Tag Archives: Tharg

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?

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:

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