Tag Archives: Brendan McCarthy

RT 6: MYTH TAKES

7 Dec

PROG: 166 – YE FIRST ROBOT

Script: Gary Rice

Art: Brendan McCarthy

Letters: Tom Frame

Plot: In 1820 an unnamed man mourns the loss of his only child. Whilst brooding over how fate has robbed him of his wife, in labour, and their only child, he decides to create a replacement son from steel and steam. Eventually he emerges from his workshop with a large lumbering humanoid device he calls ‘Robert’, named after his son. Taking the machine to his friend Herr Wilhem he is pleased with its’ reception, even though the elderly gentleman mispronounces its name as ‘Robot’. However, on his return home he finds the local peasants take the machine’s coal fire engine and smokey emissions as a sign that it is the devil’s work. They begin to rally against the defenseless ‘Robert’…

Ending: The locals destroy ‘Robert’, leaving the inventor, once more, all alone. However the whole event has been overseen by two observers, one a dignified aristocrat, the other his man-servant. They ponder re-creating the ‘Robert’ experiment but with flesh and blood instead of steel and steam. As they leave the aristocrat is assured of success by the servant, after all he is Baron Frankenstein!

Thoughts: A very curious Robo-Tale, surrealistically introduced by Ro-Jaws in a Judge’s wig, is written in a most unusual style as a ‘lost journal’ with extensive textual exposition of the images contained beneath each passage. It looks very similar to the ‘illustrated prose’ technique that would be used by Ian Edginton’s Twas The Fight Before Christmas (Prog 2009), or even the word/picture juxtaposition in Alan Moore’s The English / Philondrutian Phrasebook (Prog 214), also illustrated by McCarthy. However by the middle of the second page the separation of text and image has broken down and word-balloons creep increasingly into the story. Adding to the unusual visual effect is the fact that none of the images have a panel boarder and the sides of the pages are made to look like the inside of a ring-binder journal. Why a ring-binder is being used for something seemingly written in 1820 is unclear. By Prog 166 McCarthy had contributed to several substantial stories in the Prog (ABC Warriors, Judge Dredd) but his art here isn’t terribly impressive, certainly a long way from the style that would firmly establish him as a reader favourite. The story itself suffers from having Ro-Jaws act as interlocutor as this limits the narrative’s ability to link the un-named protagonist and the observing Baron Frankenstein. Had not Ro-Jaws told the story it would have made more sense to have had either the Baron or the robot’s builder relate the tale and then explain their link to each other. Certainly it would have been cleverer to have had Frankenstein be a descendant or associate of ‘Robert’s’ creator than just ‘passing by’ as it would have allowed his voice to link into the tale earlier than simply as observing the final act. As a causal character thrown in on the last three panels his presence does strike as an after-thought in a story that was already clearly riffing on Mary Shelley’s classic yarn.  The story also loses points for managing to posit Baron Frankenstein being inspired some two years after his own tale had been published in 1818. Basic research from the writer could have set the story in 1810 without altering any key elements. Future Shocks had already re-grounded the Dracula myth (FS 50) so Frankenstein’s turn was always on the cards, sadly this wasn’t the greatest attempt at having fun with the well-trodden source material.

Thrill Power: Pretty minimal. The strange story-telling device makes for a plodding technique which is constantly interrupting the flow of the tale and neither the prose nor the art is compelling enough to compensate. It deserves credit for attempting to play with the form but with the story so obviously echoing  The Modern Prometheus and the tacked-on appearance of the Baron constituting the twist it is all quite uninteresting and dull. Easily the best thing about the tale is the unexplained appearance of Ro-Jaws in a Judge’s wig.

FUTURES 1-25: A SUMMARY

21 Aug

With another 15 Future Shocks since the last Summary and 2000AD having passed its one-year anniversary here are some thoughts, stats and considerations.

Peter Knight has been the most prolific contributor to the first 25 Future Shocks with lettering duties on 17 stories.

Lalia, despite not appearing after FS 8, is still the most prolific artist with 3 appearances although he is joined by Brett Ewin’s at the top of the appearance count for artists. Artists with 2 Future Shocks by this juncture include Trevor Goring, John Cooper, Jose Luis Ferrer, Ron Turner and Kevin O’Neil. Notable amongst the debutantes of FS 11-25 are Brian Bolland and Brendan McCarthy. Bolland was beginning to feature regularly as a Dredd artist whereas McCarthy, although doubtless contributing to work of Ewins and his brother Jim, would have to wait longer to become a regular art droid.

Shocks continue to be written by a diverse group – Robert Flynn leads the way with five, Steve Moore, the author of the initial Future Shock, has four to his name and Martin Lock has written three. Chris Lowder is notable for having written two ‘comedy’ Future Shocks and also for being lucky in having the talents of Carlos Ezquerra and Brian Bolland draw them. None of the ‘next generation’ of writers that 2000AD would become famous for fostering has yet appeared although a future Tharg, Richard Burton, has turned in a moderately successful Shock, his sole writing credit in 2000AD.

