PROG:60 – Timeless Secret
Script: SJ Grimes
Art: Ramon Sola
Letters: John Aldrich
Plot: Professors Stein and Grahame enter a tomb that has been sealed for centuries. As they unsuccessfully try to open a ‘strange coffin shaped box‘ they quibble over whether its contents would prove that Earth had been visited by aliens or proof of a previously unknown tribe of humans. Turning their backs and continuing their academic squabble they fail to notice the sun has gone down and the coffin-shaped box opening..
Shock: A vampire emerges and moves in to devour them.
Thoughts: FS 30, marked another 2000AD regular artist’s departure from the series with an even poorer story than FS29. SJ Grimes’ script has no logic to it whatsoever and can only be indulged by considering that its young readers must be very easily satisfied. Ramon Sola’s art is great and he draws a lovely menacing Nosferatu style vampire with balding head, bat-wing ears and powerful clawed hands; but the story is threadbare and confused. First of all the tomb is clearly Egyptian; hieroglyphs and Egyptian symbolism are littered liberally in the depictions inside and outside of the tomb. Given this, why two academics should be postulating that a coffin-like enclosure evidences either aliens, or more bizarrely ‘a tribe previously unknown to man‘ rather than, say, Egyptians is hard to grasp. Maybe this was Sola going off script and not knowing how to decorate a tomb but that seems unlikely. Having read the script he would hardly have decided to set it in Egypt when he knows a what would happen and a dank dirty cave would have sufficed. And this ties into the second key fault because, completely randomly, a vampire appears and the narration says ‘ but then the idea that the coffin was the home of a creature that could inhabit the surface of the earth only after the sun had set, was ridiculous‘. Yes, it is. However if anyone could envisage such it was probably Professors Stein and Grahame because they’re already squabbling about aliens and unknown tribes when surrounded by Egyptian artefacts. However the reader is left admiring Sola’s slavering ghoul and wondering where the hell it came from and what has it been doing in a tomb sealed off ‘for centuries‘. So poor is the story that’ SJ Grimes’, in his sole credit for 2000AD, may well stand for Alan Smithee.
Shock’d?: The difference between ‘shock’ and ‘random disconnected deus ex machina‘ couldn’t be better evidenced than in this tale and it stands as an exemplar of how not to write a Future Shock.