Tag Archives: Human?

RT 3: ‘3P0 ‘N R2, THE LOST YEARS.

28 Nov

PROG: 148 & 149 – IT’S A KNOCKOUT

(click to enlarge)

Script: Oleh

Art: Casanovas

Letters: Peter Knight

Plot: Witnessing a gang of children stoning another robot, the android Gree-C tells them they should stop because he knows of ‘someone’ who will punish them. Prompted into elaborating, he tells the group that he was once a ‘Ro-Waiter’ and that, while being bullied by a loutish human client called Walker, a mysterious stranger came to his aid. The Stranger makes a simple bet, that Cree-C can beat Walker in any four competitions they choose. Should Cree-C lose any of the four tasks then the Stranger will forfeit his own life. If Cree-C can manage to win all four then Walker be the one to die. Confident of success in the two tests of his own choosing, Walker accepts and they begin with the two tasks selected by the Stranger. Despite attempts at sabotage, the competitions to serve every table and mop the floor quickest are won by Gree-C. Walker chooses that the first of his selections is to be shooting a coin in the air. Gree-C is worried he’ll fail until the Stranger reminds him he as telescopic arms which he can use to stay close to the flipped coin. Walker complains that this is cheating but the adjudicator rules in favour of the android. Still confident, Walker nominates poker as the final competition and the last test begins. Triumphantly, Walker displays four Kings…

Shock: Gree-C has ‘only’ got four ‘ones’ (Aces). Infuriated Walker attempts to shoot Gree-C but the Stranger blasts the gun out of his hand. With Walker at his mercy the Stranger listens to the man plead for his life. When Walker blabs that the stranger wouldn’t ‘kill one of his own kind over this‘ the Stranger flips open a face-plate to reveal that he too is an android. Casually he shoots Walker. 

Thoughts: An extended six page, spread over two Progs, tale that really amounts to very little but is adorned with some of the most sumptuous Casanovas’ art seen in 2000AD. As a story the tale is pretty much an unmitigated failure, a series of panels where a linear narrative occurs but one without any real internal logic nor convincing reasoning. Why would Walker agree to bet his own life for that of killing a stranger? Why would the final task be a game of chance? Are young readers meant to understand the rules of Poker? Why would a bunch of kids think anyone was going to kill them based on the story of the bar-room bet? None of it makes any sense and then to wrap it up in a format where Ro-Jaws introduces a tale where Gree-C then introduces a tale makes the whole thing far too complicated and necessitates too much exposition where a better plot could have been fleshed out. With the tale split over two Progs there is even a re-appearance of Ro-Jaws in the middle of the story but this time he returns the reader to the central tale without the re-appearance of the Gree-C ‘warning the children’ narrative. Worst of all is that the ‘twist’ is the reveal that the Stranger is a robot! That’s something new (bar FS 12, 31, 34, 35, RT 2).  The writer, credited as Oleh, may have been Oleh Stepaniuk who was published in the 1981 Annuals and Specials but it is not clear from Barney if this is the case. Saving the tale for a modern reader is the art which packs every panel, especially the Salon bar, with rich inventive detail. Every bar customer, every ornament and furnishing, every detail of clothing is rendered in the minutest detail. Much like his debut Future Shock, Casanovas gives us an ‘alien’ world which looks familiar yet definitely different. On the ‘down’ side Gree-C is a ringer for C3PO and the robot being stoned at the start of the tale is clearly R2D2-on-telescopic legs. A result of this, in the year The Empire Strikes Back conquered the box-office, is that it impossible to read the tale without every panel screaming ‘isn’t this a rubbish tale with C3PO’. The whole problem is compounded with Gree-C having the same shambling apologetic demeanour as has celluloid kin. So blatant are the influences that the strip forces you to look at other background characters to see if they look like the inhabitants of the Mos Eisley Cantina. Indeed, some of the girls do look like Princess Leah in her skimpy dancing-girl outfit and the ‘Stranger’ looks like Dr Strange! Whats he doing in Star Wars? Maybe this was down to the script or just Casanovas having fun but in retrospect it does detract from the otherwise stunning art.

Thrill Power? The only way to enjoy this tale is to revel in the beautiful artwork, the story itself is ill thought out and terribly dated. A story so bad even the sound effects are deeply unconvincing (‘F-SHAM!‘ anyone?) With readers having had The Omen last Prog and Star Wars in this story they probably feared a robot-disguised-as-The Jazz Singer next week.

