Tag Archives: 2000AD

FS 27: TIME TAILS?

25 Aug

PROG: 56 – MONKEY

Script: Alan Hebden

Art: Malgullanes

Letters: Peter Knight

Plot: Jim and Frank are chosen to test Prof. Zimmerman’s ‘Time Phaser’ time machine, donning full spacesuits replete with life support and tinted visors. Under strict instructions not to interfere with anything they are sent ’10 million years into the past’ and told to observe and await the return to be activated. After successfully transporting, Frank decides they should seek higher ground and, while climbing, he callously sends a monkey to its death while ignoring Jim’s warnings about non-interference. After an hour they are taken back to their future era.

Shock: On their return the two time-travellers  discover Prof Zimmerman and the rest of humanity has been replaced by intelligent simians; the death of the monkey on the rock has led to apes evolving to be the dominant intelligent species.  Then Joe realises he is still behind a tinted visor, he turns to the mirror not knowing what it will reveal when the helmet comes off…

Thoughts: For the third time in their short publication life we have a Future Shock with yet another test-run for a time machine and yet another decision to go back to prehistoric times; although on this occasion wisely pitching up after the dinosaurs have exited the scene. There isn’t anything remarkable about crossing interfering with the past,  Chaos Theory and time travel to produce a ‘Return to  the Planet of the Apes’ but this Shock is lifted into a superior category by one fact – the decision to write the tale in the first person and thus add the additional shock of neither the narrator nor the reader knowing whether he too has become an ape. This produces a great final panel where our time traveller turns to a mirror and prepares to find out his fate. Following the logic of the script there is no doubt he would have been altered every bit as much as those ‘back’ in his original time but the strip’s constancy of voice, the fact he notices no change while in the past, means the reader hasn’t considered this possibility until that final panel. Alan Hebden, a key early writer for 2000AD and one still producing great work for Commando some thirty years later, should take great credit for this ‘double’ shock. Mystery artist Malgullanes does fine work in bringing the story to life with clear composition and some nice breakout panels. Having also worked on Starlord this was his only appearance in 2000AD.

Shock’d?: Yes. An excellent shock with the issue of whether Jim, our narrator, has also turned into an ape. While not totally logical this serves up an additional shock to the reader who could have guessed the Planet of the Apes was coming the minute the poor monkey was despatched by Frank.

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FS 26: DOESN’T FLY

24 Aug

PROG:55 –  Space Bug

Script: V Wernham

Art: Jose Luis Ferrer

Letters: Peter Knight

Plot: On a distant planet and after months of drilling Prospectors finally hit pay dirt – oil to replenish earth’s diminished resources.  As one of the men heads to the radio room to call in their claim he is bitten by a bug. It seems to have an immediate effect and he collapses. Meanwhile an alien craft has also hit the jackpot with its mining gear and they too begin to mine the resources.

Shock: The aliens in the craft are the bug that has bitten the miner in the radio room, they intend to fully pump his blood dry.

Thoughts: Its hard not to like this shock due largely to the lovely work of Jose Luis Ferrer and the silly old-world charm of ‘staking claims’ and other anachronistic nonsense. However it is an unoriginal script, recycling the story of FS 2 Food For Thought and, more importantly, one that doesn’t manage to hide its shock. The transition between the Prospector’s story and the switch to inside the Aliens ship needs to be more disjointed, leaving the reveal they are one and the same event to the end. Instead it is fairly impossible to not see that the Aliens are the ‘bug’ immediately and so spoil any shock. That flaw, which the mysterious writer Wernham certainly could have avoided, and the similarity to the old Shock aside it is a fun enough old school Shock and finishes with a great image of an oil-well being built on a human hand.

Shock’d?: Sadly not as much as the strip hopes as it is clear the bug and the aliens are one and the same immediately and with another page of the story to go.

