Tag Archives: Alien Invasion

FS 50: AYE, VAMPIRE.

8 Oct

PROG: 97 – DEAR MUM

Script: John Richardson

Art: John Richardson

Letters: Peter Knight

Plot: A humanoid writes home to his mother after 5,000 years of ‘exile’ on a planet after having committed the first murder in a society that had discovered everlasting life. He recounts how he managed to make a primitive shelter, hunt wild animals for food and eventually build himself a large impregnable structure high on a hill. He tells her not to worry, his 20,000 year sentence will pass, meantime he has had a nap…

Shock: ..and is heading down to ‘the village‘ for a ‘bite to eat‘. Our mysterious correspondent is none other than Dracula.

Thoughts: John Richardson becomes the second person to fulfill both scripting and drawing duties (Kevin O’Neil, FS 11, Prog 35) in this rather abrupt odd tale of Dracula’s back-story. The third Shock to feature vampires (FS 9, Prog 34; FS 30, Prog 60) the story is played straight and with the vampire looking at the reader in with a menacing salivating contemplation. The strip has several problems – obviously the society who had discovered ‘eternal life‘ had not encountered stakes, sunlight or garlic bread and there is a strange panel showing a stone hut that Dracula had constructed, obviously a tomb-reference, which is made from slabs of stone far too large for a single person, or presumably vampire, to lift. However despite the disjuncted nature of the ending the art is effective and polished, again very much in the traditional boys comics mold, and the idea of Dracula writing to his alien mother has a certain charm. Some impact is undoubtedly lost by the reveal panel being merely a quarter page panel and very static; a large image of Dracula chomping down on the locals would have given the story some dramatic impact. The most striking aspect of the strip is that, despite the context of Dracula coming from a foreign planet, through a combination of art style and topic the strip doesn’t feel like a 2000AD story.

Shock’d?: The only shock Richardson intended was the fun final panel of the fanged Count eyeing up the readers and, despite the space limits of it being on a half-page, it is nicely done. From a story-telling point of view, with the exception of the tomb image, absolutely anything could have gone before that final panel.

FS 42: REDONDO Y EL BERK

20 Sep

PROG: 85: POACHER

Script: Barry Clements

Art: Jesus Redondo

Letters: Jill Raphaeline

Plot: John Pritchard, a countryside ne’er-do-well poacher, is making his way through the forest when he is astounded to observe a UFO land and two multi-limbed creatures emerge. Not realizing they are being observed the aliens take human form and walk off towards the town, confirming to the departing craft they will report back in twenty-four hours. Pritchard realises he can’t report this without giving away the fact he was trespassing and so decides to observe the aliens before deciding what further action to take. He maintains a vigil as the they visit and photograph a pub, port and Zoo. Confused, Pritchard finally decides to tell the authorities and leads the police to the landing site in time for the rendezvous.

Shock: The Aliens stay hidden and wait out the humans until Pritchard is arrested by an exasperated and disbelieving Police for his confessed poaching and trespassing. Finally they can board their returned craft in secrecy and when they do they look at their photographs and decide that Earth is a nice place for a holiday but a bit boring to live on.

Thoughts: Prog 85 has a few unique claims. Mick McMahon’s ‘The Cursed Earth Will Not Break MeDredd cover is in that select group of classic covers paid homage to by a later prog (Prog 1657′s Shakara Cover by Henry Flint). It contains the first credit given to a female contributor, Jill Raphaeline from this Shock, and it was the first to contain two Future Shocks in the same prog. It is also rare in that both stories are listed as Future Shocks rather than using another banner, such as Time Twisters, or just forgoing a banner and having a stand alone short strip, such as Prog 245′s ‘SuperBean‘ which appears alongside an Alan Moore Future Shock and a ‘Abelard Snazz’ strip which had, of course, graduated from a Future Shock to its own short irregular eponymous series. However back in 1978 2000AD has few such branding qualms and the readers are given two Shocks for their groats.

