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The Helltrekkers

By José Ortiz

2000 AD prog 391 cover

By Robin Smith

The Helltrekkers was a strip by John Wagner, Alan Grant, José Ortiz (episode 1) and Horacio Lalia (episodes 2-29) which was first published in 2000 AD progs 387 to 415, and later republished as part of Judge Dredd: The Mega Collection. It told the story of 111 citizens from Mega-City One trekking across 2000 km of Cursed Earth in 28 rad-wagons to look for a new life in the New Territories. When a Judge warned them that "your chances of reaching the New Territories are minimal" their response was, "Better to die in hell than live in Mega-City One."

The trek got off to a bad start when the criminal Nebbs (on the run for stealing kneepads) shot a dinosaur, wanting to eat it, and started a stampede. This was on the very first day. Lanny Kelsey was killed by a swipe of a dinosaur tail. The trekkers held a service for him that night, singing 'Rock of Ages'. Chuck Kelsey, his brother, spoke movingly of how "He'd been saving for this trip for years" and "All he'd ever talk about was findin' a place where a man could feel free — alive." That night, a second trekker died — the child Wayne Scargille, eaten by a tyrannosaur. Lucas Rudd, an ex-leisure counsellor with six months' survival club training, began to doubt his fitness to lead the expedition.

On the second day wagon 9 was destroyed in a landslip caused by acid rain, and the Hemmingways (apart from baby Ernesto) were eaten by dinosaurs. On day three Spot Kelsey died of the black scab (a horrible disease). By day eight, 50 trekkers had died. On day nine, Titus Nebb shot a friendly mutant and the rest of the mutants threatened to crush the convoy with a rockslide, until Titus was handed over to them to be executed in return for safe passage. On day ten Otis and Judas Nebb attacked the Rudds in revenge for their brother's death, and were killed by Lucas and Amber. Their mother stayed in the Cursed Earth with their bodies.

On day eleven the convoy was attacked by mutants with guns who also caused a rockslide. Four trekkers were killed, and later that day Granacious Turtle was struck by lightning. On day thirteen the trekkers who had taken a detour through the seemingly harmless western plains rejoined the convoy, but they were all dead, only their rad-wagons still rolling. There wasn't a mark on their bodies but their faces were distorted by terror.

Later that day the trek reached the New Territories. Of the 111 trekkers who had set out, only 16 survived (but Amber Rudd was pregnant). Li Ho Koosh and his family established the New Territories' first mobile Chinese takeaway and Hymie Turtle became a preacher. On a poignant note, Bish and Futura Glemp's mutant crab-baby Crustacia swam away down a mountain stream and was never seen again.

The Helltrekkers were (divided into rad-wagons):