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:

FS 25: OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND

21 Aug

PROG: 54 – STASIS

Script: Charles Swift

Art: McCarthy – Ewins

Letters: Tony Jacob

Plot: A female scientist is showing her male colleague her latest work – a stasis machine. Ridiculing the notion he contemptuously flicks at the switches on the machine. Dismissively he decries ‘There! Nothing’s happened, has it?

Shock: ‘There! Nothing’s happened, has it?’ There! Nothing’s happened, has it?’ There! Nothing’s happened, has it?’ There! Nothing’s happened, has it?’ There! Nothing’s happened, has it?’

Thoughts:  A joyous curio of a strip to round of the first 25 Future Shocks. Charles Swift is presumably a pseudonym, perhaps of one of the illustrators of the strip. Sadly his one and a half pages of 2000AD fame are marred by the repetition of a rather obvious grammar mistake (the direct quote above) but our presumably fictitious friend does leave us with a rather nice simple gag strip. The second page is composed entirely of repeated copies of the last panel from the first page as the two scientists are now trapped in stasis by the machine. Actually they appear to be trapped in a loop rather than stasis but we’ll indulge them that given the eternity of their fate. The art also proves a small conundrum with the familiar ‘which McCarthy Brother was it’ dilemma. The strip lists ‘McCarthy’, Barney lists Jim McCarthy whereas Brendan McCarthy claims it as his own on his website’s bibliography. Which ever way they divided up the chores, the art certainly is an improvement over their previous work and hopefully the young artists got a full-page rate for a cheeky ten minutes with a Xerox machine on the second page.

Shock’d?  More of a Future Chuckle than a shock but the strip is definitely a successful one-note gag.

FS 24: SET UP

21 Aug

PROG: 53 – ON THE RUN

Script: Robert Flynn

Art: Brett Ewins

Letters: Peter Knight

Plot: Robert McKinnon is a famous Hollywood star but one troubled by his horoscope; McKinnon cannot make any decisions without consulting the stars. On hearing of a computer that can predict the future he is granted a trial of the machine and it shows him being knocked down by a car on 5th Avenue. McKinnon reasons that if he leaves the USA he cannot be bound by the computer’s projections so he flees to a career in the UK. Back at work on the other side of the pond McKinnon feels assured he has made the right decision. Suddenly he sees a large studio light about to fall on a group of staff.

Shock: McKinnon runs to warn the people and in his haste is knocked down by the car seen in the projections. He hadn’t realised the studio set was of 5th Avenue.

Thoughts: Robert Flynn’s penultimate outing for 2000AD is an above par effort although not of the quality of Prog  45’s Killer Car. The strip is fairly decompressed by 2000AD‘s standards, with McKinnon’s agent Jeff getting 5 panels to help exposition whereas his role is highly peripheral. Noticeably McKinnon is a rather bland character, there is no attempt to paint him as a Hollywood ‘prima-donna’ or outright jerk, his job is simply a form to allow him to be snagged by the shock. This renders the tale rather un-engaging. Brett Ewin’s first solo art duties aren’t that impressive although the odd panel is nicely inked. The  difference between his solo work and that with long-time collaborator Jim McCarthy is noticeable at this early juncture with his own inking lacking McCarthy’s feathery style. His contribution doesn’t add much to the Shock which would probably have benefited from an artist more suited to traditional horror comics.

Shock’d?: The whole shock runs rather flat and the fatal accident takes place on page 3 with the reveal of the set being 5th avenue on page 4, by which point only the dimmest of readers won’t have seen what is coming. Perhaps with a different artist it would have worked better as a ‘you can’t escape fate’ type of Terror Tale.

FS 23: HE’LL GO FAR

19 Aug

PROG: 52 – Solo Flip

Script: Chris Lowder

Art: Brian Bolland

Letters: Peter Knight

Plot: An un-named astronaut eases himself out of his launch seat and contemplates his forthcoming six-year solo journey to the end of the galaxy and back. Suddenly he realises he will be alone, that his wages will be worth nothing on his eventual return and that he isn’t going to be able to cope. With his mania in full flow he plumps for opening the airlock rather than continuing alone…

Shock: He crashes onto a landing mat, having failed the simulation test for long-distance flight.

