Tag Archives: Brett Ewins

RT 5: THE BIG (OR SMALL) EZ1

4 Dec

PROG: 161 – DROIDS ARE DISPOSABLE

click to enlarge

Script: Gary Rice

Art: Brett Ewins

Letters: Tony Jacob

Plot: The spaceship Freya has crashed hundreds of miles from the nearest base and the robot EZ1 combs the wreckage to see if it is the only survivor. Finally it finds the badly injured Lieutenant Nash, the sole human left alive, and, picking up his broken body in its arms, EZ1  begins the long trek to get Nash to safety. Nash is disgusted at being aided by a robot, making clear that he hates machines like EZ1; but, as EZ1 fends off predators and fierce weather conditions to protect the Lieutenant, gradually he comes to respect his metallic guardian. WIth its power supplies nearly depleted, EZ1 finally arrives at the base. It’s circuits breakdown as it enters the safe-haven having successfully saved the life of Nash.

Ending: Lieutenant Nash comes to in the camp’s hospital and enquires into how EZ1 is doing after their arduous trek. After being told he was ‘put to good use‘ the Lieutenant looks down at his first meal and see’s EZ1’s serial number stamped on the plate. EZ1 has been scrapped because ‘droids are disposable‘. 

Thoughts: Gary Rice’s second Robo-Tale is a nicely executed story which returns to a theme of early Future Shocks – that humans are utter bastards – in a tale that echo’s much of the humanism Sci-Fi of the 1970s. The story of Nash and EZ1 bonding through survival is not so much traditional buddy movie material, as Nash is incapacitated throughout, as A Boy and His Dog or Silent Running. It’s a well executed tale with the antagonism to EZ1, despite his heroics, foreshadowed by Nash’s own initial reactions. The script throws in a fight with a  winged beast to keep the tension high as well as reinforce why Nash learns the lesson the people at the base then neglect. In terms of story the use of a robot talking to itself is a tad clunky but this expository device is thankfully curtailed by the discovery of Nash. Ewins’ art is more problematic than the script, there is a major issue with the relative scales of Nash and EZ1, sometimes they look 1:1, sometimes EZ1 seems twice the size of the human. There also seems a complete inconsistency in the inking, sometimes faces are over-inked and at other there is a very clean line deployed. EZ1’s face also seems some peculiar mix of malleable human and Hammerstein, an unfortunate case of neither fish nor fowl. Ewins does appear to have drawn a USB connector and slot some 20 years before their ubiquity which at least draws a smile. One very effective panel is of EZ1 clutching the limp Nash to its chest. Filled with powerful symbolism of the robot as guardian this panel centers the emotional lesson of the story and, whether it was the choice of the artist or in script, the decision to focus page two around this image makes a very strong impact right at the half-way point of the tale. As ever with Brett Ewins any criticism of his early art comes attached with the acknowledgement that he would go on to be an excellent artist for the Prog.

Thrill Power?: Sadly the art rather dates this otherwise nice if functional tale. It’s a solid script and one an aspiring art-droid should maybe have a bash at re-drawing for a trial submission to Tharg.

FS 49: H2 OH-NO.

5 Oct

PROG: 96 – THE END OF THE UNIVERSE

Script: Gary Rice

Art: Brett Ewins

Letters: Peter Knight

Plot: Steinway & Schmidt are two astronauts cryogenically frozen while their craft speeds onwards to find the ‘limits of space‘. They are awakened by the craft, an action that is meant to signal that they have reached their destination, only to find themselves still surrounded by infinite space. The two despair that they will never see the end of space after having decided their ship must have woken them on concluding that it would never reach it’s goal.

Shock: Prof. XYGBDN, an alien teacher, ‘Billions of Trillions of times bigger than human comprehension‘ calls for his class to be quiet while he shows them the  microscopic view of a ‘slide of water‘ that actually is Steinway & Schmidt’s galaxy! The astronauts cannot visualize the universe as it is so vast to them, the alien children cannot visualize it because it is so small.

Thoughts: Filler even by Future Shocks standards this two-pager is notable only for the appearance of Brett Ewins art and marking the first of several scripts by the mysterious Gary Rice. That Rice only worked on one-offs and shorts (Future Shocks, Ro-Jaw’s Robo-Tales, Walter the Wobot) may indicate a pseudonym at play. This rather dull tale, which seems to rely on a navigation computer working out the secret of the universe, is a re-plodding of the ‘Problem of Scale’ that features so regularly in early Future Shocks. More interesting is that Ewins art doesn’t seem of the standard of his recent turn in Judge Dredd (The Day The Law Died, Prog 92 (pencils & inks) Prog 93 (pencils)) both in terms of detail and use of solid blacks. It may well be this Shock was drawn sometime before and held back until two pages were needed. The art on the first page, featuring humans and spaceships, really isn’t very good but the second page splash of the alien Professor is both substantially better art and alot more fun. The early Ewins certainly has a touch of the Belardinelli aliens / humans problem with his art. Given the great work he was to go on to turn out for 2000AD the strip is at least a fine example of how talent is given time to develop by the comic.

