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. 222 – Heavy Weather

Karlheinz Stockhausen [right panel, top] photo by Kathinka PasveerRichard Clayderman [right panel, bottom] photo ©Union Square Music [probably – no one attibutes photos properly any more]

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 visionary and controversial German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928–2007) and 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.

Eschewing traditional musical forms, Karlheinz Stockhausen began composing in the early 1950s and produced 376 performable works, and is renowned for his groundbreaking experimental work in electronic music, for introducing controlled chance (aleatory techniques or aleatoric musical techniques[1]) into serial composition, and for musical spatialization or Raummusik [German, lit. “space music”[2]].

Notes:

  1. Music in which some element of the composition is left to chance
  2. Projection and localisation of sound sources in physical or virtual space or sound’s spatial movement in space

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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No. 219 – ’60s Night at The Capon Club

Mick Jagger performing (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction[1] (London Records/Decca Records, 1965) with The Rolling Stones in May 1976, in Zuiderpark Stadion, The Hague, Netherlands (photo: Bert Verhoeff/Anefo, Nationaal Archief)

Tribute act from the Ace Trucking Co. story The Doppelgarp (progs 451472 (1986)) in prog 467, written by John Wagner and Alan Grant and drawn by Massimo Belardinelli (1938–2007) v Mick Jagger, lead singer of The Rolling Stones

The Capon[2] Club featured in The Doppelgarp probably isn’t so much based on the famous Cotton Club nightclub in Harlem, New York, as it is on The Cotton Club, Chicago; a branch of the original run by mobster Ralph “Bottles” Capone, Sr. (1894–1974), older brother to the notorious Alphonse “Al” Gabriel Capone (aka Scarface, 1899–1947), boss of the Italian-American organized crime syndicate, the Chicago Outfit, during Prohibition[3] (1920–1933).

The character Al Capon from Ace Trucking Co. is probably based on Paul Muni’s (born Frederich Meshilem Meier Weisenfreund, 1895–1967) portrayal of Tony Camonte in Scarface (United Artists, 1932).[4]

Notes:

  1. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction was the first Stones’ No. 1 in the US charts and their fourth in the UK, initially only played on pirate radio stations in the UK due to the its sexually suggestive lyrics
  2. A cockerel that has been castrated to improve the quality of its flesh for food and, in some countries, fattened by forced feeding
  3. A nationwide constitutional ban on the production, importation, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages in the US
  4. ‘Cause he certainly doesn’t look like the man himself. Got a better idea? Let us know

No. 217 – The Big Sleep

Flip Marlowe, private eye (“the ‘eye’ stands for ‘intimidator'”), from the Judge Dredd story The Big Sleep (progs 466467 (1986)) written by John Wagner and Alan Grant and drawn by Cam Kennedy v The Big Sleep (1946) starring Humphrey Bogart (1899–1957) as private investigator Philip Marlowe

Marlowe was brainchild of Anglo-American detective fiction writer Raymond Chandler (1888–1959), and several of his earlier detectives stories featuring characters named either Carmady or John Dumas were later changed to Marlowe due to the character’s popularity. The [completed] novels featuring Marlowe as an original character are: The Big Sleep (Alfred A. Knopf, 1939), Farewell, My Lovely (Alfred A. Knopf, 1940), The High Window (Alfred A. Knopf, 1942), The Lady in the Lake (Alfred A. Knopf, 1943), The Little Sister (Hamish Hamilton/Houghton Mifflin, 1949), The Long Goodbye (Hamish Hamilton/Houghton Mifflin, 1953), and Playback (Hamish Hamilton/Houghton Mifflin, 1958).

Despite the success of Farewell, My Lovely (AVCO Embassy Pictures, 1975), starring Robert Mitchum (1917–1997) as Marlowe, The Big Sleep was remade (United Artists) in 1978, again starring Mitchum as Marlowe, to a very cold critical and commercial reception.

Bogie also features in HoH No. 148 – That’s S-P-A-D-E to You and No. 172 – Play It Again, Sam, Playlist.

No. 216 – The Blob

The Blob written by Alan Grant and drawn by John Higgins from the Judge Dredd Mega-Special 1988 v cult classic B-movie The Blob (1958) starring Steve McQueen (1930–1980) in his feature film debut

The film The Blob also bears a striking resemblance to a story in the Judge Dredd Annual 1982 called The Vampire Effect, written by John Wagner and drawn by Mike McMahon, wherein an alien entity that is composed of and gorges on energy, is physically diminished by liquid xenon (-244ºC), lured through the streets of Mega-City One with gunfire while the power along its path is cut off in stages, lead to and ultimately trapped inside a spacecraft launch silo where it overindulges on rocket fuel to the point of combustion. Slightly on the wrong side of cost-effective but considerably easier than flying it all the way to the arctic ice deserts to be buried in stasis.

The Blob was remade in 1988 (TriStar Pictures), performing poorly but acquiring a modest cult following; and a third remake is in the pipeline with Jack H. Harris, the producer of the original, as executive producer.

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