Tag Archives: Peter Knight

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 56: MANY HANDS MAKES STRIP WORK

16 Nov

PROG: 117 – Hand Of Friendship

Script: John Richardson

Art: John Richardson

Letters: Peter Knight

Plot: Brant and Jones, two Earth spacemen drifting in their Survival Pod, finally have their distress signal answered by a large alien war craft. The battleship informs them it cannot stop but will send them some supplies, as well as despatch their own supply ship when it becomes available. Concerned about alien foodstuff toxicity, the humans tell the aliens they can ‘give them a hand with just some bread and water‘ for now. A pod sends them over the food and they munch on the new supplies before turning to find out what was for dessert…

Shock:  They open an alien container to find several bagged human hands. Grant and Jones realise the ‘supplies’ craft coming for them might not be good news.

Thoughts: John Richardson becomes the first droid to have a second ‘joint credit’ for scripting and drawing duties. This time his art isn’t as impressive, although not bad it lacks any real dramatic set-pieces or outstanding panels, but the story is much better.  In the modern 2000AD this would be a Terror Tale rather than a Future Shock but back then that remained the sole banner for short stories; although that would soon change with the introduction of Ro-Jaws RoboTales (Prog 144). The simple visual joke of ‘being given a hand‘ plays out nicely and is tweaked that little bit by introducing the concept that a ship that was to supply them may now become a ship to supply them to the warship’s kitchens. Eight panels and 1.5 pages make this an excellent efficient early Terror Tale.

Shock’d?: Whether the ‘give us a hand’ prompt would have been picked up depends on how attentive the reader is; certainly the story on page one could have been the set-up for a longer different type of Shock but on turning the page the reader gets a half page of bagged hands floating towards him and the strip is done. And no less enjoyable for it.

FS 55: LA PIU BELLA

14 Nov

PROG: 119 – Colin’s Dream

Script: Chris Stevens

Art: Massimo Belardinelli

Letters: Peter Knight

Plot: While his wife shouts for him to wake up, Colin Ross continues in his slumber. He dreams of hand-to-hand combat against a fearsome massive many-tentacled beast, finally decapitating the monster. Inevitably awoken by his wife’s incessant calling, he moans about being disturbed just as he had seized victory in his dream-battle.

Shock: Colin’s wife enters the room, she is the same species as the monster from his dream! She warns him in the future she’ll make sure he gets up when he is told. Tharg warns the reader that in the 25th century Human-Alien marriages were common ‘but not always happy‘.

Thoughts: Two pages, seven panels, including one magnificent full-page panel, an epic battle, a gruesome monster, a decapitation and a joke about annoying wives / mothers makes an absolutely magnificent Future Shock. The ‘waking up and…’ device has been regularly used in early Future Shocks (FS 53, FS 37) and the ‘pestering wife’ has featured in Casanova’s beautiful debut in FS 32 however this is still a great entry into Future Shocks largely due to it’s efficiency and the stunning work of Belardinelli. Futureshockd never shows the ‘shock’ panel in a story but the temptation to here is almost overwhelming. The full-page of image of a ‘pretty’ version of the above alien, all extended eye-lashes and pouting-lips and a domestic-goddess pinny, towering over a terrified Colin is a complete joy. Never reprinted, it is a neglected classic sitting in the 2000AD vaults. Readers at the time could clearly substitute ‘parents’ for the ‘wife’ element and empathize with Colin’s wish to keep dreaming rather than go to work / school.

Shock’d?: Strongly reminiscent of the twist in FS 1, the domesticated alien does come out of the left field as the nagging is not given enough time to establish itself as the ‘counter’ narrative to Colin’s dream; however it is a great visual shock due to the space given to allow Belardinelli to draw a truly marvelous monstrous image.

FS 52: C’ETAIT LA GUERRE DE ALEC TRENCH

9 Nov

PROG: 102 – Close Encounters of the Fatal Kind

Script: Alec Trench (RIP) (credit also to Alan Grant)

Art: Carlos Ezquerra

Letters: Peter Knight

Plot: Alec Trench, ’2000AD‘s worst writer‘, curses his lack of success (‘none of his stories were ever good enough to buy‘) and jumps from a bridge with his typewriter chained to his ankle. As he plummets, a UFO appears and beams him aboard. Trench  convinces the alien crew not to dissect him but to keep him for a month wherein they can perform any experiments on him before granting him freedom. At the end of the month he claims his right to return to Earth, confident his story will make an epic tale, only to be told an alien month lasts 10 Earth years. Knowing he won’t physically endure, the quick witted Trench secures his freedom by getting the aliens to pose for pictures and, in their vanity, manoeuvres them into a position where he can blast them to oblivion. Trench then sets the ship’s transporter coordinates for Kings Reach Towers and beams out; aiming to woo Tharg with his record of the abduction.

Shock: Meters off in his aim, the hapless Trench materializes high in the sky beside the building and once again begins a fall to earth. As he passes the Command Module he manages to throw his script to Tharg who scoffs that ‘some writers will do anything to have a script accepted‘. Poor Trench meets a sorry demise at the base of the Tower.