Shock’d?: That the editor isn’t bored of these ‘Problem of Scale’ stories. The reveal is totally unconnected to the preceding story and what little drama it had worked up. A Shock best quietly forgotten.

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.

FS 24: SET UP

21 Aug

PROG: 53 – ON THE RUN

Script: Robert Flynn

Art: Brett Ewins

Letters: Peter Knight

Plot: Robert McKinnon is a famous Hollywood star but one troubled by his horoscope; McKinnon cannot make any decisions without consulting the stars. On hearing of a computer that can predict the future he is granted a trial of the machine and it shows him being knocked down by a car on 5th Avenue. McKinnon reasons that if he leaves the USA he cannot be bound by the computer’s projections so he flees to a career in the UK. Back at work on the other side of the pond McKinnon feels assured he has made the right decision. Suddenly he sees a large studio light about to fall on a group of staff.

Shock: McKinnon runs to warn the people and in his haste is knocked down by the car seen in the projections. He hadn’t realised the studio set was of 5th Avenue.

Thoughts: Robert Flynn’s penultimate outing for 2000AD is an above par effort although not of the quality of Prog  45’s Killer Car. The strip is fairly decompressed by 2000AD‘s standards, with McKinnon’s agent Jeff getting 5 panels to help exposition whereas his role is highly peripheral. Noticeably McKinnon is a rather bland character, there is no attempt to paint him as a Hollywood ‘prima-donna’ or outright jerk, his job is simply a form to allow him to be snagged by the shock. This renders the tale rather un-engaging. Brett Ewin’s first solo art duties aren’t that impressive although the odd panel is nicely inked. The  difference between his solo work and that with long-time collaborator Jim McCarthy is noticeable at this early juncture with his own inking lacking McCarthy’s feathery style. His contribution doesn’t add much to the Shock which would probably have benefited from an artist more suited to traditional horror comics.

Shock’d?: The whole shock runs rather flat and the fatal accident takes place on page 3 with the reveal of the set being 5th avenue on page 4, by which point only the dimmest of readers won’t have seen what is coming. Perhaps with a different artist it would have worked better as a ‘you can’t escape fate’ type of Terror Tale.

FS 12 – NEEDED: SELF-REPAIRING SCRIPT DROID

10 Aug

PROG: 37 & 38 – ROBOT REPAIRS

Script: Robert Flynn

Art: Brett Ewins & Jim McCarthy

Letters: John Aldrich

Plot: Daryl and Zac run ‘Robot Repairs’ – an ultra-efficient robot repair service which is in much demand in the highly robotised 2142. Faced with the creation of the self-repairing robot they decide to destroy the prototypes and its creator Dr Small. Breaking into the factory they succeed in their plans and return to base to celebrate

Shock: Daryl and Zac commend themselves on their success, not only for destroying the threat from self-repairing robots but also because they are, once again, the only existing self-repairing robots.

Thoughts: With The Ultimate Warrior (FS 10) Robert Flynn wrote a rather poor piece of ill-thought out nonsense, however at least it obeyed its own narrative consistency. Here he gives us an exciting enough tale, with a good deal more direct violence than has typified Future Shocks to date, but amazingly manages to make make the shock contradict itself in its own revelation. Daryl and Zac are said to be the only two ‘self-repairing’ robots  left after their destruction of Dr Small’s robot but we see Zac repairing Daryl and ‘getting him some spare parts’. How this makes Daryl any different to any other robot is not really clear. It seems a quibble but when you spot the error it totally undermines the whole shock. Worse still it would have been perfectly easy to edit – showing Daryl repairing himself.  The art  marks the début of two names who would go on to contribute much to 2000AD’s next decade, Brett Ewins (Rouge Trooper, Judge Anderson, Bad Company) and Jim McCarthy (Bad Company, Bix Barton, The GrudgeFather) and is remarkable only for that fact. The standard is pretty poor and includes some oddities such as the colour of the repairmen’s overalls changing mid-strip. On the plus side you can distinctly see how their own individual styles would progress from this début and there are a few good in-jokes like a reference to  Dredd on the back of a newspaper. The panel when Daryl’s face opens is a nice image and much the best drawn panel, it would immediately remind Golden-Era 2000AD readers of a similar moment in Robo-Hunter.

Shock’d? On an initial read the reveal that Zac and Daryl are self-repairing robots is a nice touch, although not needed or explanatory of anything additional as they would have had the motive to kill Dr Small and his inventions had they just been ordinary robot repair men, of a human or robotic nature. However when the flaw of Zac fixing Daryl while proclaiming themselves ‘self-repairing’ becomes noted the effect is to undermine any credibility in the story at all. So not a great shock nor even a shock that adds anything to the tale, simply a badly executed almost shock with fairly ugly art.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.