term “proof” refers to the coin’s finish: they are specially treated, hand-polished and cleaned to ensure high-quality strikes, and come with an official certificate of authenticity and are encased in a protective capsule
  3. Serling himself wrote or co-wrote 92 of the show’s 156 episodes

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No. 225 – The Secret Diary of Adrian Cockroach

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾ cover ©Methuen Publishing Ltd.

Robin Smith’s cover for the Judge Dredd story The Secret Diary of Adrian Cockroach, Aged 13½ Months, written by John Wagner and Alan Grant and drawn by Cam Kennedy from prog 458 (1986) v The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾ (1982) by Sue Townsend FRSL[1] (1946–2014)

The Adrian Mole books made Townsend the UK’s bestselling author in the 1980s, and inspired a BBC Radio 4 play, a television show (ITV, 1985–87), a West End theatre production (Wyndham’s Theatre, London, 1984–86) and a stage musical (Curve, Leicester, 2015; Menier Chocolate Factory, Southwark, London, 2017; Ambassadors Theatre, London, 15 June–12 October 2019).

The sequels to the The Secret Diary are The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole (Puffin Books/Methuen, 1984), The True Confessions of Adrian Albert Mole, Margaret Hilda Roberts and Susan Lilian Townsend[2] (Methuen, 1989), Adrian Mole and the Small Amphibians [newts, of course] (Methuen, 1991), Adrian Mole: The Wilderness Years [Adrian is 23¾] (Methuen, 1993), Adrian Mole: The Cappuccino Years [Adrian is 30] (Michael Joseph, 1999), Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction [Adrian is 33¾] (Michael Joseph, 2004) and Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years [Adrian is 39¼] (Michael Joseph, 2009).

Notes:

  1. Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature (elected 1993)
  2. Yes, that is the actual title, including the author’s name

No. 224 – Not-So-Great Wall

US-Mexican barrier image ©Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters

Prog 2125’s (2019) Grey Area (written by Dan Abnett) cover by Mark Harrison v President Donald Trump’s proposed[1] US-Mexican border wall

Existing barrier (December 2018)

The US-Mexican border is nearly 3,000 km (2,000 miles) long and hosts at present about 1,000 km (650 miles) of one form of barrier or another, up to a height of nine metres (30 ft), mostly constructed under the [George W.] Bush administration. The cost[2] of President Trump’s proposed wall is conservatively estimated at $16 million (£12 million) per mile with a total price tag of $15 billion (£11.5 billion) to $25 billion (£19 billion), with maintenance costs of up to $750 million (£574 million) a year, not including the price of private land acquisitions that could push that total cost much higher, with manned patrols and surveillance adding further long-term costs.

The treatment of undocumented immigrants, particularly children, in US detention centres sparked widespread condemnation in 2018, and Trump administration claims of criminality among illegal immigrants from Latin American countries – immigration status notwithstanding – are wildly and demonstrably exaggerated.

“XeNO!”[3]

The cost/benefit debate of a US-Mexican border wall rests to some extent on differing interpretations of a report on The Economic and Fiscal Consequences of Immigration issued by the US National Academy of Sciences in 2016, which states that while first generation illegal immigration can place a strain the economy, second and third generation immigrants, however, benefit the economy to a degree that largely nullifies those initial negative effects, although those benefits would be distributed unevenly between native US citizens who own more capital and those who own less. On a practical level, studies conducted by Texas A&M University and Texas Tech University indicate that the wall is unlikely to be effective at reducing illegal immigration or the movement of contraband.

The tagline “Brave New World?” on the prog cover is a reference to Aldous Huxley’s (1894–1963) novel Brave New World[4] (Chatto & Windus, 1932), concerning a futuristic utopian society challenged by a single outsider.

Donald Trump also features in HoH No. 114 – This Stuff is Gold!

