Tag Archives: Kevin O’Neil

FUTURES 26 – 50: A SUMMARY

9 Oct

John Richardson’s oddly un-2000AD Future Shock brought up the 50th installment of the series which was still 2000AD‘s only outlet for one-shot stories. As well as providing another numeric juncture from which to look at a few facts, trends and developments in the series, FS 50 (Prog 97) also approaches a point when the series moves from regular appearances (50 in 73 issues) to a semi-hiatus. Only six more stories would appear before Alan Moore’s debut in Prog 203 signaled a re-investment in the series. The 2000AD of Prog 203 was a very different beast to that of when the initial series debuted in Prog 25 and this summary will look at how that change was already underway and how the Future Shocks were maybe struggling to keep abreast of that change even by FS 50.

However before embarking on that analysis some facts and stats to be gleaned from the stories published so far.

WORDS

Letterer Peter Knight remains the name most often on the Credit Box with 26 appearances, one of nine letterers to have worked on the series.

Since the last Summary at FS 25 an astounding 12 writers have debuted in the series although only one, Jan Garczynski, has had more than one story printed. Mike Cruden leads the scripting credits with 7, Robert Flynn has 6 stories in print and Steve Moore, the writer of the first Future Shock, has 5. Jack Adrian (aka Chris Lowder) and Martin Lock each have had 4 stories in the series and Alan Hebden, Peter Harris and Jan Garczynski each have had 2 stories printed.

Examining subjects and twists several reoccurring themes dominate these early stories. In terms of setting Space Exploration features in eight stories, Time Travel in seven and Alien Invasion likewise in seven. Lesser used themes include Future War, four stories, Alien Abduction, four stories and Dystopian / Post-Apocalyptic Earth which has appeared three times.

As regards formulaic ‘shocks’ there have been several strips which defy classification, such as the beautiful spot gag of Casanovas’ 6-armed alien (FS 32), but dominant ‘twists’ do permeate. The issue of ‘Who Are The Humans’ – meaning aliens acting like humans or supposedly human characters turning out to be aliens or robots – is a theme that has been used seven times. The ‘Problem of Scale’, whereby aliens and humans are operating on radically different sizes, subverting invasion or contact, has been used five times. Technology Gone Mad has occurred four times and Vampires have been the shock three times.

Many of the strips that have worked best are those that have a joke as their twist rather than a big reveal. In those that do play it straight there have been times when a cramped final panel has limited the impact of the story; certainly the Shocks where Belardinelli (FS 43) and Garry Leach (FS 47) have been given a final full-page splash to deliver the twist are among the best stories in this batch.

As revealing as what subjects and themes are used is consideration of those that aren’t. Biology, Zombies, Werewolves, Nano-technology, Mysticism, drugs and any concept of religion or gods have never featured in the tales, topics such as Post-Nuclear War, pestilence, Space Madness, Mind-Control and Alternative Earths have only featured once. As the interview with Hunter Tremayne made clear, cold-war politics was also strictly verboten in the Command Module.

PICTURES

The first 50 Shocks have seen 28 artists (or art teams in the case of Ewins / McCarthy and Puchades / Martinez) used. Artists with more than one appearance include; Pierre Frisano, 5 stories, Brett Ewins, 4, Jose Ferrer, 4, Horico Lalia, 3, Trevor Goring, 3, John Cooper, 3, Kevin O’Neil, 2, Ron Turner, 2, Brendan McCarthy, 2, Ramon Sola, 2, Garry Leach, 2, Ron Tiner,2, Carlos Pino, 2 and Vanyo, 2.

Several important names for 2000AD have debuted in the series in the 25-50 period, including series stalwarts Casanovas and Belardinelli. Notable is that, with the exception of Garry Leach and Brett Ewins / Brendan McCarthy, very few of the British artists associated with classic early 2000AD have seen work on the series. Brian Bolland has drawn one Future Shock but Dave Gibbons, Ian Gibson, Mick McMahon and Ron Smith are all absent the Credit Box. At this juncture Future Shocks are still largely either being produced by artists with a very traditional British comic ethic (Cooper, Richardson, Dorey, Turner) or by continental artists. In this latter set there is a clear difference between conservative stylists (Frisano, Lalia, Vanyo, Ferrer) who vary between a light sketchy or furious dirty style and two very detailed creative artists, Casanovas and Belardinelli, whose manic creation would go on the be regular features in the Prog.