FS 35: 1/600th, NO HORSE.

5 Sep

PROG: 77 – Ultimate Warrior

Script: Chris Stevens

Art: Pierre Frisano

Letters: Jack Potter

Plot: On the warrior planet Argon a humanoid, Karnok, has spent three months fighting against droids to become the Ultimate Warrior. Tired and exhausted he is jumped by yet another android and has to call into the events controllers to deactivate it before it kills him. The Droid self-destructs before Karnok can be hurt. On discussing his fatigue with the controllers he receives orders to proceed to the ‘Valley of Death’ for one final encounter to prove himself. In the Valley he meets a Grim Reaper style foe and, despite a valiant effort, is bested. Before its’ scythe can take his life he once again calls into Control to de-activate

Shock: Karnock explodes, the Grim Reaper muses that Karnock fought well, for an android.

Thoughts: The third Future Shock  in four to use the ‘he’s not really human after all’ device reads badly because of the repetition of that basic visual/narrative switcheroo. At only the thirty-fifth Future Shock we’ve now seen it six times and this version brings nothing new to the table. It is even unfortunate enough to recycle it’s title ‘The Ultimate Warrior‘ from a previous Shock.   Judging it on its’ own merits the comic isn’t too bad; the art, while not as joyous as Frisano’s previous outings, is dynamic and professional, the fight scenes are full of action and exposition is kept to a minimum in favour of action. However Frisano himself doesn’t seem as interested in it as the previous scripts and it is hard not to share his opinion. Chris Stevens was to write three FS and the short MACH-1 replacement strip ‘Angel‘, which, much like this Shock, wouldn’t up-root any trees and was very much one of the last ‘traditional’ action-adventure yarns before 2000AD began its shift in gear towards the black humour of Robo-Hunter, Strontium Dog and Slaine.  Which also sums up this Future Shock, of its time and  competently enough done but nothing of real interest.

Shock’d?: Sadly not, with half a page remaining and our hero being in ‘The Valley of Death’ the outcome for him was obvious and exactly the same as happened in the previous week’s Future Shock.

FS 34: VANCE, KATHLEEN, MAUREEN AND JAMES TOO

1 Sep

PROG: 76 – The Illusion Man

Script: Martin Lock

Art: Pierre Frisano

Letters: Jack Potter

Plot: Vance Shaw is a ‘lighthouse keeper’ orbiting a lone dead sun ’20 parsecs’ from the nearest inhabited planet. Fretting over the non-appearance of a re-supply ship he confronts the station’s AI for answers but is met with a suggestion of virtual ‘companions’, from the minxy Kathleen and Maureen to ‘playing chess with James‘, or even a simulated fight with Venusian Swamp Dragon. Shaw is angered by the lack of direct answers to his queries and the trivial virtual distractions offered; he orders the computer to ‘Get Rid Of all The illusions

Shock: Vance Shaw realises too late that he is a mere illusion for the AI and is deleted, leaving the machine alone to start again.

Thoughts: Seen that ‘Moon‘? Oh ain’t that clever! And that ‘Inception‘? Oh, it’s so smart and original. Ah, no. They are really just a two page Future Shock expanded over 90 minutes. Well how about that? To be fair the ‘its all an illusion’ isn’t new to literature so it might be a tad overblown to claim some royalties are due but certainly those celluloid visionaries may well have half-remembered this fantastic Shock from their openly confessed days as young Squaax.  Nor is ‘what is human’ new to Future Shocks, the ‘human-droid’ switch having been seen as recently as FS 31, however Martin Lock and Pierre Frisano get more fun into two pages than anyone has a right to. The dialogue is hilariously insane ‘let’s sail the Spanish Main! Explore Mars with Bonhomme!‘ and the artist has a riot with lots of breakout panels, monsters with tridents and making ‘James’ every inch the 70’s foxy gent looking ready to do more than just play chess. Lord knows what the readers thought of this, or whether they got the fun the creators were having in the fantasy sequences but the ugly monsters and the neat ending would doubtless have appealed to them. Frisano’s orbital light-house and computers are all very retro looking but he’s clearly more interested in Kathleen and Marueen (and James) all looking like 70’s Charlie’s Angels and a monster with a stick. Never reprinted this is a Future Shock that more than stands the test of time.

Shock’d?: Well, I’ve seen Moon and Inception so not really. Otherwise slightly, the moment Shaw cries out for all the illusions to be deleted the alarm bells are ringing. Always beware of anyone asking for absolutes in Future Shocks!