The first of two Barry Clements’ Shocks for 2000AD, Poacher is a lackluster affair saved only by being the Future Shock debut of one of the finest Spanish artists to grace the pages of the ‘Galaxy’s Greatest’, Jesus Redondo. The script is plodding and reaches a conclusion it foreshadows in the first half page as the un-engaging moronic Pritchard gets his comeuppance. The Alien’s sight-seeing is, as demanded by the strip, rather dull. Setting the story in rural UK may have fired the reader’s imaginations that Aliens could be amongst them, but a more dramatic environment than the Ambridge duck pond may have given the story some dynamic. Given very little to work with Redondo does a top-notch job; Pritchard is fully fleshed out, including a great pair of flares, and the drawings of the various venues visited by the Aliens are packed full of detail. Known for his turn on Nemesis BK II,  as well as The Mind of Wolfie Smith and Return to Armageddon, Redondo’s true star turn for 2000AD is the vast number of Future Shocks and other one-offs he has contributed. Indeed he rightly returned to the Prog in 2011 for a beautiful four-page Terror Tale with line-work every bit as detailed and sumptuous as it was in 1978. This might not have been the best story to kick off a thirty year association with 2000AD ‘s one-offs but it certainly is the birth of a beautiful thing.

Shock’d?: A shock would have been for Pritchard to devise some cunning way to escape the law and expose the Aliens, sadly that is not even attempted. The shock, that the Aliens are sight-seeing, doesn’t amount to much because there is never any menace in their words or deeds. A short line about ‘walking undetected‘ and ‘reporting back‘ is not enough to substantiate that anything is going on beyond taking photographs of zebras. The ‘shock’ appears about as thrilling as the Alien’s own conclusions about Earth.

FS 40: DIVINE REPETITION?

12 Sep

PROG: 83 – The Mote In God’s Eye

Script: Roy Preston

Art: Puchades & Martinez

Letters: Tom Frame

Plot: Valkahar is a dying planet and its advanced warrior inhabitants have targeted Earth for invasion. Scoffing at Earth’s primitive technology, that has only just facilitated Moon-landings, they launch their warp-enabled battleships confident they can handle any defences Earth can muster. Upon landing they are confused by the vast barren plains, absent life or any of the seas and mountains their scientists had predicted. Then a vast flood of rushes towards them..

Shock: The waters destroy them and they cruse mankind for having the technological ability to use vast oceans as weapons. Meantime a small boy wipes a tear from his eye, which had formed due to the tiny Valkahar space fleet crashing into his pupil. The invasion force had miscalculated the size of the earth and were ‘no bigger than an insect compared to man‘; the flood that had drowned them were his tears.

Thoughts: Editorial Droid Roy Preston steps up to scripting duties, after a brief turn on MACH 1, with the first of 3 stand-alone shorts he would write for 2000AD. Preston, who along with Nick Landau and Kevin O’Neil kept 2000AD running while editor Kelvin Gosnell was overseeing the launch of Starlord, appears, at most, to have been a part-time author with his credits appearing sporadically at 2000AD and Eagle. The story itself is a poor rehash of FS 2‘s ‘problem of scale’ and is decidedly inferior when contrasted with that earlier story. This tale, written from the perspective of the invasion force, offers no conflict, no action and no tension, whereas its predecessor is packed full of those qualities as the ‘invaded’ rush to deal with the news of the alien’s arrival. Here there is a very dull looking humanoid invasion force blasting off, one spaceship exterior shot and a lot of talking heads discussing their ‘superiority’ before a flood despatches them in a single panel. The story certainly isn’t aided by very uninspired clean-lined artwork from Puchades & Martinez , agency artists who clearly weren’t lobbying too hard for a regular appointment. The Shock, as with its immediate successor and FS 21, does mark one of the rarer occasions when the stories featured central characters of the same age as the then target readership so gains some credit for that. That factor aside the tale is derivative, somewhat incoherent – scientists looking for habitable planets managing to miss that this one is thousands of times bigger than their own – and worst of all, dull.

Shock’d?: The Shock scores kudos for being an ‘over-the-page’ reveal’ but instantly loses it for being about dull looking protagonists the reader has no engagement with and for being the rehash of an existing Shock. A new reader may find it exciting that an ordinary kid destroys an alien fleet but a loyal fan would, unlike the child hero,  have ‘seen it coming’

FS 36: GRIZZILY ENDING

6 Sep

PROG: 78 – Nothing On Earth!

Script: Chris Lowder

Art: Pierre Frisano

Letters: Jack Potter

Plot: At the American Space Research Centre, Houston, Professor Weems and his team identify a UFO heading for earth. Mobilizing the military, under the command of no-nonsense General B. Buckner Bulspitt, the military and the scientists rush to the landing site. The alien craft drops its ramp and out slither  small many-eyed, multi-tentacled aliens. So repulsed is Gen. Bulspitt that he orders his weapons to open fire and the aliens are swiftly destroyed. Almost immediately a different alien craft arrives and this time tall bear-like creatures lollop forth. Weems and Bulspitt regard them as much friendlier looking and engage them in dialogue. The aliens ask what happened the previous spaceship which they identify as belonging to the ‘Sloog’ race.

