PROG: 76 – The Illusion Man
Script: Martin Lock
Art: Pierre Frisano
Letters: Jack Potter
Plot: Vance Shaw is a ‘lighthouse keeper’ orbiting a lone dead sun ’20 parsecs’ from the nearest inhabited planet. Fretting over the non-appearance of a re-supply ship he confronts the station’s AI for answers but is met with a suggestion of virtual ‘companions’, from the minxy Kathleen and Maureen to ‘playing chess with James‘, or even a simulated fight with Venusian Swamp Dragon. Shaw is angered by the lack of direct answers to his queries and the trivial virtual distractions offered; he orders the computer to ‘Get Rid Of all The illusions‘
Shock: Vance Shaw realises too late that he is a mere illusion for the AI and is deleted, leaving the machine alone to start again.
Thoughts: Seen that ‘Moon‘? Oh ain’t that clever! And that ‘Inception‘? Oh, it’s so smart and original. Ah, no. They are really just a two page Future Shock expanded over 90 minutes. Well how about that? To be fair the ‘its all an illusion’ isn’t new to literature so it might be a tad overblown to claim some royalties are due but certainly those celluloid visionaries may well have half-remembered this fantastic Shock from their openly confessed days as young Squaax. Nor is ‘what is human’ new to Future Shocks, the ‘human-droid’ switch having been seen as recently as FS 31, however Martin Lock and Pierre Frisano get more fun into two pages than anyone has a right to. The dialogue is hilariously insane ‘let’s sail the Spanish Main! Explore Mars with Bonhomme!‘ and the artist has a riot with lots of breakout panels, monsters with tridents and making ‘James’ every inch the 70’s foxy gent looking ready to do more than just play chess. Lord knows what the readers thought of this, or whether they got the fun the creators were having in the fantasy sequences but the ugly monsters and the neat ending would doubtless have appealed to them. Frisano’s orbital light-house and computers are all very retro looking but he’s clearly more interested in Kathleen and Marueen (and James) all looking like 70’s Charlie’s Angels and a monster with a stick. Never reprinted this is a Future Shock that more than stands the test of time.
Shock’d?: Well, I’ve seen Moon and Inception so not really. Otherwise slightly, the moment Shaw cries out for all the illusions to be deleted the alarm bells are ringing. Always beware of anyone asking for absolutes in Future Shocks!