Notes:

  1. At time of posting the Trump administration has completed no new mileage of fencing or other barriers anywhere on the border, and has only replaced existing fencing
  2. Both the current Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and his predecessor, Enrique Peña Nieto, have emphatically refused to fund the construction of a border wall
  3. “XeNO!” is a reference to Xenomorph XX121, designed by Swiss artist H.R. Giger (1940–2014) for Alien (20th Century Fox, 1979)
  4. “New World,” in the context of the Grey Area tagline, is probably also a reference to the European colonisation of the Americas after their discovery by Christopher Columbus [Italian: Cristoforo Colombo, Spanish: Cristóbal Colón] (1451–1506) in 1492; although the term Mundus Novus was first coined by his successor and fellow Italian countryman, Florentine explorer Amerigo Vespucci (1454–1512), who discovered the continental American mainland (although “America” is not named after him, but is a Spanish derivation of the Icelandic name for North America, “Markland” (Icelandic: “the Outback”), as in “A-Mark-ia”, and as such named by Columbus himself, who visited Iceland in 1477-78, gathering there acounts of the American mainland’s existence [Graeme Davis, Vikings in America (Birlinn, 2009)])

No. 223 – First Blood

“Slab” (Special Labour Auxiliary Bio-engineered) clone soldier (left panel, left) from The Ballad of Halo Jones Book 3 (progs 452466 (1986)), Chapter 9: The Gravity of the Situation (prog 460), written by Alan Moore and drawn by Ian GibsonJohn J. Rambo[1] portrayed by Sylvester Stallone

Rambo[2] first appeared on the silver screen in First Blood (Orion Pictures, 1982), based on the novel of the same name (M. Evans, 1972) by David Morrell, and subsequently in Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), Rambo III (TriStar Pictures, 1988), Rambo (Lionsgate Films, 2008) and Rambo: Last Blood (Lionsgate Films, 2019).

Author Morrell was heavily influenced while writing First Blood by Geoffrey [Edward West] Household’s (1900–1988) thriller novel Rogue Male (Chatto & Windus, 1939), and the character of Rambo was based partly on US war hero First Lieutenant Audie [Leon] Murphy, one of the most decorated US soldiers of the Second World War (1939–1945).

First Blood is arguably the most thoughtful film of the series – it projects the most pathos and contains the least amount of violence – and it seems that Moore is here expressing his disdain for what he considers the sequel’s inevitable degeneration into a crass action film franchise.

Interestingly, the main concourse of Moab’s Mess Complex in prog 460’s Halo Jones is dominated by a statue of Lot’s wife [unnamed but called “Ado” or “Edith” in some Jewish traditions], who in the Bible (Genesis 19) disobeyed God by looking back at the city of Sodom,[3] having fled it with her husband, and was turned into a pillar of salt for her sin. Moab’s mineral wealth is a key strategic factor in Earth’s ongoing war with or in the Tarantula Nebula,[4] and presumably a principle founding tenet of the Moabite religion is “Never look back [to sinful Earth].” The historic Moabite culture (east of the Dead Sea in modern Jordan) was frequently in conflict with its Israelite neighbours; all this subtly hinting in Halo Jones at an eons-old struggle – possibly religious in origin – of dubious legality and morality, with a whiff of entitlement. Moore never actually spells it out, and neither shall we.

Notes:

  1. Rambo is named after the Rambo apple cultivar (a plant with desirable attributes produced by selective breeding and cultivation), a supply of which Morrell’s wife provided while he was brainstorming names for the character, who is given no first name in the novel
  2. It is never stated what rank Rambo holds, but judging from the crossed arrows (officer) insignia on the lapel of his army alpha dress green uniform – and given that he is based partly on 1st Lt. Murphy – he is probably a former First Lieutenant (or possibly Captain) with the United States Army Special Forces
  3. Probably once located near Mount Sodom (technically a hill) at the southwest end of the Dead Sea, Israel
  4. Located in the Dorado constellation, 159,800 light years from Earth

No. 222 – Heavy Weather

Maniacal composer Carl Heinz Pilchards-in-Tomato-Sauce Clayderman from the Judge Dredd story The Weather Man (progs 329330 (1983)), written by John Wagner and Alan Grant and drawn by Ron Smith (1924–2019) v French pianist Richard Clayderman (born Philippe Pagès)

Clayderman was a child prodigy at tickling the ivories, accompanying in his youth celebrated French crooners Johnny Hallyday (born Jean-Philippe Léo Smet, 1943–2017) and Michel Sardou, as well as working as a bank clerk to make ends meet, before achieving fame with the song Ballade pour Adeline, composed by Paul de Senneville and Olivier Toussaint in 1976. Pagès’ name was changed to Clayderman (his great-grandmother’s surname) for the release of the single to avoid mispronunciation of his real name by audiences abroad.