Despite FS 25 being a one and a half page gag the general trend of FS 11-25 is of longer stories and less ‘final panel reveals’. As a consequence several of them, notably many of the more successful, tend to read as Terror Tales rather than as Shocks. Chris Lowder’s scripts are more Comedy Shocks and none the less entertaining for it. The majority of Future Shocks are accompanied by an intro from Tharg but several are not. The best flesh out the character of the main protagonist despite the restrictive page count – Arthur Upshot’s loneliness as a low-earth orbit scrap merchant, Jed Orville’s brutish hipster thug desperate to get off the planet and the under-pressure Mayor Croxely who defeats the insectoid invasion. Certainly Upshot and Orville have enough character in their brief appearances for their stories to be taken further, a true sign of a well written tale. In a slightly different manner two Shocks are notable for placing the reader in the place of the protagonist, the stressed out astronaut in Solo Flip and the frustrated boy in The Guardian. Both these stories stand the test of time well, not only due to their art but also due to this narrative technique.

By Prog 54, where the 25th Future Shock appeared, 2000AD had been published for just over a year. It’s market was still decidedly teen and pre-teen boys and its main stories were still the sort of strip now largely and unfairly overlooked in retelling of its history. Prog 54 itself featured Judge Dredd, in Elvis the Killer Car from the middle of his Luna-1 sojourn, the ever-constant Dan Dare, MACH 1, who likewise had appeared in the majority of issues, and Colony Earth, a great 10 part War of The Worlds type action adventure. Rounded out by a very kid-orientated Walter The Wobot one-pager,  it is clear that 2000AD, Luna-1 slight craziness  aside, hasn’t strayed from its initial concept as a Boys-Own in space. The Future Shocks are well in keeping with this remit and The Guardian deserves special praise for how in-tune it is with those likely to be reading week-in-week-out. The audience does appear to be lovers of gore and frightening images as several Shocks are quite visceral in their contents, rats eat living people, charred corpses sit smouldering in cars and small children await their doom as mutants lurk in darkness with their eyes shining forth. FS 24, On the Run, hides one panel as ‘too disturbing to show’ but that can only have been for the story’s protagonist as the readers were well used to far more disturbing than the aftermath of a hit-and-run accident.

The Majority of the Future Shocks use the same Banner title although they vary whether the wording is left as an outline, zip-a-toned inside or filled with a solid black or colour. This variety  has the misleading appearance that no constant banner is in use but 23 times out of 25 it had indeed been the same Tharg’s head and lettering style deployed thus:

In Prog 46 Artist Ramon Sola treats us to his own rendition of Ole Green Bonce, presumably he had already drawn this on the page before sending in the artwork:

Most mysterious of all is the unique Banner used for Prog 49, a strip illustrated by Jose Luis Ferrer but no indication who is responsible for beatnik Tharg:

Picking a top three from the second batch of Future Shocks is a closer run thing than for the first ten but with excuses to those that didn’t make it they are:

FS 23 (Prog 52): Solo Flip – Brian Bolland’s excellent art complimenting a fun played-for-laughs tale of the astronaut who can’t cope from Chris Lowder

FS 21 (Prog  50): The Guardian – a rare Future Shock having a child as the central character and with a dark nasty ending and some wonderful sour-puss art by John Cooper

FS 15 (Prog 42): Time Past – Martin Lock institutes a grand Future Shock tradition of the hapless hero doomed by his own ineptitude.

No round-up of these early Future Shocks would be complete without including one of the stand-out panels, a piece from a fine artist who illustrated the story very well but yet one that is to be treasured for all the wrong reasons, yes, from Prog 48, FS 19: Substitute, it’s the 58-year-old, 19 years in the same spacesuit, oddly face-changed, age-defying:

FS 25: OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND

21 Aug

PROG: 54 – STASIS

Script: Charles Swift

Art: McCarthy – Ewins

Letters: Tony Jacob

Plot: A female scientist is showing her male colleague her latest work – a stasis machine. Ridiculing the notion he contemptuously flicks at the switches on the machine. Dismissively he decries ‘There! Nothing’s happened, has it?

Shock: ‘There! Nothing’s happened, has it?’ There! Nothing’s happened, has it?’ There! Nothing’s happened, has it?’ There! Nothing’s happened, has it?’ There! Nothing’s happened, has it?’

Thoughts:  A joyous curio of a strip to round of the first 25 Future Shocks. Charles Swift is presumably a pseudonym, perhaps of one of the illustrators of the strip. Sadly his one and a half pages of 2000AD fame are marred by the repetition of a rather obvious grammar mistake (the direct quote above) but our presumably fictitious friend does leave us with a rather nice simple gag strip. The second page is composed entirely of repeated copies of the last panel from the first page as the two scientists are now trapped in stasis by the machine. Actually they appear to be trapped in a loop rather than stasis but we’ll indulge them that given the eternity of their fate. The art also proves a small conundrum with the familiar ‘which McCarthy Brother was it’ dilemma. The strip lists ‘McCarthy’, Barney lists Jim McCarthy whereas Brendan McCarthy claims it as his own on his website’s bibliography. Which ever way they divided up the chores, the art certainly is an improvement over their previous work and hopefully the young artists got a full-page rate for a cheeky ten minutes with a Xerox machine on the second page.

Shock’d?  More of a Future Chuckle than a shock but the strip is definitely a successful one-note gag.

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