Archive | August, 2011

FS 33: FLIGHT OF THE HUNTER

31 Aug

PROG:74 – DEAD HIT

Script: Robert Flynn

Art: Pierre Frisano

Letters: Peter Knight

Plot: Red Packer is a successful but cynical Big-Game Hunter who returns home to find an alien envoy asking him to come protect them from wild animals on their planet. They explain that as their race is so advanced they have lost the courage for physical tasks of confrontation. Seeing he would be well rewarded in diamonds, Packer readily agrees and soon arrives on an alien planet ready to hunt

Shock: Suddenly the Aliens depart and Packer finds himself confronted by huge talking apes who are clearly intent on hunting him. He realises he has been brought for their sport not the other way around.

Thoughts: A beginning, of Pierre Frisano’s short five issue stint on Future Shocks, and an end, of Robert Flynn’s time writing for 2000AD, marked by a very ordinary story which rehashes the theme of ‘Man does X on earth, Aliens do X to man’. With FS 2, Trawling, it was eating / being eaten, in  with FS 26, Space Bug, it was mining a body to a husk and now it’s the not very original ‘Hunter becomes the Hunted‘, agonizingly with that very cliché included in the final dialogue box. Flynn’s previous Shocks had always avoided this more obvious of devices and, while often containing logical flaws, did have merit for trying to create dynamic stories. Here he produces the most trite of Shocks but manages to write a contained and flowing tale. It might not be original but it is polished. The real beauty of the strip is from the rare English-language appearance of French post-war artist Pierre Frisano, a name few would associate with 2000AD. Initially a cover illustrator, Frisano was constantly employed in one country, France, rather than being primarily associated with the UK, such as fellow Continentals Ezquerra and Belardinelli, or working throughout the continent, such as Caasanovas.  Responsible for popular Sci-fi series San Ku Kai, and Courtesans, as well as several Opera translations, his B&W ink-work is highly formalist but with beautiful detail, the tighter early style of Colin Wilson is an obvious reference in the main character illustrated above; while his colour work, with a populist tendency to buxom women, has clear parallels with modern master John Burns’ wash and ink work. The five Future Shocks over the next few Progs, alongside a prior episode of MACH 1, was to be his only work for 2000AD as his French career boomed over the 1980s. As with many artists of a slightly older generation his Sci-Fi stylings are very 1950s orientated whereas his strength was in historical  fantasy art, Dante would have been the perfect outing for his talents. Sadly no-longer with us it is a nice part of 2000AD‘s heritage that he contributed these fine pages.

Shock’d?: A bit of a damp squib after an effective build-up and marred by the terrible ‘Hunter becomes the Hunted’ line that should be barred from any genre fiction. Packer’s landing on the alien planet could have led to several different shock endings so that it is this very traditional reversal-of-fortunes ending is a disappointment.

FS 32: SIX-FISTED TALES

30 Aug

PROG: 70 – Many Hands

Script: Jan Garczynski

Art: Jose Casanovas

Letters: Peter Knight

Plot: On an alien world, albeit one very similar to Earth, a doughy-faced looking labourer, Klang, arrives home to be met by a barrage of tasks from his pampered corpulent wife. As he begins the domestic chores her nagging doesn’t cease. Eventually Klang turns to her..

Shock: and berates her that he only has six sets of hands. Klang, and his species, have six arms each.

Thoughts: George and Mildred in Space in the hands of the wonderful Jose Casanovas makes for a classic ‘comedy’ Shock. Recycling the ‘hands out of panel’ trick of FS 6 but playing it for laughs is a nice enough move however the domestic grumbling of the gag would have been lost on a young readership were it not for the delight of Casanovas’ art. The writing itself is good and although there is nothing to the strip but the punchline, the dialogue is well done with great personality in Klang and his demanding wife. It’s quite entertaining to see 2000AD feature the line ‘Nag Nag Nag, that’s all she ever does‘ however the real star of the piece is the art. Every inch of the page is filled with loving detail and the exasperated Klang in the final panel would bring a smile to anyone’s face. Already a well-established artist across European comics this was his first work for 2000AD and Future Shocks was a series Casanovas flourished in. As with Belardinelli he has a  skill for drawing the familiar everyday objects  in a suitably twisted ‘alien’ form’ making every aspect of Klang’s day recognisable yet instantly unworldly. It remains a great shame that this Future Shock appears never to have been reprinted.

