PROG: 90 – KID’S STUFF
Script: Barry Clements
Art: Carlos Pino
Letters: John Aldrich
Plot: Rick Travis, deep space pilot for the Intergalactic Mining Corp., is knocked off course by a meteor storm and his ship spirals uncontrollably to the surface of a mystery planet. Thrown clear of the debris he is found in by some small children and later falls in and out of consciousness on the operating table and in a recovery ward. He notes his mouth has been filled by some strange ‘breathing apparatus’.
Shock: The mouthpiece is a baby’s dummy. Rick has landed on a planet where the infants are the ‘adults’ and the adult’s are the children. His recovery is being undertaken on the children’s ward.
Thoughts: Barry Clement’s last work for 2000AD passes itself off unremarkably as a solid piece of retro-Sci-fi Shock but not one that would pass muster today. As with Clement’s last protagonist, Pritchard the Poacher from FS 42, Rick Travis is a fairly anonymous hero and the reader is never invested in his fate. His journey through the tale is completely passive: he crashes without any attempt to avert disaster, he is rescued without drama while unconscious and he gains cognition of the adult / child switch without any peril or endangerment. Clement’s internal dialogue is somewhat mangled and lacking a unified voice, at once juncture he refers to the ‘driving proficiency test‘, at another he’s growling ‘some joker cut rough and landed me one‘. The saloon-bar Americana of the latter sit oddly with the formalism of the former. The art of Carlos Pino is it’s usual professional standard. The sci-fi is resolutely retro, our hero manfully square-jawed and the children a picture of Janet and John innocence. The spaceship does break in two in the most unconvincing of manners and a slight inconsistency in the strip occurs during Travis’ operation where adults (who would, of course, be infantile) appear to be conducting the procedure; but otherwise its a fine turn. The Future Shock and Prog 90 are illustrative of the change occurring in 2000AD around this period as Pino’s work stands out as very dated when compared to the artists around him (Belardinelli going weird in Flesh, McMahon’s bonkers’ turn on The Day The Law Died, Kevin O’Neil’s fantastic Volg war madness in Ro-Busters and Ezquerra’s iconic Strontium Dog) and the tale lacks any of the madness and boundary pushing that Mills, Wagner et al. were beginning to mine so profitably.
Shock’d?: The children-are-adults reveal does come on a final half-page spread and is quite sweetly drawn with lots to amuse any young readers with nascent revenge fantasies about their parents; however a minutes pondering leaves one to conclude ‘so what?‘. Just as a viewer had better not ask too many questions about why Mindy is attracted to an undeveloped boy, albeit one in a man’s body, the Shock requires you don’t think too much over Travis’ predicament because he hasn’t really got one. As Kidd, from Robo-Hunter, was able to establish himself as an adult, although one subject to constant jokes about his infantile appearance, Travis surely would be able to show his alien hosts he is an elder of his species. In the meantime his peril is hoping he has an appetite for Farley’s Rusks and liquified food.