  • Rudd-1: Lucas Rudd (trekmaster; survived), Amber Rudd (survived), Bud Rudd (killed by mutant sniper) and Banjo Quint (guide; died of an infected wound caused by mutants halfway through the trek)
  • Diefenbaker-2: Pancho Diefenbaker and Hermeseta Diefenbaker (both died of Black Scab)
  • Ho Chi Minh-3: block co-op — the Bill and Rose Boyson, April and Tony Puce, Korky and Vikki Spillone, and Dave and Lana Knee. (Tony Puce, Vikki Spillone and the Knees died of Black Scab. April Puce and Bill Boyson were killed by mutants. Korky Spillone and Rose Boyson got married and were killed by lava less than 18 hours later.)
  • Turtle-4: Hymie Turtle (survived), Ami Turtle (survived), Granacious Turtle (struck by lightning and had a church named after her by her son, a lay preacher, when he reached the New Territories), Elijah Turtle (died of Black Scab) and Ruth Turtle (survived)
  • Lovejoy-5: Joy Lovejoy and Joey Lovejoy (both blown away by dust devil)
  • Bugner-6: Joey Bugner (killed by mutants); Happy Bugner, Plug Bugner, Dulce Bugner, Uncle Spug and Cousin Simp Bugner (all killed by unknown supernatural forces)
  • Scargille-7: Krystal Scargille (survived), Wayne Scargille (eaten by tyrannosaur), Lena Scargille, Bonny Scargille and Weena Scargille (survived)
  • Jumby-8: Mahatma Jumby and John Jumby (both killed by unknown supernatural forces)
  • Tosh-9: The Toshes and the Grahams (all killed in landslip, apart from Gritchen Tosh, who was melted by acid rain)
  • Doing-10: Esme Doing (killed by mutants) and Burt Doing (died of Black Scab)
  • Mountbatten-11: Chick Mountbatten, Shick Mountbatten and Rocky Mountbatten
  • Hemmingway-12: Bub Hemmingway, Tulip Hemmingway, Ernesto Hemmingway, Dad Hemmingway and Dad Ferd (all eaten by dinosaurs apart from Ernesto, who was killed by a shrapnel wound a few days later)
  • Guppy-13: Guppy commune — Derv Paton, Shuggy Milak, Greg Gross, Adolf Turbo, 'X', Sally Bob Baird and Styrene de Palma (all killed by lava)
  • Clampett-14: Earl Clampett (killed by mutants), Ivy Clampett (died of black Scab), Jet Clampett (shot by mutants) and Rock Clampett
  • Zapotek-15: Zolten Zapotek, Koko Zapotek and Albert Zapotek (all sucked down by quag)
  • Golightly-16: Stephan Golightly (killed by mutants); Yogi Golightly, Marv Golightly and Sprightly Golightly (all killed by lava)
  • Glemp-17: Bish Glemp (survived), Futura Glemp (survived) and Crustacia Glemp (mutant baby who looks a bit like a humanoid crab; survived)
  • Hubble-18: Hannibal Hubble, Hilary Hubble, Hal Hubble and Robespierre Hubble (all killed by unknown supernatural forces)
  • Ewings-19: Family of four (all died of Black Scab)
  • Nebb-20: Pop Nebb (killed by mutants), Mom Nebb (stayed in Cursed Earth with sons' bodies), Otis Nebb (shot by Amber Rudd), Titus Nebb (executed by mutants) and Judas Nebb (fatally knifed by Lucas Rudd)
  • Wilson-21: Family of six (all died of Black Scab)
  • Kelsey-22: Chuck Kelsey and his wife Senga Kelsey (let themselves be killed by mutants after their children all died of Black Scab), Dex Kelsey (died of Black Scab), Dot Kelsey (died of Black Scab), Spot Kelsey (died of Black Scab; body exhumed and eaten by dinosaurs) and Uncle Lanny Kelsey (the first to die, he was killed by a dinosaur).
  • Koosh-23: Li Ho Koosh, Wan Tun Koosh, Hin Du Koosh, Dave Lee and Yung Dung Koosh (all survived)
  • Gee-24: Aunt Jemima Gee and Levi Gee (both killed by unknown supernatural forces); Levi's fiancée Adriane/Ariadne (killed by Black Scab)
  • Dyke-25: Ike Van Dyke (eaten by tyrannosaur) and Mike Van Dyke (crushed by rockslide caused by mutants)
  • Ruben-26: Hebismund Ruben (died of radiation sickness); Edee Ruben and two children (crushed by falling rad-wagon)
  • Burger-27: Amos Burger and Maybelline Burger (both killed by unknown supernatural forces)
  • Mo-Pad-28: Rollo Peterson (died of radiation poisoning because his mopad provided no protection against the rad-smog in the Slough of St Louis)

David Kirkham wrote in to 2000 AD prog 424 to ask, "Why didn't The Helltrekkers fly to the New Territories, and so save themselves a load of hassle?" Tharg replied, "This is a circuit-numbingly dumb question. The Helltrekkers obviously didn't fly to the New Territories because they couldn't be certain of getting 111 window seats in the No Smoking Area."