Thoughts: Chris Lowder’s second Future Shock, like the first, plays the format for laughs and, with an excellent early outing from the ever-so-slighty-famous Brian Bolland, the great art pairing means this comedy Shock works really well. Unusually the narration in the second person giving the strip a creepy Twilight Zone voice-over effect which, added to by the limited verbal outbursts of the of the astronaut himself, works to make the reader become the panic-stricken pilot. After two pages of building mania the pay-off on the third page, with the simulator and frustrated trainers suddenly revealed, is an excellent switch and done in the manner of that ‘page-turning’ revelation which only a physical comic can deliver. However more than one of 2000AD‘s young readership may have been baffled by the discussion of the effects of inflation on savings. Bolland’s art needs little comment, some anatomy is slightly wonky and the final panel showing the astronaut being restrained has a very unconvincing struggle between crazy astronaut and hospital orderly but there is much to savour in his famous inking style and the under-lighting on faces helps ramp up that Eerie comics feel of the whole strip.  An excellent Future Shock and one, despite the fame of its artist, that has been rarely reprinted.

Shock’d? A top-quality shock, the mania of the spaceman builds fantastically and before the reveal comes there is no indication this is a simulator yet when the veil drops it all makes sense.

FS 22: HERE’S BURT!

19 Aug

PROG: 51 – GALACTIC GARBAGE

Script: Richard Burton

Art: Trevor Goring

Letters: Tony Jacob

Plot: Arthur Upshot operates as a salvage merchant in near earth orbit, collecting what little there is of value and ‘shooting’ waste off into space. He finds a unrecognisable probe lodged amongst his waste and, regarding it worthless, fires it away. Arthur is unaware that the probe was leading an advanced alien invasion fleet to earth – the probe was fed sufficient data for the aliens to locate earth and their fleet is fast on its tail.

Shock: The probe, and the following fleet, plunge into the sun, where Arthur has been disposing of all his worthless waste.

Thoughts: Hey, its famous editorial droid, and future Tharg, Richard Burton in his only credited script for 2000AD. While doubtless his re-write pencil featured heavy on many scripts over his long tenure at the Command Module this was the only time his name was to appear on a script. Galactic Garbage isn’t a bad effort however it does need some indulgence both logically and in terms of storytelling. The script has a strange device of showing that the Alien’s homeworld is notified of the fleet’s destruction before it occurs in the Shock, with the event , following the probe into the sun, being the shock reveal of the strip. In terms of storytelling it just about gets away with it, logically it is hard to believe an invasion fleet would ignore the technological signals coming from an inhabited planet and head into a sun. Had the strip had them warp into the probes position then that would have been a device to excuse it but there isn’t any sort of explanation; they simply ‘follow’ the probe blindly. The script also calls the aliens ‘very alien’ but they do seem to be wearing WWI gas-masks and Roman helmets so maybe the script’s description could have been a bit more ‘alien’. However it is well  paced and the excellently titled ‘Arthur Upshot’ is nicely portrayed as frustrated and hard-done-by so he’s an unlikely saviour of earth. Trevor Goring again does a fantastic job on the art with beautiful space-craft and several wonderful close-ups of Arthur’s resigned facial features.  The script certainly could have been tighter but Goring’s superior art places this firmly in the pantheon of excellent early Future Shocks.

Shock’d? The space fleet plunging into the sun is pretty obvious given we’ve been told the fleet is destroyed and we’ve seen Arthur fire off the probe so it’s not much of a shock but what mystery there is by the time the reader turns to the final single panel page is still nicely enough played. The sun is at least different to the fleet being eaten by a small dog.