Wednesday, 29 September 2010

I Have A Confession To Make (Again)

Starlord #1
Ignorance is supposed to be bliss but if you wander through life thinking something is right, or in this case not realising the significance of something, it can be a bit of a shock when the penny finally drops.

Back when I was a kid in the 70's, here in the UK we had a limited number of comics to choose from unless you were happy with the World War II titles such as Warlord, Battle Picture Weekly or Commando. I was a little too young to be allowed to read Action - my mum wouldn't buy it for me - so drifted into the science-fiction comic boom following the success of Star Wars.

Here you had two choices: the still-ongoing classic 2000AD and the sadly short-lived Starlord. For reasons that I can't really remember, I ended up getting Starlord rather than 2000AD (it was the 70's and we didn't have enough money for both titles!) but that was a problem that was solved a year or so later when the two titles merged.

Two series from Starlord carried over into the more successful 2000AD - Strontium Dog by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra which is still one of my favourite strips ever, and Ro-Busters by Pat Mills and a variety of artists.

Ro-Busters was a story about a team of robots, a disaster recovery squad who would go in to various situations too dangerous for humans to save the victims. While the team was headed up by Howard "Mr. Ten Per Cent" Quartz - a human brain in an otherwise robotic body, he routinely referred to himself as a human - the two lead characters that quickly established themselves as fan favourites were Ro-Jaws and Hammer-Stein. To help 2000AD readers acquaint themselves with the characters, their first story in their new home had these handy panels:

This was Ro-Jaws, the lovable rogue who swore (well, as much as you could in comics those days) and was the funny man of the team. The origin of his name is obvious: he's a robot with jaws. Ro-Jaws. Simple, eh?

If he was the funny man, the straight man was this guy:

Hammer-Stein, the big, tough, ex-army droid. His name obviously referred to the bloody great hammer that he had for a hand. The stein bit, I thought, just sounded cool

Together they'd go through various adventures, facing off against their annoying companion Mek-Quake on more than one occasion, becoming part of the ABC Warriors and eventually meeting up with Nemesis the Warlock. All brilliant stuff (okay, mostly) which, thanks to reprints, I've been able to read over the years and still enjoy them.

Which brings me back to the start of this post and my confession. To my mind for years on end, the characters were just Ro-Jaws and his mate Hammer-Stein. Simple as that.

A week ago, I was reading one of the reprints and, completely out of nowhere, it hit me.

Ro-Jaws and Hammer-Stein . . . 

Ro-Jaws and Hammer-Stein . . .

Rodgers and Hammerstein!

They were named after the songwriters responsible for Oklahoma!, South Pacific, The King and I, and - goddamit! - The Sound of Music!

How the hell did I miss that reference for the best part of 30 odd years?!?


  1. feck me!! hahaha, never saw that either..,


  2. Thank Cthulhu I'm not alone!

    Cheers, mate!


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