Wagner seems to have assumed that Richard Clayderman is German[1], although he may have thrown into the mix a little of mad inventor C. A. Rotwang (Rudolf Klein-Rogge, 1885–1955) from Fritz Lang’s (1890–1976) Metropolis (Ufa/Parufamet, 1927) together with a dollop of [Władziu] Valentino Liberace’s (1919–1987) flamboyance.[2]

Notes:

  1. Certainly sounds German – hell, he even looks German
  2. There is also a contemporaneous Austrian composer named Heinz Karl Gruber, but at this point we’re simply guessing who on earth Wagner had in mind while conjuring up Carl Heinz Clayderman

No. 221 – Porcine, Moi?

Miss Piggy image courtesy ABC/John E. Barrett/The Muppets Studio

Princess Gadarina (prog 390’s (1984) “Star Fry-Up“) from the Ace Trucking Co. story On the Dangle[1] (progs 378386), written by John Wagner and Alan Grant and drawn by Massimo Belardinelli (1938–2007) v Miss Piggy of The Muppet Show (ITC Entertainment, 1976–1981), created by Jim Henson[2] (1936–1990)

Inspired by jazz and popular music singer/songwriter Peggy Lee (née Norma Deloris Egstrom, 1920–2002), Miss Piggy has in more recent times become a feminist icon, having in 2015 alone broken off her long-standing but intermittent relationship[4] with Kermit the Frog, written an article entitled “Miss Piggy: Why I Am a Feminist Pig” for Time, and received a Sackler Center First Award from the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum, New York. Announcing the news, the award’s namesake, public historian and arts activist, Elizabeth Sackler, stated that Miss Piggy was the embodiment of “spirit, determination, and grit,” who had taught millions of people valuable lessons about overcoming obstacles.

Notes:

  1. On the dangle: fictional trucker slang for “on the lam,” meaning “on the run [from the law]”
  2. Miss Piggy was performed by master puppeteer Frank Oz from 1976–2002 and by Eric Jacobson since 2001
  3. Possibly a reference to Romeo’s famous line in William Shakespeare’s (1564–1616) tragedy Romeo and Juliet (c. 1591–1595), “But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?” (Act II, Scene II)
  4. We are now, officially, a hack

No. 220 – The Flying Dutchman

The Flying Dutchman image courtesy Delaware Art Museum

Prog 459’s (1986) Brett Ewins (1955–2015) cover for the Judge Dredd story The Last Voyage of the Flying Dutchman, written by John Wagner and drawn by Bryan Talbot v German opera Der fliegende Holländer by Richard Wagner (1813–1883), here represented by Howard Pyle’s[1] (1853–1911) The Flying Dutchman (1900)

Legendary ghost ship the Flying Dutchman (Dutch: De Vliegende Hollander) is said to glow with an otherworldly light and is doomed to sail the oceans forever, forbidden to make port. Sighting the Dutchman is generally regarded a portent of ill fate, and when hailed by another ship the crew of the Dutchman purportedly attempts to communicate messages to land. Although not based on any actual vessel, ghostly or otherwise, the legend probably originates in the 17th century “golden age” of the Dutch East India Company (Dutch: Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, [lit. “United East Indian Company”] (VOC)), and sightings of the Dutchman have been reported well into the 20th century.

The theme of Richard Wagner’s opera, alluded to in the tagline[2] on the prog’s cover, is one of redemption through love: the ghostly captain of the Dutchman, having once invoked Satan, is doomed thereafter to sail the oceans eternally and without respite. An angel, however, intercedes, offering the captain a chance at salvation by allowing him to make landfall once every seven years in order to find a wife who will be true to him, whereupon the curse shall be lifted.[3]

No, you’re not getting the trailer for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (Buena Vista Pictures, 2006), but the opera snippet below is only 2.17 minutes long[4] and seems to have been markedly influenced by the production design of the film:

Notes:

  1. List of works by Howard Pyle at Project Gutenberg
  2. The tagline is either an editorial in-joke or an oversight: John Wagner wrote the story under the pseudonym T.B. Grover
  3. Are you ever going to watch it? No, nor us [spoiler alert]: the curse gets lifted
  4. Depending on the production, Der fliegende Holländer can last anywhere up to three and a half hours

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