Shock’d?: There’s no real shock, just a great sight gag that appeals to the frustrated and put-upon of every age.

FS 31: ELECTRIC SHEEP HERDING

29 Aug

PROG: 66 – Fugitive

Script: Peter Greenaway

Art: Ron Tiner

Letters: Bill Nutall

Plot: The year is 2000AD and a panicked man runs through the back streets of London.  He knocks over a metal bin and realises his mystery pursurers will have located him, sure enough a caped humanoid gunman floats into view. The runner pleads for his life but to no avail, the robotic-looking humanoid shoots.

Shock: The fugitive is destroyed, its body a mess of metalwork. The gunman lifts up his robotic mask to reveal a human face, and reflects how realistic the factory robot looked.

Thoughts: Bladerunner in eight panels, this small Shock delivers its fun tight, fast and unfussy. Ron Tiner, a new name to the prog, delivers a very realistic looking year 2000 London; run down, crummy and not really advanced from 1978, and he pulls off the essential task of making the human look android,and the android human, with a style that reminds of Ron Turner or Ian Kennedy. The story is very compressed and effective, the reveal that it was human hunting a rogue robot is kept to the second page whereas the first has a nice balance between chase and depiction of the pursuer as callous and heartless. The Shock marks the return to an early theme of Future Shocks, that of ‘mankind’ being the bad guy. Like several of the early Future Shocks the anachronistic charm of the strip shines through, not least when our hapless fugitive clangs his way over a set of metal dustbins.

Shock’d?: Pretty effective; the switch of the pursuer being the human is effectively masked by the pleading for humanity from the fugitive. It’s a very slight strip and not the first time Future Shocks have had a human-robot reverse as the reveal but it is still charmingly executed and is careful never to refer to the fugitive as a ‘man’ or ‘human’ before the shock is revealed.

FS 30: FILLER COUNT

28 Aug

PROG:60 – Timeless Secret

Script: SJ Grimes

Art: Ramon Sola

Letters: John Aldrich

Plot: Professors Stein and Grahame enter a tomb that has been sealed for centuries. As they unsuccessfully try to open a ‘strange coffin shaped box‘ they quibble over whether its contents would prove that Earth had been visited by aliens or proof of a previously unknown tribe of humans. Turning their backs and continuing their academic squabble they fail to notice the sun has gone down and the coffin-shaped box opening..

Shock: A vampire emerges and moves in to devour them.

Thoughts: FS 30, marked another 2000AD regular artist’s departure from the series with an even poorer story than FS29. SJ Grimes’ script has no logic to it whatsoever and can only be indulged by considering that its young readers must be very easily satisfied. Ramon Sola’s art is great and he draws a lovely menacing Nosferatu style vampire with balding head, bat-wing ears and powerful clawed hands; but the story is threadbare and confused. First of all the tomb is clearly Egyptian; hieroglyphs and Egyptian symbolism are littered liberally in the depictions inside and outside of the tomb.  Given this, why two academics should be postulating that a coffin-like enclosure evidences either aliens, or more bizarrely ‘a tribe previously unknown to man‘ rather than, say, Egyptians is hard to grasp. Maybe this was Sola going off script and not knowing how to decorate a tomb but that seems unlikely. Having read the script he would hardly have decided to set it in Egypt when he knows a what would happen and a dank dirty cave would have sufficed. And this ties into the second key fault because, completely randomly, a vampire appears and the narration says ‘ but then the idea that the coffin was the home of a creature that could inhabit the surface of the earth only after the sun had set, was ridiculous‘. Yes, it is.  However if anyone could envisage such it was probably Professors Stein and Grahame because they’re already squabbling about aliens and unknown tribes when surrounded by Egyptian artefacts. However the reader is left admiring Sola’s slavering  ghoul and wondering where the hell it came from and what has it been doing in a tomb sealed off ‘for centuries‘. So poor is the story that’ SJ Grimes’, in his sole credit for 2000AD, may well stand for Alan Smithee.

