Tag Archives: Mike Cruden

FS 43: SHIELD YOUR EYES

20 Sep

PROG: 88 – DATE WITH DESTINY

Script: Mike Cruden

Art: Massimo Belardinelli

Letters: John Aldrich

Plot: As Earth scientists complete the first Time Machine they research candidates suitable to be test pilots. Eventually they settle on two candidates, Shelvin and Farren, with the latter being the first choice. Enraged at being passed over Shelvin doctors the food of Farren and takes his place on the mankind’s first time flight. He sets out on a trip 60 years into the future knowing his fame will be secured.

Shock: Shelvin fame is secured, without proper shielding his trip to the future has aged him 60 years and Shelvin has become the first fatality of time travel.

Thoughts: Mike Cruden’s fourth Future Shock is a pure delight in no small measure due to the series debut of maestro Massimo Belardinelli. Belardinelli’s style moves effortlessly from comedy, a series of beefcakes failing the selection tests, to horror as the story ends on a magnificent full-page splash of Shelvin’s decomposed corpse slithering off the flight seat.  Belardinelli pulls no punches with a panel as magnificent as any from his years working for 2000AD. With bones exposed, flesh peeling off and collapsed eye-sockets a wafting stench filling the cockpit the image is both striking and horrific. Beyond the art the story is an odd mix of comedy, the first page of failed tests, drama, the doctoring of the food and awaiting the craft’s return, and horror. It is perfectly possible to image the script had more consistency of tone as none of the writing is deliberately funny or melodramatic but Belardinelli imbues each page with the different tones and lifts up the end product as a result.  It remains a great shame this short three page Future Shock has never been reprinted.

Shock’d?: The image is certainly shocking but in terms of scripting it is a bit random. That scientists manage to master the complexities of Time Travel but not notice a shielding issue till this juncture is so incredulous that the shock comes out of left-field. Without foreshadowing readers would assume such mundane considerations have long since been dealt with by the boffins. However the reader will have likely given little consideration of this due to the impact of the wonderful grotesque last page.

FS 41: LIFE-ELIMINATING DIODE

13 Sep

PROG: 85 – The Fourth Wall

Script: Mike Cruden

Art: John Cooper

Letters: John Aldrich

Plot: Chris, a demanding child, is watching his favourite TV show, the space adventure Adam Gordon, on his ceiling-to-floor ‘Wall TV’. With his birthday coming his father agrees to buy him the latest in technology, a Fourth Wall  TV. When the engineer comes to install it he warns the impatient child that the technology is experimental and to call the manufacturer if there are any problems. Chris ushers him out and settles down to watch the space battles of Adam Gordon, loving how the lasers leap off the screen…

Shock: Not only do the lasers seem real, they are real! They blast Chris’ chair and, as he reaches for the telephone to call the engineer, they blast his phone too. Later his father comes to call him for dinner, Chris’ lifeless body lies in front of the Fourth Wall.

Thoughts: Mike Cruden and John Cooper team up again, after FS 21 (Prog 50, The Guardian) for another instalment of scaring the bejesus out of young boys everywhere with more tales of technology vs small child. Unlike The Guardian, where the nameless child was left to his impending doom, Chris is shown as a fresh smoking corpse, giving no doubt as to his fate in this gruesome Shock. Cooper’s art once again excels in drawing the boy’s face; in turn demanding, excited, in awe and scared. However, his decision to draw the TV images as vertical lines and white-space gives an odd effect to the strip and dominates over his traditional style in many panels. As a technique it doesn’t quite work and detracts from the beautifully balanced inks he uses to depict the rest of the family life and Chris’ demise. The twist in the story is formulaic but the use of the medium of television is a first for Future Shocks and the pacing is well scripted with an extended playing out of Chris’ scramble when the technology goes mad. Both story and art are above average, if not quite in the top-tier, and this successful Shock is definitely one of the nastier dark efforts to be presented to the young early-2000AD readers.

Shock’d?: The focused nature of the story’s set-up: his mother complaining about Chris doing nothing but watching TV, the introduction of the new technology etc all means it is pretty clear what is coming; however that doesn’t detract from it being joyously executed and with a real impact on readers of Chris’ age.

FS 29: SnEEDS MORE WORK.

