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. 177 – Disco Fever

Prog 301’s Rogue Trooper cover for the story Fort Neuro (progs 291310 (1982–83)) written by Gerry Finley-Day and drawn by Brett Ewins (1955–2015) v John Badham’s Saturday Night Fever (1977) theatrical poster

Dancing queens Britt, Agnetha and Ingrid

Saturday Night Fever is based on an entirely fabricated article by British writer Nik Cohn published in New York magazine in 1976 entitled Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night. New to the United States and assigned to write about the disco lifestyle, the utterly bewildered Cohn invented the character of Tony Moreno (played by John Travolta in the film) who was based on an English mod acquaintance. Despite the subterfuge the film nonetheless significantly popularized disco music internationally and made Travolta a household name.

The film features music by British pop band the Bee Gees, formed in 1958, and their theme tune Stayin’ Alive became the title for Sylvester Stallone’s considerably less successful sequel in 1983.

Fort Neuro also gives a nod to Swedish pop sensation ABBA, formed in 1972, who dominated the pop charts until 1982.

ABBA (pictured here in 1978) members (left to right) Björn Ulvaeus with wife (m. 1971; div. 1980) Agnetha Fältskog, [Norwegian born] Anni-Frid Lyngstad with husband (m. 1978; div. 1981) Benny Andersson