Thoughts: A true in-joke of 2000AD, Alec Trench marks his début in fine form by dying in his only published work. Future Shock 52 isn’t really a Future Shock at all; it is the first time Tharg and his droids were given a story of their own, wrapped around an Alan Grant comedy on the frustrations of submitting scripts. Obviously comedy Tharg stories were to prove an immediate hit as by Prog 129 he would have his own irregular strip but for now the Future Shock banner is high-jacked for the birth of the Trench legend. Trench’s mania and terrible suffering in the pursuit of becoming a published writer contains many lovely lines ‘K-Kill Me? Now wait a minute fellas. I’m a good Union man!‘ as well as Ezquerra’s trademark big-nosed aliens being suitably goofy and gormless. All this in a story about torture that ends in the death of the protagonist. Now that’s a 2000AD speciality. Several stories exist as to the origins of Trench, the nicest being that Alan Grant confessed to have used the Trench moniker while a frustrated journalist working in the Scottish press, especially to concoct ludicrous stories which he would then suggest to gullible ‘eyewitnesses’ who then confirmed his fantasies and provide him with a scoop (half-remembered Nazi submarines landing on their shores etc) . It nicely sums up the humour of the man that he credits his first published story in 2000AD to that ludicrous alter-ego. This is a great strip, if in no way a Future Shock, and one deserving of a reprinting for both the comedy and the superb Ezquerra art.

Shock’d?: That Alec Trench dies? Do you really think Alec Trench is dead?

FS 51: DEAR WHY DON’T YOU…

8 Nov

PROG: 98 – The Four-Legged Man!

Script: Mike Cruden

Art: Mike Dorey

Letters: Peter Knight

Plot: An alien craft lands on a future planet Earth, one devastated and devoid of life after war. From the craft emerge several humanoids and one, clearly a teacher, instructs the others that their Archaeological Practical Exam is to construct a model of the deceased ‘man’ from the ruins. Diligently the student set to work, finding small pieces to construct a whole specimen..

Shock: …of a television set. Ominously, Tharg, in a text box, asks us ‘Did television sets ever dominate life on your planet?‘ 

Thoughts: Mike Cruden, until this juncture the most prolific Future Shock writer, departs the series, and the comic, with this slight page and a half social comment. A dig both in the archaeological sense and at the medium that would challenge comics for the attention of readers. The only problem comes with the fact that the set-up seems somewhat botched. The final panel makes an obvious reference to the ‘dominant force’ of TV but the students weren’t directed to find the ‘dominant species’ or the like, they were specifically directed to find ‘the dominant life-form called ‘Man’‘. Given this to come up with something  called ‘TV’ is simply illogical and a presumed fail for the students. A slight tweak of the script to remove the proper noun and the Shock would have been much more convincing in its bite. It is also unfortunate that the shock comes in a final text box rather than from the mouths of one of the characters; the portly professor certainly could have delivered a rant as to the goggle-box’s pernicious influence and the Earth’s decline. The art is competent but unexciting, the script doesn’t give much to work with save the arriving spacecraft and the final reveal panel. That the final reveal panel is people standing around a switched off television sums the excitement levels up. There is a foxy female archaeologist years before that became an overpopulated field but save for guns, breasts and Indiana Jones-esque escapades it’s pretty hard to make pottering around in ruins that interesting. Barney lists the art as by Carlos Pino but the Prog credits, and the style heavily suggests, Mike Dorey as the artist.

Shock’d?: Sadly the botched nature of the set-up and hiding the delivery of the strip’s message in the final text panel takes away some of the impact of what otherwise would have been a nice and clever set-up.

FS 50: AYE, VAMPIRE.

8 Oct

PROG: 97 – DEAR MUM

Script: John Richardson

Art: John Richardson

Letters: Peter Knight

Plot: A humanoid writes home to his mother after 5,000 years of ‘exile’ on a planet after having committed the first murder in a society that had discovered everlasting life. He recounts how he managed to make a primitive shelter, hunt wild animals for food and eventually build himself a large impregnable structure high on a hill. He tells her not to worry, his 20,000 year sentence will pass, meantime he has had a nap…

Shock: ..and is heading down to ‘the village‘ for a ‘bite to eat‘. Our mysterious correspondent is none other than Dracula.

Thoughts: John Richardson becomes the second person to fulfill both scripting and drawing duties (Kevin O’Neil, FS 11, Prog 35) in this rather abrupt odd tale of Dracula’s back-story. The third Shock to feature vampires (FS 9, Prog 34; FS 30, Prog 60) the story is played straight and with the vampire looking at the reader in with a menacing salivating contemplation. The strip has several problems – obviously the society who had discovered ‘eternal life‘ had not encountered stakes, sunlight or garlic bread and there is a strange panel showing a stone hut that Dracula had constructed, obviously a tomb-reference, which is made from slabs of stone far too large for a single person, or presumably vampire, to lift. However despite the disjuncted nature of the ending the art is effective and polished, again very much in the traditional boys comics mold, and the idea of Dracula writing to his alien mother has a certain charm. Some impact is undoubtedly lost by the reveal panel being merely a quarter page panel and very static; a large image of Dracula chomping down on the locals would have given the story some dramatic impact. The most striking aspect of the strip is that, despite the context of Dracula coming from a foreign planet, through a combination of art style and topic the strip doesn’t feel like a 2000AD story.

Shock’d?: The only shock Richardson intended was the fun final panel of the fanged Count eyeing up the readers and, despite the space limits of it being on a half-page, it is nicely done. From a story-telling point of view, with the exception of the tomb image, absolutely anything could have gone before that final panel.

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.

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