27 Aug

PROG: 59 – Tin Can

Script: Mike Cruden

Art: Jose Luis Ferrer

Letters: Peter Knight

Plot: WW3 has ended with total nuclear devastation, food stocks have never replenished and now a morsel of food will start a bloody battle. A scavenger spots a half-buried tin can and makes across open ground, dodging bullets from a sniper who is also set on possessing the mystery contents. The sniper takes down the scavenger and she comes out of the shadows, only to be felled by a throwing knife from her ‘kill’ who had only been playing dead. The scavenger shows no remorse for having killed the beautiful woman and makes for the can.

Shock: He dusts down the bounty and finds it is not foodstuff but a useless can of motor oil, it prompts him to laugh ‘loudly and insanely‘.

Thoughts: A let-down of a Shock and a low-point to mark the departure of Jose Luis Ferrer and his beautiful art from Future Shocks. Ferrer was to go on to draw the first three instalments of Sam Slade: Robo-Hunter and then transfer to sister title Starlord but not return when the titles merged. His art on this outing has a fabulous bleak introduction panel depicting the residents of a shelter dwelling looking destitute, but thereafter is very sketchy and lacks the scratchy detail he usually displayed. Naturally he draws a great ‘beautiful’ female face on the fallen sniper although she does have rather manly arms before her gender is revealed. The story however really lets the Shock down, the third person narration and lack of personality in the scavenger are very distancing and there is little to engage the reader. As a consequence there is no investment in whether it is the scavenger or the sniper who survives their encounter.  The ‘shock’ of the tin being oil not food really doesn’t hold up either;  we’ve been told that the entire population is starving however there is no indication, and no reason, that oil isn’t just as vital to survival.There is electric lighting in the first panel so presumably there are generators and oil has value. In addition quite why the discovery should send the scavenger insane isn’t really justified, presumably it isn’t the first time he’s been frustrated in his pursuit of food. Cruden’s technique of not personalising the character worked really well in FS 21: The Guardian but in this strip it is at the heart of why the tale doesn’t work.

Shock’d? The fact the tin can contains oil not food is a ‘shock’ in the formal sense although it doesn’t really hold up as shocking and of consequence. Would have been better had it been a pop-up snake-in-a-can.

FS 21: TIN MINDED

18 Aug

PROG: 50 – The Guardian

Script: Mike Cruden

Art: John Cooper

Letters: Peter Knight

Plot: It is the 21st Century and a small boy wants to go outside his house, his father agrees provided he is accompanied by the large ‘Guardian’ robot. The robot, with long flexible arms, constantly refuses to let the boy engage in youthful japes, such as climbing an old tree, citing ‘Negative! High Danger Factor!‘ The Droid does agree to go through the old abandoned town on the basis that the mutant inhabitants only come out at night and that he is programmed to keep the boy within reach at all times. As they walk through the deserted sector the ground gives way and boy and robot crash into an underground passage. The boy starts to make his way up to the opening he has fallen through.

Shock: The long flexible arms of The Guardian refuse to let the boy out of his reach. With the immobile robot stranded on the mine floor the boy will never be allowed to reach the surface, and in the dark mutant eyes twinkle…

Thoughts: Mike Cruden, in the first of eight Future Shocks he would write for the Prog, delivers a Terror Tale before its time. The simple concept, that a trapped robot programmed never to let the child out of its proximity thus traps the child, is well executed and, importantly for what was still a kids comic, aimed directly at the reader. There is no name given to the child nor his father, in essence this is ‘every’ child, at least ‘every’ reader, and his simple wants for fun, climbing a tree, are the same as the readership. Up until this point Future Shocks had exclusively featured adult protagonists so Cruden deserves a lot of credit for thinking to connect with his audience. John Cooper, in his second shock in three issues, draws his usual 50’s Sci-Fi styling and a wonderfully grumpy thwarted kid who scowls his way through the entire strip. Every panel features his  petulant unhappiness until, in out final view of him, his face is one of sheer terror and fixed with a look that ensures that, regardless of the reader’s age, there is a timeless pleasure in this bleak ending.

Shock’d? There is no real shock in the tale, just a fantastically terrifying conclusion that must have kept more than one squaxx up at night.

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