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 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.

FS 6: HANDS UP THE MOST EVIL SPECIES

7 Aug

PROG: 30 – BEAUTIFUL WORLD

Script: Unknown

Art: Ron Turner

Letters: Peter Knight

Plot: A massive starship drops out of warp on the edges of a planet responsible for a failed attempt to destroy every other species in the galaxy. The crew take evasive action to avoid the debris of war and the still active missile defence system. A crew member ponders why the combined allies had not destroyed the source of such an evil genocidal race when they had finally defeated them..

Shock: The ‘most warlike species the galaxy has ever known‘ is the human race! The captain tells his crew, and the stare in amazed agreement at the planet, that Earth was the most beautiful planet and so paradoxical it should spawn such evil as humans. 
Thoughts: A similar theme to both King of the World (Shock 1) and Food for Thought (Shock 2) of ‘man is a violent creature’ comes back and is nicely disguised by the alien species in the craft having a humanoid form, including a rather foxy blonde crew member in a 60s Star Trek style mini-dress, but, as revealed in the final panel, having rather lupine hairy forearms and claws which had been kept out of sight. That similarity of theme points to the ‘unknown author’ being Steve Moore however Peter Harris could also be a candidate due to the 50s Sci-Fi feel and the use of a non-relevant dramatic tension device (the attack by the missile system) making it strongly reminiscent of the previous Prog’s story Just Like Home. Either way the tale shares that story’s ‘classic golden era’ sci-fi feel although it lacks it warped nasty final imagery, instead going for a Gene Roddenberry  preachy ending.  Ron Turner’s art gives good space ship and even better Space- hottie; even if she is a wolf.

Shock’d? After a two page build-up of just how horrible the genocidal species have been it’s not a huge shock to find out it’s mankind; there is not a lot else it could be unless they discovered Santa’s home-world had gone homicidal.  In addition the fact that our role as ‘the most warlike species ever’  and the crew’s non-human form are revealed in the last half-splash page tends to lessen the impact of each – the impact of the lupine claws is slightly diminished by the heavy prose and the huge central image of earth, even though they are front and central on the page. However like Just Like Home the story has a good visual dramatic tension with the missile fight so it works nicely as a story if not a particularly shocking one.

FS 4: KINGDOM ’77

5 Aug

PROG 28: WINGS

Script: Kev O’Neil

Art: Kev O’Neil

Letters: Peter Knight

Plot: In a future air-war Pilot K Trel of the 513 th Air Defence Squadron is ambushed by two mechanically piloted planes. He curses them for getting the jump on him but defeats them as he was ‘trained from birth to fly to fight and to kill.’

Shock : K Trel lands the plane and is assisted by a ground crew that consists of a chimp and a tiger because K Trel is a kestrel.  Born to fly, fight and kill.

Thoughts: If there was an example of a Future Shock to which time has not been kind to then, on first viewing, Kev O’Neil’s ‘Wings’ is such. A rare outing as a script droid, and an even rarer one away from humour scripting such as Dash Decent and Bonjo,  O’Neil’s page and a half has a simple ‘shock’ to deliver and does it with the minimum of fuss. Like the previous week’s Shock, First Contact, the kicker is all in the visuals of the final panel; however what precedes it isn’t as sophisticated or interesting as Hebden’s excellent story. There is a bad pun name K Trel / Kestrel and the hint line of being ‘born to do it’ but aside from that the delivery is all in the final Panel of K Trel flying out of the cockpit while talking to the anthropomorphic ground crew. Sadly the art in that panel is easily the worst thing in the strip as O’Neil tries to draw realistic animals instead of in his own distinctive style that has featured in the preceding panels. However given that 2000AD was a young kids comic and considering ‘future war where animals do men’s fighting’ has been the highly successful basis for both Paul Cornell’s XTNCT and Dan Abnett’s KINGDOM the idea deserves a kindness in re-analysis. There are a few panels of that much admired unique O’Neil style and K Trel is clearly the spiritual pun-father of Gene The Hackman. However the highly critical will wonder why K Trel needed to wear a humanoid helmet and flight suit, the unnecessary appearance of which does undermine the final reveal. 

Shock’d?  More ‘WTF”d’ than ‘shocked’. The tiny kestrel shooting out of a huge traditional cockpit is just a bizarre image and completely illogical but the story has given us a few pointers, if more of the type that only become apparent after the final reveal than clever points building the story. A qualified shock undermined by the Johnny Morris look to the animals.

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