PROG: 40: SPACE PROSPECTOR
Script: Martin Lock
Art: Trevor Goring
Letters: Peter Knight
Plot: Space Miners Harlan Smith and Jerry pilot their craft through the asteroid belts looking for rocks with suitable mineral content. They bemoan the lack of money and the elder warns the newer man that he has heard tales of ‘strange monsters, snakes and birds’ more dangerous to miners than any ‘claim-jumpers’. The young man scoffs at such as the products of going space-crazy from too many years in the business. Finally they come across a more promising looking asteroid and blast it with the ships laser to yield its mineral deposits
Shock: The lasers crack open not an asteroid but an egg and the prospectors are faced with a huge Pterodactix Cosmotis space bird that squawks ‘mother’ to their ship.
Thoughts: A real hidden curio of a Future Shock, Space Prospectors marks the appearance of two British creators who were to have enduring careers in the field but who never really made an impact in 2000AD. A fact that is all the more curious by just how solid this 2 page shock is. Writer Lock was to go on to found Harrier Comics – a short-lived but prolific UK imprint notable for the Bolland associated character ‘Redfox’ and the début of Eddie Campbell’s ‘Bacchus’ as well as further writing in 90’s erotic comics. An editor of considerable experience this tale showed how Lock had a flair for naturalistic language whereas previous Shocks had tended towards expository utterances to drive the tale along or, in the case of jive-talking Peter Harris’ characters, fun dialogue to flesh out character. Such a technique is a marked change in the tone of Future Shocks and gives the Shock a feeling more akin to a foreshadow of Warrior comics, Alan Moore and more sophisticated story-telling in 2000AD itself. This feeling is undoubtedly compounded by the neat atmospheric work of Trevor Goring, a man who may well claim to be the most successful 2000AD artist the fan base has no memory of. Goring clocked up around 60 pages of artwork for 2000AD, the bulk of which was on Dan Dare with Gary Leach, but would go on to work for Marvel, Dark Horse as well as storyboard artist for films such as Watchmen and X-men 2.However even a seasoned vet of 2000AD would be hard pushed to identify where he worked for the comic. There is no surprise he had a successful career; this strip is beautifully drawn with a similarity to the ink-heavy earlier style of Steve Dillon. The final monster is a bit under-whelming but that is a minor point especially as he carries off the more challenging task of keeping interesting two pages of talking heads via using varying angles and a very readable but dynamic page breakdown. At two pages this is too slight to call it a classic but it certainly is a very classy Future Shock.
Shock’d? The real shock is that the piece ends so quickly. Lock’s naturalistic characters have a certain languid effect making for an anticipation of a much longer strip; however they find and ‘crack’ the space egg in two panels and all is done. The half-page splash of the Space Bird does detract from the shock as it is immediately too visible when the reader should be still on the panels setting up its appearance but with two pages there was obviously limited room for manoeuvre. However it’s not a bad shock, the space creatures are nicely foreshadowed in the dialogue and you don’t immediately assume the asteroid is an egg, largely because you expect this tale has more than 2 pages to run.