PROG: 48 – SUBSTITUTE
Script: Robert Flynn
Letters: Peter Knight
Plot: It is 1987 and the Apollo Moon Landings are continuing apace. The Astronauts venture out alone on their flying surfboards detailed to complete their scientific tasks. Mission leader Jack Keller is astounded to see a non-crew astronaut but each time he approaches the mysterious astronaut disappears only to reappear further away. Finally Keller catches up with the strangely faced astronaut but quickly finds himself strangled unconscious.
Shock: Keller comes to in an underground med-bay. It is revealed to him that the aliens can mimic his appearance and he is already replaced on the flight to earth by one of their kind. Without a space suit he is free to roam only within the facility where he is astounded to discover other Apollo astronauts from past flights, including, Neil Armstrong.
Thoughts: After the visceral success of Killer Car Robert Flynn reverts to type with a Future Shock that simply doesn’t add up. The hover-boards and chase scene is quite well done, getting to the gist of the action quickly and placing our hero in a desperate situation however the shock simply makes no sense These are aliens that can teleport, change shape at will, build underground bunkers that lie hidden from decades of Moon landings however they need to hitch lifts to earth? For such a technologically advanced race that has got to rank as the lamest invasion strategy ever seen. Maybe their goal is to subtly influence earth’s children by a series of motivational speeches in high schools and commit a bit of adultery when apt; the normal life for returning astronauts. That obvious incongruity aside the strip also posits as its ‘shock’ that Neil Armstrong returned as one of the aliens. Except it doesn’t in the slightest look like Neil Armstrong; nor even look like a 58-year-old man, the age Armstrong would be in the storyline. The lack of shock is added to by the smiley faced nature of Armstrong, and the fact he is still wearing his full Apollo spacesuit 19 years after he landed on the moon. Giorgi’s art, his only 2000AD appearance, is technically accomplished but seriously marred by this terrible ill-thought out tacked-on ending and failure to get a photo-reference for Armstrong.
Shock’d? At the laughable Neil Armstrong panel most certainly. There isn’t really a shock, the aliens replacing humans on the trip back to earth is more of a narrative component than the shocking conclusion. The reveal about Armstrong, who in the late 70s would still be a significant celebrity to children interested in Sci-Fi, is undermined by the actual drawing.