Part 2 : The Solo StripsBack in 1978 (or 2100 AD depending on your point of view) during Dredd's term as Judge-Marshal of the Luna-1 our hero began having his own series of solo adventures. Comic misadventures would be more accurate as the humour was more pun and gag orientated than the black humour of Judge Dredd. These one page stips were, with only a few exceptions, published on the back cover of 2000 AD. In these days of full colour progs it's easy to forget that for years the only colour found in 2000 AD was in the two centre pages and the front and back covers. Thereby making Walter the Wobot the first 2000 AD story to be published entirely in colour. This is also where I swiped the graphic for the top of my Walter pages The stories themselves varied between one pages leading to a punchline and short multipart pieces. Scripts were credited to Joe Collins and G.P. Rice though if these were psuedonyms for John Wagner, Pat Mills or the actual writers names I have no idea. Anyone wanting to clarify that can write to me, Mark Latus. The majority of the strips were drawn by Brian Bolland with exceptions for the initial and final episodes. Ian Gibson did the first two while Brendan McCarthy did the last two. All the stories are set on Luna-1 with the exception of the final 2 parter which occurs while Dredd is away on the Cursed Earth Mission. Without further ado here's the synopses, click the highlighted portions for graphics.
Prog 50 : Tap Dancer A simple gag strip with Walter taking an oil bath before attending a fancy dress ball. Unfortunately he encounters an unusual problem and has to call a plumber.
Prog 51 : Shoot Pool Even a servo-robot needs to relax occasional so why not try a good old fashioned dip in a pool? Which only goes to show it's a good idea to check your assumptions at the door or you get stuck with a large bill.
Progs 52-56 : Walter's Brother To tired to watch his built in TV Walter's relaxation in front of Dredd's set is interupted by a shocking news bulletin. Perhaps having watched ancient reruns of The Fugitive recently Walter disguises himself and scrams after leaving Dredd the following note. "Dear Judge Dwedd, it's a fwame up! Walter. PS Dinner's in the Fwidge". Proving that Walter writes with a lisp too. Walter obviously isn't cut out for life on the mean streets as he is accosted by a mugger with a screwdriver in a lonely alleyway. The mugger is unhappy to discover that all Walter is carrying is newspaper clippings of Judge Dredd but realizes he can profit from the situation by turning Walter in for the reward. But Fate intervenes. The second Walter announces three's a crowd and disposes of the unlucky mugger. Revealing himself to be Gus, Walter's brother he drags his sibling away to an unknown destination. Walter finds himself taken to the Servo Robot Construction Unit of the Interglobal Hardware Company, his birthplace. Gus explains his beef with Walter and his plan to take Walter's place as Dredd's sidekick by framing Walter. To make sure his brother won't contradict his story he's going to feed him into the Reject Robot Deactivator first. Gus's plan for vengeance comes to an abrupt end when the conveyer stops and the robots' mother intervenes. Suffering the fate he had intended for his brother Gus is deactivated and recycled. His reputation saved Walter returns home with a present from his Mother for Judge Dredd.
Prog 57 : Radio Walter Walter evidently didn't learn his lesson about avoiding pirate media after the You bet Your Life incident. It's the only reason he would agree to appear as the mystery guest on Pirate Radio Funk. Unfortunately for DJ O.B. Noxious Dredd overheard Walter dedicating his favourite track (from a Gwateful Dead tape) on a mump's (no, that's not a mispelling) shoulder radio. Resulting in this hotline call to the station.
Prog 58 : Master-mind Evidentally Dredd let Walter off the hook for the previous week's escapade as he was free to appear on the legitamate TV show Masterbrain. Walter did surprisngly well but that can be largely put down to his choice of topic.
Progs 59-61, 67-68 : The Fwankenheim Monster The only Walter strip to be reprinted in altered form this six parter appeared in Titan's first Judge Dredd collection as a 3 parter minus parts 3,4 & 6. Part 2 's last line was changed from "Frankenheim's Monster" to "Mind Switch" and part 5 was supposedly "The Vewy End" On to the story; After winning a chess game (Walter wouldn't dare try to beat Dredd) the Judge annouces he's going to get some sleep. Walter's attempt to read him a bedtime story (The 3 Widdle Pigs) doesn't go over very well and Walter decides to go out to the Luna-City Hyper-Market and get him some powwidge for breakfast. Unfortunately he runs into Ygor outside the Lunar Morgue. Ygor takes Walter to his master but Doc Frankenheim (who probably looks very familiar to fans of Don Martin in his Mad Magazine days) has no use for a servorobot. Walter tries to sneak away but Doc Frankenheim has other ideas. Walter becomes an unwilling witness to Frankenheim's mad experiment, transfering Ygor's mind into the body he has stitched together. Walter makes a break for it but when he neutralises the magnetic attraction his escape doesn't go as smoothly as planned. Ygor is unhappy at losing his chance to be handsome and is about to destroy Walter when Frankenheim announces that nobody has ever tried human-robot mind switching before so why not give it a try? The Doctor's can opener not being up to the task of opening a robot's head Frankenheim decides to go ahead without checking Walter's brain. But first he has to talk Ygor into it. His wicked experiment concluded Doc Frankenheim is ready to takes his place in the Mad Scientists' Hall of Infamy. Unfortunately for him, but fortunately for Walter something went wrong. There was one major bug in the system. Ygor isn't ugly anymore but as he says in the final episode he now has a "grizzly visage". Unable to bear his predicament Ygor makes a rapid exit. Enraged by this and blaming Walter for everything that went wrong Frankenheim tries to push Walt out the window. Unfortunately his timing is off and Doc Frankenheim's mad schemes come crashing to earth.
Progs 84-85 : Walter vs Mek-Quake After mistaking a coatrack for Maria our hero realizes his scanner needs fixing. Unfortunately the part it needs is out stock and the technician's temporary solution results in an unfortunate case of mistaken identity. Damaged by the autograph seekers souvenir hunt Walter is mistaken for a vagrant and taken to the Robot Pound. With busy Dredd in the Cursed Earth Walter isn't collected and after his 24 hours are up is sent for destruction at \ the claws of the Ro Busters nemesis Mek-Quake! Meanwhile Maria has been wondering where Walter got to and finally tries the robot pound. The Judges on duty are alarmed to find out they've just sent Dredd's robot to Mek-Quake. They rush into the pound but see Mek-Quake doing his trademark "Big Jobs" on Walter and figure it's too late. Luckily for Walter Maria doesn't give up so easily.
That's it for the solo strips. There was also a solo Walter story in the 1981 Judge Dredd annual done as a homeage to Will Eisner's The Spirit that I'm trying to track down. It might have been reprinted in the Metal Fatigue collection but the only copy I know of around Halifax is at one of the public libraries and out on loan. Anyway besides featuring the last solo strip Prog 85 also concluded Judge Dredd's Cursed Earth Mission. He would return to Walter and Mega City 1 in the next issue and hardly have time to catch his breath before The Day the Law Died kicked off. An epic Walter would play a major part in. But first Dredd had to deal with being framed for murder. On to the Walter the Hewo page.
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Comments on page to Mark Latus