Shock:  The new aliens laugh at the Sloog’s destruction, and, as they open fire, they inform the General that the Sloog were peaceful and no-doubt intending to warn Earth about their own arrival, because the second aliens are ‘space pirates and planet destroyers‘. The General and Professor are slain in a hail of laser-fire.

Thoughts: An odd  Shock that seems to rely on a central premise, that mankind will automatically kill any ‘ugly’ aliens’, that doesn’t really hold much water. Chris Lowder, whose two previous Shocks have been played for laughs, enjoys himself with ridiculous character names and a over-the-top Yankee accent for the General but there is an absence of any actual humour in the plot. This results in his scripting coming across as rather contemptuous of the audience and the genre, as if saying he knows the story is cliché hack-work but here it is anyway. Given his central premise is somewhat odd he might have concentrated on rationalizing it away a tad better than ‘bampot General thinks you’re ugly so die’. In addition it’s not exactly clear why a seven-foot tall brown bear in a spacesuit is automatically cuddly and friendly. Sure children have stuffed bears as toys but by the time they get to reading 2000AD many of them will have stored such away and be more likely to know that Bears are gert big killers like Sharko. This problem, along with oddities such as the American Space Research Centre not actually having a plan for alien contact, makes the whole script seem lazy even if there is, as no doubt Lowder took, pleasure in the silly names etc. The art by Frisano is professional but again slightly hampered by his 1950’s stylings and the strip, printed in the era of Star Wars, is all very B&W B-movie in tone. The result is a lesser Shock from two talented creators.

Shock’d?:  The Bears’ sudden turn to violence isn’t telegraphed but nor is it very connected; the Major’s decision to shoot the Sloog is so random that after that juncture the story falls apart and any shock is more of a ‘oh well’. To buy into the ending being a shock the reader would have to have been enamoured with the ‘cuddly toy’ nature of the Bear aliens and it seems highly unlikely that readers of Judge Dredd and Robo-Hunter, both in this Prog, would still be at that level.

FS 22: HERE’S BURT!

19 Aug

PROG: 51 – GALACTIC GARBAGE

Script: Richard Burton

Art: Trevor Goring

Letters: Tony Jacob

Plot: Arthur Upshot operates as a salvage merchant in near earth orbit, collecting what little there is of value and ‘shooting’ waste off into space. He finds a unrecognisable probe lodged amongst his waste and, regarding it worthless, fires it away. Arthur is unaware that the probe was leading an advanced alien invasion fleet to earth – the probe was fed sufficient data for the aliens to locate earth and their fleet is fast on its tail.

Shock: The probe, and the following fleet, plunge into the sun, where Arthur has been disposing of all his worthless waste.

Thoughts: Hey, its famous editorial droid, and future Tharg, Richard Burton in his only credited script for 2000AD. While doubtless his re-write pencil featured heavy on many scripts over his long tenure at the Command Module this was the only time his name was to appear on a script. Galactic Garbage isn’t a bad effort however it does need some indulgence both logically and in terms of storytelling. The script has a strange device of showing that the Alien’s homeworld is notified of the fleet’s destruction before it occurs in the Shock, with the event , following the probe into the sun, being the shock reveal of the strip. In terms of storytelling it just about gets away with it, logically it is hard to believe an invasion fleet would ignore the technological signals coming from an inhabited planet and head into a sun. Had the strip had them warp into the probes position then that would have been a device to excuse it but there isn’t any sort of explanation; they simply ‘follow’ the probe blindly. The script also calls the aliens ‘very alien’ but they do seem to be wearing WWI gas-masks and Roman helmets so maybe the script’s description could have been a bit more ‘alien’. However it is well  paced and the excellently titled ‘Arthur Upshot’ is nicely portrayed as frustrated and hard-done-by so he’s an unlikely saviour of earth. Trevor Goring again does a fantastic job on the art with beautiful space-craft and several wonderful close-ups of Arthur’s resigned facial features.  The script certainly could have been tighter but Goring’s superior art places this firmly in the pantheon of excellent early Future Shocks.

Shock’d? The space fleet plunging into the sun is pretty obvious given we’ve been told the fleet is destroyed and we’ve seen Arthur fire off the probe so it’s not much of a shock but what mystery there is by the time the reader turns to the final single panel page is still nicely enough played. The sun is at least different to the fleet being eaten by a small dog.

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