THE FUTURE OF FUTURES

As noted in the review of FS 45, these two schools of art, both with quite conservative design sense, are starting to stand out in contrast the art being produced in the rest of the Prog. FS 45 appeared in Prog 90 where the other artists were:

Belardinelli (Flesh):

McMahon (Dredd):

O’Neil (Ro-Busters):

and Ezquerra (Strontium Dog):

The art on display from all four artists,although vastly different, shares one element that the majority of artists given run on Future Shocks didn’t – a creativeness in their depiction of future worlds. Ezquerra’s wonderful mutants, McMahon’s bonkers vehicles, O’Neil’s astounding Spaceships and Belardinelli’s manic dino-hunts all typify the increasingly mature and richly detailed worlds 2000AD was creating. Combined with the creative anarchic fun in the writing of Mills and Wagner, the serialized strips in the comic were moving far beyond traditional cold-war paranoid pulp sci-fi fare. It is also clear that Mills and Wagner are notably more violent in their stories than the typical Future Shock dares to tread. Sadly few of the Future Shocks were keeping pace with this overall change in content and creativity.

That doesn’t make them inherently bad, indeed some are excellent comic strips, but it does show they are flagging to keep up with the creative revolution going on elsewhere in the comic. In 2000AD terms the Future Shocks were still Colony Earth, Angel, and Ant Wars, rather than Strontium Dog, The Day the Law Died or Blackhawk. In part the writing being handled by irregular and new writers must contribute to this, in addition the artists being outside of any developing cadre created by the regular free-lancers robbed them of the cross-pollination of styles and boundary-pushing. Perhaps also the age and influences of the agency artists used for many Future Shocks would have had input into the look of the strips. No doubt by the time of FS 50 this difference was becoming evident to Tharg as Future Shocks were to be radically reduced in number until the revival under a more focused small group of creators such as Alan Moore, Steve Moore, Peter Milligan, Massimo Belardinelli, Alan Hebden, Kelvin Gosnell, Garry Leach and Brett Ewins.

26-50: THE BEST

None of which should detract from the fact that several not just good but great Future Shocks have seen the light during the first 100 Progs and, as is customary with these summaries, here are three of the best as well as a panel that deserves a wider audience.

FS 48Brain Drain – (Script Steve Moore, Art Ron Tiner, Letters Peter Knight) – A future Future Shock before its time, Steve Moore wraps up a laugh at mankind’s pomposity in several layers of genre-poking fun that takes familiar fare and twists it just that slightest degree to provide something fresh.

FS 34The Illusion Man (Script Martin Lock, Art Pierre Frisano, Letters Jack Potter) – A simple joy of a Shock with a twist of the movie Moon which is taken to a superior level by an artist clearly enjoying the madness of lizard monsters with tridents and pouty-mouthed seductresses.

FS 43Date With Destiny (Script Mike Cruden, Art Massimo Belardinelli, Letters John Aldrich) A fun if slightly flawed script that works best as a simple shock and Belardinelli really delivers in a final page that shows a stunningly grotesque rotting corpse.

There have been several great images in the stories, Ron Tiner’s robot-with-a-brain, Garry Leach’s Parliament under ice, Vanyo’s smug alien zoo-keepers and Casanova’s whole alien world however the crown goes to the sadly missed genius of Massimo Belardinelli with the fantastic fate of the corrupt fame-hungry time traveler. From the aforementioned FS 43Date With Destiny‘, this un-reprinted tale shows what a gold-mine these stories can be.

FS 11 – NO FOUL BALL

9 Aug

PROG:36 – PLAY POOL!

Script: Kevin Gosnell

Art: Kevin O’Neil

Letters: Peter Knight

Plot: While mining for minerals on the surface of the moon it becomes clear that the entire moon is one large grey steel sphere. Pondering this an astronaut considers that the ‘answer’ to why it is so is ‘out there’ in the stars

Shock: The astronaut is right – for across the galaxy a giant alien is lining up a 50 groat bet to pot the ‘grey ball’ planet to the ‘top corner’. The moon is part of a giant game of pool!

Thoughts: Kevin Gosnell, Starlord’s editor and editorial droid at 2000Ad from progs 17-85, was to turn out to be a bit of a master at writing Future Shocks and this initial effort, while relying on a deus-ex ‘shock’ in the final panel, is certainly a nice idea and despatched in a page and a half. Planets as pool balls is hardly a revolutionary concept, although again date wise 2000AD beats Douglas Adams to the gag. Given two of his Hitch-hikers routines have now been published in 2000AD during the time he would have been formulating and writing the initial radio scripts for Hitch-hikers it is interesting to note the overlap. The Future Shock will be of primary interest as another early art outing for Kev O’Neil and some of his trade-mark touches are in evidence – notably the space vehicles are precursors to the style on Ro-Busters and Nemesis. The most enjoyable aspect of the strip are the panel breakdowns which are all over the place but accommodating of the narrative flow of the story – making the main page a very accomplished piece of eye-candy.

Shock’d? After a series of Future Shocks that try to tie the shock into the story Play Pool! is a return to the less satisfying format of a completely left-field event happening in the final panel. As the strip is no-more than an extended one panel gag it can be forgiven that any shock is simply due to the punchline being so abruptly inserted.

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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