Shock’d?: The difference between ‘shock’ and ‘random disconnected deus ex machina‘ couldn’t be better evidenced than in this tale and it stands as an exemplar of how not to write a Future Shock.

 

FS 29: SnEEDS MORE WORK.

27 Aug

PROG: 59 – Tin Can

Script: Mike Cruden

Art: Jose Luis Ferrer

Letters: Peter Knight

Plot: WW3 has ended with total nuclear devastation, food stocks have never replenished and now a morsel of food will start a bloody battle. A scavenger spots a half-buried tin can and makes across open ground, dodging bullets from a sniper who is also set on possessing the mystery contents. The sniper takes down the scavenger and she comes out of the shadows, only to be felled by a throwing knife from her ‘kill’ who had only been playing dead. The scavenger shows no remorse for having killed the beautiful woman and makes for the can.

Shock: He dusts down the bounty and finds it is not foodstuff but a useless can of motor oil, it prompts him to laugh ‘loudly and insanely‘.

Thoughts: A let-down of a Shock and a low-point to mark the departure of Jose Luis Ferrer and his beautiful art from Future Shocks. Ferrer was to go on to draw the first three instalments of Sam Slade: Robo-Hunter and then transfer to sister title Starlord but not return when the titles merged. His art on this outing has a fabulous bleak introduction panel depicting the residents of a shelter dwelling looking destitute, but thereafter is very sketchy and lacks the scratchy detail he usually displayed. Naturally he draws a great ‘beautiful’ female face on the fallen sniper although she does have rather manly arms before her gender is revealed. The story however really lets the Shock down, the third person narration and lack of personality in the scavenger are very distancing and there is little to engage the reader. As a consequence there is no investment in whether it is the scavenger or the sniper who survives their encounter.  The ‘shock’ of the tin being oil not food really doesn’t hold up either;  we’ve been told that the entire population is starving however there is no indication, and no reason, that oil isn’t just as vital to survival.There is electric lighting in the first panel so presumably there are generators and oil has value. In addition quite why the discovery should send the scavenger insane isn’t really justified, presumably it isn’t the first time he’s been frustrated in his pursuit of food. Cruden’s technique of not personalising the character worked really well in FS 21: The Guardian but in this strip it is at the heart of why the tale doesn’t work.

Shock’d? The fact the tin can contains oil not food is a ‘shock’ in the formal sense although it doesn’t really hold up as shocking and of consequence. Would have been better had it been a pop-up snake-in-a-can.

FS 28: RADAR O’REALLY?

26 Aug

PROG:58 –  The Juggernaut

Script: Hunter Tremayne

Art: Garry Leach

Letters: Tony Jacob

Plot: Several tanks enter a training exercise not realising they are mere cannon-fodder for a new behemoth of a tank, The Juggernaut. With its new tracking system and ability to fire over 20km the super-tank soon disposes of its targets however just as they are about to end the test another massive tank shows on the tracking system’s sensors. Feeling The Juggernaut has been duped into a final test against a similar super-tank the Commander orders the ‘detector missiles’ to be fired

Shock: The novice crew had miscalculated their new range-finder and the tank on their sensors was their own. The detector missiles swing back and destroy their target: The Juggernaut.

