Thursday, 31 January 2013

Harlem Heroes, Part 1

Following Giant's appearance in the second part of Judge Dredd: The Academy Of Law, we go back to the beginning with the first prog and...

Harlem Heroes, Part 1
(according to Wikipedia, this first part is also known as The Sport of Tomorrow)

2000 A.D. Programme 1

26 Feb 77

The first ever prog also featured the debut strips of Invasion, Dan Dare, Flesh and M.A.C.H.1, as well as a Tharg The Mighty cover by Kevin O'Neill, a Space Spinner free gift (below) and a preview of Prog 2.


Robo-Hunter 1, Sam Slade Robo-Hunter (Volume 2, Issue 12), 2000AD Annual 1983, 2000AD Extreme Edition 13, The Best Of 2000AD
and The Complete Harlem Heroes.

Harlem Heroes qualify for the World Aeroball Championship, but a crash kills three of them and leaves another wounded.

First appearance of aeroball, the Harlem Heroes, Giant, Slim, Hairy, Louis, the sports commentator and the nurse.

(The year is not explicity stated except to say that aeroball has swept the world "By the year 2050")

Aeroball is a sport that combines football, boxing, kung fu and basketball. Players fly through the air using jet packs and score "air strikes" by getting the ball in the opposite team's "score tank". The jet packs are controlled by buttons on the player's belts, can reach speeds of least 80 mph and the jet exhaust can burn whatever it comes into contact with. The gas-filled steel ball enters play from a launcher which raises up from under the stadium. There are recoil surfaces near the ceiling and the umpire floats about the area of play in a pod. Flank attacks, ground-rushes and kung-fu drop kicks are all permitted tactics. There is a World Aeroball Championship. The Harlem Heroes and the Greek City Gladiators are among the competing teams. There are also teams in countries like Germany, Japan and Britain.

The Harlem Heroes are one of the top teams. The seven players fly in a famous 'H' formation. They don't wear body armour, which although it makes them more vulnerable, allows them to be more agile. Named players: 'Giant', Slim, Hairy and Louis Mayer.

In the preliminary round of the World Aeroball Championship, the Harlem Heroes beat the Greek City Gladiators with a final score of eight air strikes to two. They are through to the first round of the World Aeroball Championship. After the game, the Harlem Heroes leave in their hover-powered 'road-liner'. The hover unit cuts out, they skid off the road and crash. Three of the players are killed.

The Captain of the Harlem Heroes. He scores at least one air strike in the game against the Greek City Gladiators. 'Giant' survives the crash.

He scores at least one air strike just before time run out. He survives the crash.

The centre-blocker of the Harlem Heroes. Despite his name he is bald. He survives the crash.

He is driving the team's hover-powered 'road-liner' when it crashes. He survives the crash, but his body is beyond repair and his brain is stored in a tank. He can still communicate. His case number is 555. He insists that the Harlem Heroes can still win the World Aeroball Championship.

He provides commentary for Aeroball games, describing the action for listeners.

She works on a special ward dedicated to treating disembodied brains.

Three unnamed Harlem Heroes.

Fan: "Strike Eight...with a beautiful drop in! The old Harlem Globetrotters couldn't have topped that!"

True, but then they also didn't have jet packs.

Nurse: "We were unable to save Case Number 555's body. However his brain is quite healthy and he can communicate with you thanks to the mircles of modern medicine."

Bedside manner is apparently a thing of the past and refering to patient by their case number must be a dehumanising experience, disembodied brain or not.

"Hard in Harlem! Hit the heat! We heroes know we can't be beat!"

Rhyming chants will be a big part of this strip.


The Harlem Globetrotters, Roy Of The Rovers (1954), Rollerball (1975) and the 1958 munich air disaster, which left nine of Manchester United's 'Busby Babes' killed or sufficiently injured to prevent them from playing football again. The most famous use of jet packs is probably in the James Bond film, Thunderball (1965).

Brains are kept alive in jars throughout science fiction, such as H. P. Lovecraft's Mi-go aliens, first appearing in The Whisperer In Darkness (1931), can transplant human brains into a "brain cylinder". The novel Donovan's Brain by Curt Siodmak (1942), Roald Dahl's short story William And Mary (1960), The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1962), Star Trek's Spock's Brain (1968) and Doctor Who's The Brain Of Morbius (1976).

Surely an 80mph Kung-Fu drop kick to the chin would detach the recipient's head? Also Dave Gibbons and Carlos Trigo both draw the characters very differently.


Carlos Trigo drew this first strip, but apparently it wasn't what Pat Mills (or maybe Tharg) was after so Dave Gibbons came in and redrew the black and white pages, but the colour page remained (presumably for cost reasons).

There are no credits printed in the strip itself and so the following are taken from Barney.

Script: Tom Tully and Pat Mills
Artist: Dave Gibbons and Carlos Trigo (Page 5 only)
Letters: Dave Gibbons and Bill Nuttall

Tom Tully wrote for Harlem Heroes, Inferno, Dan Dare, The Mean Arena, The Mind Of Wolfie Smith and Thunderbolt and Smokey!. Away from 2000 AD he was the longest-running writer of Roy Of The Rovers

Pat Mills was 2000 AD's first editor (alongside Tharg obviously) for its first 16 progs and as such co-wrote the first parts of each of the strips that made up the first progs opening line up: Invasion, Dan Dare, Flesh, Harlem Heroes and M.A.C.H.1. He went on to create and write write for countless strips including: A.B.C. Warriors, Accident Man, American Reaper, Black Siddha, Brats Bizarre, Charley's War, Coffin, Deadlock, Defoe, Diceman, Dinosty, Judge Dredd, Finn, Greysuit, Marshal Law, Metalzoic, Muto Maniac, Nemesis The Warlock, Planet Of The Damned, Psycho Killer, Ronald Reagan, Ro-Busters, Rogue Trooper, Ro-Jaws' Robo-Tales, Savage, Sex Warrior, Shako, Slaine, Torquemada, Third World War, Vector 13, The Visible Man, Wagner's Walk and a couple of One-offs. He was also one of severals writers on Tharg The Mighty's A Night 2 Remember and served as editor of Diceman. His blog is here.

Dave Gibbons' art for Harlem Heroes is by far the most beautiful stuff in 2000 A.D.'s opening line up. He also worked on A.B.C. Warriors, Dan Dare, Judge Dredd, Ro-Busters, Rogue Trooper, Ro-Jaws' Robo-Tales, Time Twisters and Tharg's Future Shocks and often lettered his own work. He also drew 38 2000 A.D. covers, illustrated two Mega-City One text stories and was one of several artists to contribute to Tharg The Mighty strips, Tharg's Head Revisited and A Night 2 Remember. He has also written scripts for a three part story for Rogue Trooper called The War Machine. Away from 2000 AD, he did some wonderful work on Doctor Who and Watchmen.

Carlos Trigo provided artwork for this first part of Harlem Heroes, but apart from the last page it went unused. It eventually surfaced on the BBC website and in The Complete Harlem Heroes. He return to draw the first two parts of The Visible Man and Whatever happened to? Conrad Conn.

This strip is a lot of fun and the game sequences give a great impression of speed, which makes action sequences in other strips look slow. Dave Gibbons' art is fantastic and there is a very obvious drop in quality for the last page. The sports commentator is a great device and gets the exposition across with ease. This is a compelling start.

Take another PIC-TRIP into the Future with the Harlem Heroes in 2000 A.D. next week!
Take another PIC-TRIP into the Future with the Harlem Heroes here tomorrow!

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