Thoughts:  A fascinating Future Shock for all sorts of reasons other than the story itself, although this classic version of the ‘problem of scale’ Future Shock, last seen dispatching an Alien spaceship  in FS 3, is by no means bad. The Juggernaut is both impressively named  and looking; with a ‘super-gun’ that would have put Saddam to shame.  The fantastically monikered Hunter Tremayne only featured this one time in 2000AD as well as appearing in the long forgotten ‘Graphixus‘ (”The Adult Comix Showcase’ which also featured Bolland, Hunt Emerson and John Higgins) comics magazine before seemingly departing comics for literary fiction and writing plays. The script suffers from a bit too much ‘tell’ and not enough ‘show’, the whole initial duplicity against the smaller tanks is dealt with in exposition and some general ‘Juggernaut looking mean’ establishing panels rather than being played out in action but for a first attempt it doesn’t make a bad fist of its premise. More significantly the strip is also the first 2000AD appearance by iconic UK artist Garry Leach (VCs, Slaine, Dredd, A1) ; although the subs droid sadly misspelt his first name in the credits box. Leach came to 2000AD from art school and immediately turned in some unfussy but impressive work on this strip. The panel layouts go a bit awry in the final page and there is a dubiously sitting helmet on the hapless radar operator but the figure work is solid and an impressive variety of angles used in the composition. His style is also quite distinct at this early stage and, as with many of this emerging generation of talents, different to both the traditional British look and the European / S.American style of many early 2000AD artists.  Also of note is that a year on from Bill Savage having to fight ‘Volgs’ instead of Russians, The Juggernaut is clearly a soviet machine with the Hammer and Sickle on proud display. This may be because the tank’s soldiers aren’t invaders, just incompetent.

Shock’d?: The ‘other’ tank could indeed have been real opposition although failure to make more of The Juggernaut’s own duplicity against the smaller tanks means this is slightly underplayed. There is no real surprise when the ordnance turns back to destroy the tank but you do think they might have trained their troops a tad better.

FS 27: TIME TAILS?

25 Aug

PROG: 56 – MONKEY

Script: Alan Hebden

Art: Malgullanes

Letters: Peter Knight

Plot: Jim and Frank are chosen to test Prof. Zimmerman’s ‘Time Phaser’ time machine, donning full spacesuits replete with life support and tinted visors. Under strict instructions not to interfere with anything they are sent ’10 million years into the past’ and told to observe and await the return to be activated. After successfully transporting, Frank decides they should seek higher ground and, while climbing, he callously sends a monkey to its death while ignoring Jim’s warnings about non-interference. After an hour they are taken back to their future era.

Shock: On their return the two time-travellers  discover Prof Zimmerman and the rest of humanity has been replaced by intelligent simians; the death of the monkey on the rock has led to apes evolving to be the dominant intelligent species.  Then Joe realises he is still behind a tinted visor, he turns to the mirror not knowing what it will reveal when the helmet comes off…

Thoughts: For the third time in their short publication life we have a Future Shock with yet another test-run for a time machine and yet another decision to go back to prehistoric times; although on this occasion wisely pitching up after the dinosaurs have exited the scene. There isn’t anything remarkable about crossing interfering with the past,  Chaos Theory and time travel to produce a ‘Return to  the Planet of the Apes’ but this Shock is lifted into a superior category by one fact – the decision to write the tale in the first person and thus add the additional shock of neither the narrator nor the reader knowing whether he too has become an ape. This produces a great final panel where our time traveller turns to a mirror and prepares to find out his fate. Following the logic of the script there is no doubt he would have been altered every bit as much as those ‘back’ in his original time but the strip’s constancy of voice, the fact he notices no change while in the past, means the reader hasn’t considered this possibility until that final panel. Alan Hebden, a key early writer for 2000AD and one still producing great work for Commando some thirty years later, should take great credit for this ‘double’ shock. Mystery artist Malgullanes does fine work in bringing the story to life with clear composition and some nice breakout panels. Having also worked on Starlord this was his only appearance in 2000AD.

Shock’d?: Yes. An excellent shock with the issue of whether Jim, our narrator, has also turned into an ape. While not totally logical this serves up an additional shock to the reader who could have guessed the Planet of the Apes was coming the minute the poor monkey was despatched by Frank.

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